TIP: New Hardware Dramatically Reduces Encoding Time

By on June 16, 2010
Scott Nadzan

Scott Nadzan, IT director at Syracuse University’s Whitman School of Management, shared some recent test results that show how new desktop hardware can reduce time to encode, and significantly ease the ‘pain’ of encoding in the process. 

Scott ran a cool encoding test, outlined below, that showed rather dramatic results when encoding on one of his new Windows PCs, which sports an Intel i7 Core Processor. Thanks for sharing, Scott!

If you’re creating and encoding a lot of video content, whether it’s long-form lectures/presentations or many smaller video clips, you know all too well that a significant workflow bottleneck is encoding time.

Video encoding is a processor intensive process, so it makes sense that new, faster processors can deliver much shorter encoding times. Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel, was a sage when he predicted in 1965 that the number of transistors on a processor chip would double every two years. Transistor capacity is related directly to processor performance, and one can roughly interpret the law roughly as ‘computing power will double just about every two years, on average.’ While CPU performance has improved in this fashion for some time, the law also applies, in a general sense, to pretty much all computer components, from memory, to disk drives, to ports for connecting external devices – always faster and better (and usually cheaper!).

I’ve been in this business for a long time, and Moore’s Law continues to provide significant gains in computing performance, a constant source of innovation and delight!

imageThe i7 processor is a high-end PC processor, introduced by Intel in 2008 for professional and business use. And from what I can glean, it really screams. It is successor to the highly successful Intel Dual Core processor, and it can be a key enabler for those of us working extensively with digital media. The i7 features 8 processing threads and 8 MB of cache memory.

Scott Nadzan purchased a couple of new encoding workhorse PCs with the i7, and was really impressed with them. In fact, he was so taken with the obvious performance improvement, he decided to run some simple tests to get a handle on how effective his new PCs were. According to Scott, “we took an original mpg and created an intermediate QT [QuickTime] file (uncompressed). Then we took the MOV and compressed it down to a streaming format.”

Scott used Adobe Media Encoder (a component of Adobe Create Suite), He  ran the encoding tests on their old PC encoding machine based on an Intel Core 2 Quad processor, and then on one of his new PCs. Both machines were running the Windows 7, 64 bit operating system.

Here are the results for a test Scott ran on this 56 minute lecture videofeaturing Bill Rancic, winner of the first season of the hit NBC show The Apprentice.

Encoding Time Comparison  (the original file was 56 minutes long)

OLD

NEW

  Processor: Core2 Quad Q6600, 2.40Ghz   Processor: Core i7 860, 2.8Ghz
  RAM: 4GB   RAM: 8GB
  HD: ATI Radeon HD2400 256MB   HD: NVidia GeForce GT330 1GB
Uncompressed MOV –> FLV, 650 Kbps  Encoding Time: 03:11:46

 

Uncompressed MOV –> FLV, 650 Kbps

Encoding Time: 01:11:45 (2 hours faster!!!)

Scott projects that his shop will see an enormous productivity gain. As he puts it, “we’ll be getting back several hours every day and weeks in a year.”  These sorts of improvements bode well for the growth in the use of video and other rich media in the coming years, as Moore’s Law continues to provide enhanced power and performance in the future.

Summary

Video compression is a processor intensive process. Today’s business-class PCs can provide dramatic improvements in media encoding time, creating even more momentum for widespread use of video in all types of institutional contexts and applications.

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