Friday, January 10, 2003

Putting My FCP Movies on the Web Is Easy Now, I just press 'SQUEEZE IT'.
The Sorenson Squeeze 3 Compression Suite from Sorenson Media relieved me of a big headache. It gave me one button to push to get my Final Cut Pro movies ready for Web delivery.

Now, after making a movie in Final Cut Pro, all I have to do it press the [SQUEEZE IT] button and Sorenson Squeeze 3 takes care of all the tricky settings that I don't have either the time or inclination to learn.

The Sorenson Squeeze 3 Compression Suite includes Squeeze 3, Spark Pro for Flash, and MPEG-4 Pro (Windows Media Players and Real Players need a plug in to see these files). I'm going to take a look at Squeeze 3.

You know those really sharp movie trailers on the web site? Well they were done with Sorenson Media professional codecs. When you get Final Cut Pro, there are Sorenson codecs built in to compress your video for web distribution, but they are not the same professional ones as those used by Apple to put up those cool movie trailers.

With Squeeze 3, now you can use the same professional codecs.

Going From Final Cut Pro to Squeeze 3
The Squeeze User Guide doesn’t explain how to get your Final Cut Pro movie ready to open with Squeeze 3. The user guide is a pdf file so I couldn’t search for help on this. The online help tells you all the input formats that are supported and this includes Quicktime movie files.

When I saw this I was confused since I usually have to select all kinds of settings when I export a Quicktime movie. I wondered why I would have to export a Quicktime movie, which I thought would degrade the image.

Then I realized that I needed to export a Self-Contained or Final Cut Pro Reference Movie. This way the file wouldn’t loose any quality before going in to Squeeze 3.

Here’s how you get a Final Cut Pro movie ready for the Sorenson Squeeze 3:

Create your movie in Final Cut Pro and EXPORT it.

You can choose a Self-Contained or Final Cut Pro Reference Movie. Here are the Self-Contained settings:

[File] [Export] [Final Cut Pro Movie]
Setting: DV NTSC
Quality: Hi Res (1)
Include: Audio and Video
[X] Make Movie Self Contained

To save space you can Export a REFERENCE MOVIE, just uncheck the self-contained box, and Squeeze 3 will find all the files and create its output from your original source movie files. This way saves space on your disk.

Next you open the file in Squeeze.

Open Squeeze 3, open up the self-contained or reference Final Cut Pro movie you just exported from Final Cut Pro. You can also drag your exported movie to the Squeeze Icon if you have it in your Dock or on your desktop.

You are then presented with Output Types and Preset Settings for your movie. These are presented as Icons on the top of the page. These Icons aren’t too easy to figure out since they don’t have any text underneath them. If you point your cursor on top of them they tell you what they do. I’d like to see this part of the screen laid out more clearly. I read the User Guide, but I don’t really want to have to refer back to the manual every time I need to choose an output setting.

After you’ve selected the type of file you want, you just press the [Squeeze It] button and Squeeze compresses the file for you.

First I chose Progressive and my two minute movie compressed down to 6.6MB. A progressive compression will download the movie to end users computer. When you watch this type of movie you see a progress bar and the movie will play up to the end of the bar as it downloads. If you have a slower connection, this way is a pain to watch a movie because you are always waiting for more movie to download before you can watch it.

If you are interested, the settings Sorensen uses as a preset are:
Video: SV3 Pro, 320x240, 1:2 fps, 360 kbps, Audio: MP3, Mono, 64 kbps

I also decided to produce a streaming file so I opened my Final Cut movie and clicked the button to select Streaming 300K. Streaming will start playing the movie when a user clicks on it with no waiting, it can't be saved to disk though.

This time Squeeze 3 compressed my movie down to 4.9MB and the settings it used were:
Video: SV3 Pro, 320x240, 15.00 fps, 256 kbps, Audio: QDesign Basic, 48 kbps

This compares to 8.2 MB when I used the Sorenson Compression included with FCP.

You can compress in Final Cut Pro using the Sorenson Codec, but it's a constant bit rate encoder. High motion segments need more bits to display them clearly but in constant rate you see distortion in the high motion areas.

Squeeze 3 is a variable bit rate two-pass encoder. The first pass takes notes on which areas are high motion and which are low motion. Then the second pass encodes the movie. This produces a cleaner movie.

There are more things you can do with Squeeze 3 if you have the time or inclination. You can crop your movie, add fade in or fade out, normalize the audio, and adjust image with adjustments like contrast.

All these options become available to you if you [Control] [Click] on the output file name. I’d like to see a more intuitive way to get at the options. There isn’t any indication on the screen that you need to [Control] [Click] to see and edit the options. You also use the same key sequence to remove an output file from your list of files to be compressed.

Squeeze 3 will de-interlace your video and provide video noise reduction if you have imported analog video that isn't the greatest quality. Sorenson suggests that you use Digital Video for the best quality.

One of the coolest features of Squeeze 3 is that it allows you to constrain file size to a certain # of KBytes. No more Compress, Wait, Check File Size, Compress, Wait, Check File Size nightmares.

As I compared the end results the file that I got from Squeeze 3 was a lot cleaner and smaller.

The file I created with FCP export had a lot of artifacts. Web video looks a lot better with Squeeze! A lot better.

I love this program. Just what Macintosh Video editors need if they haven't yet mastered the complexities of file compression for streaming web video. With Squeeze 3 I might never even care about the details! All I care about is great video distributed over the web at the touch of a button.

With Squeeze 3, that button is [SQUEEZE IT].
(888) 767-367
Sorensonn Media
4393 South Riverboat Road
Suite 300
Salt Lake City, UT 84123

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