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Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 GPU Acceleration

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 GPU Acceleration

Written on September 28, 2012 by Matt Bach

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Warning: Always look at the date when you read a hardware article. Some of the content in this article is most likely out of date, as it was written on September 28, 2012. Check out our more recent articles.

Introduction


Edit 10/3/2013: Interested in how workstation cards perform in Premiere Pro CC? Check out our follow-up article: Adobe Premiere Pro CC Professional GPU Acceleration


With Premiere Pro CS6, Adobe utilizes the Mercury Playback Engine which uses the video card to vastly improve the performance of certain features. This is a great way to easily improve performance, but it adds more complexity to the question of "what hardware do I need" since until now the video card was not a major factor in the performance equation.

Default config file showing which cards can utilize MPE GPU Acceleration

Adobe has a list of video cards that are compatible with the Mercury Playback Engine (MPE), but - as is often the case with compatibility lists - it is at times slightly outdated as new products are continuously being released. In fact, the official list does not include any of the current generation NVIDIA 600-series cards at the moment, yet if you look in the actual configuration file the GeForce GTX 680 and GeForce GT 650M are both listed. One thing to note is that even if Premiere is not able to use the GPU for MPE acceleration, it can always utilize software-level support. This allows all the effects that require MPE to still function, but you will not receive any of the performance advantages present by using a compatible video card.

Warning: Many of the cards we test below are not on Adobe's official list of compatible cards.  To use them will require that you manually edit your Premiere Pro CS6 configuration file.  While we did not see any problems in our testing with these 'incompatible' cards, technically these are unsupported configurations and our expectation is that Adobe Support would treat them as such if you ever needed their help.

A very important fact about the Mercury Playback Engine is that it exclusively uses CUDA on the Windows OS, which is a NVIDIA proprietary technology. Adobe has been adding OpenCL (and thus AMD) support on Mac OS, but has not yet done so on Windows. So for now, NVIDIA cards are the only ones that can take advantage of the huge performance gains available by using GPU acceleration in Premiere.

In this article, we want to explore the performance differences between a wide range of different video cards. In order to do so, we will be using the not-yet finalized Premiere Pro Benchmark (PPBM6) for Adobe Premiere CS6. While this benchmark is not yet released, our testing showed that it is very good at accurately showing the differences between video cards. This is basically a beta of the PPBM6 benchmark, so our results may not line up 100% with the final version. For the purpose of showing the performance difference between our test cards, however, we found that it does a terrific job.

Test Setup

Since some of the cards that we are testing are not natively supported by the Mercury Playback Engine, we will be editing the configuration file to allow us to enable MPE GPU acceleration. Full instructions for doing so can be found here. After making the edit for the cards that needed it, we ensured that MPE GPU acceleration was enabled then followed the benchmarking instructions for the PPMB6 benchmark. Since the disk test will not utilize the GPU very much, we will only be reporting on the MPEG2-DVD, H.264 and MPE results. For more information on each section, we recommend reading the background information for PPBM6.

MPE GPU Acceleration setting Media Encoder Setup

To make sure that the chipset and CPU did not affect our results, we used two separate testing platforms consisting of the following hardware:

Testing Hardware  
Motherboard: Asus P8Z77-V Pro Asus P9X79 Deluxe
CPU: Intel Core i7 3770K 3.5GHz Intel Core i7 3960X 3.3GHz
PSU: Antec HCP-1000 1000W Power Supply
RAM: 4x Kingston HyperX DDR3-1600 4GB Low Voltage
Project Hard Drive: Intel 520 180GB SATA 6Gb/s 2.5inch SSD
OS: Windows 7 Ultimate 64-bit
Software Version: Premiere CS6 6.0.2 64-bit


To test a wide spectrum of GPUs, we tested the following cards (video driver version listed in parentheses):

NVIDIA GeForce NVIDIA Quadro
GTX 580 1.5GB (306.23) Quadro 4000 2GB (305.93)
GTX 680 2GB (306.23) Quadro 2000 1GB (305.93)
GTX 670 2GB (306.23)*  
GTX 660 Ti 2GB (306.23)*  
GTX 660 2GB (306.23)*  
GTX 650 1GB (306.23)*  
GT 610 (306.23)*  

*Required editing "cuda_supported_cards.txt" in order to enable MPE GPU acceleration

Results

Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 GPU Benchmark

Totaling the time it took to complete the three sections of the benchmark gives us results that are strikingly similar to our Adobe Photoshop CS6 GPU Acceleration results. Namely that until you get to the GeForce GTX 650, the GTX line of cards all perform at nearly the same level. The GT 610 was at the bottom of our results by a pretty large margin, so we can say for sure that using a GTX 650/Quadro 2000 or above is certainly worth the monetary cost.

