Cleaner XL 1.5 update

Product: Cleaner XL
Version: 1.5
Manufacturer: Autodesk
Price: $599 (full) $125 (upgrade)

See also the full review of Cleaner XL 1.0

Cleaner XL 1.5 Update

Cleaner XL 1.5

Cleaner XL 1.0 was released around 2003, and in my recent review in September, I complained that it was showing its age. Fortunately, Autodesk released an update in December, bringing the version up to 1.5. I’ve had the opportunity to try it out for the last month, and see how it compares to version 1.0.

The first enhancement I noticed was the long-awaited support for new formats. Well, top of the list is DPX/Cineon and OpenEXR support. People in the digital intermediate industry who turned their noses up at the previous release would certainly do well to take a look at this version. In theory, it should now be possible to take a digital source master of a film and use Cleaner XL to create QuickTimes, Flash Movies and the like automatically, complete with LUT transformations. The whole conversion process is not an easy ride though, due to limitations I’ll cover later.

As you’d expect, the list of supported formats has grown a great deal, with support for DivX version 5, QuickTime version 6, RealMedia 10, and the latest Flash Video On2 codec (which we at Surreal Road love). With 1.5, it’s also now easy to convert movies to a format suitable for the Sony PSP, as well as many other handheld devices. Strange though, that the latest versions (DivX 6, QuickTime 7, Windows Media 10) are not directly supported– Cleaner will run with these versions installed, but with certain limitations. Hopefully this is something which will be addressed with a maintenance release. Frustratingly, the updated version will still not read .m2t files, which would certainly prove useful to the ever-growing HDV community

The filters also seem to have remained untouched, you won’t find anything new, which actually isn’t a big deal, as it’s not meant to be a finishing system by any stretch of the imagination. It is a real shame that certain functionality was not included though. Recently I posted a message about the ability to burn-in information to converted files, such as timecode or filenames, on the 4k forum, and it would have been a real bonus if this was something Cleaner could do easily. Also disappointing is that the interface has not yet received is badly needed overhaul, hopefully this is something that will be addressed in version 2. This is not me just being picky– there are a whole host of things I mentioned in my last review which need to be fixed, such as the need for a more streamlined workflow, as well as some simple editing functionality. For example, though it is possible to mark in and out points, thus restricting the conversion to a selected frame range, it is not possible to combine several movie sources together to make a single output.

There is now scripting support, meaning that Cleaner can be passed parameters through the command-line, but it’s by no means to the sophistication of GraphicsMagick or Shake, limited to parameters such as specifying which preset to use, and where to store the files. Having said that, Cleaner job files themselves are in an XML format, so it’s possible to create scripts to generate the relevant XML (or create it by hand) and then use these in conjunction with the command-line parameters for greater control. One new addition I was grateful for this time around was the inclusion of Backburner (version 3), which will allow jobs to be created by systems like Smoke or Combustion and sent across a network.

The execution speed seems to have increased dramatically (to a point where I was actually able to notice a difference anyhow), and this along with the new format support, should be the only upgrade reason worth considering. Alternatively, if you use a lot of Autodesk systems already, this might also be a worthwhile investment or upgrade. As always, Autodesk is catering to the needs of its own user-base (I’m not suggesting this is a bad thing), and this release can access Stone storage remotely, which will be a great time-saver for facilities using them. For everyone else, I suspect it may be worthwhile to hedge your bets and see what happens in version 2. Cleaner XL 1.5 is undoubtedly the best software for doing what it does, but it does fall way short of its potential.

All reviews are based upon the principle that the hardware or software reviewed is to be used within a commercial digital intermediate environment; as such the review may not necessarily reflect the product’s intended purpose.

About the reviewer: Jack James has been working with digital imaging technology for 10 years. He has worked within a number of digital intermediate environments since joining Cinesite (Europe) Ltd.’s Digital Lab in 2001 to work on HBO’s Band of Brothers. He has a number of film credits, and has published the book "Digital Intermediates for Film & Video" with Focal Press.

The reviewer’s opinions are his own, and not affiliated with any third-party.

Posted: February 6th, 2006
Categories: Uncategorized

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