I'm going to do things a little bit backwards with our review of Discreet's brand, spankin' new Cleaner 6. This is owing to the unusual offer that Discreet is making with the Cleaner 6/Combustion 2 bundle through the end of the year. So before I get into our review of Cleaner 6 itself, I'm going to save you a little bit of time and make my recommendation right now: This is a Must Buy bundle. No question about it.
Well, let's put it this way. Combustion was a Must Buy when it was priced alone at $5,000. And Cleaner, back in version 5, was a Strong Buy at $599. Now you can get Combustion 2 and Cleaner 6 together for $1,497. A complete--and outstanding, I might add--compositing, motion graphics, effects and encoding package for around $1,500? Yeah, that's a Must Buy. Don't even waste your time pondering the alternatives, of which there are none that offer the features and power of this bundle at this price.
We've already reviewed Combustion 2 extensively. And we already know that Combustion combined with Cleaner for $1,497 is simply an amazing deal. But now let's take a look at the new version of Cleaner and see how it stands on its own.
The Cleaner 6 Batch and Settings windows in Mac OS X.
What it does
Cleaner 6, which is currently available only for Macintosh (OS X and OS 9), is a video and audio encoding package that also offers interactive authoring features. It encodes and compresses files for DVD, the Web, video CD and PDA and offers support for QuickTime, Windows Media, RealSystem (OS 9 only), AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 and various audio and still image formats. And it handles filtering, cropping, effects and metadata.
Some of the MPEG-2 options in Cleaner 6
It also supports functionality collectively known as EventStream, which is a method for embedding interactivity into QuickTime, Windows Media and RealSystem files, a feature first introduced in Cleaner 5. This includes things like hotspots, chapters, text, keyframes, hyperlinks and the like. (We'll be providing a separate look at Cleaner's EventStream functionality in our feature series on interactive QuickTime encoding.)
EventStream authoring window for adding interactivity to media files.
Cleaner 6 the culmination of a fairly circuitous development path, one that has led it from Terran Interactive to Media 100 and now to Discreet. It was, in one early incarnation, little more than a shareware alternative to QuickTime Pro for compression. But it has since earned itself a place in the professional toolchest for its quality and, now, its workflow and performance.