TMPGEnc adds support for Cell video cards

Written by Ben Hardwidge

April 16, 2009 // 3:27 p.m.

Tags: #4 #cell #encoding #h264 #leadtek #movie #mpeg-2 #plugin #qosmio #results #risc #spe #spursengine #tests #tmpgenc #toshiba #transcoding #xpress

After investing a large amount of funds into the development of the Cell processor with IBM and Sony, it’s understandable that Toshiba wants the architecture to be used for more than just the PlayStation 3, and the Toshiba’s SpursEngine could provide just that. Based on the Cell architecture, the SpursEngine uses four of the RISC-based Synergistic Processing Elements (SPEs) developed for the Cell architecture, and Pegasys has just announced that the SpursEngine will now be supported in a new plug-in for TMPGEnc 4.0 Xpress.

Originally revealed last year, Toshiba’s SpursEngine has already found its way on to Leadtek’s WinFast PxVC1100 PCI-E card (pictured, and it can also be found on a range of Toshiba’s Qosmio laptops. Clocked at 1.5GHz, Toshiba says that the SpursEngine only consumes between 10W and 20W. Unlike the Cell processor in the PlayStation 3, the SpursEngine doesn’t have its own CPU, but its SPEs can offload a lot of the work from a normal CPU when it comes to video encoding tasks.

In fact, if Pegasys’ quoted benchmarks are to believed, then it dramatically speeds up the process of encoding and transcoding video to high-resolution H.264 and MPEG-2 formats. The software developer claims to have run a number of tests a desktop PC with a 2.8GHz Pentium D, a GeForce 9600 GT and a WinFast PxVC1100 card. In fairness, the old NetBurst CPU used in the tests is hardly a good indication of top-end CPU performance compared with Intel’s current Core i7 architecture, but the tests still show an interesting comparison with TMPGEnc 4.0 Xpress using CUDA acceleration.

For example, the H.264 output test apparently took 46 minutes, 21 seconds to complete using just the CPU, and this dropped to 35 minutes, 18 seconds with CUDA enabled on the GeForce 9600 GT. However, the time dropped to 17 minutes, 41 seconds when using the Leadtek SpursEngine card, and this dropped even further to just seven minutes, 53 seconds with both CUDA and the SpursEngine card enabled. As with the CPU tests, however, it’s also worth noting that the GeForce 9600 GT is a low-end GPU, and doesn’t fully represent the full performance of CUDA using a top-end GPU such as a GeForce GTX 285. Also bear in mind that these are benchmark results from Pegasys, rather than an independent source, so they can only be taken as an indication of performance.

You can see the quoted results in the graphic below, which are based on the following tests:

Test 1: Compares the duration of outputting the source file to MPEG-2 format using the CPU or the SpursEngine, with CUDA filters disabled or enabled.

Test 2: Compares the duration of outputting the source file to H.264 format using the CPU or the SpursEngine, with CUDA filters disabled or enabled.

Test 3: Compares the duration of outputting the source file to MPEG-2 format using the SpursEngine Super Resolution feature, with CUDA filters disabled or enabled.

Test 4: Compares the duration of outputting the source file to H.264 format using the SpursEngine Super Resolution feature. This was tested using a different test setup – a Qosmio laptop with a Core 2 Duo P8400, GeForce 9600 GT and an integrated SpursEngine chip.

TMPGEnc adds support for Cell video cards

Pegasys’ CEO, Tak Ebine, said that “we are pleased to offer cutting-edge SpursEngine video processing technology support for our TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress software. TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress plus Toshiba’s SpursEngine technology is a hard-to-beat combination for the fastest H.264 and MPEG-2 processing available today."

The SpursEngine patch for TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress is scheduled to be released by the end of the second quarter of 2009. Would you be interested in speeding up video encoding tasks with a SpursEngine chip? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

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