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Category Archives: GPU

Nvidia at SIGGRAPH with new RTX Studio laptops, more

By Mike McCarthy

Nvidia made a number of new announcements at the SIGGRAPH conference in LA this week.  While the company didn’t have any new GPU releases, Nvidia was showing off new implementations of its technology — combining AI image analysis with raytracing acceleration for an Apollo 11-themed interactive AR experience. Nvidia has a number of new 3D software partners supporting RTX raytracing through its Optix raytracing engine.  It allows programs like Blender Cycles, Keyshot, Substance, and Flame to further implement GPU acceleration, using RTX cores for raytracing and tensor cores for AI de-noising.

Nvidia was also showing off a number of new RTX Studio laptop models from manufacturers like HP, Dell, Lenovo and Boxx. These laptops all support Nvidia’s new unified Studio Driver, which, now on its third release, offers full, 10-bit color support for all cards, blurring the feature-set lines between the GeForce and Quadro products. Quadro variants still offer more frame buffer memory, but support for the Studio Drive makes the GeForce cards even more appealing to professionals on a tight budget.

Broader support for 10-bit color makes sense as we move toward more HDR content that requires the higher bit depth, even at the consumer level. And these new Studio Drivers also support both desktop and mobile GPUs, which will simplify eGPU solutions that utilize both on a single system. So if you are a professional with a modern Nvidia RTX GPU, you should definitely check out the new Studio Driver options.

Nvidia is also promoting its cloud-based AI image-generating program Gaugan, which you can check out for free here. It is a fun toy and there are a few potential uses in the professional world, especially for previz backgrounds and concept art.


Mike McCarthy is an online editor/workflow consultant with over 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been involved in pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and multi-screen and surround video experiences. Check out his site.

Autodesk Arnold 5.3 with Arnold GPU in public beta

Autodesk has made its Arnold 5.3 with Arnold GPU available as a public beta. The release provides artists with GPU rendering for a set number of features, and the flexibility to choose between rendering on the CPU or GPU without changing renderers.

From look development to lighting, support for GPU acceleration brings greater interactivity and speed to artist workflows, helping reduce iteration and review cycles. Arnold 5.3 also adds new functionality to help maximize performance and give artists more control over their rendering processes, including updates to adaptive sampling, a new version of the Randomwalk SSS mode and improved Operator UX.

Arnold GPU rendering makes it easier for artists and small studios to iterate quickly in a fast working environment and scale rendering capacity to accommodate project demands. From within the standard Arnold interface, users can switch between rendering on the CPU and GPU with a single click. Arnold GPU currently supports features such as arbitrary shading networks, SSS, hair, atmospherics, instancing, and procedurals. Arnold GPU is based on the Nvidia OptiX framework and is optimized to leverage Nvidia RTX technology.

New feature summary:
— Major improvements to quality and performance for adaptive sampling, helping to reduce render times without jeopardizing final image quality
— Improved version of Randomwalk SSS mode for more realistic shading
— Enhanced usability for Standard Surface, giving users more control
— Improvements to the Operator framework
— Better sampling of Skydome lights, reducing direct illumination noise
— Updates to support for MaterialX, allowing users to save a shading network as a MaterialX look

Arnold 5.3 with Arnold GPU in public beta will be available March 20 as a standalone subscription or with a collection of end-to-end creative tools within the Autodesk Media & Entertainment Collection. You can also try Arnold GPU with a free 30-day trial of Arnold. Arnold GPU is available in all supported plug-ins for Autodesk Maya, Autodesk 3ds Max, Houdini, Cinema 4D and Katana.

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Review: eGPUs and the Sonnet Breakaway Box

By Mike McCarthy

As a laptop user and fan of graphics performance, I have always had to weigh the balance between performance and portability when selecting a system. And this usually bounces back and forth, as neither option is totally satisfactory. Systems are always too heavy or not powerful enough.

