Final Cut Pro X was released today for $299 in the App Store but also released for $49 was an update to Compressor, Apple’s media transcoding tool. For some reason I downloaded Compressor first, probably because it’s more relevant to my immediate encoding needs, it’s inexpensive, it works with my current files and projects (FCPX requires starting anew: it doesn’t support previous FCP project files), and it doesn’t require learning an entirely new interface like FCPX does (I’ll be spending some time to familiarize myself with it before I make any major decisions about FCPX).
Using my 2.4 GHZ Intel Core2 Duo MacBook Pro with 6GB of RAM, I ran a few quick test encodes in the new version of Compressor and was shocked by the speed. Just to make sure that I wasn’t dreaming about the speed increase, I encoded the same test clip in Compressor 3.5.3 (the previous update). This isn’t a comprehensive test by any means, but I did want to share my results for the other early adopters (or fence-sitters) out there:
Vimeo 720 h264 encode (12 second clip)
Compressor 3.5.3 – 0:35
Compressor 4.0 – 0:30
iPhone 4/iPad encode (12 second clip)
Compressor 3.5.3 – 4:15
Compressor 4.0 – 4:06
Apparently the latest round of Final Cut Pro apps (Final Cut Pro X, Motion and Compressor) all are optimized for more processing cores and more RAM, so my multicore processor and 6 GB of RAM weren’t being used fully in the previous version. My guess is that the speed improvements for encoding would be much greater on a 12-core Mac Pro with 12 GB of RAM.
Here’s a general overview of what I’ve noticed about Compressor 4.0:
- Apple made node-based rendering/encoding very simple and cheap to set up across a network, and it pulls processing power from idle cores from any computer you have configured.
- There are new presets for streaming media and Blu-ray encoding, and the options and under-the-hood features seem to better optimize both Grand Central Dispatch (lots of RAM) and multicore systems.
- The Batch Monitor is gone. In its place is the Share Monitor, which is a FCPX-looking version of Batch Monitor that apparently allows cross-app and cross-Mac rendering/processing between FCPX, Motion, and Compressor.
- In general, the presets are optimized for what most people use Compressor for: making web and disc-based transcodes. It’s an improvement.
It’s a minor set of improvements for $49, compared to the updates to Motion, but I’m not complaining.