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Review: Video Compression (with) Cleaner 5

Feb, 2001

Video Compression (with) Cleaner 5
With Evan Schectman
A 4-part video set (VHS NTSC/PAL or one DVD)
$195.00 USD

Reviewed by Daniel Sofer

VIDEO COMPRESSION WITH CLEANER 5 is an instructional video for Terran/Media 100s latest MediaCleaner product, now simply called Cleaner 5.

Video compression does not benefit from a one-size-fits-all approach, which is why Cleaner 5 with all its settings, is such a useful tool. However those starting out or not interested in technicalities will find the options in Cleaner mind-boggling, to say nothing of its 300 page manual.
That is where
VIDEO COMPRESSION WITH CLEANER 5 becomes useful. Its approach balances the desire for simple answers with enough additional information for the user to make informed choices within Cleaner 5.

This is not an elaborate video production. During the entire four-tape set the instructor, Evan Schechtman of Outpost Digital in New York, sits in a plain room in front of his Mac and video monitor. The only cutaways are the many closeups of the Mac screen illustrating the points he is describing and excerpts from the video he's compressing. Evan is clearly comfortable with the subject at hand, a bit less at being on camera. His discussion is saturated with useful information and tips and it will probably take a few viewings before it all sinks in.

The total set clocks in at under two and a half hours, but spreading it out over four tapes makes it easier to find the specific section you're looking for. (A DVD version will be available soon. ed.)
The tape set is in seven sections:

1. Basics
2. Interface
3. Settings Wizard
4. Project Setup
5. Advanced Settings: QuickTime
6. Advanced Settings: RealVideo
7. Advanced Settings: Windows Media

Evan spends substantial time explaining the concepts of digital video and compression and the differences among the three architectures and codecs. He also discusses how to best setup your computer for digital video. These are important points that anyone working with digital video needs to know and I'm glad to see them included here.

He demonstrates how to import video using MotoDV, now included in Cleaner 5, and discusses Cleaner's Preferences and Settings Wizard. As is appropriate, the bulk of the discussion of Advanced Settings centers on QuickTime, the format with the most options. RealPlayer gets a good run through, but the discussion of WindowsMedia is quite brief. MPEG video and MP3 audio also get short shrift here.

Each feature is presented clearly and concisely, explaining where to set it for optimal results. This approach yields good results in a minimal amount of time, but does not consider the complexities or possibilities of many of the controls.

For example, throughout the tapes Mr. Schechtman suggests a keyframing rule of 1 keyframe per 100 frames. This is a good suggestion for someone looking for a simple answer, but the 2-page discussion of keyframe frequency in the Cleaner 5 manual indicates the real answer is not so simple.

Streaming media also requires interaction with web pages and connection with media servers, but Mr. Schechtman's discussion of these features stays entirely within Cleaner. Although he shows some dialog boxes, he never shows an FTP upload, html, a movie embedded in a web page, or the contents of the intermediate .ram or .asx files necessary for communication with the media server. All these functions are part of Cleaner 5 and I think viewers would be better served by seeing the entire process.

VIDEO COMPRESSION WITH CLEANER 5 is a useful video for anyone getting started with Cleaner 5. Its not the last word on the subject, but it's a great starting point and a good resource for those who hate reading manuals.

Daniel Sofer runs Hermosawave Internet, a web development and hosting firm in Hermosa Beach, Ca.

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