Sorenson Squeeze 8 is too expensive for converting your company picnic videos to your boss's favourite format. However, if you're a pro or enthusiast looking for the best possible transcoding and a wide variety of input and output options it's definitely worth a look-see. The program comes in two flavours: a $599 version that integrates with both Sorenson's and other company’s high-end products, and supports adaptive bit rate and AC3; and a $199 Lite version that lacks these features (all pricing is in US$). You can find a comparison chart of the two versions at vendor Sorenson Media's website.
The Squeeze 8 interface is elegant, versatile, powerful, and easy--once you get used to it. Using Squeeze is a breeze. Simply open or drag the files or files you want to convert to the main window, drag an output format from the presets list to the file or files you want to convert, do the same with any FX or corrective filters you wish to apply, and then click on the Squeeze It! button. There's an online preset library where you can grab more. You may of course tweak individual settings such as bit rates, resolution, etc. on your own.
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Squeeze 8 supports nVidia CUDA GPU acceleration, but not AMD APP or Intel's Quick sync. The program imported nearly every format I threw at it, with the exception of rapidly disappearing file type RealMedia. Ogg Theora is supported - a nice touch. The transcoding results are nothing short of excellent and the filters--such as black and white, sepia, auto crop deinterlace, etc - produced very good results.
Most home users will do just fine with a free program such as Freemake Audio Converter, which leverages open source and free codecs to do much the same thing. Even Squeeze uses the open source FFDShow for importing many file types. However, adaptive bit rate, or ABR (which is used in Apple HLS, Adobe Flash Dynamic, and Microsoft Smooth Streaming) is an important and rapidly expanding technology found only in programs such as Squeeze 8.
ABR breaks video into chunks and encodes each in multiple bit rates. When streamed, if the video server senses that bandwidth has decreased or increased, it can send the next segment of video at a lower or higher bit rate to maintain smooth video playback.