Sometimes these types of graphs can be hard to translate into real-world situations. To help with that, we also formatted the data in three other ways including the benchmark time compared to the fastest card and how many more/less minutes a one hour render/encode would take. To help give a sense of scale as to how much better using GPU acceleration is compared to using the CPUs only for rendering, we also included results with the MPE running in software mode (no GPU acceleration).

First of all, it is very, very clear that using a supported GPU makes a huge difference in terms of performance. While a GTX 650 1GB would add an extra 3.5 minutes to a one hour render/encode, and a GT 610 would add 40-60 minutes, using just software only would add roughly four additional hours. What this shows is that even if you are on the tightest budget, getting at least an NVIDIA GT 610 1GB is well worth the monetary cost. 

If you would like to see the results for any individual test for either chipset, feel free to click on any of the thumbnails below. We left off the software only results since adding them would have completely removed any visual nuances between the results.

Z77 Chipset      
X79 Chipset      

 

Geforce vs. Quadro

NVIDIA Quadro line may not be as fast as similarly priced GeForce cards, but what many do not realize is that Quadro cards are not primarily about speed. The main feature of Quadro is their double precision preformance which allows the card to be many times more precise. As a roughly comparison, consider the difference you would get if you were to compute the area of a circle with pi being just 3.14 versus 3.14159. The difference is small, but it can easily compound over time. In addition, some of the higher end Quadro card (the 5000 and 6000) also use ECC memory for their video RAM which greatly increases reliability.

When gaming, double precision computing is not really needed since one small artifact every 1000 frames is not noticeable to the human eye. When you get into video editing or simulation, however, that extra bit of precision can bcome a big deal. In a professional environment, you want to know that your results are as accurate as possible, even if it takes slightly longer to get those results.

So the question of GeForce vs. Quadro is really not about which has the best benchmark performance, but rather if speed or precision is more important to you. If you are a home user using Premiere to edit together home movies, a GeForce card will likely work great for you. If you are a professional that needs consistent results that you can be 100% confident in, it is likely worth giving up a little bit of speed and use a Quadro card for the assurance that there will be no minor problems with your video rendering.

Conclusion

If you decide that a GeForce card is suitable for your needs, the GeForce GTX 650 does a very reasonable job and is almost able to match the other GTX cards. Although if you did decide to go with a GTX 650, we would highly recommend using a 2GB version. For the best possible speeds, the GeForce GTX 660 Ti, GTX 670, GTX 680, and GTX 580 all have essentially identical performance, which makes the GTX 660 Ti a very strong candidate as it is much cheaper than the other cards. From a native support standpoint, the GTX 680 is a great choice simply because you do not need to manually edit any configuration files in order for MPE GPU acceleration to function.

The Quadro 4000 does very well, matching the speed of even the fastest GeForce GTX cards we tested. The Quadro 2000 has a bit of a performance drop, but considering that it is half the price of the Quadro 4000 does fairly well.

One aspect that this type of benchmarking does not touch on is video RAM. If you are working with very high resolution stills or have a very complex timeline, you need a video card that has enough video RAM to keep everything in said vRAM or else the MPE acceleration is handed off to the CPU. The exact amount of vRAM needed is very difficult to determine ahead of time, but one formula from Adobe is available for amount of vRAM needed for still frames. This formula is (width x height)/16,384 megabytes. The example from Adobe in the post maximum dimensions in Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, CS5.5, and CS6 is:
For example, one image size from a Canon T2i is 5184×3456. Doing the math, this requires 1,094MB, which just exceeds the 1GB available on the Quadro FX 3800, but is still within the 1.5GB of the Quadro FX 4800.
This is not very intuitive, so for the majority of users the general consensus among professionals using Premiere is that you want a video card with at least 1.5GB of vRAM. Most cards today use RAM in increments of 1GB, so when shopping for a video card you want to look for one with at least 2GB of vRAM. Once you have that sorted out, you can make use of our benchmark results to determine which video card is right for you to use with Adobe Premiere Pro CS6.

