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A Look at a Versatile Encoding Toolkit – Sorenson Squeeze 8.5

06 / 10
2012

This isn’t news: Video is everywhere these days.

If you’re a creative, it’s also more important than ever to control and manipulate it throughout its life cycle.

Whether you catch your favorite episodes on a TV, or turn to computers, tablets and mobile phones, you’ll find endless amounts of video for your entertainment, amusement or edification.

Video’s importance has grown too. YouTube is said to be the second most popular place after web search engines to look for information.

As a content creative, you realize that straightforward, potent tools are crucial to the last stage of production: encoding video content for today’s many devices and distribution portals. That’s where Squeeze, a familiar toolset from video encoding mainstay Sorenson Media, shows that it’s more relevant than ever.

Version 8.5 of Squeeze continues to grow in capability to match the continuing growth of video. When combined with Sorenson 360 Online, the cloud-based sharing, review and approval service for video professionals, things get even more interesting.

What’s new?

First off, you will notice a speed increase in Squeeze 8.5. Thanks to a re-architecting of Squeeze’s encoding engine, you’ll benefit from optimization for major codecs such as MP4, QuickTime (MOV), WebM, and Matroska (MKV). The re-designed encoding engine also takes advantage of parallel processing techniques, distributing chunks of video across multiple CPUs.

According to benchmark tests, the re-architected Squeeze 8.5 handles compression some 200 percent faster than the prior version Squeeze 8.

Sorenson Squeeze's intelligently designed user interface.

To garner even more throughput speed, Sorenson worked with Intel engineers to optimize Squeeze 8.5 for Intel’s Quick Sync platform and codec. This allows Squeeze to benefit from the improved architectures of Intel’s second generation (Sandy Bridge) and third Generation (Ivy Bridge) processors. The result? An effective doubling of speed gained from Squeeze’s re-architected video encoders.

In my own tests, I was impressed by the results. Encoding was snappy while quality held up. That might be because Squeeze also employs MainConcept’s MP4 codec technology, highly regarded in the industry for its look and compression chops.

The new version of Squeeze also delivers faster Adaptive Bitrate encoding. That’s the technique of creating multiple versions of your encoded videos at different bitrates. The ISP’s server will offer up a lower bitrate version of your video so things don’t drag along. Faster connections benefit from versions you’ve encoded with a higher bitrate.

Controlling these actions also got easier via a new slider bar that lets you throttle the amount of CPU power dedicated to encoding simply by sliding it around, allowing up to 100 percent of your system’s resources to be delivered to accomplishing the job.

Sorenson 360

Being able to show your videos to other people, whether they be collaborators or clients is important. You’ll also want the ability for them to comment on your videos and offer feedback. Sorenson Media’s Sorenson 360, introduced some three years ago, is a professional online service that allows you to collaborate easily. It’s seamlessly integrated with Squeeze 8.5.

Sorenson 360, a fully featured online review and collaboration service

Now, new in Squeeze 8.5, users are treated to 5GB of free permanent storage within Sorenson 360. That means you can use Squeeze to encode your videos and immediately push them up into Sorenson 360 for review and approval. Naturally, this is much easier and more effective than the time consuming process of burning DVDs or even sending them through the web through file sharing software like Dropbox or YouSendIt (those services aren’t optimized for video sharing across multiple screens, nor do they provide the ability to leave comments about the video).

I was very impressed by the thought that’s being put into Sorenson 360. Of course you can publish videos of any length and password-protect them. You can access full metrics so that you can track how many times your videos are being watched (as well as the duration viewed). Want to add closed captioning to your video? Simply upload a separate XML file.

Sorenson 360 will also display the complete specs about your videos including which codec is used, the data rate, frame size and the audio codec. That’s info that can come in handy, something you might have used a separate app like Media Inspector to suss out.

For a busy professional, the cloud-based app allows them to save time by creating a Review and Approval request to someone from within the website; there’s no need to pop back over to your email client. Smartphones get into the act too, since Sorenson 360 can deliver an SMS text message.

Creating a contact in Sorenson 360

As a simple test, I made a contact for myself and sent a review and approval request with a click of a button. Immediately, a message showed up in my mailbox with a link to the video on Sorenson 360. Upon clicking the link, I was directed to a Review and Approval page, which contained a large version of my video as well as an area to write comments and note whether it was approved or should be revised.

Other features

There’s much more to like in Sorenson Squeeze 8.5. For starters, I liked the design and intuitive feel of the user interface.

Squeeze takes advantage of Nvidia’s CUDA technology, so if you have a Quadro graphics card, you’ll enjoy a considerable bump up in encoding speed for H.264 compression.

Don’t like to spend the time setting up the considerable number of settings used for encoding? Squeeze 8.5 comes with many pre-defined intelligent presets which you can use to quickly define the correct settings for your encode. Presets are conveniently arranged in different tabs such Broadcast, Devices, Disks, Editing, Transcoding, Favorites and Web.

Of course you can always define your own presets or get them from Sorenson’s Preset Exchange, an online repository of presets uploaded by other Squeeze users. Once you select the preset you want to use, you simply drag and drop into onto a job module where you cue up all the different sources encodes and destinations for a current job.

The Preset Exchange website

Also available in Squeeze 8.5 are a number of different filter options which you can apply during your encodes. These filters include Gamma, HSL, Tint, telecine (add pulldown), inverse telecine, white balance, sharpen, timecode, de-interlace, contrast, watermarking and more. You’ll also find a number of audio filters as well.

Squeeze’s publishing tab stores all the various destinations for your encoding jobs, and comes with a handful of predefined ones. Besides setting up encode folders on your hard drive or you can choose among direct connections to Sorenson 360, Akamai, Amazon S3, Vimeo and YouTube.

Sorenson Squeeze 8.5 offers some basic editing such as cropping, and the setting of in and out points in your timeline. One handy section creates a split screen effect that shows the source on one half while the other half displays the final result after applying different options and filters.

Conclusion

If you are a postproduction professional and do a lot of encoding to different formats and devices, Sorensen Squeeze 8.5 will make your life a lot easier. Having everything in one convenient and accessible place is a big time-saver. Meanwhile the ability to upload your videos to different destinations right from within the program is very nice. The streamlined interface helps keep things running smoothly and efficiently.

In addition, Sorenson 360 is a highly developed and useful cloud tool that has the potential to become the preferred way that you share your work with your collaborators and clients.

You can download a free trial version of Sorenson Squeeze 8.5 on their website.

About the author

Joe Herman is a filmmaker, artist and post production specialist and writes often about the industry. You can reach him at joe[at]nycppnews[dot]com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeHermanTweets.

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