Speed Test: Compare Video Compression Software

Posted on by Larry

WorkflowHoly Smokes – we have a horse race!

This week, in my continuing series looking at video compression software, I want to compare the compression speeds of six different software when encoding files for YouTube using a new Mac Pro and a 21″ iMac.

The software I used were the current versions as of today:

We used the trial versions of both Telestream Episode and Sorenson Squeeze for this test.

Here are the other articles in this series:


This test used the same YouTube compression setting for all systems and all tests, or as close as each software would allow. While this does not yield the smallest file sizes, a 10 mbps bit rate will yield excellent image quality in all cases. So, no image quality determinations were made.

What’s the fastest compression software? Well, that depends…

HandBrake seems to take fullest advantage of the Mac Pro architecture. I suspect that it would be even faster running on a top-of-the-line Mac Pro.

The latest version of Compressor is the fastest version yet, though running it in multiple instance mode caused some 2-pass compression jobs to fail.

Adobe Media Encoder was a solid contender, ranked third for speed in almost all tests.

MPEG Streamclip was problematic. In 1-pass mode it was reasonably fast, but 2-pass mode was unstable. In three different cases on both computers, it took more than 2 hours to compress a 4 minute movie. In both cases, I canceled the compression. I strongly recommend against using 2-pass mode in MPEG Streamclip.

I was surprised that both Episode and Squeeze were slower than average on both systems.

If you want pure speed, pick HandBrake. However, if you need to add watermarks or other effects, Apple Compressor is a better choice with Adobe Media Encoder a solid runner up.

Click here to download a PDF of all my findings so you can check my math.

BIG NOTE: Within the next few weeks Adobe is releasing a new version of Adobe Media Encoder. I’ll keep these results and media on file and test to see how the speeds of the new version of AME compare.


While this test did not focus on comparing interfaces, a few notes:


Late 2013 Mac Pro
Yosemite 10.10.3
3.0 GHz, 8-core Xeon processor

Late 2013 21″ iMac
Yosemite 10.10.3
3.1 GHz Intel Core i7
NVIDA GeForce GT750M GPU with 1024 VRAM


  1. Past tests also included a 15″ MacBook Pro. There just wasn’t time to include this device in this series of tests. Based on past experience, I would expect the laptop to match the iMac speeds give or take about 5%.
  2. I have been asked to run these tests on an older Mac Pro. Sadly, there just wasn’t time. It will not be as fast as the two units I tested.
  3. A 27″ iMac will have speeds comparable to the 21″ iMac.
  4. The big advantage iMacs and MacBook Pros have over the Mac Pro is that they support hardware acceleration when compressing video into H.264 for the web.
  5. The brand-new MacBook Pro will have speeds similar to the iMac. The new laptop has blazing hard disk speeds, which are of limited use in video compression.

Clips. I tested clips using three different codecs: XDCAM EX, ProRes 422 HQ and ProRes 4444. Two clips had native 720p images. The other two clips were scaled to 1280 x 720 during compression. Clip durations ranged from 4 minutes to 48 minutes. All source clips were stored on the internal drive, which yields the fastest results on SSD systems.

Compression settings. AME defaults to 1-pass VBR with a 16 mbps bit rate. Compressor defaults to a 2-pass VBR with a 9765 kbps bit rate. I tested both 1-pass and 2-pass VBR, with a standardized bit rate of 10,000 kbps for both applications. For both software I used the default YouTube 720p compression setting and only modified the bit rates to match at 10 mbps. Max and Min settings in AME were identical at 10. Keyframes,when they could be set, were set to 90.

Compressor was restarted when I changed the number of instances.

HandBrake and MPEG Streamclip did not have YouTube presets. I configured a compression setting to match our tests. Episode and Squeeze had YouTube settings, but needed tweaks to match the test setting. All YouTube default settings in all software that had them, looked like they would create excellent images without any additional tweaks.

Compression times were reported by the application. No other apps were running during compression. Only one setting was applied to each clip. Clips compressed individually, no two clips compressed at the same time. Episode only reported compression time by the minute.



(Click image to see a larger version of this table.)

This is a summary of what I learned. Green bars indicate the fastest results in each category. Red bars indicate the slowest.


Because Adobe Media Encoder has, for the last year or so, been the fastest software out there, for this first test I set AME 1-pass equal to 100% and compared all the other software to it. Numbers higher than 100% are slower than AME, while numbers lower than 100% are faster.

You can NOT compare Mac Pro speeds to iMac speeds in this section, as they use different numbers. The next section allows you to compare speeds between systems.


I calculated this section by totaling compression times for all four movies compressed on each system (Total Time). For completeness, I also averaged compression times, but the results were the same; as you would expect.

The horsepower of the MacPro enabled applications that did not take advantage of hardware compression to do well: HandBrake, MPEG Streamclip, Episode and Squeeze.

Compressor, which accesses both hardware and GPU compression, handily beat the Mac Pro for all but the 2-pass multiple instance test. AME also uses the GPU to achieve its speeds and posted solid numbers on both systems.


In this section, I show how long it takes to compress a minute of each codec using each of the six tested software. This averages both the MacPro and iMac numbers.

What surprised me was the variability between codecs and software. Compressor, for instance, compressed one minute of ProRes 4444 in under ten seconds, while XDCAM EX took Compressor more than 4 minutes.


This compares compression speed by software for each system standardizing on ProRes 422 HQ. This illustrates the differences in compression speed between software.


(Click here to download a 4-page PDF detailing all my findings, so you can check my math.)

Running this test took almost four days and I’m grateful to Brianna Murphy for her help in compiling these results.

Here are my thoughts:

As always, I’m interested in your opinions.

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16 Responses to Speed Test: Compare Video Compression Software

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  1. D says:

    I am blown away by how much faster handbreak is than media encoder.

    I did a quick search to try and find more info. Found your article which confirms my suspicians that handbreak is far superior in terms of speed when compressing Mov to MP4.

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