I installed PowerDirector 11 Mobile on the Acer W510, a CloverTrail Tablet and used the built-in cam for a complete end-to-end on-device video creation and sharing process.
After I had taken the 1 minute video it took just 5 minutes, 300 seconds, to create and render a video with transitions, to upload to YouTube and even included the time it took YouTube to make the video available. Smart camera, or what?
Last year I ran a series of articles about mobile video editing. I covered smartphone, netbook and ultrathin solutions before settling on a low-cost , low weight set-up.. The Samsung NP350 worked well with its 2.2Ghz Core i3 but by moving up a notch in performance and efficiency, lowering the weight and, yes, increasing the cost by well over 100%, I’ve found a solution that’s quite stunning. I’m not just talking about looks!
The Toshiba Z830 Ultrabook weighs less than most netbooks but packs a 1.7Ghz Core i5 that can Turbo boost to 2.7Ghz. It’s got 6Gb of RAM and a great 128GB SSD that, although it isn’t the fastest at sequential speeds, knocks the socks of a hard drive solution and works perfectly with Cyberlink PowerDirector 10. The difference between the NP350 and Z830 solutions is huge!
I demonstrated the solution at VideoCamp Germany in Düsseldorf a few weeks ago and learnt a few things too so after a few days thought, I put together a tutorial article and behind the scenes video that shows exactly how I get those product launch videos up in record time. 10 minutes from camera-on to YouTube-ready!
CES is just days away and I’ve just finalised the kit-list for my Ultra Mobile Reporting Kit V11. I’ll be there for the week and focusing on Tablets, Netbooks, Ultrabooks and, if I find anything, UMPCs.
Towards the middle of 2011 the realisation that YouTube was one of my most important revenue channels led me towards a better quality 720p editing set-up. A series of tests and articles posted here on UMPCPortal gave me an indication that Core i5 Sandy Bridge processors could bring some major advantages for 720p video work. Intel Quick-Sync video hardware and some excellent software from Cyberlink in Media Espresso and PowerDirector sent me on the search for a new camera and in October I settled on the Panasonic Lumix FZ150, a bridge camera that gives impressive low-light camera and HD video results along with relatively lightweight hardware for a camera with a long-zoom lens and a rotating display. After testing some Ultrabooks I actually took the Samsung NP350, a 1.4KG 12.5” laptop that runs a 2.2Ghz Core i3 and holds a 60Wh battery. Compared to my previous netbook (Gigabyte Touchnote) it’s the same weight but a gigantic step forward in processing power. Even battery life is better so I’m happy that it will work well when on the road.
Here’s the detail on the kit-list:
Samsung NP350 Notebook
A 1.4KG (3lb) notebook running a Core i3 CPU at 800Mhz-2.2Ghz with battery life ranging from over 8hrs (typing) to 1hr (gaming.) It has a 12.5” 1366×768 matt screen, 600GB hard drive, good keyboard, Intel Centrino Wifi module with Wi-Di, SSD, fast-start, HDMI, VGA, full-size SDHC and 2 USB2.0 ports with sleep ‘n charge. There’s no backlit keyboard, SSD or USB3.0. Cost – €430 before taxes.
I’ll use the NP350 for 720p video conversion and editing and sit-down article composition, data storage, mass photo upload.
Panasonic Lumix FZ150 Camera
12MP, 24x Zoom, hot-shoe, rotating display, full HD (plus 720p) in MPEG4 or AVCHD, external mic port, HDMI-out and some impressive low-light performance for a compact-size sensor. Weight is just over 500gm. Price around €500
The FZ150 will be used as a 720p video device and camera. I won’t be using 1080p quality as it’s overkill for the quick hands-on videos I post to YouTube, especially as YouTube compresses the hell out of 1080p!
Nokia N8 CameraPhone
A Symbian-based phone with high quality camera, Xenon flash and 720 video capability. Long battery life.
The N8 will be used as phone, SMS, calendar reminder and for quick photos (including evening/people/party) that I’ll put up on Twitter, Facebook and other channels. It will remain on my European SIM card with no data capability while at CES. Images will be transferred to the Galaxy Tab via Bluetooth for sending to various social channels when needed.
Samsung Galaxy Tab Android Tablet
At over one year old, you’d think that there are many better 7” tablet solutions out there by now but the Galaxy Tab 7 is still up there as one of the most usable 7” tablets on the market. I’m looking to upgrade when ICS is available but the original Galaxy Tab 7 will be fine for CES work. There won’t be a SIM card in it for data or voice but it will be connected to my Clear MiFi unit as my ‘always-on, always connected’ component. I suspect i’ll have some mini blogs going out through this as well as Tweets, Facebook posts and Google Plus posts.
Clear MiFi + Power Pack
Not shown on the picture are a Clear 4G MiFi unit (rented from Event Radio) and a small USB power-pack that I hope will sit in my bag and provide me with a moving cloud.
The kit weight is going to be well over 2KG once the tripod, cables and spares are added and it’s more than I would like to be carrying but for a 720p recording and editing suite and always-connected mobile and social set-up, it’s not far from optimal.
