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Mercury, CUDA, and what it all means

Feb 22, 2013 6:11 AM

[I just posted an article on the Premiere Pro team blog based on the information and questions in this forum thread.]

 

'Mercury Playback Engine' is a  name for a large number of performance improvements in Premiere Pro CS5.  Those improvements include the following:

 

- 64-bit application

- multithreaded application

- processing of some things using CUDA

 

Everyone who has Premiere Pro CS5 has the first two of these. Only the third one depends on having a specific graphics card.

 

Confusingly---because  of one of our own early videos that was just plain unclear---a lot of  people think that 'Mercury' just refers to CUDA processing. This is  wrong. To see that this was not the original intent, you need look no  further than the project settings UI strings 'Mercury Playback Engine  GPU Acceleration' and 'Mercury Playback Engine Software Only', which  would make no sense if 'Mercury' meant "hardware" (i.e., CUDA).

 

The official and up-to-date list of the cards that provide the CUDA processing features is here:

http://www.adobe.com/products/premiere/systemreqs/

Some of the cards on that list are only enabled if you have the recent updates.

 

On Mac OS, CUDA processing features of Premiere Pro CS5 require Mac OSX v10.6.3 or later.

 

CUDA is an Nvidia technology, so only Nvidia cards provide it.

 

If you don't have one of these CUDA cards, you can still use Premiere Pro CS5; you just won't get the advantages of processing with CUDA.

 

Here's a list of things that Premiere Pro CS5 can process with CUDA:

- some effects

- scaling

- deinterlacing

- blending modes

- color space conversions

 

It's worth mentioning one set of things that Premiere Pro CS5 doesn't process using CUDA: encoding and decoding.

 

Note  that whether a frame can be processed by CUDA depends on the size of  the frame and the amount of RAM on the graphics card (VRAM). This article gives details about that, toward the bottom.

 

Processing  with CUDA doesn't just mean that things are faster. In some cases, it  can actually mean that results are better, as with scaling. See this article for details.

 

The  term 'Mercury Playback Engine' refers to Premiere Pro. It has nothing  to do with After Effects. After Effects CS5 is a 64-bit application, and  it has been multithreaded for a long time, so those improvements are  there. But After Effects doesn't use CUDA (though a few third-party  plug-ins do).

Branched to a new discussion.
 
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Jan 4, 2011 11:23 AM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    Why a list?

     

    I find it a bit unfair that there should be a list and a very small one at that, when I was buying my card I looked at the GTX 470 which is now on the list but all the revues said that the newer GTX 460 was better I.E. faster lower power consumption etc. Anyone buying a card has a dilemma, buy the older slower card and be on the list or buy the newer faster card which is not on the list. Why can't PPCS5 just look at your card and decide whether it's good enough to use Mercury ? Harm mentioned that it was possible to "hack" PP to use a non listed card and I have done this but is it allowed ?

     

    Regards

     

    Kevin Mooney

     
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    Jan 4, 2011 12:06 PM   in reply to fincaman2

    Kevin,

     

    The 460 is a slimmed down version of the 470. It is not faster. The 470 is the faster of the two cards.

     

    One can only guess at the reason Adobe left this easy 'hack' available for use by many.

     

    One could argue that:

     

    1. the limited list of supported cards makes the development time, manpower and support less costly for Adobe, and

     

    2. the 'hacked' cards using non-supported cards will show if and where problems may be without any effort from Adobe, apart from reading the forums, and

     

    3. the talk about the 'hack' improves the commercial potential of CS5 for Adobe without any effort.

     

    All three points are distinct benefits for Adobe.

     

    Do you seriously think that a potential buyer of CS5, who currently has a GTX-480, would consider downgrading to a GTX-470 when he can see that 60% of the top-20 performers in the PPBM5 Benchmark are using a 'hacked' version of the 480? He would keep his 480 and not hesitate to buy CS5. Adobe meanwhile does not have to give costly support, does not have to do extensive testing to certify the card and still sells a license, so everybody is happy.

     
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    Jan 4, 2011 12:11 PM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    ------------

    a lot of  people think that 'Mercury' just refers to CUDA processing.  This is  wrong. To see that this was not the original intent, you need  look no  further than the project settings UI strings 'Mercury Playback  Engine  GPU Acceleration' and 'Mercury Playback Engine Software Only',  which  would make no sense if 'Mercury' meant "hardware" (i.e., CUDA).

    --------------

    so with the mercury playback software only there are still significant improvements in processing or functionality of PP but with CUDA there is even MORE speed due to using the hardware ( gpu and cuda  ? )

    how much of the gpu does the software ONLY use ??  in comparison to the gpu using the vram to take stress off the cpu processing ?

