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Three words you’ll be hearing a lot of: Adobe Mercury Engine.

Back in September, I had the privilege of trying out some experimental technology from Adobe called the Mercury Engine. This is a playback engine in Premiere Pro that’s being developed using the latest computer technology today.

What kind of technology? Well, for starters, it’s fully 64-bit. In fact, it won’t run on 32-bit systems, so it really pushes what it can do. RAM limitations are gone – the engine will use as much as you throw at it, which is important as we move into worlds like 2k and 4k editing.

Second, it’s fully multi-threaded, and optimized for multi-core systems. I just saw a demo today showing 9 streams of P2 footage, all with 3-way color correction, picture-in-picture, and blurred edge effects all playing back simultaneously, using all cores roughly equally (about 95%) in a 16-core system. Wow.

The icing on the cake is the new GPU acceleration. With the appropriate video card, the same timeline shown in the multi-threaded example drops down to about 25-30% CPU load!

If the power of the Mercury engine stopped there, it would be more than enough, but it also greatly accelerates any rendering, including output rendering to formats like H.264. I need to play with this more myself, but early tests are showing a 2x-8x speed-up compared to past versions of Premiere Pro / AME render speed.

What does this mean from a creative standpoint? Almost never rendering previews, being willing to stack on another color effect just to see what it looks like, multitasking by rendering out files in the background while editing the next project – these are just a couple of examples I can think of, and there will be a TON more. With this kind of performance, it really opens up both creativity in the timeline, and productivity finishing projects. It’s a real game changer.

Just about everyone will benefit from the Mercury Engine, including laptop owners. However, there is one particular part that will be specific to desktop systems – the GPU acceleration really requires a desktop-level chipset, and currently, the engine only supports certain cards, such as: GeForce GTX285, Quadro FX 4800, Quadro FX 5800, and Quadro CX. Adobe engineers are battle-testing a small handful of cards and chipsets, rather than trying to support hundreds of cards out the door. More chipsets, especially the ones based on Nvidia’s “Fermi” architecture, will be evaluated when Adobe gets closer to moving the Mercury Engine out of the “experimental” phase.

And, you may be asking, when will all that be? Unfortunately, the answer right now has to be “when it’s ready.” We don’t have a time frame when the Mercury Engine will be included in shipping versions of Premiere Pro. However, we do have external people testing it out now, including some people posting over in the RED forum here: http://reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?p=494944&posted=1#post494944 As soon as we have any information about availability, I will be the first one to post it here.

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