In Part 4 we looked at a €399 AMD Fusion-based Lenovo S205. Through a number of video editing software tests I managed to get an acceptable 720p rendering speed out of the device which would be OK for short projects. For 480p output, it was good though. In this article I’m taking it up a notch in processing power to an Intel ‘Sandy Bridge’ based 13” laptop. It’s the lightweight Samsung 900X3A and given the right software, it’s proving to be a fantastic machine for 720p editing, rendering and uploading for YouTube.
Before we start though, a reminder of the aim and parameters set for the project. The parameters I’ve set for the project are shown below and you can read about why these parameters have been set here.
PC and video editing software to cost less than 600 Euros
PC to be less than 1.5KG with 12” screen or less.
Total camera + PC solution to weigh less than 2KG and cost less than 1000 Euro
Source video should be 720p
Video sent to YouTube should be 480p minimum
Video editing sotware must include watermarking, overlays, crossfades, and multiple audio tracks.
At 1.33KG the Samsung Series 9 (900X3A) is light but with the 13” screen, is bigger than I’d like to see. The screen size (1366×768) does have some advantages at this size though. It’s matt and bright too which means it is good for working outdoors. A 128GB fast SSD helps too. There is an 11” version of the 900X3A available to order if the 13” screen is not to your tastes. If it looks and sounds like an expensive laptop, it is. It’s well outside the target price of 600 Euro. You won’t be able to find the 900X3A for much less than 1400 Euro at the moment but don’t let that put you off because this is a premium device that’s one of the first in the market. Intel are promising sub $1000 devices based on the same platform as the 1.4Ghz Core i5 in the Samsung 900X3A and as time goes on, those prices will drop further and during 2012 I expect devices of this calibre to be coming down fast to 600 Euro.
First thing to note is the lack of full-size SD card slot. It’s a big minus in my opinion. A micro-SD card slot is available but I really don’t recommend swapping micro-SD cards about. The full-size adaptor with eventually fail and there’s a high risk of dropping or losing a micro-SD card. The solution is to use a USB adaptor for the SD card or a standard USB connection. High-speed cards are a must for high bitrate videos so make sure your adaptor is a quality one. The Series 9 supports USB3.0 but you shouldn’t need that. One of the ports can be used as a charging port when the device is off too which could be handy.
The excellent SSD in the Series 9 works at up to 220MB/s so for large programs like Power Director 9, there’s no hanging around waiting for it to load up. YOu might find it load faster than on most desktops in fact. Moving files around, duplicating and general file work is quick too which really helps to smooth things along.
The CPU/GPU combination in the Series 9 is known as ‘Sandy Bridge.’ It’s the second-generation Core processor from Intel and makes significant processing power gains over the previous generation. It’s an expensive platform but as well as raw CPU power and acceptable low-end gaming GPU power it also includes a hardware video decoder and hardware video encoder for some formats. Support for the video encoder is not widespread though. HDMI-enables full extended screen working but remember that the audio is routed digitally and you’ll need an audio decoder in your monitor.
As with the Lenovo S205, I’m using 12Mbps 25fps 720p from a Nokia N8 and converting it to 720p at 30fps with a bitrate of 6mbps. The laptop is set to high-power mode (no mains power.) Remember, this isn’t a comparison of video editing suites, it’s a test to see how much editing and rendering power and time can be had from the Samsung 900X3A (and by definition, from other notebooks based on the same CPU/GPU/Chipset combination.
Video Editing Software
Cyberlink Media Espresso.
Cyberlink Media Espresso does a fantastic job of converting video. A 7 min H.264 video was converted in just over 60 seconds which is exceptional. It matches the frame rate automatically though and despite setting a 6mbps bitrate, the conversion completed with a 4mbps bitrate. It bodes well for video rendering using Power Director, the video editing tool from the same company. Note that this is a pure video conversion tool and no clip editing or sequencing is possible.
One feature in Media Espresso which could be a real advantage for mobile video creators is the YouTube upload feature. I was able to throw in a 6mbps 720p file for upload which was converted down to 1.8mbps to match YouTube minimum requirements. It results in fast upload speeds and fast conversion speeds at YouTube. A 180MB 1080p file was converted down to low-bitrate 720p and just 33MB in size. Upload speed was obviously 5x faster than the original and the conversion time at YouTube was about 2 mins for 360p and another minute for 720p. Ignoring the video editing tools for a bit, this is one tool that could seriously help beat the clock on uploading YouTube videos. When you’ve got time you can always upload the high-bitrate version at a later time.
Cyberlink Power Director
Over the last 5 years I’ve seen consistent support from Cyberlink for low-level hardware. Early VIA UMPCs had video decoding hardware that was supported by Cyberlink. The recent AMD Fusion platform is well supported and the same is true here with the Intel Quick Sync Video technology.
Despite trying a wide range of settings though, I couldn’t get Power Director to work as fast during standard video clip conversion as Media Espresso. Using a single clip without any affects I was able to achieve a 6:48 conversion time for the original 7:38 clip which is good, about 3 times faster than the Lenovo S205 with the same challenge, but there seems to be a more complex operation going on in Power Director that results slower conversion speeds than with Media Espresso. Using the default hardware acceleration settings (hardware decode only) I only saw a 30% average CPU load. Turning off the hardware decoding though does result in higher CPU load and slower processing (about 2x.) It wasn’t until I spotted the ‘Trial Software’ watermark on the rendered video clip that I realised what might be happening. The Intel Quick Sync encoder can’t work efficiently if there’s an overlay being applied. I’m checking this theory with Cyberlink right now and will update the post when I get new information or am able to test without the text overlay being forced.
