Hands on with Cleaner 5

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You start with iMovie and get hooked on making desktop video. From there you may move on to Final Cut Pro or another high-end product.

If you take this step, be sure and add Cleaner 5 from Terran Interactive to your software arsenal. In fact, if you're into pro video and audio, put it on your "must-have" list.

The descendent of the popular Media Cleaner Pro, the renamed and revamped Cleaner 5 is a camera-to-Web streaming media design solution. Besides the new moniker, the new, overhauled version sports DV (digital video) capture, beefed up batch processing, and kicks butt at interactive streaming media.

Cleaner 5 is designed to let Web designers and Internet broadcasters create interactive, streaming media content for the Web in four steps: Capture, Author, Encode and Publish:

Users can capture video content from any digital video (DV) camcorder and import it directly into Cleaner 5. You can create interactive streaming media programs from start to finish. If you're looking to create high end steaming content in a high volume environment, such as Internet broadcasters, Cleaner 5 integrates with leading content creation systems, like Media 100i and iFinish.

Cleaner 5 also plays well with the Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro digital video editing systems. And it comes with Digital Origin's MotoDV, an app for capturing DV from FireWire digital camcorders. Capturing video is simple and quick.

Interactive streaming design is made possible by EventStream technology; an authoring capability that lets Web designers create streaming media that controls all elements of a Web site. Using EventStream, Web designers can embed interactive, multidimensional instructions directly into streaming media programs that can be synchronized with the streaming video on a Web site.

And setting up video for streaming is a whiz. A batch window offers three options for selecting compression settings. You can tackle the task via a contextual menu or "Settings Wizard." You can utilize a variety of compression parameters based on the way you plan on distributing your video. With Cleaner 5, you can render a video in just about any size.

Cleaner 5 supports all major streaming media formats, including QuickTime, RealSystem, Windows Media, MP3, as well as AVI, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2.

Cleaner 5 lets users publish finished streaming content directly to a streaming Web server -- directly from within the Cleaner 5 application. The app's ability to save files to remote servers is a magnificent feature. Its new file-transfer features lets you upload compressed content directly to a server without the need for a separate FTP tool.

And there's more: Faster file processing; Dual-processor support; new workflow features; XML-based settings that facilitate file sharing between Macs and Windows platforms; and a well-written and (yes!) printed manual.

However, there are some caveats that Mac users should note. Cleaner 5 currently doesn't create MPEG-1 files that are compatible with Adaptec Toast for creating VideoCDs on Macintosh. This is supposed to be addressed in a future release. Also, on a Mac, StreamPublisher requires "absolute" URLs and usually fails without reporting an error if you use "relative" URLs.

And though Cleaner 5 for Macintosh supports Windows Media Audio -- probably the best audio codec to use for Windows Media content -- older Windows Media audio codecs are supported only in the Windows edition of Cleaner 5. Plus, Microsoft's Windows Media Player for Macintosh may have timing issues with Open URL events. You may want to avoid using these events with files intended for viewing on the Mac. (Better yet, try to avoid Windows Media, altogether. But I digress.) Finally, Chapter events are not supported in the first three seconds of Windows Media files when created on a Mac.

Using the Numeric cropping option in the Settings Modifiers window doesn't always work correctly. However, you can set Numeric Cropping through the Advanced Setting window -- or use manual cropping from the Setting Modifiers window.

But these gotchas aside, Cleaner 5 is a fine program.

System requirements are a Power Mac; Mac OS 8.6.1 or later; QuickTime 4 or later; 64MB of RAM; 10MB of free hard disk space; CD-ROM or DVD drive; 800 x 600, 16-bit display; and a DV camera for digital video capture.

Box copies of Cleaner 5 are available for US$599 and electronic versions are available for software download directly from the Terran Web site for $579. Existing customers can upgrade for $179. Customers who purchased Cleaner version 4 after the announcement of Cleaner 5 on Sept. 11 can purchase an upgrade for $49.

By the way, Terran also offers an accelerated MPEG-2 encoding solution for Cleaner 5, Cleaner MPEG SuperCharger. The $999 product is a PCI card MPEG solution that leverages accelerated MPEG technology developed for faster MPEG-2 encoding by up to 10x, versus software encoding. Although Yours Truly hasn't used it, Terran says that media encoding professionals can now create MPEG-2 content for DVD, Super Video CD, CD-ROM and digital media broadcasting from within Cleaner 5.

This story, "Hands on with Cleaner 5" was originally published by PCWorld.

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