My first laptop when I graduated high school was the 16-inch Sony Vaio GRX570, with the largest screen available at the time, running 1600×1200 pixels. After four years carrying that around, I was eager to move to the Dell XPS M1210, the smallest laptop with a discrete GPU. That was followed by a Quadro-based Dell Precision M4400 workstation, which was on the larger side. I then bounced to the lightweight Carbon Fiber 13-inch Sony Vaio Z1 in 2010, which my wife still uses. This was followed by my current Aorus X3 Plus, which has both power (GF870M) and a small form factor (13 inch), but at the expense of everything else.

Some More History
The Vaio Z1 was one of the first hybrid graphics solutions to allow users to switch between different GPUs. Its GeForce 330M was powerful enough to run Adobe’s Mercury CUDA Playback engine in CS5, but was at the limit of its performance. It didn’t support my 30-inch display, and while the SSD storage solution had the throughput for 2K DPX playback, the GPU processing couldn’t keep up.

Other users were upgrading the GPU with an ExpressCard-based ViDock external PCIe enclosure, but a single-lane of PCIe 1.0 bandwidth (2Gb/s) wasn’t enough to make is worth the effort for video editing. (3D gaming requires less source bandwidth than video processing.) Sony’s follow-on Z2 model offered the first commercial eGPU, connected via LightPeak, the forerunner to Thunderbolt. It allowed the ultra-light Z series laptop to use an AMD Radeon 6650M GPU and Blu-ray drive in the proprietary Media Dock, presumably over a PCIe x4 1.0 (8Gb/s) connection.

Thunderbolt 3
Alienware also has a propriety eGPU solution for their laptops, but Thunderbolt is really what makes eGPUs a marketable possibility, giving direct access to the PCIe bus at x4 speed, in a standardized connection. The first generation offered a dedicated 10Gb connection, while Thunderbolt 2 increased that to a 20Gb shared connection. The biggest thing holding back eGPUs at that point was lack of PC adoption of the Apple technology licensed from Intel, and OS X limitations on eGPUs.

Thunderbolt 3 changed all of that, increasing the total connection bandwidth to 40Gb, the same as first-generation PCIe x16 cards. And far more systems support Thunderbolt 3 than the previous iterations. Integrated OS support for GPU switching in Windows 10 and OS X (built on laptop GPU power saving technology) further paved the path to eGPU adoption.

Why eGPUs Now?
Even with all of this in my favor, I didn’t take the step into eGPU solutions until very recently. I bought my personal system in 2014. This was just before Thunderbolt 3 hit the mainstream. The last two systems I reviewed had Thunderbolt 3, but didn’t need eGPUs with their mobile Quadro P4000 and P5000 internal GPUs. So I hadn’t had the opportunity to give it a go until I received an HP Zbook Studio x360 to review. Now, its integrated Quadro P1000 is nothing to scoff at, but there was significantly more room for performance gains from an external GPU.

Sonnet Breakaway Box
I have had the opportunity to review the 550W version of Sonnet’s Breakaway Box PCIe enclosure over the course of a few weeks, allowing me to test out a number of different cards, including four different GPUs, as well as my Red-Rocket-X and 10GbE cards. Sonnet has three different eGPU enclosure options, depending on the power requirements of your GPU.

They sent me the mid-level 550 model, which should support every card on the market, aside from AMD’s power-guzzling Vega 64-based GPUs. The base 350 model should support GF1080 or 2080 cards, but not overclocked Titanium or Titan versions. The 550 model includes two PCIe power cables that can be used in 6- or 8-pin connectors. This should cover any existing GPU on the market, and I have cards requiring nearly every possible combo — 6-pin, 8-pin, both, and dual 8-pin. Sonnet has a very thorough compatibility list available, for more specific details.

Installation
I installed my Quadro P6000 into the enclosure, because it used the same drivers as my internal Quadro P1000 GPU and would give me the most significant performance boost. I plugged the Thunderbolt connector into the laptop while it was booted. It immediately recognized the device, but only saw it as a “Microsoft Basic Display Adapter” until I re-installed my existing 411.63 Quadro drivers and rebooted. After that, it worked great, I was able to run my benchmarks and renders without issue, and I could see which GPU was carrying the processing load just by looking in the task manager performance tab.