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Twillert

The Adobe Photoshop CS6 article also included the Intel HD4000. I presume that the reason is the CUDA as the AMD cards are also missing. I would also like to see the difference with a processor only system.

Posted on 2012-09-29 12:16:22

For Photoshop CS6, the GPU accelleration is done via OpenCL - which means that any modern video card (NVIDIA, AMD, or Intel) will work... just to varying degrees.  

With Premiere Pro, though, CUDA is used - so only NVIDIA cards will work.  We did run a comparison without the GPU accelleration enabled, though, so that folks could see the impact that having *any* compatible GPU would bring.  You can see that comparison in the article above: look for the three small graphs a little below the big one, and enlarge them (click on them) to see that info.

Posted on 2012-10-02 17:24:55

The only thing I would add to this is that Adobe is in the process of adding OpenCL support to the Mac version of Premier. So while it may not happen for a while, at some point in the future OpenCL (and thus Intel/AMD) support for Premiere should happen. But that is very likely to be years out, so it is likely not worth planning for at this moment.

Posted on 2012-10-02 17:41:46
willy

hi! first of all, forgive my english; it's not good even as second language. after reading your article, i'm ready to purchase a nvidia gtx 650 to take advantage of mpe on premiere cs6... but have to questions: 1) my mobo is an "old" intel dp45sg, which has two PCI-E 2.0 slots, and this card is PCI-E 3.0. will i have any trouble (incompatibility, performance loss) because of this? 2) i'd buy the 2 GB gtx 650 version; in fact, there are vendors that offer the zotac gtx 650 with 2 gb ddr5 in my country, but i looked in the official nvidia site and there it only appears a 1 gb version of the gtx 650... i wonder why? thanks in advance!

Posted on 2012-11-22 06:52:39
Rosa Gorgatti

hi. after reading your article i'm almost ready to upgrade my nvidia 9800gt (512 mb vram) to a gtx 650 with 2 gb vram. just got one question: my mobo is an intel dp45sg, with pci-e 2.0, and the gtx 650 is pci-e 3.0... will i have any performance or compatibility issues? thank you very much in advance!

Posted on 2012-11-23 04:56:56

PCI Express is designed to be backward (and forward) compatible.  You should not have any problem running that card in your motherboard.  Technically you will only get PCI-E 2.0 levels of bandwidth between the card and motherboard, but that is not generally a performance limitation for these types of applications... so I wouldn't worry about it!

Posted on 2012-11-23 06:11:56
leonard

how izit with a 650 is a equal with 680? 

Posted on 2012-12-14 01:12:46

The 680 is still faster, but by a very narrow margin. What this basically means is that the video card is not the limiting factor for Photoshop once you get above the GTX 650. We used pretty high-end hardware in our test systems, so even if it was the CPU or RAM that is the limiting factor, there isn't much you can do about that with today's technology. Most likely it is a simple matter of the software not being able to effectively use all the power available with the higher-end video cards. 

Posted on 2012-12-14 01:20:44
Muhammed Ahmed

i have installed a quadro 4000 recently, and see no improvement in premiere pro cs6 performance.

Posted on 2013-01-08 09:37:27

What video card did you have before? Are you working with the right video type to utilize the Mercury Playback Engine (which is what benefits from GPU acceleration)? If so, have you made sure that it is enabled properly? See this post for some more info: http://www.pugetsystems.com/bl...

Posted on 2013-01-08 17:14:02
Kostya

Hello. I woild like to know how can i make my laptop run the MPE with geforce gt 650m? in that article you show text file that have this card in the list, but when i check same text file on my system it's did't written there.

thanks.

Posted on 2013-01-22 00:23:35

Make sure that Premier Pro has been updated to the latest version since that file changes as Adobe adds more cards to their supported list. If it isn't there, you can add it manually which should allow it to work. If you have to edit the file though, it is technically unsupported by Adobe so don't expect to get any support from them if something goes wrong.

Posted on 2013-01-22 00:34:46
Vlad

My 9800GT 512mb just fried and I'm in the process of finding a replacement that is also able to use the MPE. I'm osculating between the 650 2GB and the 650 Ti 1GB.