Update: Thanks to Cyberlink I was able to test a fully licensed version of Power DIrector. I couldn’t get any more speed or CPU load out of the system so clearly there’s something else that may need optimising. 720p conversion rates remained at just under the 1X real-time mark – about 3x faster than the AMD E-350 based Lenovo S205 and easily 5x faster than a standard Intel Atom netbook.
At this stage we can say that Intel Quick Sync does work in Power Director and this test case, a 720p 12mbps source, gives a 2x increase in rendering speed (with watermarking) but there could be more. Using other clips, 1920×800 at 8mbps for example, I began to see some limits where the hardware encoder wasn’t helping to increase the speed (but was helping to keep CPU usage low and therefore battery drain minimised)
In the best cases (using Intel Quick Sync video) I saw an average of about 18W being used with a peak of 25W, possibly while the Sandy Bridge Turbo feature was being used (until the thermal controls turned it off.) In terms of speed per watt energy consumed, that’s easily the best I’ve seen so far. On a fully loaded battery, the Samsung Series 9 900X3A could encode about 2.5 hours of 720p timeline cuts, fades, titles and sequencing. On the Lenovo S205, you’ll get about 1hr of encoding completed. On a netbook, well, you don’t want to go there with 720p editing and encoding!
Heat and Turbo
Intel’s Turbo Boost technology is interesting and useful in some situations. In video rendering situations though it’s not so useful due to the way it works. Thermal monitoring means that if the CPU core reaches a fixed temperature, the Turbo boost feature will be restricted. In CPU-bound, multicore tasks like video rendering, both cores will reach operating temperature very quickly and Turbo will be turned off. In some cases I saw just 9 seconds of Turbo boost but it depends on ambient temperature and the process being used. For video editing (not final rendering) Turbo boost works well because it’s only need occasionally. It has major advantages but not in video rendering.
SVRT is a feature in Power Director that detects if the source and destination file formats, frame rates and bitrates are the same. In they are the same (or similar in some cases) the source file is not re-rendered completely. Only fades, titles and effects will be re-rendered.. In other cases, the file is ‘passed through’ to the output thus vastly increasing rendering speeds. With the N8 source files I was unable to achieve this. Interestingly, by passing the source files through Media Espresso it converted them to a format that was compatible with the SVRT process.
This pre-conversion process may not be the highest-quality way to treat video clips but for our YouTube target, it’s an interesting process and could, for videos over say 5 minutes, could shorten the rendering time. There’s a second advantage to having Media Espresso in the toolchain too because it does a very good job of converting and uploading files for YouTube. There’s also the option of using some simple clean-up tools although that will extend the rendering time by a lot.
Again, this article is not meant as a review of video editing software but during the series I’ve mainly been focusing on two software packages. The Cyberlink solutions covered above and the Corel Video Studio Pro X4 solution that I’ll talk about now. The reason? They both offer sub €100 solutions, include support for hardware and specialist libraries like OpenCL and they include enough capability for the average mobile video process. These aren’t pro tools but where speed is important and YouTube is the audience, pro tools are often too much.
Using Corel Video Studio Pro X4 I wasn’t able to get quite the speed of rendering that I saw on Power Director and there was no indication that Intel Quick Sync Video was supported although the ‘hardware encode’ option did appear. I wonder if the Intel Quick Sync technology is actually used. After 20 or 30 different tests I was not satisfied with the speed and efficiency of Video Studio Pro X4 and abandoned this a a choice for the Sandy Bridge platform.
Adobe Premier Elements is another popular mid-range editing suite and it does support Intel Quick Sync technology via an Intel plugin (available here.) In my tests I felt confident that more was being pulled out of the Series 9 that with the other two programs although power usage was higher by about 10% than on Cyberlink Power Director 9. Because of the plugin there are specific settings for using the Intel Quick Sync technology and it’s possible to force the use of the hardware. In an initial test though, the video failed to finish its conversion. In all cases video direct from the N8 was misinterpreted as 500fps video and could not be used until I passed the source video through Media Espresso, process that takes time and obviously will degrade the source material.
By using these ‘cleaned’ files and creating a 1 minute timeline of fades, titles and including a ‘demo software’ the process was completed in nearly 2X real time – 37 seconds for a 60 second video. I had no problem in editing or rendering these pre-converted files.
In a test of a standard bridge camera 720p file I downloaded a sample from a Canon SX30is in 720p at 21mbps. The file was easy to work with in Adobe Premier Elements and rendering speed down to 6mbps with fades and edits was almost as fast as with the ‘converted 6mbps file from the N8. Conversion down to sub-2mbps for YouTube and subsequent upload and availability was
The software is very flexible in creating output formats although the user interface didn’t seem as intuitive to me as Power Director. Given that Intel Quick Sync support will be important for the professional version of Adobe Premier, it’s very likely that the Intel Quick Sync technology will get continued support and end up as a core part of the software. At this stage though, it might not be prudent to rely on this two-part solution for professional use.
