On the video Web, Media Cleaner Pro 4 has provided
so much functionality and control inside of one application that
it has set the standard for professional digital video compression
It's certainly rare that one software product stands
out clearly above the rest. The last one that I remember was in
the early days of multimedia. But those were "early days" when software
products could more easily define their own category. The one I
remember is Equilibrium's
Debabelizer, but that's more of a graphics tool than it is a
the new world of professional digital video compression, for online
delivery as well as for DVD, CD-ROM, PowerPoint presentations, and
other digital worlds, Terran Interactive (which is now a subsidiary
of Media 100) offers Media
Cleaner Pro. Personally, I know of no other video compression
tool that comes close to its capabilities.
And now with the recent release of version 4.0, Media Cleaner Pro
is cross platform. Up until version 4, it was a Mac-only program,
but now it runs on both the Mac OS and Windows 95/98/NT. More importantly,
this program is able to output virtually any digital video file
into virtually all of the major digital video formats. Most importantly
for the video Web, Media Cleaner Pro includes advanced tools for
compressing all three of the major streaming formats (Real G2, QuickTime
and Windows Media a.k.a. ASF).
I managed to get some hands on experience with the pre-release beta
version of Media Cleaner Pro 4.0 on my G3 Mac, and I was truly impressed.
Because I think that this is the one essential tool for a video
professional who has anything broader than single format ambitions
on the video Web, I'm dedicating this month's Video Web column to
this video compression leader.
One of the things I like best about Media Cleaner Pro is its versitility.
While Debabelizer does some of the same things, when it comes compressing
and converting video, Media Cleaner Pro 4 does much more. At the
same time, in addition to compression and conversion, you can also
use Media Cleaner Pro for cropping, trimming, video noise reduction,
adding fade-ins and fade-outs, de-interlacing, removing 3:2 pull-down
from film transfers (with a feature called Intelecine), audio processing
(thanks to some nifty new features) and more.
As in past versions, there are extensive "wizards" that can ease
the complexity of compressing video by offering menus of logical
choices that pretty much any video professional can follow. For
example, there are decision "trees" which include: Do you want to
compress for the Web, CD-ROM, DVD, etc.? What format? What data
rate? And so forth. Then, as a result of your choices, Media Cleaner
Pro offers settings that are appropriate.
the other hand, if your more precise about what you want, you can
get "under the hood" and tweak and experiment to your hearts content
using Media Cleaner's "Advanced Settings."
With version 4.0, Media Cleaner Pro has also added another dimension
of versitility: more formats. These include not only the major streaming
formats that I already mentioned (QuickTime, Real G2, Windows Media/ASF),
but AVI, MPEG-1, DV, MP3, and still image and audio formats. There
is also additional support for MPEG-2 that is offered as an optional
AHEAD OF THE CURVE
While Media Cleaner Pro has in the past been recognized as a major
QuickTime tool (and they continue to stay on top of the lastest
QuickTime features including support for automated poster frames,variable
display resolutions, and the latest QT codecs), I took advantage
of some of their advanced RealG2 features.
One of the most impressive features in RealSystem G2 itself
is SureStream which embeds multiple compressions for multiple user
bandwidths (28.8Kbsps, 56Kbps, T1, etc.) within the same file. RealPlayer
then automatically upshifts and downshifts depending on available
network connection speeds to provide a continuous, uninterrupted
stream even if it has to dynamically decrease the quality. I like
the way I could simply select multiple bandwidths in Media Cleaner
Pro and then compress for multiple bandwidths in a single file.
This is the kind of advanced functionality that the Terran has consistently
gone out of its way to provide.
MORE FOR MAC
While version 4 introduces the Windows version of Media Cleaner
Pro, there are still a few features that underscore Terran's roots
in the Mac community. For example, the Mac version of version 4
supports AppleScript that can help to automate tedious tasks. This
extended functionality is illustrated by a new feature called HelperApps
that enables automated pre-compression or post-compression actions
such as automatically opening a compressed clip in its target player
after compression for checking. If you've got big batches of files
to compress, Terran recommends Sonoran Blue's MovieScript application
to help connect Media Cleaner with AppleScript. In fact, along with
other streaming video-related products, Terran sells MovieScript
for $149 on their web site.
Of course, Media Cleaner still features easy to use batch processing.
In the business of compression, this feature is truly essential.
They also claim to be the only software compression application
on both Mac OS and Windows 95/98/NT with a professional set of features
that compress ASF files for Microsoft's Windows Media Technologies
CLEAN AS ICE
Non-linear editing project studios may also be interested in Media
Cleaner Pro 4 because of its new lossless format conversion. This
unique feature enables producers to losslessly convert between certain
formats without any recompression nor the additional noise and artifacts
that recompression would introduce. For example, Media Cleaner Pro
4 can convert QuickTime movies to AVI without loss of quality.
For pros with pressing demands (pun intended), a budget and little
time, Terran is also offering a new accelerated version called Media
Cleaner Pro on ICE (or the ICE'd version.) Sold as a bundle with
the ICE'd Sorenson Video codec as well as an ICE'd OMF import plug-in
for Avid systems, this version sells for $2,495 if you already own
the BlueICE acceleration card, or $6,495 with the card included.
Terran says that this version of Media Cleaner Pro compresses video
up to six times as fast as the software only version.
For the rest of us, Terran sells the Macintosh and Windows versions
of Media Cleaner Pro separately and version 4 of each is list priced
at $499. However owners of Media Cleaner Pro for one platform can
purchase the alternate platform version for $249. Current Mac owners
can get the version 4.0 upgrade for $159 with a three-month upgrade
special of $99.
With the continuing complexity of the video Web caused by competing
formats, seemingly endless innovation and a constantly changing
digital landscape, Media Cleaner Pro 4 more likely than most to
produce a return on your investment. It's the one way that I know
to "cover" all of your digital video format "bases," and it accomplishes
this with a logical, versatile and easy to use interface. I wish
all software decisions were this easy.