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November 25, 2009

More on the Mercury Engine…

Dennis Radeke has a wonderful new entry on his blog talking about his experiences with the Adobe Mercury Engine.

In my last post, I made one statement that isn’t completely true – I said that EVERYONE will benefit from the Mercury Engine, and for the most part, that IS a true statement. However, you need the hardware to run the Engine, and although Adobe hasn’t mentioned when the Mercury Engine will be widely available, you should start planning for the future now. If you are running on an older, single-core CPU, with a 32-bit OS, an older video card and 2 GB of RAM, you probably will not see much improvement from the Mercury Engine. However, if you are planning a new purchase (possibly around Windows 7,) here are some things to keep in mind:

1. The Mercury Engine is 64-bit only, and that’s not likely to change. Any new system you get should be 64-bit ready, running a 64-bit OS (Windows 7 64-bit or Mac OS X.5 or X.6 are great.)

2. Multiple cores are good. Really good. I don’t have firm numbers on this, but I would probably go for cores over CPU speed when things are close. The Mercury Engine is fully multi-threaded and optimized for multi-core systems. A quad-core 2.4 GHz will probably win out over a dual-core 2.8 GHz processor in a competition.

3. CUDA is the icing on the cake. The GPU acceleration is powered by the Nvidia architecture, and requires an Nvidia card to run. Currently, there’s a limited list of supported cards that Mercury is supporting. I would expect more cards to be added to the list at some point in the future, but you can’t go wrong today with one of the supported cards.

November 24, 2009

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: As soon as we have any information about availability, I will be the first one to post it here.

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