For the purposes of this article though, it proves the potential power of the 2nd-generation Core i5 platform.
Both Adobe Premier Elements and Cyberlink Power Director confirm that a 1.3KG laptop can be used for comfortable and efficient 720p video editing and rendering. The hardware encoding and decoding in the 1.4Ghz Core i5 platform is clearly helping and in comparison with the Lenovo S205 that I previously tested, you can get a lot more done within the duration of a single battery charge. That’s very important for mobile users. Given our requirements, the Samsung 900X3A is a little expensive and with only 100GB of disk free, there are some storage limits that will have to be offset with a USB3 hard drive but as a platform, Sandy Bridge (at a measly 1.4Ghz) proves it can offer 720p editing and rendering in 1.3KG. Of the video editing suites tested, Power Director and Adobe Premier Elements come out on top for performance with Adobe Premier Elements leading the way assuming source files work correctly with the system. Cyberlink Media Espresso works amazingly fast to convert files down to usable sizes for even faster editing and rendering and also, fast upload times.
In the video below I give you a demo of edit, render, convert, upload and view on YouTube. It’s a 720p 22mbps file from a Canon SX30IS (This sample was used) and the whole process takes 8 minutes.
Note on stability
In tests with Adobe Premier Elements, I saw a number of program crashes. This is of major concern as project work was lost as a result. I didn’t experience crashes on the other editing packages.
Note on Quality
The quality parameters for this project are fairly loose. I’m not looking for the best quality codec but I’m looking for an acceptable 720p full-screen experience on YouTube. At 2mbps, 720p videos are going to be lacking in a lot of finer detail but for YouTube, that’s the way it is. Editing in higher bitrates and converting using Media Espresso for a final YouTube upload leaves the original available for use later if required.
For me, this ends my work to analyse low-end solutions because I know that in Sandy Bridge-based Ultrabooks I’ve found my solution. The next stage is to buy a device, make a final decision on the software and get to work creating content. Right now the Asus UX21 and Cyberlink Media Espresso and Power Director 9 are at the top of the list due to ease and smoothness of use and acceptable rendering speeds.
Thanks to Samsung Germany and Cyberlink for their help with this article. (Loan hardware and software provided.)
Thanks to Samsung Germany I am now using a rather swish and expensive Series 9 (Model 900X3A) 13″ laptop running the new Sandy Bridge ULV platform. This isn’t a UMPC of-course but it’s not here for ultra-mobile testing, it’s here for two other things. Firstly I want to use it for the next part of my Ultra Mobile Video Editing series and you’ll see that happen here are UMPCPortal. Secondly I want to start tracking the Ultrabook category very closely as I believe it is not only an important low-power platform for laptops but could, in a few generations, drive sub 1KG Windows devices that will range from sub 1W always-on, to 15W power-houses, exactly what I call High Dynamic Range Computing. They will challenge netbooks for size and power utilisation and include premium features like Wireless-Display, Light-Peek and security subsystems that can be used to stream and store high-value content. There will be a price premium of course but that should reduce to hit the top-end of the netbook range meaning Atom has a positioning job to do. You can follow my work with Ultrabooks over at Ultrabooknews.com
You may recall that I lost a number of days work last week. Test results, screen caps and a whole bunch of text went out the window when I did a factory re-install on the device I was both testing and writing the article on. That will teach me!
The article was Part 4 of the Ultra Mobile Video Editing series and was a detailed look at two Brazos-optimised video editing applications on the Lenovo S205 AMD E-350 device. The results were, in general, quite impressive with both Cyberlink Power Director 9 and Corel VideStudio X4 showing use of the platforms features. In some cases, hardware video decoding and effects rendering was significantly speeded up through use of AMD Brazos features. In some cases, the results weren’t so good. It all depended on the type of output file.
After I lost my work on the reivew I wrote an overview of AMD APP enhancements amd i’ve just updated that with input from AMD and Cyberlink. The key thing to know with the C and E-Series APUs is this – AMDs video encoding acceleration subsystem (which used to be called Avivo) which is used by many of the AMD enhanced video editors and converters, is not implemented on the E-350 (or its drivers.) It’s likely to be because it’s actually slower than the CPU but the end result is that there are limits to the enhancements that can be made.You can’t expect General Purpose GPU (GP-GPU) enhancements.
The diagram above shows the Cyberlink PowerDirector Brazos acceleration process. Note that the encode stage is 100% CPU bound. Actually this Cyberlink diagram is slightly wrong because there are some encode enhancements implemented in specific effects code that has been written to use Open CL/APP by Cyberlink.
Corel Video Studio X4 (above) and Cyberlink PowerDirector 9 (bottom) video editing panes.
Click to enlarge. These are the hardware acceleration features in Video Studio (left) and PowerDirector.
Ultra Mobile Video Editing Test Results.
The parameters I’ve set for the project are shown below and you can read about why these parameters have been set here.
PC and software to cost less than 600 Euros
PC to be less than 1.5KG with 12” screen or less.
Total camera + PC solution to weigh less than 2KG and cost less than 1000 Euro
Source video should be 720p
Video sent to YouTube should be 480p minimum
Editing solution must include watermarking, overlays, crossfades, and multiple audio tracks.
