Telestream Episode Pro has emerged as a top performer on the Mac, and last December, Telestream released a Windows version. It’s an affordable tool that all HD producers on both platforms need to be aware of, so I’m devoting this month’s Affordable HD to a review of this product. In this first installment, I’ll review the interface and discuss I/O, the new watch-folder functionality and the Preview window. Next time, I’ll detail performance and output quality and compatibility.
Let’s start with a couple of housekeeping notes. Telestream sells two versions of the product: Episode ($495) and Episode Pro ($995). The less expensive version lacks support for high-end formats such as MXF and GXF, doesn’t offer surround sound, and can only accept 25 jobs in the batch window. The Pro version can encode unlimited jobs, produce 5.1 and 7.1 audio, and supports more high-end formats—with some notable limits. You can scope out the differences between the two versions of Episode here. Note that one highly useful feature of Episode Pro is Nate Caplin’s Complete Training for Episode and Episode Pro DVD, which is a fast and efficient tool for getting new Episode users up to speed.
For the record, I reviewed Episode Pro running on an 2.66GHz eight-core HP xw8400 workstation running 32-bit Windows XP with 3GB of RAM. Note that Telestream will let you try before you buy via a trial version that will encode a maximum of 30 seconds of your source video file.
The interface consists of three separate components: the Job Batch, Settings, and Preview windows. The Job Batch window is where you’ll start; it has five windows dominated by the large Job Batch/Settings Editor on the right and four smaller windows on the left (Figure 1). The top window on the left is for Source Bookmarks, where you can insert folders that contain source files for easy access. Below that is the Compression Settings window for canned and customized templates, and beneath that is the Watch Folders window. The bottom window contains recently encoded files for easy playback.
Operation is simple; you drag a file or files from Windows Explorer or the Source Bookmarks folder into the Job Batch window, and then drag a Compression Settings from the eponymous window onto the source file. You can drag multiple presets onto the batch window and choose a destination and naming convention for each file individually, or for all files in the batch, via dropdown list boxes on the lower right.
You click the Start Encoding button on the lower right to get things rolling. Note that you can continue to add jobs to the Job Batch, and even presets to a particular source file, while encoding—a nice touch.