Once I had finished my initial tests, safely removed the hardware in the OS and disconnected the enclosure, I swapped the installed card with my Quadro P4000 and plugged it back into the system without rebooting. It immediately detected it, and after a few seconds the new P4000 was recognized and accelerating my next set of renders. When I attempted to do the same procedure with my GeForce 2080TI, it did make me install the GeForce driver (416.16) and reboot before it would function at full capacity (subsequent transitions between Nvidia cards were seamless).

The next step was to try an AMD GPU, since I have a new RadeonPro WX8200 to test, which is a Pro version of the Vega 56 architecture. I was a bit more apprehensive about this configuration due to the integrated Nvidia card, and having experienced those drivers not co-existing well in the distant past. But I figured: “What’s the worst that could happen?”

Initially, plugging it in gave me the same Microsoft Basic Display Adapter device until I installed the RadeonPro drivers. Installing those drivers caused the system to crash and refuse to boot. Startup repair, system restore and OS revert all failed to run, let alone fix the issue. I was about to wipe the entire OS and let it reinstall from the recovery partition when I came across one more idea online. I was able to get to a command line in the pre-boot environment and run a Deployment Image Servicing and Management (DISM) command to see which drivers were installed — DISM /image:D:\ /Get-Drivers|more.

This allowed me to see that the last three drivers — oem172.inf through oem174.inf —were the only AMD-related ones on the system. I was able to remove them via the same tool — DISM /Image:D:\ /Remove-Driver /Driver:oem172.inf”) — and when I restarted, the system booted up just fine.

I then pulled the card from the eGPU box, wiped all the AMD files from the system, and vowed never to do something like that again. Lesson of the day: Don’t mix AMD and Nvidia cards and drivers. To AMDs credit, the WX8200 does not officially support eGPU installations, but extraneous drivers shouldn’t cause that much problem.

Performance Results
I tested Adobe Media Encoder export times with a variety of different sources and settings. Certain tests were not dramatically accelerated by the eGPU, while other renders definitely were. The main place we see differences between the integrated P1000 and a more-powerful external GPU is when effects are applied to high-res footage. That is when the GPU is really put to work, so those are the tests that improve with more GPU power. I had a one-minute sequence of Red clips with lots of effects (Lumetri, selective blur and mosaic: all GPU FX) that took 14 minutes to render internally, but finished in under four minutes with the eGPU attached. Exporting the same sequence with the effects disabled took four minutes internally and three minutes with the GPU. So the effects cost 10 minutes of render time internally, but under one minute of render time (35 seconds to be precise) when a powerful GPU is attached.

So if you are trying to do basic cuts-only editorial, an eGPU may not improve your performance much, but if you are doing VFX or color work, it can make a noticeable difference.

VR Headset Support
The external cards, of course, do increase performance in a measurable way, especially since I am using such powerful cards. It’s not just a matter of increasing render speeds, but about enabling functionality that was previously unavailable on the system. I connected my Lenovo Explorer WMR headset to the RTX2080TI in the Breakaway Box and gave it a shot. I was able to edit 360 video in VR in Premiere Pro, which is not supported on the included Quadro P1000 card. I did experience some interesting ghosting on occasion, where if I didn’t move my head everything looked perfect, but movement caused a double image — as if one eye was a frame behind the other — but the double image was appearing in each eye, as if there was an excessive motion blur applied to the rendered frames.

I thought this might be a delay based on extra latency in the Thunderbolt bus, but other times the picture looked crisp regardless of how quickly I moved my head. So it can work great, but there may need to be a few adjustments made to smooth things out. Lots of other users online report it working just fine, so there is probably a solution available out there.

Full-Resolution 8K Tests
I was able to connect my 8K display to the card as well, and while the x360 happens to support that display already (DP1.3 over Thunderbolt), most notebooks do not — and it increased the refresh rate from 30Hz to the full 60Hz. I was able to watch HEVC videos smoothly at 8K in Windows, and was able to playback 8K DNxHR files in Premiere at full res, as long as there were no edits or effects.

