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Autodesk Cleaner 6.5

Video and audio batch compression suite for Mac OS X By Kevin Schmitt

Summary: Cleaner 6.5 is the latest version of the venerable encoding program, carrying over the famous ease of use and outstanding selection of presets and preprocessing options from earlier versions, yet the upgrade is comprised of only a few new or updated codecs.
Manufacturer: Autodesk (http://www.autodesk.com/)
Platform: Mac OS X 10.3/10.4 (PPC-only, no Universal Binary has been announced as of this writing)
Price: $599 new, $125 for an upgrade from version 6, $175 for an upgrade from version 4 or 5, free 30-day trial available
Users: Multimedia producers, Web designers/developers, Videographers
Recommendation: Buy for new purchases; Neutral for upgrades

Talk about a product that's made the rounds?Cleaner began life as Media Cleaner Pro at Terran Interactive, a company that was acquired by Media 100, who then sold Cleaner to Discreet, which was rebranded under the Autodesk moniker, and then...well, that's it. We're at the present day, and Autodesk Cleaner 6.5 is the latest version of the well-traveled, Mac-only compression program (Windows users have Cleaner XL, which is, like, 33.5 versions ahead). What it does, what's new, and if it's worth your time are all questions to ponder as we take a closer look.

What it does

Taking the last sentence of the introduction literally, let's delve a bit into what's what in Cleaner from a general standpoint. First, an exciting table! Out of the box, Cleaner supports the following formats:


Read Write
Video
  • DV
  • QuickTime
  • AVI
  • MPEG-1
  • MPEG-2
  • MPEG-4
  • 3G (for mobile devices)
  • DivX
  • DV
  • Flash MX video
  • Kinoma (for Palm and PSP)
  • MPEG-1
  • MPEG-2
  • MPEG-4
  • QuickTime
  • Real 10
  • Windows Media 7
Audio
  • AIFF
  • AU
  • Audio CD
  • DV
  • MPEG-4 Audio
  • MP3
  • QuickTime
  • Sound Designer II
  • WAV
  • AIFF
  • AAC
  • DV
  • MPEG-4 Audio
  • MP3
  • QuickTime
  • Real 10
  • System 7 Sound
  • WAV
  • WMA

Basically, whether you're targeting Web users with 28.8 modems, dealing with clips that need native Flash playback, or are prepping video for DVD delivery, you should be covered. Streaming, non-streaming, offline, online, high quality or low, it's a pretty impressive list, but is by no means a static one. Most of those formats are handled by QuickTime, while others (Flash MX and Real 10) hook into QuickTime as components (the former being locked out from other QuickTime-aware programs). It seems that Kinoma, DivX export, and Windows Media export are bundled into Cleaner, so they're not available to other QuickTime-aware resources. But in general, you're certainly not limited to what ships with Cleaner; indeed, if you have specialized codecs they'll likely play very happily with Cleaner. Where am I going with this? My approach to Cleaner as a product has historically (if you can call 1998 historic) been that Cleaner's strength, and hence the reason to buy it or not, lies not in the codecs it does or doesn't include (or provides access to), but in the fact that it's a powerful and extensible framework to enable batch preprocessing and compression of all manner of media files. Therefore, despite how it may be billed, Cleaner is, more than anything else, a "workflow engine" for video and audio compression. Codecs may come and go, but if you can use a single program as a gateway to those codecs, and that program offers excellent processing, automation, and high-quality output, then you'll be in darned good shape as a media producer. Enough context?let's take a not-so-brief tour so you can see what I'm talking about.

Cleaner's interface is simple and powerful, and has remained virtually untouched at least since I've been using it (version 3). While a couple of notable features have entered into play over the years (like the Watch folder), Cleaner does its thing almost exclusively through three windows: the Batch window, the Project window, and the Settings panel (fig. 1).


Figure 1

The Batch window is aptly named, as it's where you create and set up batches for processing. Drag clips into the batch, apply one or more settings, set the priority for processing (if you want), and press the play button. That's about a simple as it gets. Of course, there's more?in conjunction with the two other main windows, you have an enormous amount of control over how and when clips are processed. By selecting and right-clicking on a clip (or multiple clips), you can quickly apply a setting, change the priority (specifying when a clip gets processed in the Batch), or target a custom destination for files (fig. 2).


Figure 2

By clicking on the Batch window headings, you can sort Batches on the fly to change the processing order even after a Batch has started processing. Finally, you can save create and save new Batches to quickly recall often-used sets of clips.

Let's look at a quick example of how easy the Batch window makes it to wrangle your media. Let's say you have a clip (which is good, since you'll be using Cleaner and all), and this clip needs to be turned into a series of progressive download QuickTime movies for slow, medium and fast Internet connections. Here's the process:

  1. Drag your clip into the Batch window.
  2. Open the Settings window (which we'll discuss in greater detail in a moment).
  3. Twirl down the QuickTime settings folder, and then twirl down the NTSC settings subfolder.
  4. Control-click on the SV3NTSC small download, SV3NTSC medium download, and SV3NTSC large download to select them all.
  5. Click Apply (Cleaner duplicates the clip two additional times in the Batch window and applies the selected settings).
  6. Select all the clips in the Batch window, then select Batch: Group QuickTime Alternates.
  7. Hit the Play button.

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Related Keywords:autodesk, cleaner, compression, streaming media

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