The best way to prepare video for the Web is with dedicated (but relatively expensive) encoding software. Until recently, Discreet's Cleaner software had the market cornered in this area. But two new programs have emerged that are also worth considering: Canopus ProCoder and Sorenson Squeeze Compression Suite.
All three programs optimize the standard compressors for Web video and audio, and all of them do batch-processing to make it easier to save many video files at a time in one format or to create many format versions of one video file. For example, you may want to save a video clip in Real Video, Windows Media and QuickTime movie versions for the Web, CD-ROM and videotape.
Discreet's Cleaner is still the professional gold standard, but Canopus ProCoder's simpler and more intuitive interface makes it a more accessible tool for a newbies.
Sorenson Squeeze is easier still, and although it supports Real, QuickTime, native Sorenson compression and Microsoft Windows Media output, its strength is in optimizing the proprietary Sorenson Spark compression that is used by Macromedia Flash MX. If you use video frequently in Flash, this is the tool to consider.
Discreet Cleaner 6 for Mac and Cleaner XL (for Windows)
Contact: Autodesk Inc., 800.869.3504, www.discreet.com.
Contact: Canopus Corp., 888.899.3348, www.canopus.com.
Sorenson Squeeze 3 Compression Suite
Contact: Sorenson Media, 801.287.9400, www.sorenson.com.