Just playing back footage at full 8K taxed the 2080TI at 80% compute utilization. But this is 8K we are talking about, playing back on a laptop, at full resolution. 4K anamorphic and 6K Venice X-OCN footage played back smoothly at half res in Premiere, and 8K Red footage played back at quarter. This is not the optimal solution for editing 8K footage, but it should have no problem doing serious work at UHD and 4K.

Other Cards and Functionality
GPUs aren’t the only PCIe cards that can be installed in the Breakaway Box, so I can add a variety of other functionality to my laptop if desired. Thunderbolt array controllers minimize the need for SATA or SAS cards in enclosures, but that is a possibility. I installed an Intel X520-DA2 10GbE card into the box and was copying files from my network at 700MB/s within a minute, without even having to install any new drivers. But unless you need to have SFP ports, most people looking for 10GbE functionality would be better served to look into Sonnet’s Solo 10G for smaller form factor, lower power use, and cheaper price. There are a variety of other options for Thunderbolt 3 to 10GbE hitting the market as well.

The Red-Rocket-X card has been a popular option for external PCIe enclosures over the last few years, primarily for on-set media transcoding. I installed mine in the Breakaway Box to give that functionality a shot as well.

I ran into two issues, both of which I was able to overcome, but are worth noting. First, the 6-pin power connector is challenging to fit into the poorly designed Rocket power port, due to the retention mechanism being offset for 8-pin compatibility. But it can fit if you work at it a bit, although I prefer to keep a 6-pin extension cable plugged into my Rocket since I move it around so much. Once I had all of the hardware hooked up, it was recognized in the OS, but installing the drivers from Red resulted in a Code-52 error that is usually associated with USB devices. The recommended solution online was to disable Windows 10 driver signing, in the pre-boot environment, and that did the trick. (My theory is that my HP’s SureStart security functionality was hesitating to give direct memory access to an external device, as that is the level of access Thunderbolt devices get to your system, and the Red Rocket-X driver wasn’t signed for that level of security.)

Anyhow, the card worked fine after that, and I verified that it accelerated my renders in Premiere Pro and AME. I am looking forward to a day when CUDA acceleration allows me to get that functionality out of my underused GPU power instead of requiring a dedicated card.

I did experience an issue with the Quadro P4000, where the fans spun up to 100% when the laptop went to shut off, hibernated, or went to sleep. None of the other cards had that issue, instead they shut off when the host system did and turned back on automatically when I booted up the system. I have no idea why the P4000 acted differently than the architecturally very similar P6000. Manually turning off the Breakaway Box or disconnecting the Thunderbolt cable solves the problem with the P4000, but then you have to remember to reconnect again when you are booting up.

In the process of troubleshooting the fan issue, I did a few other driver installs and learned a few tricks. First off, I already knew Quadro drivers can’t run GeForce cards (otherwise why pay for a Quadro), but GeForce drivers can run on Quadro cards. So it makes sense you would want to install GeForce drivers when mixing both types of GOUs. But I didn’t realize that apparently GeForce drivers take preference when they are installed. So when I had an issue with the internal Quadro card, reinstalling the Quadro drivers had no effect, since the GeForce drivers were running the hardware. Removing them (with DDU just to be thorough) solved the issue, and got everything operating seamlessly again. Sonnet’s support people were able to send me the solution to the problem on the first try. That was a bit of a hiccup, but once it was solved I could again swap between different GPUs without even rebooting. And most users will always have the same card installed when they connect their eGPU, further simplifying the issue.

Do you need an eGPU?
I really like this unit, and I think that eGPU functionality in general will totally change the high-end laptop market for the better. For people who only need high performance at their desk, there will be a class of top-end laptop with high-end CPU, RAM and storage, but no GPU to save on space and weight (CPU can’t be improved by external box, and needs to keep up with GPU).

There will be another similar class with mid-level GPUs to support basic 3D work on the road, but massive increases at home. I fall in the second category, as I can’t forego all GPU acceleration when I am traveling or even walking around the office. But I don’t need to be carrying around an 8K rendering beast all the time either. I can limit my gaming, VR work and heavy renders to my desk. That is the configuration I have been able to use with this ZBook x360.: enough power to edit un-tethered, but combining the internal 6-core CPU with a top -end external GPU gives great performance when attached to the Breakaway Box. As always, I still want to go smaller, and plan to test with an even lighter weight laptop as soon as the opportunity arises.

