Canopus ProCorder

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Canopus ProCoder

Canopus 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.
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 it’s 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. We’d 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 encoding template.
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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