For VP6 and H.264 encoding, Telestream’s Episode Engine is fast and produces equal or better quality than most other streaming encoders. For those producing shiny optical discs, MPEG-2 performance and quality is also quite good. However, Windows Media producers should look elsewhere because Engine’s encoding speed is slow and the output quality is subpar.
Episode Engine runs only on Macs and consists of two applications and a configuration window that you access from the System Preferences window. You create all presets in a standard copy of Episode (which is included) and then monitor and create encoding jobs in the Episode Engine Admin panel.
Episode Engine comes in two versions: standard ($3,950) and pro ($8,450). Part of the difference relates to output formats, with the pro version providing support for high-end formats such as DNxHD, DVCProHD, XDCam HD, and GFX. The standard version can input most of these but can’t output them.
In addition, the pro version adds several features, such as Split-and-Stitch, a High Availability option, and SNMP support for monitoring the system remotely over a network. Briefly, Split-and-Stitch is a technique for very fast file rendering during which Episode Engine divides each file into multiple components, encodes each separately, and then stitches them back together (Figure 1).
Figure 1. The Episode Engine Admin panel encodes a job via Split-and-Stitch.
High Availability relates to running multiple Engines in a cluster. That is, you can combine multiple Engines into a cluster controlled by a “master” on one of the encoding stations. Once you go beyond five or six computers in a cluster, Telestream recommends that you use a dedicated master that doesn’t compress and doesn’t charge a license fee for that server.
The master allocates work throughout the encoding cluster, and if any encoding station fails, the master reallocates all work to the remaining servers. However, if the master fails, you’re out of luck. With the High Availability option, you get an extra master on a cluster, so if the first master fails, the second takes over.