Testing results. (Summarised from paper notes taken during testing.)
Source file: H.264 720p 8mbps 25fps. Output file H.264 720p 5mbps. All possible acceleration turned on. System power settings set to ‘always on’ (full power.)
1 – Corel VideoStudio X4 managed to do this test in 3.7x real time which, for such a heavy processing job, is impressive. PowerDirector 9 took significantly longer.
2 – In this test, the video decoding accelerations and memory transfer accelerations implemented tend to have little effect as the processing is very CPU intensive. Hardware video decoding and memory optimisations start to have a more significant effect where output files are smaller and use a less complex codec. 720p H.264 input and MPEG-2 DVD file output is a good example. Resutls were the same with and without accelerations enabled. Using the AMD System Monitor (V0.91) very little GPU activity was seen.
3 – Using Corel VideoStudio, the E-350 CPU was 1.5x faster than the C-50 and 2X faster than an N450 CPU on this specific video encoding test.
4 – For this project (480p minimum output size requirement) there wasn’t an output profile on either software suite that supported the required 852×480 output resolution. 852×480 is a favorable resolution for enabling HQ/480p experience on YouTube.
5 – By adding DivX Pro to the Lenovo S205 I was able to create the required output in an AVI container. I was not successful in getting MP3 audio into the container but I’m confident this is possible. Divx Pro is a 19 Euro license. Divx Pro is a similar implementation of MPEG4 to H.264 (MPEG 4 Part 10) The rendering speed was approx 2.2X real time. This was the best result I achieved in all the tests I did and one that proves the AMD E-350 is capable of producing fast results for my specific video editing and upload requirements. Based on this test it appears that Divx Pro is more tunable (for both resolutions and encoding speed) than the H.264 codecs used in these editing suites.
6 – I was able to output a 720×576 file with 16:9 aspect ratio (correct when re=sized to 852×480) using Power Director 9. The rendering speed was an impressive 1.8x real time. This option as sub-optimal as some resolution is lost when the rendered file is squashed into a 720-wide frame.
The YouTube processes on both Cyberlink PowerDirector 9 and Corel Videostudio X4 don’t support an HQ profile. On Cyberlink, the profiles outpur WMV files which took much longer then H.264 files to output. (Aprox 5.5x real time)
VideoStudio took a very long time to start from fresh boot. Over 60 seconds. PowerDirector 9 is about 25 seconds to start up in the same scenario.
Both video editing suites were fluid in their editing processes.
Power Director has some effects that are implemented in OpenCL for a significant acceleration advantage.
Editing 720p content with these two software packages is quite acceptable for small, in-field projects. Rendering profiles need to be chosen carefully though to get the best out of the system. For my requirements – a 720p H.264 file input and a 480p file output for optimal YouTube uploading I found that a combination of Corel VideoStudio and Divx Pro worked best. Hardware and memory acceleration works in this process and with an 8mbps H.264 720p file input and 480p 30fps file output with ‘fastest’ Divx encoding settings and a 2Mbps bitrate. Rendering rate was 2-2.5x real time depending on audio codex setup. (Using high-power ‘always on’ battery settings on the system.) The images below show most of the configuration settings used.
With most of the process being CPU-load though, one wonders what a dual-core N570 CPU would achieve with the same test. I will be looking to get that result added to this report as soon as possible.
Let us all know about your mobile video editing experiences in the comments/discussion below.
Stay tuned for the next part of this series where I will be testing a standard laptop CPU and chipset, possibly an Intel Sandy Bridge system.
I’ve been working on a big ultra-mobile video editing article since last Wednesday that gives you all you need to know about video editing on the Lenovo S205. Unfortunately, I just re-installed the S205 OS and forgot to backup the directory where the draft article was. I’m hoping to recover the file this afternoon but I can at least tell you one thing – The Lenovo S205 (and possibly Acer 522) don’t support the important AMD Video Converter (Avivo) software from AMD because they have special driver builds that do not include this layer. The Avivo software, as far as I understand, is the base software on which video encoding software (as in video converters and video editing software) that are AMD APP-enabled, hook into to get a GPU hardware boost from the E-350 APU for rendering H.264 and MPEG-2.
Update:07 April 2011
I have had a conversaion with an engineer from Cyberlink who confirms that AVIVO-based encoding acceleration is not supported on these [E-Series, We suspect C-series too] AMD Fusion devices. In fact, what’s really happening here is something more important. AMD Fusion [E-series, C-series] does not support video encoding acceleration. The APP (was ATI Stream) feature that is used by the AMD Video converter base software (was AVIVO) is not implemented. Information from Cyberlink…
Fusion APU does not support Accelerated Parallel Processing (aka ATi Stream) for video encoding. The current AMD drivers do not allow HW acceleration to be enabled for video encoding on the Fusion APUs, and this is by AMD design.
I wish AMD, Cyberlink, Corel and the other companies promoting AMD APP would have been kind enough to point this out earlier. Take a look at this marketing brief…I would call it very misleading.