Summing Up
The Breakaway Box is a simple solution to a significant issue. No bells and whistles, which I initially appreciated. But the eGPU box is inherently a docking station, so there is an argument to be made for adding other functionality. In my case, once I am setup at my next project, using a 10GbE adapter in the second TB3 port on my laptop will be a better solution for top performance and bandwidth anyway.

So I am excited about the possibilities that eGPUs bring to the table, now that they are fully supported by the OS and applications I use, and I don’t imagine buying a laptop setup without one anytime in the foreseeable future. The Sonnet Breakaway Box meets my needs and has performed very well for me over the last few weeks.


Mike McCarthy is an online editor/workflow consultant with over 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been involved in pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and multi-screen and surround video experiences. Check out his site.


Review: AMD’s Radeon Pro WX8200

By Mike McCarthy

AMD has released the WX8200 high-end professional GPU as part of their Radeon Pro line. It’s based on the Vega architecture, with 3,584 compute cores accessing 8GB of HBM2 memory at up to 512GB/sec. Its hardware specs are roughly equivalent to their $400 Vega 56 gaming card but with professional drivers tuned for optimized performance in a variety of high-end 3D applications. AMD is marketing the WX8200, which is priced at $999, as an option between Nvidia’s Quadro P4000 and P5000.

AMD GPUs
Some background: I really haven’t used an AMD GPU before, at least not since they bought ATI over 10 years ago. My first Vaio laptop (2002) had an ATI Radeon 7500 in it, and we used ATI Radeon cards in our Matrox AXIO LE systems at Bandito Brothers in 2006. That was right around the time ATI got acquired by AMD. My last AMD-based CPUs were Opterons inside HP XW9300 workstations around the same time period, but we were already headed towards Nvidia GPUs when Adobe released Premiere Pro CS5 in early 2010.

CS5’s CUDA-based, GPU-accelerated Mercury Playback Engine locked us in to Nvidia GPUs for years to come. Adobe eventually included support for OpenCL as an alternative acceleration for the Mercury Playback Engine, primarily due to the Mac hardware options available in 2014, but it was never as mature or reliable on Windows as the CUDA-based option. By that point we were already used to using it, so we continued on that trajectory.

I have a good relationship with Nvidia, and have reviewed many of their cards over the years. Starting back in 2008, their Quadro CX card was the first piece of hardware I was ever provided with for the explicit purpose of reviewing, instead of just writing about the products I was already using at work.

When I was approached about doing this AMD review, I had to pause for a moment. I wanted to make sure I could really do an honest and unbiased review of an AMD card. I asked myself, “What if they worked just as well as the Nvidia cards I was used to?” That would really open up my options when selecting a new laptop, as most of the lighter weight options have had AMD GPUs for the last few years. Plus, it would be useful information and experience to have since I was about to outfit a new edit facility and more options are always good when finding ways to cut costs without sacrificing performance or stability.

So I agreed to review this new card and run it through the same tests I use for my Quadro reviews. Ideally, I would have a standard set of assets and timelines that I could use every time I needed to evaluate the performance of new hardware. Then I could just compare it to my existing records from previous tests. But the tests run in software that is changing as well, and Premiere Pro was on Version 11 when I tested the Pascal Quadros; it’s now on Version 13. Plus, I was testing 6K files then and have lots of 8K assets now, as well as a Dell UP3218K monitor to view them on. Just driving images to an 8K monitor smoothly is a decent test for a graphics card, so I ended up benchmarking not just the new AMD card, but all of the other (Nvidia) cards I have on hand for comparison, leading to quite a project.

The Hardware
The first step was to install the card in my Dell Precision 7910 workstation. Slot-wise, it just dropped into the location usually occupied by my Quadro P6000. It takes up two slots, with a single PCIe 3.0 x16 connector. It also requires both a six-pin and eight-pin PCIe power connector, which I was able to provide, with a bit of reconfiguration. Externally, it has four MiniDisplayPort connectors and nothing else. Dell has an ingenious system of shipping DP to mDP cables with their monitors that have both ports, allowing either source port to be used by reversing the cable. But that didn’t apply to my dual full-sized DisplayPort UP3218K monitor. I didn’t realize this until after ordering mDP-to-DP cables, which I already had from my PNY PrevailPro review for the same reason.

