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Cleaner 5

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Terran Interactive's Media Cleaner Pro has always been the compression tool of choice for anyone producing audio and video for Web sites or CDs, thanks to its winning combination of superb compression quality, broad multimedia technology support, ease of use, and excellent documentation. The latest release, renamed Cleaner 5, has even better compression and workflow features and takes the first tentative steps toward streaming-video authoring.

From Capture to Compression

Cleaner 5's enhancements begin with the video-capture process itself. The program now includes Digital Origin's MotoDV FireWire capture software, whose DV codecs can deliver better image quality than QuickTime's. Since Cleaner isn't a video editor, you'll still need a separate program to refine your content. Cleaner 5 does a better job of removing noise than its predecessors. Several of its filters are faster, and they support dual-processor Power Macs.

Cleaner 5's new file-transfer features upload freshly compressed content straight to a server -- no need for a separate FTP utility. And Cleaner's new workflow features will aid high-volume content providers. The program now relies on XML-based text files, with commands that control compression settings, batch processing, and file-transfer tasks. This allows you to create a custom database application or a set of scripts to generate those files for you.

Beyond Basic Video

This version is the first to offer event-oriented authoring features, with an EventStream window where you specify which events occur during playback. You can set Web pages to display at specific times, place synchronized text captions below video content, or create hot spots that turn a movie into a menu, with each option leading to a different Web page.

Cleaner 5 can apply most event types to QuickTime, RealSystem, and Windows Media formats. It lets you export events as an XML file or import XML event lists created in other programs, such as a database. No other tool has these talents.

On the downside, Cleaner's EventStream window is a bare-bones authoring environment, a simple list of events and their options, which makes it difficult to rearrange or copy and paste events. I'd prefer a timeline-style display, with draggable icons to represent events.

Macworld's Buying Advice

Cleaner 5 is the ultimate audio and video compression tool, combining the best quality and broadest technology support available with timesaving workflow features. Its new authoring environment lets you add interactive value to streaming content, though the event editor could use some polish. Bottom line: Nothing streamlines streaming like Cleaner 5.

Streaming Events Cleaner 5's EventStream window (right) lets you assign events to specific playback times. Here we're adding closed captions to a video clip.
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