AMD speeds up GPU-accelerated video transcoding

Accelerating video transcoding using the GPU is all the rage these days, and AMD is working hard to stay ahead of the curve. Earlier today, the company quietly released a Catalyst driver hotfix that includes a brand-new ATI Stream transcoding runtime.

The runtime promises quicker video transcoding with lower CPU usage. AMD Technical Manager Ab Nacef told us two new features in particular make that possible: fast UVD decoding and GPU-based resolution scaling. The Universal Video Decoder has been around in Radeon graphics cards for a while, and it normally offloads high-definition video decoding for real-time playback. For the new runtime, AMD “unlocked” the video processor to enable non-real-time decoding. As for resolution scaling, Nacef says doing that on the GPU saves a lot of memory bandwidth.

Here’s a diagram of the new ATI Stream transcoding pipeline. AMD makes no secret of the fact that the GPU doesn’t do all the work—the CPU still takes care of tasks like entropy estimation:

The new runtime should speed up AMD’s own Avivo Video Transcoder, but that’s only part of the story. Nacef explained, “We’ve been working . . . to enhance the transcoding engine that the application uses. And also it was actually a good exercise for us to help our [software vendor] partners to get up to speed very quickly and integrate the transcoding engine in their applications. It became sort of a reference design that matured over time.”

Case in point: CyberLink’s MediaShow Espresso. The software already works with the previous ATI Stream transcoding runtime, and the next update will bring support for the new version. AMD expected the Espresso update to be out today, but as far as we can tell, it’s not on the CyberLink website just yet.

Other third-party apps should soon take advantage of the new-and-improved runtime. AMD is “working closely” with CyberLink to bring PowerDirector 7 up to speed (like Espresso, the current version already supports the previous runtime). ArcSoft also plans to add ATI Stream support to its SimHD plug-in next month. Nacef wasn’t willing to name names, but he suggested even more firms will come out with Stream-accelerated video apps over the next couple of months.

Comments closed
    • pluscard
    • 13 years ago

    Wasn’t video transcoding one of the areas the Intel cpu’s out performed Phenom II?

    Did AMD just do an “end run” around Intel?

    • stmok
    • 13 years ago

    On the Linux side of the fence…Video accelerated playback is only supported by Nvidia at this time.

    You’ll need:
    * Geforce 8 or greater
    * Software that supports VDPAU. (ie: MythTV, Xine, MPlayer, VLC, FFmpeg, XBMC Media Center.)

    It supports MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4 AVC (H.264), VC-1, and WMV3/WMV9 encoded videos.

    VDPAU is Nvidia’s way of bringing PureVideo features onto Linux, while avoiding the current mess of the Linux graphics stack. (Which itself is being re-written by Intel employees and Xorg developers. It’ll offer a much more robust framework for features like OpenCL and accelerated video playback).

    Currently, ATI has X-Video Bitstream Acceleration (XvBA) to allow Linux users to support its UVD feature. Support is in the driver, but its not turned on by default. Its still in its infancy. ie: Buggy and problematic.

    • stmok
    • 13 years ago

    (1) OpenCL 1.0 spec was published in the last 6 months. Only demos have been seen to test and explore how one can implement OpenCL under various applications. (AMD has shown it can scale with multi-core CPUs, and with Havok; to demonstrate physics in games.)

    (2) You won’t find Microsoft supporting OpenCL as they generally don’t support open standards which compete with their own. (See DirectX Compute)…They aren’t in the OpenCL member list.

    (3) Both ATI’s Stream and Nvidia’s CUDA frameworks have already started implementing OpenCL support.

    • Turd-Monkey
    • 13 years ago


    • asdsa
    • 13 years ago

    What a turd that link is.

    • Turd-Monkey
    • 13 years ago
    • WillBach
    • 13 years ago

    Why does that matter? The applications discussed (Avivo, Espresso, PowerDirector 7, and SimHD plug-in) are all Windows only.

    • StashTheVampede
    • 13 years ago

    Where is Apple’s OpenCL support? Oh wait, they don’t have a shipping OS support for this either.

    • Veerappan
    • 13 years ago

    Agreed. AMD has included XvBA acceleration support in their drivers for a while now, but they haven’t released headers yet to allow people to code in support in their applications. From what I understand, there’s some stuff pending review in the legal department (checking for proprietary IP in the headers or something).

    There’s been a lot of people waiting on that to be available, but at the rate it’s going I somewhat wonder whether Mesa/Gallium will be released with generic shader-based acceleration for ATI’s cards before ATI/AMD actually releases the docs needed to get fglrx to accelerate video decoding.

    • Corrado
    • 13 years ago

    I downloaded both the update and the Espresso deal… but the checkbox for using Stream/CUDA just isn’t there. I have a 4870… and I want to use this.

    • fellix
    • 13 years ago

    I think those video-streams encoded with 5.1 profile for H.264 compression can’t be accelerated (yet) by Radeon’s UVD hardware.

    • AxMi-24
    • 13 years ago

    What kind of options?

    • Barbas
    • 13 years ago

    Wow, I tested MPCHC today and CPU utilization went from 40-50% in zoom player to 1-4% in MPCHC!
    But it doesn’t work with all of the media files(even though they are H264) for some reason

    • TheBob!
    • 13 years ago

    Diddo. I still think it is weird seeing a AMD logo on a graphics card.

    • DrCR
    • 13 years ago

    Is that Romulan technology?

    • GeForce6200
    • 13 years ago

    I’ve actually used the Convertor, if thats what this is about, to covert several files. It’s quite quick on my 4850s, and I checked GPUZ and usually only one is working. It can convert to only a few formats, ipod, wmv, h.264, mpeg, 1080P, and it actually does a decent job.

    • adisor19
    • 13 years ago

    Aaah, where is OpenCL support when you need it ? Eh, MS ?


    • juampa_valve_rde
    • 13 years ago

    try with media player classic home cinema, its free, u have to enable some options inside the program to make use of the gpu

    • cal_guy
    • 13 years ago

    Windows Media Player
    Media Player Classic Homecinema
    Arcsoft Total Media Player

    • Meadows
    • 13 years ago


    • Ashbringer
    • 13 years ago

    What video players can take advantage of the GPUs to even play back video?

    • anand
    • 13 years ago

    AMD needs to put some focus on helping the Linux community take advantage of these features. There are plenty of Linux programs that can take advantage of Nvidia’s acceleration features via VDPAU but as far as I know, no one supports AMD’s version yet.

    I don’t have any real preference between ATI and Nvidia’s cards but for my upcoming HTPC upgrade, I’m looking at Nvidia cards specifically for VDPAU.

    • Sanctusx2
    • 13 years ago

    You know until I saw the ATI Logo, I was thinking that AMD made some new kind of video acceleration for Phenom…guess I’ll never get used to AMD gobbling them up.

    • Jigar
    • 13 years ago

    Good work mate…

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