When putting this guide together, we spoke with Derrick Freeman, a streaming video and compression specialist. Freeman works with Genius DV, a training facility in Orlando, Florida, that offers classes in Final Cut Studio, After Effects, and video streaming.
Episode and Squeeze are the two biggest players in this field, so we'll spend most of our time on them.
Pro: Episode really shines when speed is crucial. "It's pretty much lightening-fast compression," Freeman said. That's a big plus when you see how slow some encoders are. Freeman also appreciates that users have full control over the included compression profiles, and that the program offers encoding presets for various mobile devices. Users can also set Episode to output their work to a streaming server automatically, if they have a local connection. If you're working with bumpers and trailers, you'll like that Episode can automatically add them to your videos. Finally, Freeman said that the program is frequently updated, providing quick responses to glitches and a constant supply of new capabilities.
Con: Episode crashes occasionally, said Freeman. It's a Mac-only program, so Windows users are out of luck.
Pro: One of Squeeze's standout features, said Freeman, is that you can capture videos directly to it. If you have a professional video deck attached to your computer, you can capture directly to Squeeze over a Firewire connection. For beginning users, Squeeze's large collection of presets makes it easy to get quality results. You can set up watch folders so that Squeeze automatically grabs videos that need encoding. When it's done, the program can automatically upload content to VitalStream servers or FTP your work to your streaming server or Web server. The program has tools for making simple edits and uses the same keyboard editing commands that professionals are used to from other programs. Best of all, said Freeman, is its reliability. "Probably the strongest feature of Squeeze is it's very, very stable," he said.
Con: Nothing major.
Pro: This Final Cut Studio encoder is a must for Final Cut Pro users, as it has access to the Final Cut timeline. The latest version lets users access Episode from within the Compressor interface, said Freeman, giving them easy access to both programs. It offers a wide variety of encoding presets, especially ones for Apple devices. If you have a fast connection and are running multiple Final Cut Studio workstations, you can cluster them for improved performance.
Con: No speed demon, this is one of the slower encoders.
Pro: Like Squeeze, ProCoder offers a great variety of presets and codecs within the application, said Freeman, and many of the presets were created by compression expert Ben Waggoner. The program can also make simple trims to videos and can stitch separate videos together.
Con: There's no Mac version of ProCoder.
These are the top desktop encoding tools. If you're looking for a more high-end solution, look to Carbon Coder or Episode Engine.
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