For this post I wanted to discuss a little bit about compression software. Although when thinking about making a film, compression in quality isn’t something that would enter into the mind. Compression is usually for web and devices to ensure decent quality, scaled down video that doesn’t take that long to download/stream and watch. Now today everyone has a youtube account and a camera phone, and youtube more and more has gotten better in the quality department, enough that you can just upload raw files in many cases and get a decent result. However if you’re using other services that don’t offer auto-compression, you’re hosting you’re own files for review-type situations compression is something to be looked at. Taking it back to film too, you can use a compression software to make proxies for an offline edit. In simple words an offline edit of the film is where you edit a film say in Final Cut Pro using proxies, which are low resolution version of your film clips with the same relative names of the masters. The advantages of this is that you can work faster and smaller, you could quite feasibly edit offline on a laptop depending on your settings and situation. The Idea being that once editing is completed, you simply swap the proxy clips for the real full-quality masters for rendering.
Now I’ve been in search of the ‘perfect’ compression software, and have tried many, many different types and have come to the conclusion that it does not exist…. at least yet. With the advent of the new Mac app store it has opened my eyes to a few more that I haven’t heard of, some of which I’ve subsequently tried with little joy, and stick to what I’ve used for the past 3 years. I’m going to split this post into three different compression software that for me are the best out there, explain their strengths and weaknesses, and which one I use, and why.
Quicktime Pro 7.0
Ok so the new Quicktime 8.0 is pretty terrible as you probably know, it’s ugly and too overly simple to warrant doing anything worth while with. I don’t know what it is with Apple and their video software in recent years, I mean Apple are the ‘video’ computers right? Anyway if you’re on Snow Leopard you can stick your install disks in and install Quicktime Player 7, you can by Quicktime Pro 7 for about £25.00 on Apple’s website. QTPro 7 is pretty awesome. I’ll often use it for a quick and simple edit, and save the video out. I also use the record from webcam feature quite a bit when I’ve written a riff on the guitar I want to remember. As a compression software goes, if you’re familiar with Final Cut Pro’s Quicktime Conversion it’s essentially the same thing, same settings (as most compression software are). However it is pretty much a video at a time deal. You can’t really select a folder of clips and get them batch converting you have to manually set them going in Que., which is fine in a case where you only want to upload something like 5 videos, but if you’re wanting to do proxies and bigger amounts at a time, it’s really not an option, especially when you can get software capable of doing that at the same price. As for speed it’s pretty average, neither slow nor fast pretty standard. I have a fear that when the new Mac OS comes out that QTPro 7 will be completely disbanded and unavailable. Which I feel would be a great shame.
Now we’re on to the big dog ‘Sorenson Squeeze‘. Sorenson really markets itself to the professional, it has some pretty awesome features and some other so-so ones. It is probably the most feature heavy compression software out there and is used by many networks and many ‘big’ sites as the primary software for delivering web video content. In recent versions they seem to have been targeting smaller companies and freelancers with some of their send and review services which to me are services that fixes non-problems, I can’t imaging a freelancer at this point not having a system of sending and reviewing of drafts in a way that works fine, for not even a 5th of the price of their service. When I used to freelance I would just upload to a directory on my already owned server and receive feedback through email – gmail (free). It also offers standard filters that can be set to footage which is quite bizarre I feel for an app in this level, I’m curious as to who uses them. But anyway with that said the main deciding factor that would sway people between buying or not buying this software as it did for me was the price. It’s currently listed as: £799.00 which really is way overpriced and only really sensibly affordable for a studio or if it will literally save you that time with its many great features that most compressors don’t have. First off, the way it works is you add your clips (single or batch) you can do the standard cropping trimming etc inside the app. Compression settings are added kind of like labels, so you can add multiple different compression settings and outputs to the same clip if you want to offer them. You can add a watermark which is really useful for client reviewal of work that hasn’t been payed for yet etc… One of the best features in my eyes is the watch folder. You can essentially set Squeeze to monitor a folder on your computer, so that when clips are added to that folder they get compressed and sent to another folder of your choice. In terms of proxies that’s awesome, think about capturing your footage whilst Squeeze simultaneously creates a separate proxy folder instantaneously with no extra work, pretty cool. It is integrated with Avid, Premiere and Final Cut too. Squeeze also allows you to upload a once-compressed file straight to an ftp, which is really handy, unfortunately if you want to use the straight to YouTube feature, you have to subscribe to their upload service which handles that. One of the best things about it is that it’s blazingly fast, by far the fastest compressor I’ve used, so If time is very critical for you the extra price may be warranted. As for me at this current juncture, it is not justifiable, which is a shame as it’s a great piece of software.
Stomp is kind of a mid-ground app. It very simple clean and works. I’ve been using Stomp for the past 3-4 years and have always looked elsewhere for other better apps, yet have always returned to Stomp, for it’s ease of use. Stomp is made by Shinywhitebox the creators of iShowU. It’s an app split into three sections, the settings, the monitor and the batch list. You simply drag movies to the batch list and either select one of their existing presets (many which are very good) or create your own presets. It’s really easy and defaults to the last preset you used for saving time. There’s not a lot to say about this software as it’s pretty bare bones, it’s kind of Quicktime Pro plus batching and quickly selectable presets. It does offer some filters but as to why they would be used I do not know. In it’s preferences you can set the amount of simultaneous compressions up to 12 which is really handy if you have a fast computer. It gets the job done with little fuss. It would be nice to have some extra features such as upload to ftp/youtube, watch folders and unfortunately one of the little annoying things about the batch is that you have to select all the clips and click process to batch, but before it starts going to work you have to specify a name and save location for every single file, which if you have a few hundred in there will become a bit tedious. It is also pretty slow compared to Squeeze. Some other issues I’ve found recently is with frame rates, I’ve tried to compress movies which are 23.98 frames and keep the same frame rate in the conversion. However it doesn’t respect that manual input and knocked it up to 30 fps which is really not good. However at $29.95 it’s a steal and in my eyes is definitely the second best software out there to Squeeze and at the huge difference in price is really what has kept me with it.
Hope you’ve found this post useful. Let me know if you use anything different your experiences etc…
Quicktime Pro 7