     
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    Jan 4, 2011 12:26 PM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    Shame that this doesn't speed up rendering. That's the only bottleneck I have to deal with. 23.5 hour renders

    making a 2 hr Blu-ray movie with unsharp mask and color correction filters. That ties

    up a workstation for an entire day--if PPro doesn't crash on render--which it often does on long h.264 renders.

     
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    Jan 4, 2011 12:30 PM   in reply to able123

    Software MPE does not use the GPU/CUDA. Only hardware MPE uses the GPU/CUDA and that of course depends on your timeline. Supported effects, transitions, scaling and blending used. In some cases it can use more than 50% of the GPU processing power, in other cases only 10%. To complicate this even further, look at the explanation on the Background page of the PPBM5 Benchmark

     

    On this benchmark test the average speed increase of hardware MPE over software MPE is around 10 x, depending on a number of other factors, like video card, CPU, memory, clock speed etc. So, for example the test takes 10 seconds with hardware MPE and 100 seconds with software MPE.

     

    One very important thing to take into consideration is that hardware MPE is not only about speed, but also about quality. Hardware MPE uses maximum quality all the time, if one uses software MPE and set MRQ on, the quality will be comparable to hardware MPE, but the render times may differ by a factor 30 - 50.

     

    Sidebar: If the video card/VRAM is completely used, hardware MPE reverts to software MPE automatically and lost is the maximum quality. Just to be aware of.

     
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    Jan 4, 2011 12:32 PM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    None. That's the point. The term 'software' in this context refers to CPU-only processing.

     

    Well, this begs the question, then: why market and then include in the software the confusing phrase "Mercury Playback Engine?" I mean, I understand the desire for catchy slogans and stuff that can adorn ad slicks, but if you have access to the Mercury Playback Engine regardless of having an approved GPU or not, why bother? It seems it would be easier and more logical to simply say, "Premiere Pro CS5 is fast. Add a certain graphics card, and it will be even faster."

     

    Endusers ultimately don't care about the names of underlying proprietary technologies. Sure, we all love to boast about a certain brand or another that we purchase or use, but "Mercury Playback Engine" isn't a brand. Tell them what they can do to squeeze more performance out of the software, and leave it at that. If Adobe wants to sell more copies of Premiere Pro, simply stop referring to MPE at all, and say, "Right out of the box, you have X; add a specific GPU and you have X+10."

     

    PS: Todd, you should probably refer to the Mercury Playback Engine correctly, and not just Mercury... or Dennis will send you a nasty note

     
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    Jan 4, 2011 12:43 PM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    ahh...OK, thank you Todd and Harm...both...i understand this much better now

     

    one more question, with regard to Open GL

     

    IIRC, glide and then open glide ( open gl ) was for gaming at first to draw ( using the gpu and vram ( mem on card )) complex 3d scenes etc FAST, so that the cpu wasnt being used for those things that the GPU could do ( light source vectors and refraction and reflection and any number of skin related ( attributes of 3d objects ) ) ??? is that about right ?

     

    so with pp cs5 that open gl does not apply whatsoever, but in AE ( which I dont have ...I do have maya and know a little bit about 3d stuff ) ...in AE the open gl IS USED in some circumstances....is this right....pp cs5 does NOT use open GL, AE does sometimes ?

     

    sooo, in terms of the PP CS5 mercury playback and open GL cards abilities, you would notice a big difference with PP CS5 but not such a big difference with AE CS5  ??

     
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    Jan 4, 2011 1:25 PM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    Is it possible to rebase Mercury Playback Engine on OpenCL, which I imagine might make it easier to support ATI cards? I have one computer with an Nvidia card and another with an ATI card. Is OpenCL appropriate and sufficiently mature?

     
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    Jan 4, 2011 1:29 PM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    thanks Todd, thats pretty much what I figured... mostly for gaming and for some 3d rendering ....( to screen )

     

    in defense of the forces that be, the marketing and the "basics" of presenting cs5 to the world, I have to say its awfully complicated by nature and is sorta not geared toward a "casual user " of computers to do this kind of work ( editing , SFX , etc )

     

    So "squishy" and so on is probably part of the translation from programmer ( who already knows whats up ) to " writer " who has less of a clear idea of whats up unless someone tells him.  And I wonder how many copy writers get their arms twisted to just " keep it simple " ...for the sake of getting the product delivered.  Can't blame it on some conspiracy theory or something in this case. I don't have cs5 but I haven't been misled about whats up with this stuff....  I kinda GET IT, from the experience I have and knowing the hardware applications from the past.  When you throw in CPU's with "new graphics abilities " like the recent news ...I just go back to thinking how commadore and atari dealt with "player missle" stuff.... somehow I doubt its gonna matter to my editing.

