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Render Taxes

Today, I’d like to talk about a popular subject… I’d like to talk to about taxes.  Or more specifically “render taxes” as it relates to non-linear editors.  It’s been said that everyone pays taxes.  In the case of video editing workflows, everyone has to render their media at some point, which takes time (tax = time) and hence the concept of a ‘render tax’.

Question: “How do you want to pay your taxes?”  Different NLE workflows dictate how and when you will render.  You may have to render at the beginning, middle and/or end of your project.  And just like taxes in real life, you’d like to pay as little ‘render tax’ as possible.

With many NLE’s, you are paying your render taxes up front.  In these cases, the NLE wants you to convert your media into ProRes, DNxHD or some other great codec.  While ProRes and the rest are an excellent way to edit footage and deliver your product, it does take time to convert this footage.  So, you’re paying a tax in the time it takes to convert.  Depending on your system, and the amount of media you need to import and convert this can be anything from an annoyance to “set the render over night and come back in the morning.”

In addition, at some point many NLE’s ask that you pay render taxes during the edit.  If you’re doing a promo or a segment in the timeline that has multiple video layers with multiple effects, some products will not be able to play that portion of the timeline back to you and will prompt you to render the timeline.

Of course, many solutions offer custom hardware that enables some real-time effects but there is the cost that is associated with that performance.

Now there is a great upside to paying your render taxes up front live I’ve described above.  When it comes time to export and if you want to export in the same format that the media exists, your export times are very fast, usually much faster than real-time.  I love that and when I see it happen, it is hard to ignore!

Not all solutions do that though and in addition, if I take something like a DNxHD timeline and have to export it to H.264, it will have to render the whole timeline and then it becomes entirely dependent on the speed of the system and the architecture and ingenuity of the software designers.

So…Where does Premiere Pro fit in this universe of render taxes?

I really believe that Premiere Pro is the best balanced, best performing NLE out there because of it’s architecture.  I believe this because of how and when it needs to render.

Premiere Pro is a resolution independent playback engine and one of the upsides is that we like to handle media natively!  This becomes hugely important because now you’re not paying your taxes at the front end at all.  For example, if I import an hour of footage into my Premiere Pro project, I can immediately access it and start editing.  In other systems, you have to wait until it is converted or rewrapped appropriately.  Even if this process is 2x real-time, you’re still waiting 30 minutes.  In the world of news and sports, this can be the difference between getting the story out and not.  Premiere Pro is a huge time saver on the front end.

During the edit process, Premiere Pro is a champ because of it’s GPU capabilities.  Earlier, I talked about balance.  In a Premiere Pro based system, the CPUs are decoding the video and your GPU is handling many or all of the effects.  This creates a balanced system that can perform significantly better than a system without a GPU.  With the latest version of Premiere Pro CC, we support multiple GPUs and will generally allow any graphics card with 1GB of GPU memory or greater to be utilized.  While I still like professional graphics cards from NVIDIA and AMD, if you’re getting started, chances are your existing graphics card will work.

If you happen to build up a timeline that surpasses the available CPU and GPU of your system, Premiere Pro gives you user definable playback capabilities.  I find this to be huge.  For example, I can’t play back RED (native .R3D) files at full resolution on my HP desktop let alone my MacBookPro, but I can play them back at a ¼ resolution on my MBP and ½ on my HP.  That translates to HD and 2K resolutions respectively.  In short, during the edit process, you are always editing in real-time based on your needs at a given moment.  Most of the time with most content and timelines, you’ll be able to play at full res.  However, when circumstances dictate, you can play back at a fraction without compromising the ability to edit or the real-time nature of Premiere Pro.  As far as I know at the time of this writing, no other system offers anything quite like this.

The edit is now finished and I have to export out my timeline to a variety of formats.  Enter Adobe Media Encoder.  AME is a 64-bit native application, so it will take maximum advantage of the resources available to it.  It will render out multiple formats simultaneously, but most importantly, it will do it in the background.  That means a user can keep working on something else, start a new project, work on an AE comp, create a graphic in Photoshop, etc.

What about other solutions that will output super fast if the media is all the same and your output is also the same?  This is often referred to as “smart rendering”.  Premiere Pro has this too! For example, if you have an XDCAM MXF timeline and want to output to XDCAM MXF, only things like cross dissolves and/or effects will need to be rendered.  The result is that your output will be very fast, again much faster than real-time in normal practice.

So in conclusion here’s why I think Premiere Pro is awesome at handling the ‘render taxes’ issue: It handles media natively so the huge render tax at the beginning is negated.  During the edit, Premiere Pro provides a unique CPU+GPU solution coupled with user definable playback controls so that you are never waiting for your timeline to render a preview.  Finally, when you’re exporting your finished edit, you do so in the background so that you’re never waiting for your computer so you can begin the creative process again.  In addition, Premiere Pro CC has embraced the idea of smart rendering so that whenever possible, we will minimize any rendering that’s necessary.

No waiting on input,

No waiting during the edit,

No stopping of work during the export (unless you want to)

I call that a great solution.

PS – There are some workflows where a DI codec like those mentioned above is really the preferred method.  Where does Premiere Pro fit in there you ask?  Just fine is the answer.  Adobe Media Encoder supports “watch folders” so you can convert all of your media to a single codec in the background and 64-bit native speed should you so choose, all the while still using other Adobe tools to keep creative while that happens!

 

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