JANUARY 31, 2003
Sorenson Squeeze 3 Compression Suite
by John B. Virata

Sorenson Squeeze 3 Compression Suite is a $449 application that enables you to output to a variety of streaming file formats in one unified application. In addition to the capability to output to QuickTime, Flash FLV, and Flash SWF, Sorenson Squeeze 3 Compression Suite for Windows now offers the tools to output to MPEG-4 (via Sorenson's MPEG-4 codec), RealMedia, and Windows Media Audio/Video (via Windows Media codecs). The Macintosh version enables you to output to QuickTime, Flash, and MPEG-4.

The application, which offers one-pass and two pass variable bit rate encoding, is targeted at video professionals, web designers, corporate media professionals and those who need to compress large video files to a size that is suitable for playback on the Web, LAN, and CD. The suite includes all of the Sorenson codecs; Sorenson Video 3 Pro, Spark Pro, and Sorenson MPEG-4 Pro.[an error occurred while processing this directive]
The Squeeze Interface

The Compression Suite features a drag and drop interface whereby you just drag the video clips that you want to compress and select a preset for a hassle free experience. If you want more control, you can select and customize your own parameters for your own specific needs. You can also save the custom settings for use on future media files.
Click image to view QuickTime movie targeted at 56k

The available preset settings are targeted to specific playback scenarios. For example, if you are encoding a QuickTime file and your target is the dial-up crowd, you choose the preset for 56k. The available compression choices are streaming, progressive, local, and custom. When choosing to compress a file, you can choose a file format, several formats, or all formats simultaneously as Squeeze will batch process them until all are completed.
Click image to view streaming 100k QuickTime movie

New Features
Squeeze offers the capability to import DV files from an external source such as a DV camera. Once Squeeze locates the device, you can press the play button on the device and the record button in the Squeeze window and it records to your specified location on your hard drive. The interface in this sense however is spartan as there are no counters to alert you as to the amount of disk space that is used up as you capture. The only marker that lets you know that a capture is actually taking place is from the red record button turning black as the video is captured from the device. It would be nice to have a counter of some sort to let you know how much video has been captured, as well as how much hard disk space is remaining.
Click image to view large streaming MPEG-4 QuickTime movie

You can also trim the video, via in/out trim points, removing unneeded scenes at the beginning or end of the clip. If you just want the middle portions of a clip you can trim out the beginning end as well. The Windows version includes Trim Tabs as part of the interface. The Mac OS X version requires that you hold down the shift key to mark the in and out points.

Squeeze 3 Compression Suite enables you to set a target output size of your compressed video by adjusting the compression settings accordingly. Squeeze 3 Compression Suite also supports deinterlacing, which removes the interlacing artifacts caused by the two-fields-per-frame characteristic in video. Also included with this release are new Video Filters that give you controls over brightness/contrast, Gamma correction, and Black/White Restore. The Video filters also include a remove telecine feature, deinterlacing, fade in/out, normalize audio, and video noise reduction. You can also crop your video to fit standard TV (4:3), Widescreen (16:9), and Widescreen Movie (2.35:1) output formats.
The Filter Settings window

Watch folders, which enable you to batch process multiple files in a watch folder, are also new to this release. When you place videos into a Watch folder, Squeeze looks for the watch folder and compresses the video(s) in the folder.

You can stitch SWF files, which enables you to break up the larger SWF file sizes into smaller ones. When completed, the stiched files play in succession, giving you a seamless look to your larger SWF files. Also included are six player templates to further customize your Flash videos, or you can create your own. You can also add links and playback action controls for SWF output.
Click image to view small MPEG-4 QuickTime movie

Vcast Support
Once you have finished Squeezing your clips, you can broadcast them via Sorenson's Vcast service, which enables you to webcast your Squeezed videos on Sorenson's servers for a nominal, monthly fee. Vcast supports QuickTime, Microsoft Windows Media, Real Media and Macromedia Flash. The fees range from $25 a month for 50MB of storage capacity and 1.5GB of streaming bytes per month to $250 a month for 500MB of storage capacity and 15GB of streaming bandwidth per month.

First Impressions
It is nice to have all the file formats available in a unified package at a good price point. Sorenson Squeeze 3 Compression Suite does a great job of simplifying the compression process while outputting great quality at miniscule data rates. The original video shown above was a 74MB file, and Squeeze was able to effectively compress it down to under 1MB for the three examples above. This release does not feature MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 output, but these file formats don't really fit into Sorenson's streaming strategy.

Sorenson Squeeze runs on Windows 98SE/2000/ME/XP and Mac OS X and requires QuickTime 5. The Mac version requires a G3 processor or greater and 128MB RAM. The Windows version requires a Pentium-III-based PC or greater and 128MB RAM and Direct X 8.1 or later. While the Squeeze 3 Compression Suite does not support multiple processors, the Sorenson Video 3 Pro codec does, so you should see some speed improvements when you compress to the QuickTime format.
For more information, visit www.sorenson.com

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