Review – Popcorn 4

On May 26, 2010, in Macintosh, Review, by Rich Lefko

Popcorn 4
Company: Roxio

Price: $49.99 USD
http://www.roxio.com/

Today we’ll take a look at the latest iteration of Popcorn from Roxio, version 4. Popcorn is a movie compression and conversion utility program.

I plan to focus in on what is new in this version. Let’s discuss the weakest part of Popcorn, and get that off the table. Popcorn will NOT decrypt an encrypted DVD, nor will any of the features of Popcorn work with any commercial DVD. The program works fine with the DVDs you create. If you plan to use the software with commercial DVDs, you will have to use another program to “rip” them first.

The strongest feature of Popcorn is its ability to compress your extracted video to fit on a blank 4.7 GB single sided DVD or a 8.5 GB dual layer DVD. Popcorn gives you the option of removing extraneous files from your ripped commercial DVD file, like extra scenes, special features, and foreign language soundtracks. Trimming your video down allows Popcorn to use less compression when burning your new DVD, and less compression means a better looking video.

Popcorn allows you to convert to many different formats:

Popcorn 4 from Roxio does a bunch of wonderful things, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could speed up some of what it does. Well, you can. Popcorn 4 supports using the elgato turbo.264 or the newer turbo.264 HD devices which can speed up the Popcorn compression process.

Video encoding demands a sizable chunk of your system resources but the elgato turbo devices take that load off your system by performing most of the processing within the units themselves. Go to <http://www.elgato.com> for more information. The turbo.264 units are simple to use with Popcorn. In the lower right hand corner of the Popcorn burn screen you can see a “Got elgato turbo.264?” message.

After you plug your turbo device into a USB port, that message will change to “Powered by elgato turbo.264,” with a pulsating series of animated dots that show the device is being used.

When using Popcorn, the turbo device does not require the elgato software. Plug it into a USB port on your Mac and Popcorn will recognize it and use it.

How did it work?
I tried a simple conversion of a 588 MB QuickTime movie file to mpeg4 format. Without the turbo, the process took one hour and forty minutes. With the elgato turbo.264 HD device plugged in, the same conversion took one hour and thirty five minutes. Not much savings there. Just for fun, I launched the elgato turbo software and tried the same conversion. That process took ten minutes.

At this point, I thought perhaps Popcorn doesn’t just do simple conversions very efficiently.

I loaded a ripped video_ts movie file and asked Popcorn 4 to convert the movie to Apple TV format. Without the turbo device, the process took fifty two minutes. I converted the same file with the elgato device plugged in and it took thirty three minutes. A savings of nineteen minutes, or 36% faster.

This was a much better result. All of this is based on a variety of factors that include: the processor speed of your Mac (I have a 2009 Mac Pro), the length and complexity of the source video, the size of the file, and the amount of compression needed for the end result format. Your mileage may vary.

I believe using the elgato device is a plus, and while I didn’t get amazing results, you might get amazing results, based on your hardware and what video you are compressing.

New in this version of Popcorn is the ability to extract video or music and convert to any format including Flash. Not sure how many people want to convert to Flash nowadays, but Popcorn can do it. You can stream video from your Mac to your TiVo DVR. A shame Popcorn won’t stream to my Apple TV. You can now schedule video conversions to run when you’re away from your computer and you can publish converted video directly to YouTube.

Conclusions:
I have always enjoyed Popcorn’s ease of use. The program is fairly simple to use with many conversion options. I really dislike having to use another application to rip the DVDs I own for my use. I wish the good folks at Roxio would move beyond this restriction. There are applications out there that will rip and re-encode your DVD like DVD Remaster from MetaKine. If you have kids, you know how poorly they treat DVDs. To protect your investment in your DVDs, software like Popcorn is essential for making extra copies of the DVDs you own.

MyMac Review Rating: 7 out of 10

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