Cleaner 5 is clean, but not spotless

By Tom Yager, InfoWorld |  Software

FAST COMPUTERS, large monitors, quality speakers, and broadband Internet connections give most users the equivalent of a home theater system on their desks. If your use of digital video is limited to short, postage stamp-size Web clips, any fuss you make over video quality is wasted.

If you plan to deliver video content using broadband, LAN, or optical media (CD or DVD), video quality becomes a competitive issue: Your company's image is judged, fairly or not, by the quality of your published video. What's more, you must ensure that all targeted users -- not just those with systems like yours -- can view your video. Turning raw video into crisp, multiformat digital media files takes tremendous effort and skill.

Terran Interactive's Media Cleaner Pro has been regarded as the ultimate digital video encoding and enhancement tool. With Terran's acquisition by Media 100, maker of Macintosh-based video editing systems, Media Cleaner Pro has had its moniker trimmed to Cleaner. As with previous versions, the new Cleaner 5 runs on Windows and Macintosh systems. Among other enhancements, the latest release speeds encoding, improves Windows Media support, and adds time-linked events.

Cleaner 5 is a worthy upgrade, but Terran shifted essential MPEG encoding features to a $499 MPEG software option. Given MPEG's popularity, and the ready availability of powerful freeware and low-cost commercial MPEG encoders, Terran misjudged its market.

Cleaner is still a powerhouse, but $1,098 ($599 plus the $499 MPEG option, which we believe is necessary) is too dear. Matrox RT2000 costs $99 less, and it is a complete hardware-based capturing/editing/encoding solution that matches many of Cleaner's features. Cleaner's many and severe shortcomings drag what should have been an Excellent rating down to Good.

Bundle blunders

True to its Mac roots, the bulk of Cleaner 5's power is vested in Apple's QuickTime format. Terran's Windows bundle includes QuickTime 4 and requires its installation.

BUSINESS CASE

Preparing digital video for Web, LAN, CD, or DVD viewing requires time-consuming manual processing. Cleaner 5 simplifies and automates video capture, processing, and encoding to shorten the path between raw video content and polished, encoded media files. However, essential MPEG encoding features are a costly option.

TECHNOLOGY CASE

Cleaner 5 batch encodes video content to QuickTime, Windows Media, Real Networks, MPEG-1, MPEG-2) formats. Cleaner will resize, crop, color correct, clean (via noise reduction), and enhance the video as it encodes, vastly improving the video's finished quality. But the MotoDV DV capture interface and codec are substandard.

PROS

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