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Old May 29th, 2009, 09:27 PM   #1
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Quad-Core or Hardware Encoder?

I'm currently editing on a 2-year-old system with a dual-core processor & 3 GB of RAM (4 GB is installed, but Windows only sees 3.25 GB), with Adobe Premiere Pro CS3. When I built the system I was shooting & editing SD only, but over the past 2 years I've moved toward mostly HD editing.

Now rendering times are getting to be just way too long for HD projects. Especially when I have to downconvert edited HD video to SD MPEG-2 for DVD authoring. On a recent project, a 2-hour video, conversion to SD MPEG-2 took almost 16 hours (with 2-pass encoding...8 hours for each pass). Fortunately, most projects are not that long, but rendering still eats a LOT of time.

I want to upgrade my hardware, but I'm not sure which route to take for the most benefit. I've thought about upgrading my motherboard and processor to a quad-core system, keeping everything else the same. But then I started reading up on hardware video encoder cards which claim to encode HD & SD video faster than real-time. So far I've been reading up on the Grass Valley Firecoder Blu and the Matrox CompressHD. Haven't really read that much on them, so I'm not sure how well either would integrate with Premiere Pro, if at all. It would be nice to have something that can speed up rendering on the timeline as well as speeding up final output.

Anyway, I thought I'd ask all you knowledgeable folks which way you think I would see the most benefit and reduction of rendering times: Quad-core processor upgrade or dedicated hardware encoder card? And what hardware would you recommend?
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Old May 30th, 2009, 09:18 PM   #2
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My system is an X48 motherboard with Q9450 Quad core, 8G RAM running Vista 64. I edit normally with Edius, multicam with 4 tracks, 2 HDV native and 2 HQ ( converted from AVCHD) on a HDV timeline. System runs realtime in this mode. IF you want a SD DV output just change project settings and output realtime to DV. I would normally render to HDV ( just less than realtime) and use TMPGenc4Xpress to create MPEG2 for SD DVD( 2 pass VBR with AC3 audio). Conversion time for this is just less than 2 times realtime. So a 2 hour program will end up with an MPEG2 file for SD DVD in less than 6 hours total time from Edius timeline. Edius will create an SD MPEG 2 file from the timeline a lot quicker but I prefer the encode from TMPGenc. IF one wishes to get an even finer quality resize and encode then use VDUB for the resize and TMPGenc for the encode. Times are not too different just that there are more steps. Getting a Bluray file is a lot quicker!!! Most of the motivation for hardware acceleration at the moment is for H264 for Bluray. Carefully look at the specs and I think you will find most do not do what you would want. I too would like a hardware accelerated high quality conversion from HD to SD for DVD.
Unless one wants to put 5 or 6 hours on a Bluray then staying with MPEG2 HD is a lot simpler and way faster.If the time is less than 3 hours just use MPEG2 HD( essentially VBR HDV!!) it will fit just fine on a 25G Bluray with just slightly reduced average bit rate. I see no real difference for a 2hour 40min program using 18Mbps min, 21Mbps ave, 30Mbps max than looking at my HDV master tape.

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Old June 17th, 2009, 08:00 PM   #3
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Doug,

Take a look at the promising Nvidia based hardware accelerated solution. Works with Premiere (although CS4).

Accelerator | ELEMENTAL TECHNOLOGIES

Hope this helps,
Ty
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Old June 18th, 2009, 09:31 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ty Yang View Post
Doug,

Take a look at the promising Nvidia based hardware accelerated solution. Works with Premiere (although CS4).

Accelerator | ELEMENTAL TECHNOLOGIES

Hope this helps,
Ty
If you have lots of money to burn AND ONLY encode to H.264, this may, just maybe, be a solution. In any other case, where you do other things than encoding to H.264, or have a budget to mind, it is an absolute waste of money. You can save around $ 1300 by buying a good video card and spend the amount saved on a better CPU, more memory and a better disk setup and EVERYTHING will be faster, not just H.264 encoding.
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Old June 18th, 2009, 06:34 PM   #5
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I wouldn't spend a ton of money on a hardware encoder, unless I absolutely needed one, and certainly not before upgrading the CPU to a quad!
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Old June 18th, 2009, 06:45 PM   #6
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You know, for the cost of that NVIDIA based "solution" (aka "wallet drain"), you could upgrade your computer to a dual (2 CPUs) quad core system...and that would get your HD to SD MPEG-2 encoding moving along nicely!
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Old June 18th, 2009, 07:07 PM   #7
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I'm not sure how Premier uses a GPU but I would suggest upgrading to an i7 processor to start.

If that's not enough I have heard good things about the Matrox CompressHD board which you can get at this sponsor.
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Old June 18th, 2009, 07:39 PM   #8
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With a two year old motherboard, it's pretty likely the OP could pop a quad in for under $200 (at least a Kentsfield or a Phenom, depending on which platform it is) and cut his times for generating SD MPEG-2 in the ballpark of in half - pretty cheap. To go to an i7 would cost considerably more (CPU, motherboard and memory - none of it cheap) - would certainly speed things noticeably more (maybe in the ballpark of cutting times by 2/3 instead of just 1/2 maybe?), but not as cost effectively as simply dropping a low cost, first generation quad in there.
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Old June 18th, 2009, 10:22 PM   #9
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Important to know is that with the Elemental Technologies product, it's a plugin that offloads the processing to the GPU. The plugin and not the card is the point of difference. You don't need the specific (and very expensive) video card that they are trying to sell it with.