Since the 650 Ti was not launched yet when this article was written, I was wondering if the 2GB recommendation still stands for it. Does the doubling of CUDA cores offset the lack of 1GB of RAM? Or the lack of ram still affect the total size of the frame but the doubling of CUDA cores allow for a more complex sequence?

So, is it the 650 with 2GB or the 650 Ti with 1GB? I know there is a 650 Ti with 2GB but that gets way out of budget at $215 in my market.

Posted on 2013-03-10 21:33:49

It depends on how much video RAM you need. If you are only doing light video editing, I would go with the 650 Ti 1GB. You don't get extra performance out of having extra video memory, so in that case it is better to get the card with more cores. Plus, it will be better in almost every other application as well (either gaming or anything with video acceleration)

If you do need more than 1GB of video RAM, then the 650 2GB card will be faster than the 650 Ti 1GB. The hard part is figuring out how much RAM you actually do need. Since you cannot use MPE with your current card, you unfortunately can't just use a program like GPU-Z to see how much video RAM you are currently using. If you are only using one or two sources and don't apply a ton of effects, the 1GB card is likely more than enough. If you do very heavy editing, you might want to go with the 2GB card to be on the safe side. It will be slightly slower if you do not use more than 1GB of video RAM, but in the cases that you do it will be much faster overall.

Posted on 2013-03-11 17:01:03
Andreas Lindhé

Can someone link me a guide on how to configure MPE GPU acceleration to work with 660? I don't feel so sure on how to do this...

Posted on 2013-04-24 21:38:37

There is a little more info about this in a blog we posted when the MPE first debuted (CS5):

http://www.pugetsystems.com/bl...

Specifically, the direct link to another source with specific instructions is here:

http://blog.krama.tv/hacking-a...

Posted on 2013-04-24 21:52:27
Andreas Lindhé

Thank you sir! :)

Posted on 2013-04-25 08:47:58
Dilemma

How would the X79 stack up against the haswell chipset?

Posted on 2013-07-16 11:56:30
Fronkle

Hi there, I have a graphics card question. I'm wanting to update my graphics card to one supported in adobe's GPU accelerated list. I'm currently working on a Dell Precision T3500 (Couple years old, I know) and I have downloaded Adobe CC. If I'm in the $200-250 range for cards, which NVIDIA card would be my best bet to purchase? Ofcourse, anything cheaper than that range would be even better! I do a lot of heavy editing through work, utilizing premiere and after effects frequently.

Posted on 2013-09-23 18:16:19

Adobe doesn't do a good job of keeping their GPU lists updated - and none of the cards currently shown on their list are in that price range. However, the GeForce GTX 660 should do well - it did great in our tests above, if you want to check them out. Further, I *think* that the latest CC version no longer checks to see if the card is on their list... my understanding is that anything with CUDA or OpenCL support should just work. If not, though, the work-around used in CS5 and CS6 is pretty easy.

Posted on 2013-09-23 18:25:36
Fronkle

Thank you for the quick reply :)

Posted on 2013-09-23 18:35:24
Logan

I have amd fx 8350 cpu with 8gb of ram & 1gb nvidia fx 2000 gpu still I'm facing trouble with video editing in premiere pro cs6 while playback it is getting stuck even in pal (16:9, 25fps) video when I'm applying cross dissolve it is not even playing the video for past 2 months I'm using the same system to edit HD videos I cant figure out what the actual problem is? I'm using rovi codec pack to import mpeg 2 video format.

Posted on 2013-09-25 02:23:14
Jim *

Hello I have no experience working with computers that have a GPU so I have no frame of reference for a new purchase. I'm buying a new laptop and would appreciate a recommendation on which GPU to buy: Quadro K1000M or K2000M. It is for a Lenovo W530 laptop.

I will be doing heavy photo editing, and some video editing (possibly a good amount I'm not sure yet).

Is the Quadro K2000M worth the additional cost?
Do any photo editing programs utilize CUDA? If not, then the K1000M is fine because the only difference between the two GPU's is the CUDA core amount, correct?
For video editing programs, will the CUDA core amount difference between the two GPU's make a dramatic enough difference for video editing to be worth the additional cost?

Thank you, I greatly appreciate any feedback. This decision has been making me crazy.

Posted on 2013-10-03 20:18:16
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