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Review: Terran's Cleaner 5 video tool

Industry Standard
The new version of Cleaner is merged with the features of Digital Origin's MotoDV, so users can capture video files more efficiently  

(IDG) -- Formerly known as Media Cleaner Pro, the latest version from Terran is just called Cleaner 5. Billed as "the camera-to-Web video solution", it aims to move beyond being an indispensable video-compression utility and becoming a complete video-preparation tool.

Cleaner involves a five-point plan: capture, author, encode, publish, and workflow - all adding functionality around the core encoding-feature from version 4. A number of interface enhancements complete this version.

The Capture facility comes from the complete integration of another product - Digital Origin MotoDV. Media 100, having bought both Terran and Digital Origin, has married the two products, so that you can select Capture From DV from the File menu of Cleaner. This allows you to pull-in video files direct from a DV camcorder through a FireWire connector. The files are then fed directly to Cleaner's Batch window, where clips are queued, ready for processing. Cleaner also supports the import of both MPEG 1 and 2 files, and there's no longer a 2GB file limit, meaning Cleaner can work with long segments of uncompressed footage.

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Authoring is not the first thing that springs to mind when considering video, but it's one of the most exciting features of Cleaner 5. It allows you to add EventStreams to video files in order to add interactivity to movie files. These include embedded Web links, clickable hot-spots and synchronizing video with an HTML page or a Flash movie. Cleaner works with the EventStream implementation within QuickTime, RealSystem, and Windows Media, and will automatically adjust for the varying level of functionality in all three.

Marking EventStreams is simplicity itself: simply use the Move controller in the Project window to the desired point in the movie, and then click Add in the EventStream window. You can also add EventStreams in real time as the movie plays. Once the EventStream points have been determined, the event type and related properties can be assigned.

The Encoding functionality has been improved from Version 4, with many more options for outputting as streaming video. Formats include QuickTime (now with MP3 support), RealSystem 8 - including two-pass variable bit-rate (VBR) - Windows Media, MP3, MPEG-1, and MPEG-2. This makes Cleaner a viable tool for compressing video for DVD. Cleaner 5 not only claims to process faster, but also supports dual-processor Macs for increased speed benefits.

The beauty of Cleaner 5's approach is that, from the same source clip, you can encode compressed files at different sizes, bit-rates and formats. You can choose from a lots pre-defined settings, and it's also easy to customize them. Cleaner comes with a wide range of Codecs - the algorithms for handling the compression and decompression of audio and video files - but it will also work with many others that are on the market for more specialized applications. Terran's CodecCentral Web site lists available codecs.

It's easy to regard Cleaner 5 as purely a video tool, but it's also a capable audio-compression utility, and will work with a number of audio formats, and encode MP3 files with a variety of compression algorithms. However, it's a shame that there are no features to capture audio directly to the application, or a CD audio-extraction capability.

Publish is the next step of the process, and is a major improvement on Cleaner 4, which lacked control over where it saved movies. Now you can specify default folders to export files, or specify the location for individual files in the batch window. Cleaner also has a rudimentary FTP server built-in, so that encoded files are uploaded directly to the server, but I can't imagine many users would want to automatically upload video without checking it first.

The MetaData panel in the setting window embeds details of the creator, date, and, crucially, copyright, into the video file itself - especially important when distributing video files online. While you can apply a watermark to a video clip, there's no in-built support in Cleaner for any advanced invisible video-watermarking software, such as Alphatec VideoMark.

This needs to be added afterwards. Workflow features are meant for power-users processing many clips, and Cleaner is also ideal for repetitive tasks. Not only can you save settings, but now can also apply modifiers to a setting without having to change the base parameters. For instance, if you have a setting for exporting a piece of video for CD, but want to adjust the fade-in time for a number of clips, there's no need to create new settings for each.

Finally, Cleaner 5 allows In and Out times for a clip to be specified, so there's no need to crop a movie in Premiere before encoding it.

Macworld's buying advice

While Cleaner is a comprehensive video-output tool, one thing it isn't is a video-editing tool. It can't sequence multiple-video tracks - for this you'll need a dedicated video-editing and effects tool, such as Adobe Premiere or Apple's Final Cut Pro. This is why the claim that it's the complete "camera- to-Web" solution is dubious, unless you're in the habit of uploading unedited footage for the world to see. Still, Cleaner 5 is a welcome upgrade - and essential if you specialize in streaming media.

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