Intel QuickSync Coming to Popular Video Transcoding Program Handbrake

Posted on 03 April 2013 by

At GDC 2013, developers of the popular video transcoding software, Handbrake, announced that they will support Intel’s QuickSync technology on all Intel processors that support it, which includes Sandy Bridge, Ivy Bridge, and forthcoming Haswell. If you’ve got an Ultrabook, you’ve got QuickSync. The tech allows developers to tap into hardware acceleration on Intel Core CPUs. The result is significantly increased speeds for video rendering and transcoding.

Handbrake is a well known name in the world of video transcoding.  The announcement of QuickSync support is a bigger deal than it might seem. According to Intel, more than 500 million computers with QuickSync have been sold in the last three years. If even 5% of the users of those computers want to transcode video, that’s a userbase of 25 million people who will enjoy a substantially faster transcoding experience.

The developers of Handbrake haven’t yet said when they’ll release the QuickSync ready version of the program, but they did show off a working build at GDC 2013.

QuickSync is no compromise over full GPU acceleration either. In fact, QuickSync transcoding was more than twice as fast in a test performed by Tom’s Hardware against the Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 and AMD Radeon HD 6870 (both full desktop GPUs)… and that was with the Sandy Bridge / HD 3000 version of QuyickSync. Intel says that the latest Ivy Bridge version of QuickSync is up to twice as fast as the previous iteration, and we expect Haswell to be even faster. In the test, a 4:00 1080i (449MB) video was converted to 1024×768 H.264 in just 22 seconds.

Video editing/encoding also benefits from greatly from QuickSync; be sure to check to see if your editing suite supports it before dropping any cash!

Any developer can take advantage of QuickSync hardware acceleration thanks to Intel’s Media SDK. The latest version, 2013, is ready for Haswell, Windows 8, and DirectX 11:

The SDK is optimized to utilize the power of upcoming 4th generation Intel Core processors, codenamed “Haswell,” and now, Intel Atom® processor-based tablets for a consistently high-quality media experience. In addition to supporting accelerated H.264 encode and decode and video processing filters, the new SDK includes enhanced support for Windows 8, Microsoft DirectX 11, fully accelerated MPEG2 encode and MPEG/JPEG decode, and a Windows Store development sample. Use of Intel Media SDK 2013 also includes free licensing and source for integration with Open Source projects and Open CL* video workloads.

The SDK is available as a free download here.

We really hope that Intel courts more developers to support QuickSync. It’s great to be able to quickly encode/transcode video without a huge desktop rig!

  • Allen

    Is the Intel Media SDK available for Linux? If so, did the Handbrake developers mention Linux?

    I ask because I do all my video encoding and transcoding on a Linux HTPC. I have some simple Bash scripts that I run by SSHing into it from my Droid 4. Depending on what I’m doing, my scripts upload the videos to Amazon S3 for streaming, to Glacier for archiving or something else.

    • curaga

      No Intel Media SDK for Linux. All of their ultrabook resources for devs are Windows only. I’m surprised that the Handbrake devs are even using it since they can’t make use of it for Linux and Mac OS X.

      I guess they’re not as interested in cross platform software as much as I thought.

      • Gizman

        Speaking of ultrabooks and Linux. Any Sputnik rumors concerning Dell going private with Microsoft’s money?

        It’d be a shame if Sputnik gets canceled. I was planning on getting a sleek 13.3″ or less ultrabook this Summer that has stable driver support under Linux.

      • reg

        Would have been nice if Intel supported Linux with their QuickSync encoder. I also use scripts on a Linux home server to transcode videos. It would have been nice to keep the CPU free while encoding.

      • Apologist

        That’s funny. So you think that the Handbrake developers should limit Handbrake at all points to the minimum capabilities of any supported operating system? I disagree. If they did that, it would hamper Handbrake on all operating systems and people would quickly stop using it because they would find other programs that are willing to optimize for the operating system they use.

        If Handbrake refuses to implement QuickSync because it’s not available in all operating systems, then, when I want to transcribe something on PC, I’m going to switch to a program that does. And I’ll probably switch to a different program in Linux because who knows what other limitations are imposed on the Linux version because of features that aren’t available in other OSes.

        I want Handbrake to be the best transcoder, as much as reasonably possible, in each operating system – then I can have confidence in it across all operating systems. Otherwise it’s simply a dabbler in all operating systems, but master of none; a proof-of-concept of a cross-platform transcoder which doesn’t excel in any OS because it is limited by weaknesses in other OSes.

    • me

      I use a Linux notebook with a SB chip as a media server too. It’d be nice to take advantage of QuickSync when I run my scripts to batch encode videos. That way if people are streaming videos, it won’t stutter.

      Hopefully, Intel supports Linux soon. You’d think their good support for open source Linux graphic drivers would mean they’d also support QuickSync for Linux too.

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