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Telestream Episode Pro 4.2

Compression and encoding suite By Kevin Schmitt

The folks at Telestream have been busy of late?among other things, we've seen the release of version 2 of the Flip4Mac WMV components, the update of same to run natively on Intel Macs, Telestream's acquisition of Popwire, and finally, the re-branding of the former Compression Master as the Episode series of products. Today's review specifically concerns Episode Pro 4.2 (+ Flash 8), and as a service to those of you with the attention span of a gnat (like myself) who like to get to the bottom line quickly, here it is: Episode=excellent.

A note on the Episode series

Before we begin, let me offer a brief word on what constitutes the Episode lineup and what I'll specifically be addressing today. The Episode series of products all fall under the Episode Workgroup moniker, which, in turn, is divided into two categories: the desktop products ("regular" and Pro) and the Engine products (again, "regular" and Pro). While this isn't a review of the Episode Engine, the long and short of the Engine products is that they are server-side technologies which extend the horsepower of Episode Pro to enable such things as real-time HD encoding. Episode Pro (which is the actual subject of this review), among its other features, is designed to work hand-in-hand with Engine to configure and control jobs which get sent to the Engine for processing, though that feature won't figure into today's review. Got all that?

Regular vs. Pro

I should also mention the split between the Episode desktop products (one more time: "regular" and Pro). I was provided with a review copy of Episode Pro (with the Flash 8 add-on), but that doesn't mean there won't be useful information about the regular-strength Episode product, since it's considerably less expensive than its beefier Pro sibling. In fact, there isn't a whole lot separating the $395 base product from the $895 Pro version. Here's a quick rundown on what you get by going Pro:

  • Pro format support (MXF, GXF, IMX, HDV, H.264 High Profile, MPEG-2/MPEG-4 transport streams)
  • 5.1/7.1 surround sound encoding
  • Ability to interface with the Episode Engine solutions
  • Unlimited batch processing

On that last point, the non-Pro version is limited to 25 jobs in a batch, which could present anywhere from no problem to major problems depending on what your needs are. Anyway, those are the only differences, and while a $500 price bump from regular to Pro may seem like a lot, if you absolutely need any of the features outlined above, I suspect the half-g is likely not a huge issue. So, with that out of the way, pretty much everything I mention from here on out will apply to both the regular and Pro versions, and while this review is technically for Episode Pro, you should be able to get a good sense of both products.

Media support

No review of a compression/transcoding/encoding product would be complete without a rundown on media types it imports and exports, so here's a quick rundown:

Import: MPEG-1/MPEG-2/MPEG-4, DV, QuickTime, Windows Media 9, AVI, 3GPP/3GPP2, MP3, ATSC A/52

Export: MPEG-1/MPEG-2/MPEG-4, DV, QuickTime, RealMedia (PPC only), Flash 7, Windows Media 9, WMA Pro, 3GPP/3GPP2, AMC, M4A, AIFF, VC-1, ATSC A/52

Of course, it bears repeating that the Pro version also adds support for the formats mentioned a bit earlier. There are a few other items of note here: one, keep in mind that there are often "sub-codecs" available for many of the listed formats; for example, DV support includes basic DV25 as well as both DVCPRO 25 and 50, and Episode's QuickTime implementation features several non-standard codecs such as 8/10-bit Blackmagic and Media 100 (in addition to the regular stable of QT codecs).

Additionally, while Episode includes a ton of supported formats and codecs right out of the box, it's future-proof to a certain extent by supporting whatever custom QuickTime codecs you may have access to. An example here would be if you had a QuickTime-based XviD codec (or whatever), which would enable you to create custom settings to encode to that particular format.

Also, in case you're wondering where Flash 8 Video support is, it's available, but apparently important enough to charge an extra $100 for (both Episode and Episode Pro offer Flash 8 encoding as a paid add-on). In this day and age of Flash 8 video darn near everywhere, it may only be a matter of eventuality as to whether or not you need Flash 8 support (especially if you have no other means of encoding Flash video). However, if your Flash needs are light, you may have noticed from the list that Episode does include out-of-the-box support for encoding to Flash 7 Video (the earlier Sorenson Spark codec, as opposed to the newfangled On2 VP6 codec present in Flash 8), so you're not completely left out in the cold when it comes to Flash Video.

One last item worth mentioning in the media support department concerns RealMedia. While Episode is a Universal Binary application, meaning that it runs natively on Intel Macs, you Intel folks are out of luck if you need to export RealMedia. This isn't Telestream's fault, as Intel Mac-based RealMedia encoders don't exist yet, but consider yourself warned about this limitation regardless.


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Related Keywords:telestream, flip4mac, popwire, episode, HD encoding

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