Transcoding is a very time-consuming and computationally intensive process. With the new AMD Fusion UVD 3 (Unified Video Decoder), and AMD Accelerated Parallel Processing (APP) technology, CyberLink PowerDirector – the world’s first 64-bit video editing software – offers up to 3.7x faster video rendering speed, allowing users to produce professional-looking videos in less time. MediaEspresso, universal media conversion software, now offers ultra-fast transcoding capability via the UVD 3 Decoder, enabling consumers to enjoy up to 2.75x speedup in performance, significantly reducing waiting time while giving users more time to share and enjoy their HD videos. [Ref: Cyberlink Press Release]
That’s a carefully crafted statement right there. PowerDirector does use APP, but only for some effects. You want to speed-up a section of video that has a fireworks effect on it, yes, PD9 will use APP to accelerate it. MediaEspresso doesn’t use APP. Al it uses are 1) The hardware video decoder which, when your output files are small and simple, provides a big boost. When your files are large and complex, 720 H.264 for example, the percentage advantage of the hardware decoder drops to almost zero. 2) It uses some “optimizations to enable Direct Memory Access between the CPU and GPU memory. Using DMA, we are able to save precious CPU cycles when the CPU is accessing the decoded video frames stored in the GPU memory.” Source: Cyberlink
So that clears up the question mark over my test results. Fusion enhanced video software can use 1) UVD, the hardware decoder, to accelerate decoding of source video 2) Some optimisations to speed up memory optimisations 3) Specific effects process written to use the APP API.
So will AMD Video Conversion (Avivo) support come in future driver sets? I also ask myself the question, if you can write code to implement affects enhancements, why can’t you write code to improve the video encoding process? Is this something this might come in the future? These questions remains unanswered for the time being.
End of Update. 07 April 2011
Update: 12 April 2011
It appears that I kicked a little bees-nest with this post as both Cyberlink and AMD have been in touch. The information and contact is much appreciated. Both AMD and Cyberlink wanted to clarify that the video encoding limitations don’t / won’t apply Fusion-wide. i.e. The E-Series APU that we’re testing here is aimed at consumer markets but there will be other products that will widen the use of APP.
The AMD E-Series parts are designed with the latest technology in their class making it a fully capable platform. While entry-level AMD VISION systems are capable of video transcode and editing, they are primarily designed with a focus on content consumption. VISION Premium and VISION Ultimate are the recommended systems for content creation. Upcoming AMD Fusion products designed for these mainstream and enthusiast markets will bring the capabilities of the current AMD Fusion products to new levels and introduce new and exciting levels of APP support.
So. Clearly there will be new products soon. I’ve been pointed to the AMD Fusion Developer Summit in a couple of emails so maybe they (AMD, Cyberlink) will be announcing new products then?
Cyberlink also sent a PDF which highlights the Brazos acceleration in their products. Here’s the diagram that shows the UVD (Decode) and DMA (Memory transfer) accelerations.
I posed a question to Cyberlink – can you do anything else to enhance performance through APP? The answer -They are looking at it and expect to implement for APP use in the future. Cyberlink are at the Fusion Developer Summit and holding a talk on Optimizing Video Editing Software with OpenCL. Details can be found in the event catalogue here.
End of update – April 12th
How stupid is that? AMD will be pleased to hear that that part of their platform is crippled on the Lenovo S205. Especially as they’re promoting it. (See Update above. The limitation was actually designed into Fusion from day 1)
Yes, I’ve tried updating all drivers but I can’t get the video encoding acceleration working at all even with new versions of Catalyst 11.2 or 11.3. I’ve tried 5 different software packages that claim to get a boost from the Fusion GPU but none of them get any speed increase at all. Some of them don’t even see the hardware.
I can get some specific code in one video editing program working (an effects overlay that is written to use AMD’s APP API) but that’s about it.
This is such a shame because the S205, when using Corel VideoStudio Pro X4 is really looking good even without the hardware rendering acceleration. The editing process itself is very smooth. There’s a need for some new profiles to enable my specific usage case and an SSD would improve the lengthy start-up time but I was seeing H.264 being rendered at 5mbps in 720p at about 3.7x real time. (slower than real time.) The rendering speed for 720p h.264 could be brought into the 2x range if Avivo was working and that’s very usable indeed.
My final test before sending the article out was to run the software again after a factory reset on the S205. I didn’t quite back everything up before I did it! I’ll bring you more details soon but right now I’m working on recovering 4-days of work on the article! Update: Looks like I lost it. I’ll put together a new one over the next few days. (See update above)
Many thanks to NotebookItalia.it who I discussed test results and thoughts with during this test. They have an article up showing vido rendering tests on C-50 and E-350 CPUs here. (Translation)
As part of my ‘ultra mobile video editing’ project I’ve bought myself a second notebook. Previously I worked with the Acer Aspire One 522 based on the AMD Ontario APU. This time I’ve bought a Lenovo S205 notebook based on the E-350 Zacate APU and have moved up a notch in my search for a good-value, low-stress 720p editing and rendering solution.
Watch the unboxing video below.
Like the Toshiba NB550D I tested last week, the Lenovo S205 lightweight laptop feels like solid, a well-built device. I’m sure Lenovo could have shaved 100gm from the plastics but it looks like they’ve adhered to their build quality standards with the S205. The materials feel good, the finish is nice and the keyboard is a very high quality feature.
