Cleaner 6.5

Cleaner 6.5

Cleaner's interface is plain and simple - in a good way.


Cleaner was once a must-have tool for working with video on the Mac. It was a batch-encoding whiz, able to take raw video and expertly encode it to almost any digital format imaginable, creating everything from downloadable versions for the Web to bigger, better renditions destined for CD-ROM, DVD, and more. But although the latest version of Cleaner has been more than three years in the making, it offers few must-have new features - or anything else we can get excited about.


On the bright side, the things we've always loved about Cleaner are still there: an easy, intuitive batch-encoding interface; lots of preset compression settings that produce good results right away; and manual control over everything from image size and data rates to post-production effects such as noise reduction, gamma correction, and watermarking.


Autodesk has updated Cleaner by adding some new video formats, including various Kinoma Producer formats with presets for popular PDAs and Sony's PSP gaming handheld (many presets use MPEG-4 compression). There's a new setting for iPod video, several settings for Flash's FLV and SWF formats, the ability to encode video in the popular DivX codec, and support for Real 10 (in addition to existing support for Windows Media).


It's great that Cleaner adds so many new formats (even though some of them aren't exactly mainstream); that's why we were surprised to find Cleaner's paltry support for H.264, the sexy, super-efficient compression codec Apple introduced in QuickTime 7. Cleaner can encode to H.264, but it offers no easy-to-use presets. You have to manually create your settings from the ground up.


Ouch. Cleaner's $599 price ignores the fact that it has some genuine competition these days. Case in point: Apple's Compressor ships free with new versions of Final Cut or DVD Studio Pro, and it expertly encodes video into QuickTime files aimed at DVD, CD-ROM, the Internet, and mobile devices (with great support for H.264, by the way). Compressor doesn't support QuickTime competitors such as Real, Windows Media, or DivX, but for many Mac users, those formats are irrelevant anyway.


Stiffer competition comes from Sorenson Squeeze. Squeeze costs $449 and encodes to Flash, QuickTime, and other formats. But Squeeze also includes the Sorenson Video 3 Pro codec, which excels at creating sharp, artifact-free Internet video. In fact, many of Cleaner's own Internet- and CD-ROM-oriented presets call for using Sorenson 3 video, but they often produce pixelated, unprofessional results unless you have the Pro edition of Sorenson's codec installed. But using the Pro codec with Cleaner costs you an extra $299 (on top of Cleaner's $599); you get it for free in Sorenson's Compression Suite.


The bottom line. Nothing supports as many encoding formats as Cleaner does, but you can still get much of Cleaner's core functionality for free - or at least considerably cheaper. We wish Autodesk had recognized that by pricing Cleaner a couple of hundred dollars cheaper. Instead, it may have priced Cleaner right out of a job.


Cleaner can encode your video into just about any format you can think of.


COMPANY: Autodesk
CONTACT: 800-440-4198,
PRICE: $599, $125 (upgrade for Cleaner 6)
REQUIREMENTS: G4, Mac OS 10.3 or later, QuickTime 6.5 or later, 128MB RAM, 35MB disk space
Encodes video to many new formats. Same lovable, intuitive interface.
No presets for H.264 video. MPEG-4 encoding doesn't work with QuickTime 7.04 (must downgrade to 7.01). Expensive.





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