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Premiere CS5.5 + CUDA = Inexpensive Real-Time 4K!

March 13th, 2012 Jump to Comment Section


Written by Mike Palermo

In the Beginning

As many DSLR shooters move to bigger and better cameras &# 8211 ; with bigger and better recording formats &# 8211 ; many of us will run into unforeseen problems when applying our tried & amp ; true DLSR workflows .& nbsp ; Unfortunately , what works well for DSLR footage might not be the most efficient way to handle other codecs .& nbsp ; This is important to consider , and particularly true , when switching to RED footage not because it ’ s overly difficult , but because the initial switch can get fairly costly and chances are your old workflow will be needlessly and massively time consuming .& nbsp ; Fortunately , there are a few things you can do to alleviate the burden , saving your wallet , your time , or both . Read on :

Simply put , until the other NLEs catch up , Adobe CS5.5 with its Mercury Playback Engine ( MPE ) is currently going to be your most realistic option when dealing with RED footage.& nbsp ; In this article , I ’ m going to quickly go over what ’ s needed to make Premiere Pro ( PPro ) play as nicely as possible while simultaneously discussing the performance benefits of rocking out with the GPU - accelerated Mercury Playback Engine .

Out with the Old

For a lot of us ( me , anyway ), when it comes to our DLSR workflow we tend to transcode to a more edit - friendly format even if we use an NLE that supports native H264 editing .& nbsp ; It ’ s often worth going to a 4 : 2 : 2 or better format ( like ProRes , DNxHD , Cineform , etc ) as it opens up the DSLR video to a deeper bit - depth and more flexible colour space than the standard 8 - bit 4 : 2 : 0 that comes directly out of our DSLRs . These beefier codecs are less destructive , allow for better malleability in post , and are also easier on your system ’ s processor too .

Now , this same procedure does work with RED footage, but there ’ s a catch &# 8211 ; even with the latest and greatest computer, the transcoding process is slow .& nbsp ; Extremely slow .& nbsp ; So slow , in fact , that RED offer a proprietary . r3d transcoding PCIe add - in card called RED Rocket.& nbsp ; The only problem with a RED Rocket is the hefty $ 4750 price tag ( which is on top of your ~$ 11 , 700 + Scarlet purchase ).& nbsp ; Not cool .& nbsp ; Furthermore , while transcoding H264 files to higher - end codecs opens up DSLR footage as much as possible , these codecs are actually less flexible than . r3d RAW , which has no baked - in image .

The Adobe Advantage

This is where Adobe CS5 . 5 comes in &# 8211 ; the Mercury Playback Engine supports real - time playback of . r3d RAW footage without needing a RED Rocket, so no transcoding is necessary for real - time editing and colour grading in Premiere Pro.& nbsp ; Granted , smooth playback maxes out at ½ resolution ( lower on older hardware ), but that ’ s still way more pixels than your HDSLR video ( zing !).& nbsp ; For Scarlet / Epic footage to work in PPro you need CS5 . 5 , the “ RED Epic Importer ” ( found here) and an nVidia graphics card that is on Adobe ’ s ‘ supported ’ list here ( note : you can very easily enable support for additional nVidia cards unofficially , but that ’ s beyond the scope of this article &# 8212 ; just google it .)

< img class =" alignleft size - medium wp - image - 10111 " title =" The Galaxy MDT GTX 570 , with 1280megs of vRAM running on a 320bit memory interface ( 150 + GB / sec bandwidth ) and 480 CUDA cores, offers more than enough horsepower to apply video effects to 4k/5k footage in real-time. This MDTx4 has the added benefit of driving up to four displays simultaneously.” alt=”” src=”http://www.cined.com/content/uploads/2012/03/MDTx4-320×220.jpg” width=”320″ height=”220″> While there are cheaper options out there ( like a used GTX285, for example ), in my opinion nVidia GTX 570-based cards offer the best price : performance ratio and are supported right out of the box by the Windows version of CS5 . 5 ( fewer CUDA cards are supported by OS X , which limits your ‘ officially supported ’ choices on that platform ). Furthermore , GTX 570 - based cards come with 1280megs of GDDR5 and 480 CUDA cores &# 8212 ; a considerable amount more than the bare minimum 896megs and 96 cores required for GPU accelerated MPE .

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For testing I used the Galaxy MDT GTX570 as it is the only GTX 570 - based card that supports up to four simultaneous displays off a single GPU ( and additional screen real estate is always welcomed by post - production apps ).

