GPU acceleration and smarter encoding make this a great deal
Leading Encoding App Just Gets Better
By Joe Herman
Last month Sorenson Media released Squeeze 7, the latest version of its comprehensive video encoding solution. Long respected for its quality encoding and intelligent workflow, my short take on the software is this: here’s an impressive app that deserves a place in every serious video professional’s toolset.
If you’re involved in the creation, editing or dissemination of digital video, Sorenson Squeeze 7 may provide all the encoding capability input and output you’ll ever need. Among the key new features in Squeeze are GPU acceleration, easy-to-deploy adaptive bitrate encoding and a striking amount of new input and output formats.
Squeeze 7 improves on the straightforward user interface
that debuted in Version 6.
GPU Acceleration Rocks
Rather than require your main CPU to carry the heavy burden of encoding video, Squeeze 7 joins the trend that other top software such as the latest Adobe Creative Suite collection: it now directly utilizes your system’s GPU. Because of this, encoding times in Sorenson Squeeze 7 come in significantly faster than in previous versions. But just in case your graphics card is not up to the task, Sorenson Squeeze 7 will automatically recognize if your primary CPU may be faster and will use whichever is the best resource for the encoding job.
Sorenson optimized the software with the support of CUDA, Nvidia’s powerful graphics computing architecture that’s now turning up for use in supercomputers as well as systems optimized for video and content creation. Obviously you’d do well to get one of the latest Nvidia Quadro cards if you do plan to use Version 7. This heralds a trend in the small but fiercely contested realm of high quality encoding. Although dedicated hardware/software encoding technology still wins out when you have dozens or hundreds of videos to process at one time, with such potent GPU technology software-only encoders are now catching up while costing much less than the many thousands of dollars dedicated gear sells for.
In short, with the new ability to harness the power of your GPUs, Squeeze 7 offers tremendous value for your money. Sorenson’s own benchmark tests show that Squeeze 7 runs up to three times faster than Squeeze 6 when encoding to the H.264 format. (Sorenson has added important output formats in the new version including Google’s new favorite WebM; MPEG Transport Streams with H.264 and Dolby AC3 for broadcasters; MPEG-2 elementary streams—to author for Blu-ray with H.264 and VC-1; and DVB for cable and satellite television.)
More Control with Adaptive Bitrate Encoding
Creating, segmenting and encoding the various versions of the video at the different data rates needed to implement adaptive bitrate encoding can be a very labor-intensive, detailed and time-consuming process. If you’ve ever slogged through this you’ll appreciate that Squeeze 7 automates many of the time consuming tasks necessary to create the correct files to stream your multimedia. (Adaptive bitrate encoding enabled files means that after you post multiple bitrate versions of your video to a folder on a content delivery network’s server, that system will then negotiate with a user app such as QuickTime the best bitrate to use over a particular connection. This in turn is known as adaptive bitrate streaming.)
You’ll appreciate this capability (where the server and the user’s computer/mobile device hash out the details of the transfer themselves) if you regularly post a lot of video to a content-delivery network (e.g. Sorenson 360, Akamai, Amazon, YouTube). Version 7’s adaptive bitrate encoding interface pulls together in a logical manner all that you need to do in order to prep your video.
Output is initially targeting probably the biggest market–playback on iOS devices, especially iPads and iPhones. Other platforms follow later in the year. Pretty slick, we think.
Presets are simple to setup in Squeeze 7
Adobe Premiere Gets Some Love
Until the last two versions or so of Creative Suite, Adobe’s editing app Premiere had been lagging the league leading offerings from Apple and Avid. But with tighter integration with the other Creative Suite Production Studio apps and considerable improvements, Adobe Premiere now rates highly.
Sorenson must have noticed, since they’ve now added support via a plug-in for Premiere that’s compatible with Creative Suite 4 and Creative Suite 5. You can now export directly to Squeeze and even choose specific presets from within Premiere. With the new plug-in, Squeeze 7 now provides seamless encoding from within every major NLE including Avid’s Media Composer, Newscutter and Symphony as well as Apple’s iMovie, Final Cut and Final Cut Pro.
Sorenson Squeeze 7 offers many more compelling features, but we will only mention a few of the more noteworthy here: powerful commenting and collaboration capabilities; the ability to save your own presets and share them with others through a free online preset exchange program; and tight integration with Sorenson’s own video content and sharing website, Sorenson 360. Our take? If you have hung back on buying an encoding app because they seemed too complex, too difficult to learn, or too limited, well, this is the one to buy. The clean, straightforward interface means you can do high-level encoding with just a cursory comprehension of the complexities. If you’re thinking of upgrading from Version 6.5, the GPU acceleration might alone be enough to convince you.
Sorenson Squeeze 7’s tab isn’t too painful either with its $799 list price. (Upgrades from Squeeze 6 are $199, while moving up from previous versions begins at $299.)