Compressing audio and video for delivery over the Internet or on CD-ROMs is a dirty business. Your mission: to shoehorn high-bandwidth content into the narrow pipes that are modems and CD-ROM drives. Your hope: that the content will still be recognizable at the other end of the pipeline.
Media producers employ a variety of tools to compress content, foremost among them Terran Interactive's Media Cleaner Pro. Version 4.0 adds support for the latest streaming and compression technologies and offers great new audio features and conversion options. Toss in thorough documentation, and you have the best compression tool available.
Media Cleaner Pro 4.0's enhancements begin with support for the latest streaming technologies and compression schemes. The new version supports Apple's QuickTime 4 Streaming Server, Microsoft's Windows Media (formerly NetShow), and RealNetworks' RealSystem G2. Its QuickTime 4 support is particularly strong. The program can compress movies for various connection speeds and for older QuickTime versions and can create the embed tag required to display the movies in a Web pagejust copy and paste the tag into your favorite HTML editor. Support for Windows Media and RealSystem G2 isn't quite as solid: because Microsoft hasn't yet released the final version of its Windows Media Player for the Mac OS, Media Cleaner Pro must rely on beta versions of the Windows Media codec.
Media Cleaner Pro supports all RealSystem G2 codecs, but it can't create a G2-compatible embed tag; instead, it creates a simple anchor tag that launches the RealPlayer helper application. If you want to embed your G2 efforts rather than linking to them, you'll need to either hand-code the embed tag or use RealNetworks' RealProducer Plus G2.
Fortunately, the new version lets you convert a file from one format to another without having to recompress it and further reduce its quality. Better still, you can selectively recompress during the conversion process.
Audio no longer takes a backseat to video, as it did in previous versions. The new Noise Gate filter cuts down on hiss, and other new filters reduce power-line hum and similar evils. Media Cleaner Pro 4.0 also offers better resampling algorithms that yield higher-quality results when you're changing a soundtrack's sample rate. A dynamic-range compressor beefs up audio tracks, and you can choose from several commonly used presets or supply your own values. Alas, Media Cleaner Pro doesn't let you preview audio settings without applying them.
One thing that hasn't changed is Media Cleaner Pro's efficient interface. Compression beginners can use the Settings Wizard; advanced users can choose settings directly. You can also use the Batch window to apply Media Cleaner Pro's skills to multiple files in one fell swoop.
At $499, Media Cleaner Pro 4.0 isn't for amateurs who want to publish the occasional audio or video clip on the Web. Media Cleaner Pro's HTML-generating features for RealSystem G2 content could use some improvement, but the program's ability to compress and clarify audio and (especially) video is unmatched. If your mission is to make media work on the Web or CD-ROMs, you'll want Media Cleaner Pro along for the ride.
RATING: PROS: Broad compression-technology support; enhanced audio features; excellent manual. CONS: Doesn't create embed tags for RealSystem G2 content; no audio preview. COMPANY: Terran Interactive (800/577-3443, http://www.terran.com ). LIST PRICE: $499.
November 1999 page: 66