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has established itself as a maker of first-rate DV hardware, but how
will it fare as market demands move more towards software? We take a
look at the company's first high-profile stand-alone program, ProCoder.
Canopus's first high-profile stand-alone program, is a media re-purposing
tool intended as a competitor to Discreet's Cleaner 5. However, Canopus
isn't new to software and, in many ways, ProCoder is little more than
a pulling-together of smaller applications that the company developed
for use with its DV editing hardware. Canopus's SoftMPEG and the Web
Video Wizard enabled encoding for VCD, DVD and the net, while Video
Doctor provided a good selection of video filters, and deinterlacing
and colour correction tools. The company also offers a standards conversion
program allowing PAL DV to be changed to NTSC format or vice versa.
Most of these programs were exclusive to Canopus's hardware ñ
working only with the Canopus DV Codec. Now, however, they're available
for use with most Windows-based DV systems, and brought together as
a single, well structured application.
But, when you open the box and find that the program is dongle-protected,
it becomes clear that Canopus isn't entirely comfortable working in
a software-only environment. Not being used to the open seas, the company
is possibly a little too worried about piracy. Thankfully, the pack
also contains a small four-port USB hub, ensuring that the dongle doesn't
leave the user short of USB ports.
While its clear that ProCoder is going head-to-head with Discreet's
Cleaner, it's also quite obvious that Canopus has a different view on
the market than Cleaner's maker.
Cleaner (now on its third owner) has reached version 5 and continued
all along to be developed primarily for web video encoding. In contrast
with ProCoder, which has MPEG as its strong suite, Cleaner is severely
lacking in good MPEG encoding tools. For most Computer Video readers,
therefore, ProCoder is likely to have far greater appeal, since DVD
authoring hardware and software are now cheap enough to have become
mainstream, while the infrastructure for web streaming ñ particularly
the cost of streaming media hosting ñ still leaves it outside
of the mass market.
Even so, if ProCoder is to live up to its claims as an all-round media
re-purposing tool, then a better implementation of multi-bitrate encoding
for Windows Media and RealVideo is essential. Wed also like to
see support for Flash Video.
The program's interface is generally good, but sometimes frustrating
and inflexible. We'd like to have more control over the relationship
between source files and target profiles in a batch encode, and we'd
also like to be able to create droplets which contain more than one
That said, the results we saw from ProCoder were excellent. We think
it's one of the best software MPEG-2 encoders available - even while
admitting that the encoding process can take a long time. One big bonus
that should not be overlooked is ProCoder's superb conversion between
PAL and NTSC sources. Overall, ProCoder does do an excellent job, but
Canopus needs to urgently address some basic limitations before it can
justify the hefty price tag. Better still, it could cut the price immediately,
and work to sort out the limitations as soon as possible.
For the full review,
see the September/October 2002 issue of Computer Video.
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