A week ago Sorenson Media released Squeeze 9, a new version of their transcoding app. Squeeze 9 has several new features, a new interface design, and should be much faster. I tested it and got some unexpected results.
You can’t accuse Sorenson Media of standing still. They’ve updated Squeeze 8 on a regular basis, introduced a server and an inexpensive Windows server-based solution and with every copy of Squeeze you’ll also get access to their 360 service.
But Squeeze 9 is a big leap forward in more than one way. When I read the press release on the new interface and then got to actually see it, it didn’t exactly correspond to what I expected — the changes are much smaller than the wordings would make you think. Based on that press release alone, I anticipated to see same small changes throughout the rest of the application, but luckily for those who need to use this program on a daily basis, I was wrong.
Yes, the interface has changed, yes it has become more efficient, more logical, but it’s not new. OK, so Sorenson Media told me they didn’t want to drastically throw away the old as too many people would be lost. Makes sense, but being a Mac user my initial understanding of “new interface design” automatically made me think of a breach between the old and the new — sort of like what you saw with OS X pre-Lion and post-Lion.
Even with the subtle alterations, you can’t deny Squeeze 9 just feels nicer, and more user-friendly. It’s quicker to start and most important of all: it’s faster at decoding/transcoding. With Squeeze 8.5, transcoding a native GoPro H.264 file to ProRes 422 would take longer than running the same file through GoPro’s own Cineform Studio Pro and then transcoding the result with Cineform ReMaster. With Squeeze 9 there’s no difference anymore and the bonus is that you don’t need two programs.
By the way, Squeeze 8.5 and Squeeze 9 are the only two encoders that understand the GoPro H.264 format correctly and are able to transcode it to ProRes 422/4444 without choking on it.
Context menu in Squeeze 9
Some of the really juicy stuff in Squeeze 9 lies hidden behind the context menu (Ctrl-click a clip in the queue panel). The menu reveals two new options: Add Pre-roll and Add Post-roll. What this means is that you can now add a clip that you always add to a movie before it starts, and one that you always add at the end. For online video publishers, an example would be an intro clip with your logo, name and URL and an outro with your name and other credentials scrolling from top to bottom.
If you pre-recorded these two clips you needed to add them in your NLE before Squeeze 9. Now you can just add them inside Squeeze before you start encoding. Of course, this also opens the door to advertising inside your videos. Create an ad clip for every customer, and you can instantly add the clip in Squeeze 9 without having to go to Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro X.
The context menu also lets you link to additional audio. Let’s say you have an interview but want to add background music to the entire video, then you can add this in Squeeze 9. I’m not sure if this feature wasn’t available in Squeeze 8.5 as well.
Squeeze 9 for the pros and the rest of us
In Squeeze 9, you can now use the timecode from a source file or custom timecode in the timecode burn-in filter. Better yet, the timecode filter preserves QuickTime Time Code tracks when burning source timecode into your output file. Very useful if you have a source that generates timecode, such as a professional video camera, but also a GoPro Hero3. If you’re not using a camcorder with timecode you might think you don’t need this feature, but remember that a Ninja2 and most other recorders generate timecode as well.
The Timecode filter also lets you use Squeeze 9 as a timecode generator with the timecode itself printed on the clip in a font size, colour and background as you prefer.
Another new feature is support for Closed Caption exporting. Closed captions in QuickTime CC 608 and CC 708 sources can produce TTML output in Squeeze 9. I didn’t try this out, lacking the necessary files and a caption generator.
What I did test, and with much joy I might add, is Squeeze 9’s unique HTML5 output. Not only does Squeeze 9 spit out a HTML5 video, it also creates the corresponding web page. This feature alone is well worth the upgrade price. It works perfectly and the output quality is simply astonishingly good, certainly if you consider the small file size of the video. YouTube could learn a thing or two from this new feature.
Squeeze 9 has improved MPEG-DASH output (MPEG Dynamic Adaptive Streaming over HTTP), which is the latest MPEG format for streaming over the web. Furthermore, it has a colour space correction filter. Changing between 702 and RGB colour spaces for your source files is possible with the Luma Scale filter. I tried it out on a raw Protune file from a Hero3 using the A/B slider of the preview panel to see the changes instantly.
A list of other improvements includes official Windows 8 and OS 10.8 support,
use of publishing options without re-encoding, latest version of the x264 codec, colour space options for MXF output, more prominent Review and Approval, and an Adobe CS6 plugin. I’m disappointed there still isn’t a Final Cut Pro X plug-in, though.
Speed and quality have been enhanced in the MainConcept 9.6 SDK. The MainConcept H.264 CUDA version now supports CBR, Interlace Mode, Reference Frames, Multiple Slices, and HRD (Blu-Ray), etc. etc.
Squeeze 9 is definitely not an upgrade that makes you wonder whether the company was short on cash and needed to throw something on the market quickly without offering much that would justify the price. If you’ve never used Squeeze before, now is the best time to try it out. You won’t be disappointed.