For 399 Euro you get the dual-core Zacate CPU running at 1.6Ghz with the Radeon HD6310 GPU with HD decoders. There’s 4GB of RAM, a useful 500GB hard drive (in two partitions with 400GB free on one, 27GB free on the other intended for ‘One-Touch Recovery’ images) and it’s running Windows Home Premium. The 11.6” screen has a useful 1366×768 resolution which, along with the excellent keyboard, reduces stress levels when sat down trying to create any sort of rich document where images, links and other items that need to be pulled together from various sources. Veriface facial recognition software is included which initially quite exciting to use but it’s much slower than typing in a password. One-Touch Recovery is software that can take a snapshot of the operating system drive and save it as am image. This is useful when you’ve got your initial build stable and efficient. A boot optimiser and power management application are included and there’s a DirectShare application which hasn’t been tested yet.
It does weigh 1.47KG though which is a noticeable step up from a 1.2KG netbook. Along with that, there’s a significant increase in battery drain meaning the rather low-end 48Wh 6-cell battery could be drained in 2 hours if you try hard. In a video rendering test with the screen and Wifi on I was seeing 16Watts being used which equates to 3hrs. After removal of McAfee and may Windows 7 effects, a reboot and a settling down period, I’m now seeing an average drain of 6W with Wifi off, screen on a 20% setting and the Livewriter application running. As a typewriter, you’re looking at about 6-7 hours of battery life. That’s quite the dynamic range there. Anything between 2 and 8 hours depending on usage! If only Lenovo had put a high-capacity battery in this. 60Wh would have permitted an ‘up to 10 hours’ marketing statement. 5hrs is the claim and that seems reasonable.
In terms of performance I’m seeing a good step up from AMD C-50 performance although there’s not much of a difference in CPU processing power to what I’ve measured on a dual-core N570 CPU that you’ll find in upcoming netbooks . 3D graphics performance is indeed impressive but not impressive enough to make this a full gaming device. It will certainly boost Google Earth, Cover-Flow and other 3D features in high-end applications though and it boost the UI experience well. Some gaming is possible but don’t expect to use high-end settings. Again, you’ll hit the 2hr mark when gaming so bear that in mind when mobile,
Here’s a comparison of the CrystalMark tests on a stock Asus Aspire One 522 (AMD Ontario C-50 CPU) and the Lenovo (AMD Zacate E-350 CPU)
Acer Aspire One 522, Left. Lenovo S205, Right. Click to enlarge. You can see 50-60% CPU performance increase (which relates to the 60% clockrate increase) and the disk and memory get a boost too. I’m confused about the open GL scores though. CrystalMark is quite an old test so perhaps the improvements aren’t showing up in this test.
Update: I was right to question the graphic scores. It looks like the ‘Power Play’ feature [available in the Catalyst Control Center] was set to restrict GPU performance. With ‘Power Play’ configured for max performance, the scores are very different:
For comparison, here’s the result from a dual-core N570 Atom CPU with Nvidia Ion platform (Asus 1015PN tested at CeBIT 2011) The results across the board match very closely. (See the update above, The Zacate APU outperforms the ION2 platform by a lot in the GPU tests)
I tried 3D Mark 03 on the Lenovo S205 but it crashed after the first test. 3DMark 06 was tested on the S205 over at Ndevil.com with a result of 1995 points. Interestingly, Netbooknews tested the NB550d, based on the Ontario platform, and saw 1889 points. Again I’m confused about the graphics performance here. Update: The results could have been due to the issue I experienced above.
A few more notes before we go into the video…
Fan – On most of the time and varies in pitch a lot. Not annoying, but noticeable.
Screen – Good clarity, contrast and brightness. Excellent side-to-side viewing angles. Opening angle not great, Hinges seem OK.
Mouse and mouse buttons – Good quality. Small touchpad area might take some getting used to but it avoids accidental wrist touches.
Speaker – (Mono I believe) OK for the occasional video, skype session.
Memory and disk not easily accessible
USB ports are 2.0 only
Bluetooth is 2.1 + EDR only
Comes with McAfee pre-installed.
Hard drive includes movement detection and protection.
While the AMD platform inside the S205 idles down nicely to show an efficient build, it’s capable of draining battery faster than any netbook I’ve seen. The 7 hour battery life seen when typing a document could drop to 2hrs when gaming. Heavy CPU usage will also push the drain up and the battery life down towards the three hours mark. Average battery life for the normal user looks to be about 20-30% less than on a 10” netbook, about 4 hours with the included 48Wh battery. If Lenovo had dropped in a high capacity battery we would be looking at a much more interesting 5hr figure but that’s not the case. I like the build quality and the 1366×768 screen is OK for my eyes at standard settings in this 11.6” frame. It’s also good for some applications that require 768 pixels vertically before they install or run.
Performance is good but not in a new league compared to the latest Atom N570 and Ion2 platform. I honestly expected more from the CPU and I’m confused at the 3D test results I’ve seen. In general, it’s a well-balance system and performs most daily tasks well. In my daily routine, a largely web-based office existence, the S205 performs well. The keyboard and mouse are impressive and when combined with the screen, it’s a noticeably less stressful experience than when using a netbook.