     
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    Jan 4, 2011 1:31 PM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    I see what you are saying but most people wouldn't know about the hack I only found out two days ago, infact I also only found out at the same time that if a card wasn't on the list mercury didn't work so I hacked my card and did the benchmark test 252 secs no too bad ?

     
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    Jan 4, 2011 1:49 PM   in reply to Colin Brougham

    Endusers ultimately don't care about the names of underlying proprietary technologies.

     

    What's this?  Colin and I agreeing on this issue?  (Now where did I put that calendar...)

     
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    Jan 4, 2011 4:44 PM   in reply to Jim Simon

    Regardless of the hype created about the name and what it implies, the MPE or "Fast CS5" has taken me away from FCP.

    Anyone who spends countless hours every day pushing a mouse around, should, in a professional sense, always be seeking a faster cost effective alternative to their workflow. CS5 does that.

    I don't care what it's called

    So thumbs up Adobe!

     
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    Jan 9, 2011 8:11 AM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    So if Mercury Engine is "Grayed Out" in project

    settings, that means your graphics card is not suitable?

     

    My AVCHD footage is pixelating on the timeline, could that be the problem?

     

    thanks

     
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    Jan 9, 2011 8:28 AM   in reply to Michael J Ward

    That Is Correct but you can make it suitable search for the "Premiere Pro hack" I have done it and now my GeForce GTX 460 works fine, I can't give you a direct link because forum rules don't allow it, however I think your graphics card has to have 1Gb of memory or perhaps 750 Mb. What are the specs of your card ?

     

    Regards

     

    Kevin

     
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    Jan 9, 2011 11:15 AM   in reply to fincaman2

    Sorry

    Windows 7 64 bit

    4 GB Ram

    Graphics - NVidea Geforce 7300 LE 128mb DDR3

    Processor - Twin Intel core 2 cpu 6300 1.86 ghz

    Hard Disks - 3 on Raid 0

     

    Message was edited by: Michael J Ward

     
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    Jan 9, 2011 2:13 PM   in reply to Michael J Ward

    Hello again, sorry but I would say your card is not suitable for hacking my GTX 460 was very reasonable and the hack works, I bought a Palit sonic platinum which is manufacturer overclocked by 20%. I am afraid that although PPCS5 has fantastic capabilities it is resource hungry and I personally am always planning my next upgrade (currently 18gb ram to 24gb i7 950 to i7 980X Samsung spinpoint to ssd's so on and so fourth it never stops) Good luck there are always lots of top experts to help on this forum to help.

     

    Regards

     

    Kevin

     
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    Jan 9, 2011 4:46 PM   in reply to fincaman2

    Thanks Kevin

     

    Looks like I need to buy one of the recommended graphics cards.

     
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    Jan 10, 2011 12:57 AM   in reply to Michael J Ward

    Just be careful most top cards need extra power so you have to be sure your power supply has the correct plugs they're square with six connections, my GTX 460 has two extra sockets for power, if you're planning an upgrade a good GTX card and an 850 watt power supply (buy a good one) would not be wasted. I have just done a search and you can get conversion cables from the 4 pin flat molex to the square graphics card plug but you must make sure your power supply is up to it.

     

    Regards

     

    Kevin

     
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    Jan 16, 2011 4:21 PM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva
    Even on After Effects, it's only really useful for rough preview renders; it's not appropriate for final renders or high-fidelity previews.

     

    That is incorrect. OpenGL is only used on preview for "historic" effects, effects where CPU versions existed and were in use. This gaurantees consistency in final render from version to version. One some new filters, such as Cartoon, GPU is also used for final render (depending on the system configuration), because the performance is so much better (and the quality is comparable, but not pixel-for-pixel across machines like CPU).

     
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    Feb 10, 2011 2:04 PM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    Why is a powerhouse like Adobe behind when it comes to encoding? No CUDA/Stream/Quick Sync enhanced encoding in AME...

     

    Intel released a plugin for AME that does basic H.264 profiles http://software.intel.com/en-us/articles/adobe-premiere-propremiere-el   ements-encoder-plug-in-using-intel-media-sdk-and-intel-quick-sync-vid e  o-technology/

     

    Intel lists the apps that support quick synch http://www.intel.com/technology/quicksynch/index.htm

    * Arcsoft MediaConverter*
    * Arcsoft MediaImpression*
    * Corel Digital Studio*
    * CyberLink MediaEspresso*
    * CyberLink PowerDirector*
    * MainConcept*
    * Movavi Video Converter*
    * Roxio Creator*

    When will AME take advantage of CUDA/Stream/Quick Sync for encoding and why are you so behind the times??

     
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    Feb 10, 2011 3:44 PM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    Todd, others, one of the things I'm still a bit unsure about is the difference of using GPU and non-GPU Mercury when it comes to real-time playback.