Along with Mercury Engine ’ s ability to apply effects and playback .r3d raw footage in real - time while editing , using CUDA acceleration massively speeds up rendering times , which indirectly speeds up exporting as well .& nbsp ; CUDA hardware is used to do the heavy lifting of a couple dozen frequently used video effects , such as scaling , sharpening , blurring , colour correction , etc . ( and the list is improving with each CS update ).

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Since these intensive operations are offloaded to the GPU , it inadvertently frees up the CPU to better handle other rendering / encoding tasks that are not currently support by CUDA acceleration . In other words , because rendering effects is so much faster , encoding / transcoding starts that much quicker as well .& nbsp ; So much so , that there are tangible benefits to your export times .

Somewhat Real - World , but Non - Scientific Results

I say “ somewhat ” and “ non - scientific ” because , while the following test was completely controlled , I only ended up using filters / effects that were CUDA - accelerated and did direct exports from PPro rather than Adobe Media Encoder ( the differences with AME were less dramatic presumably because of it ’ s precision ; besides PPro exports are more than adequate for quick turnarounds ).
In that respect , it ’ s more of a best case scenario test , although to be fair everyone applies colour correction .& nbsp ; On the bright side , it is an apples - to - apples test , as I took the exact same 60 seconds worth of .r3d footage on the same timeline with the same effects applied , and then exported to the same MPEG2 Blu - ray codec with and without hardware - enabled MPE to compare .& nbsp ; I ’ d also recommend ignoring the actual export times since every system ( and every effect ) will be different .& nbsp ; Instead , focus more on the ratios , as they ’ re more applicable .
Test System :

  • CPU : i7 920 @ 4 . 2GHz ( 21x 200blck )
  • Motherboard : Gigabyte GA - X58 - UD5
  • RAM : 24gigs of DDR3 - 1600MHz ( 9 - 9 - 9 - 24 )
  • Storage : Adata S511 120gig SSD

And the results :

No - Effects ( note : I believe CUDA is automatically used to do the 4k & gt ; 1080p scaling )

Software Only : & nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ; 0: 41 . 3
Hardware Accelerated : & nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ; 0: 25 . 4 ( 1 . 625x faster )
Realistic &# 8211 ; two effects applied ( 3 - way Colour Corrector & amp ; sharpening )

Software Only : & nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ; 1 : 57 . 3
Hardware Accelerated : & nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ; 0: 38 . 6 ( 3 . 04x faster )
Above Average Effects &# 8211 ; Two 4k Layers , 50 % opacity on top , 3 - way & amp ; sharpening on both .

Software Only :& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ; 3 : 23 . 1
Hardware Accelerated :& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ;& nbsp ; 0: 54 . 3 ( 3 . 74x faster )

So there is a pretty substantial difference , but the best part is that these rendering benefits are just a bonus ; real - time playback of .r3d RAW footage while editing , with effects applied , is the real beauty of using CS5 . 5 and CUDA - enabled MPE .& nbsp ; In fact , with my system I was able to preview eight effects - laden layers of 4K footage at ½ resolution without hitching . Without CUDA acceleration a single layer with a single effect would struggle to playback in real - time , even at ⅛ resolution .

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Round It Up

What makes Adobe CS5.5 so potent is that even if you currently don ’ t have a RED ( or other hard - to - digest footage ), the same set - up works just as well , if not better , with your DSLR / video camera footage .& nbsp ; With CUDA hardware acceleration of the Adobe Mercury Playback Engine it ’ s surprising how quickly you can go from camera - to - online edit . For RED footage, the only other realistic option is to purchase a RED Rocket, which isn ’ t necessarily a bad investment , however after shelling out $ 15Gs or so for a shootable Scarlet package , having to fork over another ~$ 5K might not be feasible for many people attempting to make the jump from HDSLRs.

Comparatively , if you ’ re a student CS5.5 Production Premium (-$ 70 CODE : SAVEONEDU ) costs as little as ~$ 430 ( if you ’ re not a student it ’ s ~$ 1700 , but you can purchase just Premiere Pro for ~$ 700 ) and a decent CUDA - enabled graphics card , like the MDT GTX570, is $ 300 - 400 ( although there are other compatible cards for less ).& nbsp ; So it ’ s not chump - change , but it ’ s definitely a much easier pill to swallow than $ 4750 . Furthermore , it has system - wide and workflow - wide advantages instead of being a proprietary piece of hardware that can only do one function ( like the RED Rocket).

There is , of course , another major lynchpin when dealing with any higher - end footage :& nbsp ; Storage requirements . However , I ’ ll have to tackle that in another article .

Building a Powerful and Stable Mac Hackintosh System with the latest Apple and CUDA Software : GUIDE
Fool around with the RED Scarlet - X RAW footage used in this article : LINK

Article written by : Mike Palermo
from www.dvisionfilms.ca

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