Review: Popcorn 4

Web video capture, video editing, and conversion added. (January 2nd, 2010)

Copy or compress non-commercial DVDs, and convert video clips to file formats used by portable media players. Popcorn 4 adds web video capture, basic video editing, and conversion options to make your creations playable on more portable devices.

MacNN Rating:

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Product Manufacturer: Roxio, Div. of Sonic Solutions

Price: $49.95 US; Upgrade $25

The Good

  • Web video capture.
    DVD track editing.
    Flash video export.

The Bad

  • No de-interlace option.
    Must watch whole web video before you can convert it.

I'm a video geek and have hundreds of video clips on my hard drives. I often grab more from a variety of sources and convert them for use in different projects or for playback on my iPhone, Apple TV or Xbox 360. Handbrake and QuickTime Pro are my editing and conversion tools of choice, but I'm always on the lookout for something new. Roxio's newest version of Popcorn might be just the thing I've waited for to combine all the video tools I need into one application.

New Features

You use Popcorn, which originally came out in 2005, to copy or compress non-commercial DVDs, and to convert video clips to file formats used by portable media players. Popcorn 4 adds web video capture, basic video editing, and more conversion options to make your creations playable on even more portable devices. MacNN has reviewed earlier versions of Popcorn, as noted at the bottom of this review, so I'll just touch on what is new in version 4.

The interface is the first sign of change in the new Popcorn. You always know what mode you're in with a Copy tab on the left and a Convert tab on the right. The big red burn and export button remains on bottom right, but the disk capacity meter that used to arc around it now runs along the bottom of the window. This new, longer meter gives you a better idea of how much room you have left in your project.

popcorn4-convert.jpg


Popcorn 4 Window


You can pull individual clips or pieces of clips and audio from your non-commercial DVDs. From the Media Browser window just navigate to your DVD, choose any of the tracks and click the plus button. Your clip opens in its own window and gives you sliders to choose only the portion of the clip you want to save. You can add the clips to a new project and burn a compilation DVD or you can export the files to any of the file formats that Popcorn generates.

popcorn4-extractclips.jpg


DVD Clips - Screen shot by Roxio

New Video Capture and Download

Another useful Popcorn addition is the ability to download any video that is playing in your Internet browser's window. You simply open Popcorn's Media Browser, choose Web Video, and any videos that are loaded into your Internet browser window appear. Double-click to add it to your video files project. I went to Google's video page, YouTube, and Vimeo and Popcorn downloaded all the videos flawlessly. I tested this using Safari 4.0.3 and Firefox 3.5.4 and both worked perfectly.

popcorn4-webvideosingle.jpg


Web Video Extraction - Media Browser


The new Popcorn can also detect and import video from the new generation of AVCHD and AVCHD Lite camcorders. It works with your Tivo to transfer, convert, and burn your TV shows to DVD or export for use on your portable devices. Popcorn also works with Elgato's EyeTV line of TV tuner devices. I currently use the EyeTV 250 Plus and Popcorn works seamlessly with the EyeTV software to preview, import, and convert the test recordings I made.

Video Preview

Much improved in Popcorn 4 is the video preview feature. To keep you from wasting time on a conversion that doesn't look as good as you'd like, you can preview exactly how your video will look. You can even save your preview clips so you can compare them side-by-side before you decide which settings to use. This feature alone will save you hours of conversion trial and error.

You also have more options when you're ready to export your video. In addition to Apple TV, iPhone/iPod, PlayStation 3, Sony PSP, Xbox 360, and BlackBerry, Popcorn can export files for playback on Nintendo Wii and Palm Pre. You can also upload your videos directly to your YouTube account or export in Adobe's Flash Video format.

popcorn4-codecs.jpg


Available Codecs


When you choose the YouTube option, you're prompted for your account login and password and given the opportunity to title, categorize, and tag your video. I tested a 30 second video clip and it exported smoothly and uploaded to YouTube without a hitch.

There are two Flash Video options, the first exports your video as a stand-alone Flash file to be played in any application that can play Adobe Flash video. The Flash Video with Player option exports your video file along with everything needed to use it on a web site. It even exports an HTML template with the video embedded with full Flash controls for playback and volume. In the past, I have used Apple's QuickTime Pro to convert video to Flash for use on my web site but I always had to piece together the necessary playback software, HTML code, and JavaScript code from scratch. Popcorn has taken the hassle out of all that with one very smooth step. Bravo!

popcorn4-flashandfiles.jpg


Flash Export and Files


If you like to play around with video but want to keep things simple, you should take Popcorn 4 for a test drive. It has the fit and finish I've come to expect from Roxio and has the video horsepower under its hood to handle most editing and conversion jobs you might encounter. The CPU friendly Popcorn lets you pause and resume conversion too. It is easy for me to recommend Popcorn and give it an almost perfect rating.

Popcorn runs on any Mac with an Intel processor, QuickTime 7, and Macintosh OS X 10.5 (Leopard) or 10.6 (Snow Leopard). It costs $49.99 for first time buyers and $29.99 for owners of previous versions of Popcorn.

Related Reviews on MacNN:

Popcorn 1 Review, by Art Payne

Popcorn 2 Review, by Barbara Mende

Popcorn 3 Review, by Bill Gureck


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