Compressor 4.0 practical test

Compressor 4Final 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

Share Monitor & Batch Monitor

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.

Batch Monitor (Compressor 3.5.3)

Share Monitor

Share Monitor (Compressor 4.0)

It’s a minor set of improvements for $49, compared to the updates to Motion, but I’m not complaining.

This entry was posted in How-to, Rants, Video.


  1. Rob Nyland June 21, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

    Old project files won’t work in the new version of Final Cut. I think that’s going to be a dealbreaker for a lot of people. You will need to have both versions on your computer just in case you need to reference an old project.

    • Garrett June 21, 2011 at 12:30 pm #

      Yeah, I was pretty excited to open up some of my current documentary projects in FCP X (it seems to shine when multiple resolutions and codecs are mixed in the timeline). Unfortunately, I’d have to start from scratch for this feature film, which isn’t going to happen.

      My hope is that someone will write a utility that will convert FCP 7 project files, or at least EDL or XML files into the new FCP X format. We’ll see.

      Meanwhile, I’m going to use it for weddings and short film projects, just because it doesn’t appear that I’ll need to transcode to ProRes first. Expect a blog post about this topic soon…..

  2. sloanie June 21, 2011 at 2:58 pm #

    I wasn’t sure if I’d use compressor, but if it enables simple network encoding / rendering, it might easily be worth it. Thanks for the quick run-down!

  3. Bo Cumberland June 21, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    Where did you find Share Monitor? I can’t find it.

    • Garrett June 21, 2011 at 8:34 pm #

      It doesn’t appear to be a standalone app that you can open from the finder (like Batch Monitor) but you open it from Compressor’s main window, in the upper-right corner. There’s a button there with the Share Monitor icon (which also handles compressor-specific FCPX export items).