     

    When I added my cards, I guess I assumed my realtime playback would either stay the same, or in some cases improve, due to processing being conducted by the GPU.

     

    What I have found in some of my HDV projects, especially where I have an embedded AE comp, is that I can't get anything approaching realtime playback, UNLESS I turn off GPU assistance and go back to software only.

     

    So I'm wondering, if I can't get realtime using the GPU, do I need a better card, a better machine, or both? Are there cases where using the GPU is not advised/appropriate?

     

    Could you clarify for me what GPU is doing or not doing for realtime playback?

     

    W64, E8400, 8GB, GTX470

     

    cheers

     

    Matthew P

     
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    Feb 12, 2011 1:45 PM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    Hi

     

     

    I have a question regarding the capacity of CUDA and Mercuryengine to playback HD bitmap files in real time in PremierePro CS5 (5.0.3).

    I do film animation and work with uncompressed image sequences shot on DSLR cameras reduced to the 16:9 HD 1080 resolution. I don't have any problems playing XDCAM HD 422, the processor being able to easily deal with them. But when it is time to play bitmap image (TGA) sequences, the playback is choppy, even if the PremPro session corresponds to the input. My solution for now is to render the files before playback.

    Here are the specs of my computer:

     

    • Windows 7 64 Pro

      • Installed (With software) on a Seagate     Barracuda 7200 500 Gig

    • 2 Intel Xeon E5520 2.26 MHz, Multithreaded

    • 2 x 500 Gig Seagate Barracuda 7200
      • Configured in      RAID 0 for animation and editing projects (Software RAID)

         

    • 12 gig of RAM (2 x 6, DDR3 1333     Mhz Kingston)

    • PNY QuadroFX 1800 with the latest     driver

    • Supermicro X8DAi E-ATX

    • Antec 850W power supply

     

     

    I have researched the Bitmap playback subject, but there is very little information found on the topic. I am wondering if a switch to a GeForce GTX 470 graphic card would do anything since bitmap playback is not CPU intensive, unlike the XDCAM HD 422 file type? As much as possible, I am trying to avoid a proxy work flow. For now, it seems that the problem might be related to memory bandwidth and stream performance (Geekbench test).

     

    Thanks for your help.

     
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    Feb 12, 2011 1:57 PM   in reply to Matt Petersen

    GPU acceleration does not aid in decoding footage, so if you cannot play an image sequence in realtime on it's own, a faster GPU is unlikely to help you.

     
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    Feb 12, 2011 2:20 PM   in reply to Sir John of Nohow

    GPU acceleration does no decoding, so if your TGA sequence will not playback on its own I would not expect a new GPU to help.

     
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    Feb 12, 2011 2:58 PM   in reply to SteveHoeg

    Thanks for your response Steve. It is appreciated.

     

    Here is what I have found to improve playback: My TGAs are of 24 bit, 6 Mb each. Despised the absence of an alpha channel within the file, I decided to go to "interpret Footage" and check "Ignore Alpha Channel".  I can now play those images in real time, in several layers, including an XDCAM HD 422 file, with playback resolution to 1/2.

    Would it be because PremPro was looking for the alpha channel anyway?

     

    Jean

     
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    Feb 13, 2011 3:30 AM   in reply to Colin Brougham

    Colin Brougham wrote:

     

    PS: Todd, you should probably refer to the Mercury Playback Engine correctly, and not just Mercury... or Dennis will send you a nasty note

     

    Seeing as neither Todd nor I are in marketing, I think he's safe from a nasty note from me.  Besides he helps me out too much for me to get on his bad side anyway!

     
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    Feb 14, 2011 6:12 AM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    I sure hope Adobe fixes the fire wire out preview for external monitor support using MPE!!

    You can't even preview what your effects are doing let alone preview the time line playing.

     
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    Feb 16, 2011 5:06 PM   in reply to Todd_Kopriva

    i am trying to buy a pc from either HP or Dell that will allow me to take advantage of this Mercury/CUDA.

     

    unfortunately, none of the nvidia options they provide are on the list as published by adobe.

     

    i find this a little strange.

     

    help?

     
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    Feb 16, 2011 7:08 PM   in reply to rokn1500

    Build your own.  It'll be cheaper, and you can use whatever card you want.

     
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    Feb 16, 2011 8:32 PM   in reply to Jim Simon

    thanks. i don't feel like building my own - hardware is a pain. i just want

    to order something that works.

     

    rob

     
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    Feb 16, 2011 8:42 PM   in reply to rokn1500

    I have a HP Z600 workstation that is a nice design and kind of inexpensive (relative).  Their onsite warranty is quite nice.  My Z600 runs CS5 like a champ.

     

    http://www.hp.com/sbso/busproducts-workstations.html

     

    Dennis

     
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