Sorry that I don't have a link to the plugin product itself.

Andrew
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Old June 20th, 2009, 04:31 AM   #10
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Just another note regarding the Elemental Technologies accelerator: You can't tweak the supplied encoding presets. This one is a deal breaker for me.

Andrew
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Old June 21st, 2009, 09:05 PM   #11
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Yeah, i sometimes wonder if people looking for the latest in dual Quad core machines have researched their needs for one...

I mean....There's just so many factors for machines..
Are you rendering CGI 24/7, are you offline editing, online editing, .h264 encoding, colour correcting, working with uncompressed workflows etc....

I hear lots of suggestions about getting faster machines, but rarely do i read about a suggested machine for a specific workflow...

Doug, your initial paragraph of HD>SD workflows seem to be the real issue here..
Are you working with HDV?
Is that correct? Are you using filtering, what encoder do you use? An 8 hour encode for two hours of video his very strange.

Grass Valley Firecoder Blu and the Matrox CompressHD are used for specific reasons..This is totally another issue..
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Old June 25th, 2009, 03:25 PM   #12
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I am editing mostly HDV stuff these days, however most of that editing is done after converting the HDV to an intermediate codec. The video that took 8 hours to render was actually HDV and I did have two filters applied to it in ProCoder that undoubtedly slowed down the process a bit. I have done other similar conversions from HD to SD with the same filters but converting from an intermediate codec instead of HDV. These did not take 8 hours for a single pass, but roughly 3 1/2 or 4 hours, if I remember correctly.

It's not just HD to SD that is slow though. Rendering HD from the timeline is not terribly fast either. Just the other day I rendered a photo montage to HDV straight from the timeline and it took a little over 3 hours for a 10 minute video. Of course this is partially because it was made up entirely of high-res photos, with zooms, pans, etc. added. It would be very nice to be able to make that process happen a bit faster though, as that particular video finished rendering only about 45 minutes before it had to be shown at a church service.

From what others have said here, I think I will be going the Quad-core upgrade route. I currently have an AMD processor, so I'll probably want to step up to an AMD quad-core, unless the Intels are supposed to significantly better (without being significantly more expensive). Any specific suggestions? Or any suggestions of how to speed up rendering on my current system? Maybe there's something I should or should not be doing that I don't know about?

Thanks for all the replies so far!
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Old June 25th, 2009, 06:25 PM   #13
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Note: I'm not a pro -- take with a grain of salt.

I'm editing HDV in CS4 on an Intel quad-core 2.6 GHz machine, over-clocked to 3.0 GHz. I originally started with 4 gig of RAM. I've upgraded to 8 gig, but don't see much of a performance improvement. Rendering from the time line is pretty darn fast, even when it's a complicated sequence (filters, key frames, compositing, etc.). I use Adobe's Media Encoder for transcoding (I transcode for Blu-Ray authoring rather than to SD), so your mileage may differ, but I find it roughly 50% over real time, i.e. a 1 hour project set for highest quality, 2-pass VBR will transcode in 90+ minutes.

I'd agree with the recommendations to use an i7 CPU, but if money is an issue an over-clocked standard Intel quad-core will save you around $500.

As for your present system, I'd just give it up -- salvage the graphics card and drives if you can. I used to edit SD on a 4 GHz P4 system with 2 gigs of RAM and that was just fine. When I switched to HDV, I tried getting by on my laptop, which is a 2 GHz Core 2 Duo with 2 gigs of RAM. In CS3 it was almost hopeless. When I upgraded to CS4 it simply wasn't possible -- the program would freeze up, transitions would take the length of a cup of coffee to render, and previewing from the time line was virtually impossible. I don't have a pro's throughput, but I find the over-clocked quad-core system I described orders of magnitude faster, and editing is now a breeze to the point that I'm no longer conscious of the editing hardware and can just concentrate on the project. I added a Black Magic Intensity card, so I can preview in full resolution in real time on an HDTV.
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Old June 25th, 2009, 10:29 PM   #14
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Yeah Doug....
If i were you, i'd seriously look into improving your workflow....Your project and export settings need to be addressed..HDV exports usually are required only for spitting back to tape. Also working with HDV, usually requires a friendly push with the help of third party solutions.(ie software or hardware).

Of course, a faster machine will always help, but even a quad core will not help you if the workflow is wrong...(eg, using high rez photos aren't necessary, and bog the system down).

Just as a guide for you, I've got an older HP workstation with 2xAMD Opteron dual cores..Simple cutting of native HDV was passable. But i had two choices...Spend on a new computer, or add a hardware card..I opted for the second due to costs..

I added a Matrox card, and now cut, colour correct and monitor with ease...

I'd guess your situation is, spend on a computer, or spend on a hardware accelerator..
And if you had the money, spend on both..
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Old June 25th, 2009, 10:52 PM   #15
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I seem to be the only one to hold the view that down converting doesn't increase the quality enough to justify the huge jump in time it takes to edit, render, export, resize, and encode.

From a business perspective time is money so, is the customer paying extra for all the time you're spending? Would they know the difference between straight sd vs down converted hd? Are they even asking for you to do it or is this something you feel compelled to do for your own personal reasons?

I share the opinion that hardware acceleration is both expensive and has a very limited use. An i7 or Q6600 system would make your life easier. I've thought about an upgrade too but have decided it doesn't make good business sense in my situation and have chosen to stay with SD until customers request and adequately compensate me for HD services.
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