Squeeze 2.0, by Sorenson
Posted: 30-Sep-2002

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Sorenson Media Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Bill Catambay Class: MULTIMEDIA

Overview
Sorenson Squeeze for Quicktime is a multimedia drag and drop application that allows you to "squeeze" your large video files into much smaller compressed videos. Sorenson Squeeze comes with
Sorenson Video 3 Pro, the compression technology that Squeeze uses.

Squeeze is actually the answer to something that I've always wanted for video compression: a background processing application that uses Sorenson Video compression. I used to use Quicktime Player export for video compression, but that runs in the foreground, taking all the CPU and not allowing you to do anything else until it's done. The beauty of Squeeze is that you can drop your video onto the Squeeze window, choose your compression settings, and then let the compression run in the background while you continue to do other work.

In addition to Sorenson Video 3 Pro (SV3 Pro), other encoders that are included with Squeeze are Qualcomm PureVoice, QDesign Music 2, Fraunhofer MP3, and IMA.0

Features
The feature set for Squeeze includes the features of Sorenson Video 3.1 Pro, and then some.

  • Support for One-Pass Variable Bit Rate (VBR) Compression
  • Support for Two-Pass VBR
  • Intelligent Presets (Squeeze includes optimized presets for connections ranging from modem to high-quality CD delivery. Squeeze also lets advanced users customize their settings.)
  • DV Capture (Squeeze captures digital video through any DV source, whether it is a digital video camera or an analog-to-digital converter.)
  • Batch Processing through Watch Folders
  • Adjustable Cropping
  • Audio/Video Filters (includes Fade in/out, smoothing, noise reduction, and more.)
  • Support for QuickTime .MOV movie files.
  • Sorenson Vcast integration


Using Squeeze

The first thing I discovered is that Squeeze is not really a true drag and drop Mac application (this is true for both the 1.0 and 2.0 versions). Different in version 2.0, when you open the Squeeze application, you get a "Choose a New Source" dialog. You can click on "Movie File" to squeeze a specific movie, "Watch Folder" to have Squeeze monitor a specific folder and squeeze any movies that show up there, or "DV Capture" to squeeze a movie right off of your DV camera.


New Version 2.0 Startup Dialog

In terms of Drag and Drop, Squeeze 2.0 is less so than 1.0. With 1.0, you could drag a video file onto the Squeeze application icon, and Squeeze would open up that video. That doesn't work with 2.0. You squeeze a specific movie, you have to click on "Movie File", then use the file dialog window to locate the movie you want to squeeze, or choose a watch folder, and drop the movie file in that folder. After you have the main Squeeze window open with a movie, you cannot drag another movie onto it either.


Sorenson Squeeze Window (version 2.0)

The toolbar at the top displays a series of preset compression packages. What's different in 2.0 is that the buttons are smaller and no longer have static labels telling you what the button does (i.e., Modem preset, Broadband preset, etc.). Mouse over a button, and a popup display does show the button label. I personally prefer the static labels, as you can read all the button meanings without moving the mouse. The buttons do look better, and have bars in them that are shaded to indicate the kind of preset it is, with little shading meaning the most compression (smallest output file) and most shading meaning the least compression (largest output file). Beneath the buttons, on the left side of the window contains the video you are compressing, and the right side displays the list of compression settings chosen (you can choose more than one). In the example above, the "Modem" and the "Broadband" presets were selected.

Gone in v2.0 is the awkward "Custom" button, and you can customize any of the other presets by double-clicking on them. There is still some awkwardness present, because if you had already selected a preset, double-clicking performs both the action of removing the selection from the Output Summary as well as opening up the custom settings (likewise, if the item was not selected, double-clicking both adds it to the window as well as opens up the settings). There is still no "revert" function, so once you change a preset, the only way to revert to the original settings is by quitting Squeeze and starting it back up. New in v2.0 is the ability to save a setting. Now when you customize a preset setting, you can save the setting to a file, and later load that setting back in. While it's nice that this feature was introduced, it's a bit cumbersome to use. Rather than Squeeze managing the settings, you have to save files on your disk, and remember where they are and what they were named to load them in again. When you go to load a setting, the file dialog displays all of the files in a folder, not just the Squeeze settings files.

