Canopus ProCoder 2 test and review

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Canopus ProCoder 2

Canopus's ProCoder encoding software has been a favourite of ours for some time, despite its uncomfortably large price tag. Now, though, in version 2, the program is not only bigger on features but also easier on the pocket

For the last couple of years, Canopus's ProCoder has been the only genuine contender for Cleaner's crown as an all-in-one batch-encoding tool. Oddly, Discreet has seemed reluctant to put any real effort into Cleaner's marketing or maintenance, leaving the way free for the throne to be seized.
But, Canopus hasn't helped itself by keeping ProCoder's price tag unrealistically high - though, of course, its £600 ticket is the same as Cleaner's, putting both far out of reach of mainstream DV enthusiasts. Also, while early complaints about ProCoder's lack of multi-bit-rate encoding for streaming media were quickly and effectively addressed, we've been sceptical about the program's approach to batch processing, which forced all source files to be assigned the same encoding template.
Now though, with the launch of V2, Canopus has slashed the price of ProCoder by over £250, bringing it down to a much more reasonable £350. It's still not cheap, but we're sure that the new price will attract many more freelancers and enthusiasts than before. This move follows Canopus's launch earlier in the year of ProCoder Express. Even though Express sells for just £50, it provides many of the same tools as ProCoder (including its excellent PAL/NTSC conversion capabilities) though it does lack batch processing and effects filters. Clearly, there's been a change of mindset within Canopus - one that should allow it to grab a far bigger share in the prosumer sector and create a whole new market at the budget end.

ProCoder 2's encoding speeds gave us no cause to grumble, though it should be said that our tests were carried out on a far more powerful system than we'd used with V1. We were also impressed with the encoding quality, which showed noticeable improvement across the board. Added to this, the ability to queue jobs is a huge step forward, making ProCoder a far more versatile product.
Version 2 is undoubtedly one of the best media conversion tools available, and the hefty price cut that accompanies it places the program well ahead of Discreet's Cleaner. Even so, the absence of Dolby AC-3 encoding is a serious shortcoming that needs to be addressed. The lower price may not produce the dramatic upsurge in sales that we would normally expect, since so much of the program's functionality is available for just £50 with the wizard-based ProCoder Express. But Express lacks batch processing features and Mastering Quality MPEG encoding, so we regard ProCoder 2 as a must-have program for many professional freelancers and DVD authors, even if home users and budget enthusiasts are content to work with the lite version.

Peter Wells

Read the full review in September 2004's Computer Video magazine.


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Canopus ProCoder 2

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