Sorenson Media Squeeze 8.5 Update Review
COW Library : Sorenson Squeeze : Jerry Hofmann : Sorenson Media Squeeze 8.5 Update Review
Seeing Sorenson Media release an upgrade to their venerable compression software is always a noteworthy event because it improves every time. Each time Sorenson releases a new version, the improvements over the previous version are always significant and this new version has that same M.O. The speed improvements alone make this version worth the price of admission, upgrading or becoming a new satisfied customer of Sorenson Media's vaunted software, this version is exiting and a no brainer purchase.
Quality of image at any given bit rate has historically been the thrust of Sorenson Media's efforts toward product development. It's been the reason I've used Squeeze for the past decade preferring it to using NLE software or other "included" software for this critical function. It just looks better in the end at the same file size has always been my experience using Squeeze. This version is no different.
My last review of Sorenson's software is available here: http://library.creativecow.net/hofmann_jerry/Squeeze-7-review/1, and if you'd like a closer look at the general interface of Squeeze, this is a good place to start. Sorenson has a wonderful and colorful tour on Sorenson Media's website here: http://www.sorensonmedia.com DO click on that link! The web site is wonderful, easy to navigate, and reflects the excellence of the companies products.
Being a .5 release, you'd expect less, but this .5 release has given the Squeeze community something to really shout about. Speed. Yep, we've a faster Squeeze. A lot faster. Yahoo!
Speed being something we can all be happy about shouldn't overshadow the other new features and there are quite a few!
Here's the entire list of NEW features:
MPEG-DASH (Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP)
ACCELERATED ENCODING Z
MPEG-4 MKV WebM QuickTime
ACCELERATED ADAPTIVE ENCODING
Adaptive Bitrate Renditions (parallel encodes for HLS, Smooth, Adobe DS, MPEG-DASH)
Encoding Compression Load Settings (Light --> Heavy)
MINOR UI IMPROVEMENTS
Enter timecode to place the playhead in the preview window
Plenty to get excited about, but I'm going to highlight my two favorites. The new Approval process in the now and forever free (one of my favorite words) version of Sorenson 360, and of course, the much improved speed.
Squeeze has had a slick integration with Sorenson 360 (a cloud storage/streaming service included for FREE with purchase of Squeeze 8.5. You can easily send your compressed video from Squeeze to the Sorenson VPN, and share it with whomever you choose, or post it to your website while it's invisibly being served by Sorenson's speedy service, Which includes redundant storage world wide from some of the fastest SSD's out there (it's a partnership with Amazon's servers). But that's a different review. Won't matter if you're in Paris or LA or Tokyo. The web stream will play with the excellent quality we all expect and happily receive from Sorenson Media's services.
Sorenson 360 has a new and simple to use Web UI, a new rich text editor for use with a snazzy review and approval process all handled by Sorenson and usable on any device with a browser and broadband access. Take a peek:
Sorenson 360's new web based approval process system.
As you can see, plainly this is way easy to navigate. Intuitive, and simple. Watch the video near the top of the web page, write your comments in the text box, and click on the "Approve" or "Revise" button. An email is sent immediately to the sender. This is significantly better than uploading your files so say a service like DropBox because many users can access this stream at the same time without having to wait to download a huge file. Access can be password protected. This also means your director, producer, writer, client, or anybody can concurrently send notes back and click on the approve or revise button to automatically send the edit bay it's comments. Piece of cake! Gotta love it, and did I mention this is FREE with purchase with FREE permanent storage? Yeah, gotta love it.
You get 5GB of free storage, 1.5 GB of Bandwidth for viewing, no limit to duration of your masterpiece, unlimited bitrates, and 2 administrative users. You can scale this up for reasonable fees if need be, but if you're working in short form, with a client or two at a time, this may likely be all you need. (Just keep those bit rates down on your offline window burns). This included storage is available to new users as well as those just upgrading from a previous version of Squeeze.
The interface of Squeeze 8.5 isn't substantially different than the immediate previous versions, and that's a good thing because it was straightforward and easy to use, and change for the sake of change is a bad thing in software UI upgrades. It's always been easy for anybody to use Squeeze. Long ago Sorenson Media took the headache out of compression jobs without taking the customizable compression settings away.
And there's more speed, LOTS of it!
With the Sorenson historical insistence on extreme high-quality professional compression (rather than cut any corner for speed), it's nice to see them take a serious look at ways to make Squeeze to run faster without sacrificing their already famous second to nobody's image quality. Guess what, they have hit a home run here. Let's take a look at the speed tests:
Machine used for tests: 2011 MacBook Pro 2.2 GHz, i7 processor with 8GB of RAM, running OS 10.7.4. (Lion)
Source file was a 1080i 29.97fps ProRes file, and the encode setting was the 16:9 Short Form Apple HLS-h264SF 16:9 720p Adaptive bit rate preset supplied with the software. (While I'm talking about it, Squeeze comes with literally a gillion presets, so you don't have to know much about encoding to use this software, just pick the appropriate preset and hit a button is about all you ever need to do). There's little you can't compress from and to with this software, The entire list of supported formats is found here: http://www.sorensonmedia.com/video-encoding/compare/
The Source file used was the demo reel I use for one of my companies, and ran 2 minutes and 20 seconds exactly. Not easy to compress nicely, as it's got a lot of gradients in it. But the resulting files looked the same, both looked great.
Squeeze 8 completed the encoding in exactly 16 minutes and 50 seconds. (Sounds like a long time, but in reality, this preset makes 6 complete versions of your source file. i.e, 6 streams of video at various bit rates, not just one. So it's still a bit slower than real time for each stream, taking an average of not quite 3 minutes for each web stream to be created.
I performed the exact same job on the same computer setup with 8.5, and YAHOO!!! The job came in at 7:49! This is a bit more than twice the speed of Squeeze 8! It effectively squeezed my streams at faster than real time as well. A 2:20 minute movie just got squeezed in an average of 1 minute and 20 seconds! Keep in mind my machine isn't the fastest Mac out there, either. It's so last year's laptop. But never before has Squeeze made me smile as much as it did when I hit the button on that stopwatch!
Also note that the speed bump will be found on both Mac's and the PC versions of Squeeze 8.5.
Compressing in less than half the time is significant indeed. It's done through the use of Parallel rather than sequential processing in the new Squeeze video encoding engine.
As Sorenson Media puts it: "A significant re-architecture enables the application to systematically break decoded, compressed video files into separate content chunks and partition these simultaneously across multiple CPUs for processing." All I know is, it's twice as fast, and I'm in love with chunkware.
There are two versions of Squeeze 8.5. The more expensive version adds both Avid DNX encoding, and ProRes encoding (Mac only). And it adds BIAS SoundSoap, audio enhancing software, as well as Dolby AC3 Consumer Stereo capability (5.1 Surround sound). You also have the option to buy the lesser (non pro designated version), and buy either the DNX encoder or the ProRes encoder as an add-on for $99. Flexible pricing is a good thing I think.
This is, and has been, a 5 COW piece of software. I can highly recommend this software to all users, Mac or PC.
FREE fully functional TRIAL Download: http://www.sorensonmedia.com/video-encode/ (Jerry says: "Try it, You'll like it".)
Pricing and Availability
Sorenson Squeeze 8.5 and 8.5 Pro are now available for $799 and $999, respectively, for new Squeeze customers. It is also available for a limited time as a free upgrade for customers of Sorenson Squeeze 8. Sorenson Squeeze 8 customers receive 5 GB of free permanent storage and use of all Sorenson 360 features. For more information, contact a member of the sales team at sales (at) sorensonmedia.com.