I prefer the full-sized connectors to ensure I don’t try to plug them in backwards, especially since AMD didn’t use the space savings to include any other ports on the card. (HDMI, USB-C, etc.) I also tried the card in an HP Z4 workstation a few days later to see if the Windows 10 drivers were any different. Those notes are included throughout.

The Drivers
Once I had my monitors hooked up, I booted the system to see what would happen. I was able to install the drivers and reboot for full functionality without issue. The driver install is a two-part process. You first you install AMD’s display software, and then that software allows you to install a driver. I like this approach because it allows you to change your driver version without reinstalling all of the other supporting software. The fact that driver packages these days are over 500MB is a bit ridiculous, especially for those of us not fortunate enough to live in areas where Fiber Internet connections are available. Hopefully this approach can alleviate that issue a bit.

AMD advertises that this functionality also allows you to switch driver versions without rebooting, and their RadeonPro line fully supports their gaming drivers as well. This can be an advantage for a game developer who uses the professional feature set for their work but then wants to test the consumer experience without having a separate, dedicated system. Or maybe it’s just for people who want better gaming performance on their dual-use systems.

The other feature I liked in their software package is screen-capture functionality called RadeonPro ReLive. It records all onscreen images or specific window selections, as well as application audio and optionally microphone audio. It saves the screen recordings to AVC or HEVC files generated by the VCE 4.0 hardware video compression engine on the card. When I tested, it worked as expected, and the captured files looked good, including a separate audio file for my microphone voice while the system audio was embedded in the video recording.

This is a great tool for making software tutorials, or similar type tasks, and I intend to use it in the near future for posting videos of my project workflows. Nvidia offers similar functionality in the form of ShadowPlay, but doesn’t market it to professionals since it’s part of the GeForce Experience software. I tested for comparison, and it does work on Quadro cards but has fewer options and controls. Nvidia should take the cue from AMD and develop a more professional solution for their users who need this functionality.

I used the card with both my main curved 34-inch monitor at 3440×1440, and my 8K monitor at 7680×4320. The main display worked perfectly the entire time, but I had issues with the 8K one. I went through lots of tests on both operating systems, with various cables and drivers before discovering that a firmware update for the monitor solved the issues. So if you have a UP3218K, take the time to update the firmware for maximum GPU compatibility. My HDMI-based home theater system on the other hand worked perfectly and even allowed me access to the 5.1 speaker in Premiere through the AMD HDMI audio drivers.

10-Bit Display Support
One of the main reasons to get a “professional” GPU over a much cheaper gaming card is that they support 10-bit color in professional applications instead of just in full-screen outputs like games and video playback that are supported at 10-bit on consumer GPUs. But when I enabled 10-bit mode in the RadeonPro Advanced panel, I ran into some serious issues. On Windows 7, it disabled the view ports on most of my professional apps, like Adobe’s Premiere, After Effects and Character Animator. When I enabled it on a Windows 10 system to see if it worked any better in a newer OS, the Adobe application interfaces looked even crazier and still no video playback.

10-bit in Premiere

I was curious to see if my Print Screen captures would still look this way once I disabled the 10-bit setting because, in theory, even after seeing them that way when I pasted them into a Photoshop doc, that could still be a display distortion of proper-looking screen capture. But no, the screen captures look exactly how the interface looked on my display.

AMD is aware of the problem and they are working on it. It is currently listed as a known issue in their newest driver release.

Render Performance
The time then came to analyze the card’s performance and see what it could do. While GPUs are actually designed to accelerate the calculations required to display 3D graphics, that processing capacity can be used in other ways. I don’t do much true 3D processing besides the occasional FPS game, so my GPU use is all for image processing in video editing and visual effects. This can be accelerated by AMD’s GPUs through the OpenCL (Compute Language) framework (as well as through Metal on the Mac side).

