Review: Squeeze 8.1 Pro video encoding

New Sorenson Squeeze 8.1 Pro offers support for Apple ProRes, Avid DNxHD, and Dolby Pro audio. With these new features Squeeze 8.1 Pro is the absolute top in video encoding and transcoding workflow.

Sorenson Squeeze 8.1 Pro has an encoding and transcoding engine that delivers input and output capability with all leading formats, including Avid DNxHD and Apple ProRes (all types). This new capability is available as the product “Sorenson Squeeze 8 Pro” or as an Add-On to Sorenson Squeeze 8. I tested the full product.

To properly review this new version I installed both Final Cut Pro X and Avid Media Composer 6 on my system. I also ran tests with Telestream’s Episode 6.2.2.9 to compare the functionality of the two solutions. The big promise of Squeeze 8.1 Pro is that you can work with ProRes (Final Cut Pro X) and DNxHD (Media Composer) simultaneously, jumping from one to the other without loss of quality and in an easy way — almost brainlessly.

IT Enquirer rating

9.5/10
URL: sorensonmedia.com

Pros
  • interface
  • transcoding from/to ProRes/DNxHD
  • presets
  • codec support
  • DNxHD supports Media Tool fully
Cons
  • none
Price (approx.): €750.00

What I didn’t test is the capability to output video to Avid DNxHD on Windows; my entire test line was performed on the Mac. I also left the ability to encode for Dolby Pro audio untested. I do not have the sound equipment required to have a good idea of the level of quality one can obtain with the encoding.

Squeeze 8 Pro encoding to DNxHD

What makes Sorenson Squeeze 8 Pro stand out is its support for DNxHD. Users will find two codecs to encode to: DNxHD 145 and DNxHD 220. The first is 8-bits, while the second is 10-bits deep. The second therefore is better for colour critical work. Whatever you select, Squeeze 8.1 Pro doesn’t just spit out some MXF files. It actually creates a folder with the media files, the XML file and the MXF files — all readily recognized byt the Media Tool.

In theory this should allow you to ingest the transcoded media by saving the files to your Avid MediaFiles folder, inside the MXF folder. However, I found you need to either rename the folder to the project ID — which Media Composer itself uses, and which on my system was a simple digit — or grab all the files inside the folder and dump them inside the media folder that is associated with your project. Otherwise Media Composer 6 doesn’t see your files at all. According to Sorenson’s support this should only be necessary on Windows, but as I found out it’s needed on a Mac as well.

Encoding to DNxHD outputs a folder ready to ingest into Media Tool.

Needless to say that even with this in mind, Squeeze 8 Pro’s workflow is far superior to just encoding to the DNxHD format with no supporting files at all. The time savings can be huge!

By combining Avid DNxHD, Apple ProRes and Dolby Pro audio with all the other formats Squeeze supports, Sorenson Media says it created the highest-quality, most cost-effective, all-in-one solution on the market today. However, Sorenson’s major competitor in this market, Telestream’s Episode 6.2.2.9, also transcodes to up to 12-bit ProRes 4444. And itt also encodes to Avid formats (MXF). However, what is lacking from Episode 6.x is Dolby Pro audio, as well as the full support for DNxHD in the form the Media Composer Media Tool readily recognizes it, which indeed puts Squeeze 8 Pro at the top.

Dolby Pro for cinematic sound.

In my testing there’s no difference in output quality between Episode and Squeeze 8. However, in order to encode a clip in Episode to the highest possible quality you must prepare more than in Squeeze 8 Pro. Apparently, the Sorenson engineers have a better feeling for creating presets that simply work out well than Telestream’s. I even found that, in order to get the same output quality, Episode sometimes needs adjustments that are totally different from those set in Squeeze 8..

Squeeze 8 Pro makes it easy to produce top-quality SMPTE VC3-compliant video bitstreams, simplifies post-production with quicker edits on mezzanine HD formats with Avid DNxHD, and fosters real-time collaboration across platforms. Professional video workflow is further optimized through the ability to export Avid DNxHD files for Avid editing systems without owning Avid software. In addition, Squeeze 8 Pro offers full support of all Avid DNxHD bit resolutions up to 10-bit and frame ranges.

Users of Sorenson Squeeze 8 Pro can expand their workflow through the capability to export ProRes files for Final Cut Pro editors directly from Avid, or to create Apple ProRes files for Final Cut Pro editors. Squeeze 8 Pro supports the following format variations of Apple ProRes: 4444 (up to 12-bit), 422 (10-bit), 422 HQ (10-bit), 422 LT (10-bit), and 422 Proxy (10-bit).

Transcoding between these formats also works wonderfully well, with almost no loss of quality even after transcoding several times.

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