gpu h.264 media technology wintel

The Sandy Bridge Review: Intel Core i7-2600K – AnandTech

Quick Sync is just awesome. Its simply the best way to get videos onto your smartphone or tablet. Not only do you get most if not all of the quality of a software based transcode, you get performance thats better than what high-end discrete GPUs are able to offer. If you do a lot of video transcoding onto portable devices, Sandy Bridge will be worth the upgrade for Quick Sync alone.

For everyone else, Sandy Bridge is easily a no brainer. Unless you already have a high-end Core i7, this is what youll want to upgrade to.

via The Sandy Bridge Review: Intel Core i7-2600K, i5-2500K and Core i3-2100 Tested – AnandTech :: Your Source for Hardware Analysis and News.

Previously in this blog I have recounted stories from Tom’s Hardware and surrounding the wicked cool idea of tapping the vast resources contained within your GPU while you’re not playing video games. Producers of GPUs like nVidia and AMD both wanted to market their products to people who not only gamed but occasionally ripped video from DVDs and played them back on ipods or other mobile devices. The amount of time sunk into doing these kinds of conversions were made somewhat less of a pain due to the ability to run the process on a dual core Wintel computer, browsing web pages  while re-encoding the video in the background. But to get better speeds one almost always needs to monopolize all the cores on the machine and free software like HandBrake and others will take advantage of those extra cores, thus slowing your machine, but effectively speeding up the transcoding process. There was hope that GPUs could accelerate the transcoding process beyond what was achievable with a multi-core cpu from Intel. An example is also Apple’s widespread adoption of OpenCL as a pipeline to the GPU to send rendering requests for any video frames or video processing that may need to be done in iTunes, QuickTime or the iLife applications. And where I work, we get asked to do a lot of transcoding of video to different formats for customers. Usually someone wants a rip from a DVD that they can put on a flash drive and take with them into a classroom.

However, now it appears there is a revolution in speed in the works where Intel is giving you faster transcodes for free. I’m talking about Intel’s new Quick Sync technology using the integrated graphics core as a video transcode accelerator. The speeds of transcoding are amazingly fast and given the speed, trivial to do for anyone including the casual user. In the past everyone seemed to complain about how slow their computer was especially for ripping DVDs or transcoding the rips to smaller more portable formats. Now, it takes a few minutes to get an hour of video into the right format. No more blue Monday. Follow the link to the story and analysis from as they ran head to head comparisons of all the available techniques of re-encoding/transcoding a Blue-ray video release into a smaller .mp4 file encoded in as h.264. They did comparisons of Intel four-core cpus (which took the longest and got pretty good quality) versus GPU accelerated transcodes, versus the new Intel QuickSync technology coming out soon on the Sandy Bridge gen Intel i7 cpus. It is wicked cool how fast these transcodes are and it will make the process of transcoding trivial compared to how long it takes to actually ‘watch’ the video you spent all that time converting.

Links to older GPU accelerated video articles:

computers entertainment technology wintel

AnandTech: AVIVO Video Converter

ATI Avivo Video Converter
Avivo control panel

About a year ago I wrote an article about nVidia’s attempt to use it’s video graphics cards to accelerate transcoding. H.264 was fast becoming the gold standard for desktop video, video sharing through social networking websites, and for viewing on handheld devices. In the time since then, Badaboom entered the market and has gone through a revision of it’s original GPU accelerated transcoding software. Apple is now touting OpenCL as the API through which any software can access the potential of using all those graphics pipelines to accelerate parallel operations off of the CPU. nVidia is supporting OpenCL whole hog and I think there is some hope Microsoft won’t try to undermine it too much though it’s standing strong with DirectX as the preferred API for anything that talks to a graphics card for any reason.

So where does AMD with it’s ATI card fit into the universe of GPU accelerated software? According to Anandtech, it doesn’t fit in at all. The first attempts at providing transcoding have proved a Big Fail. While Badaboom outlcasses it at every turn in the transcoded video it produces. Hopefully OpenCL can be abstracted enough to cover AMD and nVidia’s product offerings with a single unified interface to allow acceleration to occur much more easily as citizen of the OS. Talking directly to the metal is only going to provide headaches down the road as OSes are updated and drivers change. But even with that level of support, it looks like AMD’s not quite got the hang of this yet. Hopefully they can spare a few engineers and a few clock cycles and take Avivo out of alpha prototype stage and show off what they can do. The biggest disappointment of all is that even the commercial transcoder from Cyberlink  using the ATI card didn’t match up to Badaboom on nVidia.

A few months ago, we tested AMD’s AVIVO Video Converter. AMD had just enabled video transcode acceleration on the GPU, and they wanted to position their free utility as competition to CUDA enabled (and thus NVIDIA only) Badaboom. Certainly, for a free utility, we would not expect the same level of compatibility and quality as we would from a commercial application like Badaboom. But what we saw really didn’t even deliver what we would expect even from a free application.

via AnandTech: AVIVO Video Converter Redux and ATI Stream Quick Look.