My main application is Adobe Premiere Pro 12, and it explicitly supports OpenCL acceleration, as does Adobe After Effects and Media Encoder. So I opened them up and started working. I didn’t see a huge difference in interface performance, even when pushing high-quality files around, but that is a fairly subjective test and fairly intermittent. I might drop frames during playback one time, but not the next time. Render time is a much more easily quantifiable measure of computational performance, so I created a set of sequences to render in the different hardware configuration for repeatable tests.

I am pretty familiar with which operations are CPU-based and which run on the GPU, so I made a point of creating test projects that work the GPUs as much as possible. This is based on the clip resolution, codec and selection of accelerated effects to highlight the performance differences in that area. I rendered those sequences with OpenCL acceleration enabled on the WX8200 and with all GPU acceleration disabled in the Mercury software playback mode, then with a number of different Nvidia GPUs for comparison.

Trying to push the cards as hard as possible, I used 6K Venice files and 8K Red files with Lumetri grades and other GPU effects applied. I then exported them to H.265 files at 10-bit Rec.2020 in UHD and 8K. (I literally named the 8K sequence “Torture Test.”)

My initial tests favored Nvidia GPUs by a factor of at least three to one, which was startling, and I ran them repeatedly to verify with the same result. Further tests and research revealed that usually AMD (and OpenCL) is about 25% slower than Adobe’s CUDA mode on similarly priced hardware, verified by a variety of other sources. But my results were made worse for two reasons: Red decoding is currently more optimized for acceleration on Nvidia cards and rendering at 10-bit ground the AMD-accelerated OpenCL renders to a halt.[

When exporting 10-bit HDR files at “Maximum Bit Depth,” it took up to eight times as long to finish rendering. Clearly this was a bug, but it took a lot of experimentation to narrow it down. And the Intel-based OpenCL acceleration doesn’t suffer from the same issue. Once I was able to test the newest Media Encoder 13 release on the Windows 10 system, the 10-bit performance hit while using the AMD disappeared. When I removed the Red source footage and exported 8-bit HEVC files, the WX8200 was just as fast as any of my Nvidia cards (P4000 and P6000). When I was sourcing from Red footage, the AMD took twice as long but GPU-based effects seemed to have no effect on render time, so those are accelerated properly by the card.

So, basically, as long as you aren’t using Red source and you use Premiere Pro and Media Encoder 13 or newer, this card is comparable to the alternatives for most AME renders.

[Statement from Adobe: “Premiere Pro has a long history of supporting multiple GPU technologies. Adobe works closely with all hardware partners to ensure maximum performance across the wide range of systems that may exist in creative workflows. For example, Adobe has been at the forefront of GPU development across CUDA, OpenCL, Metal and now Vulkan. In the case of OpenCL we partnered with AMD and provided deep access to our code base to ensure that the maximum performance levels were being achieved. It has been, and will remain to be our policy to deeply collaborate with all vendors who create high performance hardware/ software layers for video and audio creatives.”]

Is the RadeonPro WX8200 Right for Your Workflow?
That depends on what type of work you do. Basically, I am a Windows-based Adobe editor, and Adobe has spent a lot of time optimizing their CUDA-accelerated Mercury Playback Engine for Premiere Pro in Windows. That is reflected in how well the Nvidia cards perform for my renders, especially with Version 12, which is the final release on Windows 7. Avid or Resolve may have different results, and even Premiere Pro on OS X may perform much better with AMD GPUs due to the Metal framework optimizations in that version of the program. It is not because the card is necessarily “slower,” it just isn’t being used as well by my software.

Nvidia has invested a lot of effort into making CUDA a framework that applies to tasks beyond 3D calculations. AMD has focused their efforts directly on 3D rendering with things like ProRender, and GPU accelerates true 3D renders. If you are doing traditional 3D work, either animation or CAD projects, this card will probably be much more suitable for you than it is for me.


Mike McCarthy is an online editor/workflow consultant with 10 years of experience on feature films and commercials. He has been involved in pioneering new solutions for tapeless workflows, DSLR filmmaking and multi-screen and surround video experiences. Check out his site.