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Terran Interactive Cleaner 5Video compression and interactive encoding
Cleaner 5 at a Glance
Publisher: Terran Interactive
Overall Impression: Very clean interface, exceptional compression, wide variety of codecs, great interactivity. This is the best tool on the market for encoding video for the Web.
Key Benefits: Cleaner 5 offers the best video compression I've ever seen. The new interactive features take this application to the next level, bringing power to QuickTime that was previously unavailable at a price point this low.
Disappointments: None. But there is currently no "lite" version, nor is there a Power Suite version. (Media Cleaner Pro 4 could be purchased along with an Ultra BlueICE board to accelerate encoding. This option is not yet available for Cleaner 5, so you must rely entirely on the CPU.)
Recommendation: Strong Buy.
It would be physically impossible for me to write this review without gushing. I was first introduced to Terran Interactive's Cleaner family of products through Media Cleaner EZ and, later, through Media Cleaner Pro, and I was instantly in awe of the sheer data smashing power of these applications, which could take huge video files and shrink them down to almost nothing while maintaining great image quality. We've been crunching QuickTime files with Media Cleaner Pro (as well as the Media Cleaner Power Suite) here at Digital Media Net and DMN TV on a daily basis for some time now, and the results have been stunning. The quality is impressive; the speed is pretty decent; and the compression is nothing short of impossible.
Now along comes Cleaner 5, the followup to Media Cleaner Pro, with an improved video processing engine, Velocity optimization for the G4 and a whole host of new and enhanced features, and suddenly I'm in awe all over again.
What is it?
If you're familiar with previous members of the Cleaner family (Media Cleaner Pro, Media Cleaner EZ, Media Cleaner Compression Suite, Media Cleaner Power Suite), skip to the next section. If you're not, read on.
Cleaner 5 is a suite of tools for preparing video and audio for the Web. Frankly, it's the best set of tools for doing so. Sure, you can compress and encode video and audio from virtually any NLE or compositing application out there, but these applications can't do it like Cleaner 5. By analogy, Cleaner 5 is to audio and video encoding what Macromedia Fireworks is to JPEG encoding. Nothing compares. Cleaner encodes QuickTime, RealSystem 8, Windows Media, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2, MP3, DV and a whole host of other formats. For QuickTime alone, it includes 25 codecs, and its implementation is unparalleled.
But compression is only one of its functions. It also ships with MotoDV for bringing in video directly through your FireWire ports and into Cleaner. It supports direct export from a number of video editing applications (Adobe Premiere, Media 100i and several Avid systems). And it allows you to add interactive elements to your videos through a technology called EventStream, which we first saw in Media 100i. Finally, it provides tools for publishing your video or audio projects on the Web.
Basically, it's the total professional video tool for the Web.
What's it got that you ain't got?
If you work in Media Cleaner Pro 4, you're probably quite happy with what you have. So why should you upgrade? It depends on what you're doing, but there are good reasons for everybody. For a relatively low upgrade fee (even lower if you've purchased Media Cleaner Pro since Sept. 10), you get a whole new world of joy.
What got my juices flowing about Cleaner 5 first was the inclusion of EventStream, which also happened to be one of my favorite features of Media 100i. (Media 100 owns Terran Interactive.) EventStream lets you add interactive features to your movie files, whether these be QuickTime, Real or Windows Media, which are then read by the end user's media player. (QuickTime accepts all possible EventStreams, while Real and Windows Media are more limited.) This means that you can take any video file and encode it with interactivity, regardless of its source. You can also use events created in Media 100i. Events you can create from scratch in Cleaner 5 include:
Hotspot (QuickTime, Real): This lets you draw areas (ovals and rectangles) on your video footage, which can then perform actions when the user clicks on these areas. Hotspots can be applied to any layer in a video as well, so, for example, you can use custom graphics that can act as controls in QuickTime for play and pause, rather than using the default buttons. Hotspots can also open a URL (including targeting frames), go to a different time in the movie and replace a movie. (Note that the play and pause features only work in QuickTime.) You can include any number of hotspots in your movie, each of which can perform different actions, and each of which can have their own durations, which you can set manually though a simple interface.
Chapter (QuickTime, Windows Media): This feature lets you mark points in your movies that the user will see as chapters, allowing them to skip to different points in your video without having to use fast forward or rewind. You can even give your chapters custom names to help the user navigate.
Display Text (QuickTime, Real, Windows Media): This feature sticks a text field beneath your movie, which you can then edit for start time and duration, which you might want to use for synching text with audio (closed captioning) or to instruct the viewer to click on a hotspot, etc. Text can be displayed at any point in the movie, and there appears to be no limit as to how many different text messages you can embed. (Cleaner 5's documentation includes special instructions for dealing with text when encoding for the Real format.)
Go to Time (QuickTime): This lets you tell a movie to go to a time specified. If you're using interactive menus, for example, you can create hotspots over them so that the user can skip ahead to the part of the movie that interests him or her. You can also use it to loop the movie.
Keyframe (QuickTime, Real): The keyframe event lets you manually insert keyframes into your movie file (by time, not by frame) for when users will be able to access the movie at that particular time, such as when you're using the Go to Time event.
Open URL (QuickTime, Real, Windows Media): This is an outstanding feature. You can use it to sync HTML to your movie or to allow the user to click on a hotspot to call up an HTML file for more information. It also allows you to target a frame, so the viewer can read along while the movie is still playing. Let's say, for example, that you have a video that shows a man walking into a building. You can tell the movie file to open up a graphic of the building in a frame beneath the movie and a text history of the building in a frame next to the movie?all without the end user having to do anything. Or you can just create a hotspot to let the viewer click on an object to find out more information about that object. Maybe the hotspot calls up information about how the user can purchase the object he or she clicks on. Maybe your movie is a mystery, and clicking on an object calls up information about a clue. Whatever. It's versatile.
Pause (QuickTime): This will tell your movie to stop on a certain frame. This is great when you're using interactive menus. Let's say, for example, that you're doing a newscast that contains several stories. At the end of each story, you could pause on a frame that contains menus, allowing users to go to a more in depth text story, load a QuickTime VR of a product discussed in the story or just continue with the newscast. The possibilities are endless.
Play (QuickTime): This only works with hotspots and lets users continue a movie following a pause, such as in the case of pausing to display interactive menus. It can also be used as a replacement for the default QuickTime controls.
Replace Movie (QuickTime, Real, Windows Media): This is a great one to use with hotspots. If you're giving users the option of viewing a number of different video pieces, you probably don't want to be taxing their bandwidth by having them download every single second of footage. So you can break it up and let users choose which parts of your movie they want to watch. The movie then loads into the same window as the original movie. Another application might be placing advertisements in your movie. So, for example, you can tell your video file to replace itself at a certain point with "ad1.mov," which will then load the advertisement. The last frame of the advertisement will then go to the next segment of your movie. The benefit of this is that you can use generic file names like "ad1.mov" and "ad2.mov" to load any movie file with that name so that you don't have to go back and reencode your movie anytime an ad changes.
Web Poster (QuickTime): This lets you select a frame that the user will then see while the movie is loading. Clicking on the poster starts the movie playing. It also sets the preview of the QuickTime movie, which can be useful because the default QuickTime preview is the first frame of the movie, which is often black and tells you nothing about the file.
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