Discreet has announced it is shipping Discreet Cleaner 6 video encoding software for the Macintosh.

FXGuide caught up with the developers and had a chat with John Worthington of Discreet about the new release, the new features, and just why we need to encode New Orleans’ hurricane videos for our cel phones!!!

FXGUIDE: According to AccuStream iMedia Research, in the first six months of 2002, online audiences accessed video streams across multiple mediums at a growth of 65 percent when compared to the same timeframe in 2001. Discreet’s tool for this market is Cleaner. John, firstly thanks for talking to us and congrats on Best of Show at MacWorld – clearly nice to have people reward your hard work.. How closely with Apple’s own developers and systems guys do you work ?

John: Thanks, everyone’s very happy about the award. We get a lot of good feedback from Apple. They do some of the best looking video on the web and they’ve been very supportive of Cleaner over the years. Likewise, we’re always trying to push QuickTime one step further than anyone else. A couple of members of the original QuickTime team are in the Desktop Video group at Discreet so the ties to Apple run pretty deep.

FXG: What are the big differences between Cleaner 5 and 6?

John: The first thing people will notice when they launch cleaner 6 is the new Aqua look and feel. Along with this are a lot of workflow improvements throughout the app. We’ve added watch folders. You can attach a cleaner setting to a folder on your local disk or a server. When video is dragged into the folder, cleaner will start encoding it. We’ve also improved settings management. You can now do all of your settings management within the application including creating subfolders. There are some new preview options as well. Overall, the app is faster and we’ve added support for some new formats. With our support for QuickTime 6, you obviously get MPEG-4 and AAC audio. We added the new encoder for PalmOS devices from Kinoma. This has been a big hit with everyone who’s seen it. We’ve also added 2 pass VBR MPEG-2 encoding into the base product.

FXG: How much trouble was it to solve the 2 pass Variable Bit Rate encoding?

John: We had 2 pass VBR in cleaner 5, but it required a fairly expensive add-on. For cleaner 6, we using MPEG technology from a company called Media Excel. That allowed us to get 2 pass VBR in the base product, as well as giving us a great foundation for increasing our MPEG capabilities going forward. We still have some work to do here, but we’re making great progress.

FXG: I imagine that is a big plus for DVD users?

John: It’s essential for DVDs. You get better quality at the same data rate because the encoder can be smarter. We think it’s so important, we’re including the new MPEG encoder in upgrades as well as in new copies of cleaner 6.

FXG: Cleaner must be unique inside Discreet that every level of customers from feature film to web designers have a need for high quality quicktimes and media?

John: That’s true. I think all of Discreet’s customers should have a copy of Cleaner. Of course, I’m a little biased ! No matter what tools you use to create your video, Cleaner’s the right way to get it ready for delivery. One of the things people working with film sources will appreciate is the newversion of our Intelecine filter for removing 3:2 pull down. We improved the quality of it, along with many of the other filters.

FXG: How much are you now pushing the Velocity Engine in the Mac?

John: The engineers did a great job of looking at where cleaner was spending it’s time and optimizing those areas. Making sure we were getting the most we could out of the G4’s Velocity Engine was a key part of this. That’s one of the reasons that cleaner 6 is faster than cleaner 5 while delivering higher quality results.

FXG: How well does 6 take advantage of the dual processors in most desktop G4s ?

John: Improving the way cleaner 6 runs on dual processors was part of the same optimization effort. With cleaner 6, we take much better advantage of both processors, so there’s a real advantage to having a dual processor machine.

FXG: Is 6 fully Jaguar (OSX 10.2) compatible? Does it run under OS 9 still?

John: cleaner 6 was designed specifically for Mac OS X. That’s where we spent most of our time and energy. That said, cleaner runs fine under OS 9.

FXG: Priced at $600 is Cleaner Discreet’s biggest selling product for the OSX market?

John: Cleaner 6 and Combustion 2 are Discreet’s only products in the OS X market, so I guess you could say it’s in the top two. We don’t actually like to discuss the sales of individual products, but I can say that we’ve been thrilled with the response to cleaner 6. Especially by the crowds at MacWorld. People really seemed to like what we had done with the user interface and performance.

FXG: The Press release mentions encoding for cell phones ! What’s the story there… is that used at all professionally ?

John: This is really about the convergence of PDAs and cell phones. There are devices like the PocketPC phone, the Handspring Treo, and the Kyocera PalmOS phone that are combination PDA/cell phones. There’s a lot of work going on with MPEG-4 phones as well. We can make Windows Media for the PocketPC phone and Kinoma for the PalmOS phones. The wireless bandwidth to stream the video isn’t there yet, but it’s coming. I was in a restaurant with a friend the other day and I pulled out my Sony CLIE to show him video I shot of the recent hurricane in New Orleans. He pulled out his color Treo and showed me video of his daughter and a clip from his new band. Video on handhelds are going to be the new snapshots and they’re easy to make with cleaner 6.

Thanks for your time John