Also new in V2.0 is a Filters button that lets you apply filters to the output (such as Contrast, Brightness, Fading, Cropping and more). You can also now specify the file name rather than accept the automatic naming convention that Squeeze uses. For example, instead of having the movie tribute.mov compressed to tribute_Modem.mov, you can double click on the file name in the "Output Summary" display and enter a new name. This did was not intuitive to me; in fact, I discovered it by accident. I tried double-clicking the file name to alter the settings (since the settings are associated to the file name), and that's when I found out that double-clicking the name lets you change the file name. You can squeeze multiple movies, but you have to do so either by choosing Open from the File menu, or by initiating the session selecting the "Watch" feature, and then adding a movie to the Watch folder. What I expected, and still prefer, would be the ability to simply dragging a file over the existing Squeeze window and having that movie replace the one that is already there (choosing Open causes a new window to open). I tried using the Watch feature, but I got strange results. It created a "Squeeze_Work" folder in the Watch folder, and in there it created a "Squeeze_SourceFiles" folder. After the squeeze, I had 6 versions of the squeezed movie laying in various places. For example, after placing tribute.mov in the Watch folder, I ended up with tribute_Modem.mov, tribute_Modem_Modem.mov, tribute_Modem_Modem_Modem.mov, and tribute_Modem_Modem_M_Modem.mov in the Squeeze_SourceFiles folder, then another copy of tribute_Modem_Modem_M_Modem.mov in the Squeeze_Work folder, and yet another copy of tribute_Modem_Modem_M_Modem.mov in the main Watch folder. Using the standard Movie File method of squeezing the movie, I did not get all of these extra files, just the desired output file.

All in all, the presets are pretty good shortcuts for those who don't want to fuss with the compression settings. You can choose from a variety of presets, ranging from Modem (smallest file size) to CD High Quality (largest). A 27 MB raw digital video file compressed to 72 KB in a matter of seconds for the Modem preset, and to 1.9 MB in a couple of minutes for the CD HQ settings. The quality of the output in both cases was excellent, and to compress the file down to 72 KB for emailing over a modem is a technological marvel.

As promised, the video compression does occur in the background, which allows me to continue writing this review while the test files were being compressed. You can even speed up the compression by double-clicking the preset and changing the compression method from Sorenson 2-Pass VBR to 1-Pass VBR. The compression is faster and the video quality is still great, but the file sizes are a little bigger. For example, instead of the 72KB Modem movie, it created a 104KB movie. On the other hand, the CD HQ went from 1.9MB to 1.3MB (actually smaller using the 1-pass). I don't understand VBR technology well enough to make heads or tails of that. Experimentation may be the best teacher.

Summary
Sorenson Squeeze is a Macintosh gem (and it is cross-platform, so Windows users can use it as well). The basic functionality of compression large video files to much smaller files while retaining great quality is like magic, and the ability to do this in the background adds to your productivity. The preset buttons are great shortcuts for users that don't want or need to learn about compression settings. The interface, however, can still be improved. Version 2.0 has some enhancements which improve the interface over 1.0, but overall, the interface still seems to be less intuitive than most Mac applications I've used.

The bottom line is that the program works, and works well. Squeeze does wonders for compressing videos, allowing you to easily share them with friends or burn them on CDs. Because Squeeze uses SV3 Pro technology, the results are small files with great quality video. I highly recommend Squeeze for video experts and novices alike. Even if you already have SV3 Pro, it's worth getting Squeeze for the added benefit of background processing and preset settings.

Pros

  • Compresses large video files to small manageable files retaining great quality
  • Supports background processing
  • Preset buttons are great shortcuts for video novices and experts alike
  • Allows specifying the names of the output files

Cons

  • Does not support dragging a video file onto Squeeze window
  • There is no revert when changing settings of preset buttons
  • Interface still cumbersome, lacking the Mac savvy intuitive feel
  • Watch feature seems a bit buggy, and still a poor replacement for true drag and drop

Overall Rating:

3 1/2 out of 5 Mice


General System Requirements

  • G3 PowerMac or better, or Pentium II PC or better
  • Mac OS 9.1 thru X, or Windows 98, 2000, ME or XP
  • 128 MB RAM
  • QuickTime 5