Price When Reviewed: £419 plus VAT
Cleaner is one of the grandfathers of Web streaming. Previously known as Media Cleaner Pro, it stands alone from video-editing applications – instead concentrating on the messy business of preparing and encoding video and audio for Web streams and other multimedia. It was one of the first products to include such current standards as batch processing and encoding into multiple formats. It is also considered so prestigious that many of the newly-streaming NLEs have simply added Cleaner to their bundles – although usually it’s the stripped-down EZ version.
Version 5 of Cleaner adds many new features
– some of which are of obvious use and some that seem oblique until you really get to grips with the product. The biggest addition to this version is the EventStream Editor, which allows you to turn video streams into rich media ‘experiences’, as current buzz terminology goes. What this means is that
you can place events in the video that trigger HTML or HTML-related events.
The ability to work with text will be a great bonus for anyone who watched standard titles go fuzzy due to network noise. Titles sent as separate text should always be crisp, even when the picture degrades.
However, if you want to get more complicated you can do so by launching external URLs with other media. However, Terran Cleaner is not a Web-design or Flash-authoring tool, so tying events on the video timeline to a Flash animation, for example, is a matter of good planning. It’s not an editing package either, so you’re going to have to use Cleaner as your basis and change your material in Flash and Dreamweaver (or whatever tool you use) to fit. If you want to work simultaneously on
a complete piece of cross-media material, then you’re going to have to wait until Media 100i ships later this year.
Another minor flaw in the EventStream process is that it relies on the capabilities of RealVideo, Windows Media and QuickTime. Unless you’re careful, you could find various events not happening due a lack of support in the output format.
The other new features are less impressive – but still useful. StreamPublisher is an internal FTP tool that lets you instantly publish materials to the Web – and it runs automatically after encoding. This means that you can set a piece of media encoding before you leave the studio in the evening and it’ll be sitting on your server ready to stream in the morning. No more wasted mornings uploading for Cleaner 5 users.
Another excellent timesaver is the inclusion of MotoDV from Digital Origin (which, like Terran, is a Media 100 subsidiary). Although the marketed reason for this – to create a single camera-to-Web solution – probably won’t wash with most professional’s editing-based workflow, DV tapes are still used by many people for post-editing storage. The ability to take an archived tape and encode materials off it away from the edit suite can’t be knocked.
Alongside these new features is a comprehensive group of updates. Bringing Cleaner 5 up-to-date – at least until QuickTime 5 appears – is support for dual-processor systems and files over 2GB – as streams are getting longer, larger and therefore more intense to encode. Terran offers more
integration with editing systems outside Premiere
– adding Final Cut Pro and systems by its affiliates (EditDV, Media 100i and iFinish), as well as being able to interpret video made up of AVI video and WAV audio as a single piece of footage (such as Speed Razor). The pre-encoding filters have also been upgraded and in areas such as adaptive noise reduction and deinterlacing, the results are
noticeable when compared to version 4’s output.
Terran has also taken note of the need for encoding outside streaming media. Encoding MPEG-1 and 2 for mediums such as DVD can
be as tricky as encoding for streaming over the Internet. The £339 MPEG Charger option adds more tools for this – and if you want more there’s the £699 MPEG SuperCharger option with a hardware accelerator board, which is necessary if you want perfect DVD picture quality.
However, some of the old problems are still here. The wizard-based approach still encodes at too high a data rate, not allowing for network noise. The majority of users that pay for Cleaner will use the advanced settings, so it’s not really an issue, but it does mean that Terran’s Cleaner 5 EZ (the cut-down version that only has the wizard) will be as irrelevant in the professional world as it was before.
Support for the latest developments in streaming formats is also included. Two-pass variable bit-rate encoding in RealVideo, MP3-compressed audio in QuickTime, five-stream Intelligent Streaming Windows Media Video, variable-bit rate MP3s, the latest codecs for all three main formats – they’re
all here. Well, sort of. If you’re a Windows users then they’re all here, but those of you using Macs are going to be a bit disappointed. Again this is not Terran’s fault, the latest codecs and the such like are all here, it’s just the latest Windows technologies are currently developed ahead of their Macintosh counterparts.
With this in mind, and with the majority of the stream-viewing public using Windows machines, the Windows version of Cleaner is a better investment than the Mac one. This is a shame – although not really a surprise – as Cleaner always used to benefit from the speed boost it received from the Mac-only BlueICE hardware accelerator (which is now owned by Media 100). It’s a small gripe, however, as Cleaner is a powerful tool that anyone involved in streaming media can’t afford to be without.