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Review: Compressor 4.1 Update
Ben Balser on Tue, December 31st 0 comments
It wasn't only Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5 and Logic Pro X that received tasty updates recently... Compressor was updated to version 4.1. Ben Balser explains why you should be excited.

Along with Final Cut Pro X 10.1 and Motion 5.1, Compressor also received an update to version 4.1. This is the most drastic update Compressor has had in its entire lifetime. In this review, I'll take a look at what has changed. Most of it is cosmetic, but much needed. And some of it is functional. All of it is very welcomed and has been needed for a very long time.


A New GUI & New Abilities

As for new abilities, Compressor 4.1 can now do hardware encoding for H.264 files for specific Share operations, supports Dolby Digital Plus, 4K for YouTube, and share directly to the YouKu and Tudou video sites. 

Upon launching Compressor 4.1 for the first time, you'll notice the interface is drastically different! It is now just one single window, with panes, and colored the same as FCP X and Motion. Finally, a Compressor interface that makes sense! Thank you dev team! This makes for a much more consistent, fluid user experience. The first thing I noticed was that the panes are laid out in logical order. Working from left to right are presets, the compression batch jobs, and the Inspector. Let's look at teach one individually, briefly.

Figure 1

Figure 1


The Preset Pane

This Compressor window pane has three sections. The first two have headings at the top. The first is Settings, where you'll find all the compression setting presets and their groups. The second is Locations, where you'll find presets for locations to have encoding files written to. In section at the bottom are two buttons. A plus sign button that allows you to add a new setting, group, or destination. The actions menu (gear icon) let you duplicate or delete a preset, or make it a Droplet. Finally there is a search tab that allows you to search the names of presets quickly and easily. This all existed before, but is much easier and faster to navigate now. There is a button at the top left of the window to open and close this pane, or by using Command-5.

Figure 2

Figure 2


The Batch Pane

In the center is the Batch pane, which has three views. The first, Command-1, shows the Current batches. Here is where you add files to encode, and assign presets and destinations to them. You can also preview your file, add markers, set the poster frame, import chapter marker lists, turn on/off the split screen overlay (before/after preview), and set In/Out points. At the bottom is a plus sign button where you can add a file, image sequence, or a Surround Sound group for encoding. As before, you assign several presets to one file, and have many files added to the batch, before processing. 

Command-2 shows the Active batches. These are encoding jobs that are in progress. Command-3 shows the Completed batches, encode jobs that are finished. This was called the History in previous versions. This layout again is much easier to navigate and use.

Figure 3

Figure 3


The Inspector Pane

This has be wonderfully cleaned up, again nothing has been taken away, it is all simply easier to access and use. Make a selection in the Settings section of the presets to configure it. In the Batch pane, select a Job as a whole shows the overall setting data. Selecting just one of the presets assigned to the file shows all specific data and settings relating to that preset, showing a General information section, and a detailed section for Video and Audio if the preset contains them. Doing complex, advanced settings for a preset or an encoding job is much easier to understand and access now. There is an icon to open and close this pane at the top right of the window, or by using Command-4 (just like in FCP X).

Figure 4

Figure 4


Commands

Via the Compressor menu, to the Commands sub-menu and selecting Customize, exactly like in FCP X and Motion 5, we can see and customize the keyboard shortcut commands for Compressor.

Figure 5

Figure 5


Preferences Window

The Preferences window, accessed via the Compressor menu, or with Command-comma, simplifies things and can make Compressor a breeze to work with. As with all things Apple these days, it simplifies things greatly, without taking away any power. The General section allows you to select a default setting and location to be automatically applied to a new encoding job, if you wish. You can also choose to clear the batch in the Current pane, and/or switch to the Active pane after starting a new batch, automatically if you wish.

The My Computer section lets you turn on or off the ability for your computer to be available to Compressor on other networked computers for shared networked encoding, and assign a password if desired.

The Shared Computers section automatically sets your Mac up for local processing. Plus add other incidences of yours or other networked computers for shared networked encoding. This section makes this setup process easier than ever to configure. Simply click the plus sign button at the bottom of the left column to create a new instance, name it, then click the plus button for the right column to assign IP addresses or Host names. Enable file sharing for each. It is that simple now.

The Advanced section allows for assigning multiple instances of Compressor, what network interface to use when sharing Compressor resources (All, Airport, Ethernet, etc.), and assigning a port range and number of ports.

Network monitoring and log access is now in the Windows menu. Nothing could be easier.

Figure 6

Figure 6


Workflows

Creating a custom preset is a breeze now. Click the plus sign in the Preset pane, select New Setting, chose a general base to start with, name it. Then select it in the CUSTOM section and in the Inspector configure it.

Adding video and audio effects is really easy to understand now, also. In either the Video or Audio tab, you'll see at the bottom an Add [Video/Audio] Effect drop-down menu. Just select the effect to add. To remove, select the menu, and select the checked effect to uncheck it. I created an H.264, 720/24 preview preset that contains a watermark, an audio limiter to be safe, and 1 second fade in/out for both audio and video. All in less than 60 seconds on my first try with this interface. See Figure 4 above for my settings.

As always, from FCP X, you create a new Destination using the Compressor Setting base, and select any standard or custom preset from Compressor.

In Motion 5 from the Share menu, choose Export Using Compressor Settings to do the same. Or use the Send To Compressor command to work with the project export directly inside of compressor.


Droplets And Share Monitoring

When dragging and dropping a file onto a Droplet in the Finder, the Droplet window is now updated, also. It is cleaner and easier to understand, matching Compressor's look. It allows the user to assign a custom Locations as the default when creating Compressor custom preset, and also change the Location in the Droplet window. What processing cluster to use (if others are available) and the job priority are also menus in the Droplet window. In the Droplet's application menu, you can also launch the Share Monitor, with it's new UI. Its function as well as its Preference window are pretty much the same, they just have the new UI. In Motion 5, the Share menu has an option to open the Share monitor, also.

Figure 7

Figure 7


Conclusion

The new Compressor 4.1 may not add tons of new features, but the interface overhaul is so worth the upgrade. The addition of hardware encoding for H.264 and Dolby Digital Plus is welcomed, also. I can not stress how delightful Compressor is to use now. This is one upgrade I urge all Compressor users to get!

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