Sorenson Puts the Squeeze on Video

Squeeze 3 Compression Suite outclasses the competition.

January 13, 2003

3 Min Read
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Film to Video

I tested a beta copy of Squeeze 3 Compression Suite on a Pentium III-based computer running Microsoft Windows 98 (Sorenson representatives say the company will release an Apple Macintosh version later this quarter). I put Squeeze through its paces by compressing an eight-minute clip from the 1966 movie, The Wrong Box, but the software can compress any length video.

To make a comparison between two-pass Squeeze and the commonly used one-pass QuickTime 6, I used the increasingly popular MPEG-4 output format. I compressed the digital video file in QuickTime using the built-in MPEG-4 encoder. The result was a 21-MB file with video compressed to 256 Kbps at 320x240 pixels and 30 frames per second, and audio using AAC/mono at 96 Kbps. Next I encoded the original digital video using Squeeze at the same settings. When finished, Squeeze had created a 18.7-MB file--15 percent smaller than QuickTime's.

Speed vs. Quality

The quality difference in the video produced by two-pass Squeeze as compared with one-pass compression tools is so great, Squeeze is in a class by itself. On-screen movement doesn't have the expected blockiness. And the text in the output was sharper--it had cleaner edges than that produced by QuickTime. For text-heavy video, this can mean the difference between an engaged audience and a group of staffers feigning interest while messaging each other from their laptops. Although Squeeze performs two-pass encoding by default, you can turn off this setting if you have a rush job. Unfortunately, the resulting quality would be closer to what you'd get with one-pass QuickTime.The price you pay for this improved quality is time. In my tests, QuickTime compressed the video and created a file in less than 10 minutes; Squeeze needed three hours to compress the same video. A faster computer would have reduced this time somewhat. If you need video compressed and you need it now, Squeeze isn't the answer.

Squeeze 3 has broken ground with another feature: It lets you work backward. You can set the output size you want rather than trying different settings until you hit on those that give you the quality and file size you need. This option is useful if you are creating video for the Internet and want your clips at a certain size.

In addition, by letting you set the in and out points for encoding, Squeeze now includes a capability typically found only in editing programs, such as those from Media 100 or Apple's Final Cut Pro. This saves time: You don't need to cut the video in another application first. Sorenson also has improved the Flash MX side with player templates and playback controls.

Finally, the software lets you create a "watch" folder. Squeeze will automatically compress any video files placed in the folder without user intervention.

Squeeze compresses QuickTime, digital video, .WMV or .AVI files. At this time there is no method in the Real SDK to allow those files as source media, according to Sorenson. But Squeeze will output files compatible with Real's player. Squeeze 3 Compression Suite offers too many options for each output type to list them all, but you shouldn't have any problem getting just what you want from the audio or video.Darrin Woods is a Network Computing contributing editor. He has worked as a WAN engineer for a telecom carrier. Write to him at [email protected].

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