Friday, 15 June 2012

Mercury playback engine and NVidia cards: any difference?

I did a little test a few months back and I finally had time to upload my findings. I was asked by some colleagues if the Mercury Playback Engine utilised in NVidia graphics cards for users of Adobe Premiere CS5 or greater was actually a feature worth its money? I performed a very basic test, placing around 2.5 hours of footage from a Canon 550D camera in full HD format and with a lot of editing to boot. I thought it would be useful to test how much time it saved rendering out the footage, either with or without the engine.


The screenshot above shows both GPU-Z and task manager running with the Mercury switched off. The results are typically what I would expect, in relation to this much footage, 8 hours for a render WITHOUT mercury. In contrast it's less than 2 hours with mercury enabled (screenshot below), giving the user headroom to do other things and also get some more time to do other video projects!

Without GPU the main CPU cores are maxed out and the computer is stuttering, it was actually difficult checking email let alone anything else (not great for workflow). With Mercury enabled (GPU), smooth and sweet and only ~75% on all cores – 42% on GPU. It also uses a bit more ram in the process – understandably (12Gb is recommended).

As an observation (not tested in this case) I generally find that with mercury enabled, editing is wonderful, it's only 'ok' without… Users should note that only certain video effects (that can be applied to clips) are optimised for the Mercury engine, if you want a speedy editing experience, try sticking to the basic ones first (see the video from Adobe below).

Ill also add that where video has been imported in from After Affects it reverts back to processor driven encoding, have not done any real tests, but if others have I would be interested to hear their experiences particularily involving After Effects and Premiere Pro.  Notably, this adobe article explains that After Effects is multi-threaded and only a few 3rd party plug-ins work with CUDA, so After Effects people will have to stick to long renders, and big CPUs rather than GPUs for the moment.

Mercury Playback engine performance on:  i7 Viglen (Windows 7 64bit pro) with 16Gb ram, an Nvida Quadro 4000 2Gb graphics card, with 2x2 Terrabyte 7200 rpm 6Gb/s drives. Premiere Pro CS5.5 Canon 550D full HD footage.

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