For the price, I paid 399 Euros, the Lenovo S205 is a high quality, well balanced and flexible device that offers enough power for everyday computing, some gaming and an impressive show of high-definition playback performance. It’s a sensible choice, almost boring, but one that will keep many happy and provide a good upgrade from a 2-year old netbook.
I was really expecting more from the E-350 CPU and it’s clear from early tests that this isn’t the comfortable, ultra-mobile 720p editing solution that I’m looking for. 3hrs rendering battery life equates to about 45 minutes of 720p video rendering. While that might be enough for a days worth of clips, it’s doesn’t leave enough battery life left for typing the articles (although there’s some scope for typing while rendering here – it seems to multitask well.) Like the Dual-core Atom and C-50 devices, this is for 480p only and I’d class it in the high-end netbook performance category.
An SSD is going to boost startup performance nicely but with the disk appearing to perform well anyway, it may not be as noticeable as on some other devices. I love the build quality and want to keep the S205 but I know there are better solutions out there. Your suggestions for next-in-line on this test series are welcome! I’m looking at Corei3, i5 solutions next.
Don’t panic. I’m not changing the scope of UMPCPortal. We remain focused on ultra mobile computing solutions of 10” and below with a target weight of 1KG and under. What I did do today though is to go out of that range to buy in an interesting platform and a potential solution for myself. The Lenovo S205 11.6” laptop.
The Lenovo S201 is available now and includes the AMD Fusion platform based on the Zacate 1.6Ghz dual-core CPU. I want to get a feel for the performance / watt ratio of the platform and to think about how small a design could be made around this solution.
I’m also taking the next step in my Ultra Mobile Video Editing project for which 1.4KG of video editing solution is actually very lightweight. If I couple this with the new features I have on the Nokia N8, we’re talking about a 1.6KG 720p recording and editing suite. That’s 400gm lighter than my previous camera and netbook solution!
The other reason I bought it is because of my changing requirements. The Samsung Galaxy Tab has taken away all the social media activity I used to do on my netbook. It’s now my first port of call for email, for news updates and even for short-form blogging, image editing and uploads. I rarely use the netbook now so I can afford to think about optimising for the things I really need out of a laptop.
Video editing – Requiring performance, battery life and screen resolution of 1366×768 minimum (for many applications)
Desktop PC for day-to-day work
1.4KG is about 200gm more than the average netbook and the increased footprint isn’t going to worry me on the few occasions I am out and about with it. As I mentioned above, in my work at expo’s, conferences and events, I’ll actually be better off if I can slot the N8 in as my video camera.
The cost is interesting too. Last week I was upgrading a €299 Acer Aspire One Netbook with about 120 Euros worth of operating system and RAM enhancements that the Lenovo offers for €399 out-of-the-box!
Today I’ll be unboxing the Lenovo S201 and videoing it with the Nokia N8. I will attempt to edit the 720p video on the Lenovo and you’ll hear fairly soon if it was efficient or simply too slow. Watch out for the video and some first-thoughts later.
Update 1: Rendering out a 720p, 4Mbps video right now and it looks to be using 16.5W (screen-on 30%, wifi on. 14w with radios disabled and screen off ) and taking 4x real time to process. I’m using Windows Live Movie Maker for the first test. Importing 720p into Movie Maker required downconversion for the editing process too. That takes up a long time so i’ll be looking for an alternative software solution that doesn’t have that input conversion stage.
Thanks to Ndevil for the tip on the S201 which was available in my local Conrad Electronics Shop this morning.
In Part 1 of this series we put aside the idea of ARM-based video editing based on the requirement for higher levels of CPU processing power and tight coupling of hardware and software. Two very interesting solutions have just appeared that could dovetail together as an ARM-based solution and possibly enable 720p video editing on-the-go. Even if you haven’t got an iPad2, some new software for the Nokia N8 will enable netbook-level H.264 editing.
Last week Apple launched the iPad2 and it turns out that it’s quite the performer in terms of rendering 720p videos through the iMovie application. Based on the measurements we can only assume it’s got a hardware H.264 encoder that iMovie is using to speed up the encoding process. Because of the CPU and GPU inprovements, the editing process looks smooth too. You won’t be able to do b-roll cutaways but I bet you’ll see that included in the next iMovie release for iOS.
This morning I’ve also learnt about a new camera application for the Nokia N8 which enables 480p H.264 recording and continuous auto-focus. As I write this I’m rendering a titled, cross-faded 480p video taken with the CameraPro N8 application in Windows Live Movie Maker. It was a smooth editing process which might surprise some of you because I’m using a netbook to do it.
Put the two together and, if iMovie can import and work with Nokia N8 videos (they are .mp4 files containing H.264 videos but there are some interesting advanced settings in the CameraPro app that can teak bitrates, codecs and sizes) then you might have the most flexible, ultra-mobile video camera, editing and posting solution yet. The iPad2 weighs 600gm (possibly 630gm for the 3G version) and the Nokia N8 weighs 135gm. That’s an amazing, seriously amazing sub 800gm, 1.7lbs and the total cost of both, with 3G, is under 1000 Euro. 720p-capable, 480p when on-the-go and direct posting to YouTube.
Ongoing and outstanding: Does the iPad2 import videos from the Nokia N8 and can iMovie work with the imported videos without conversion? One would need to connect the N8 via the camera connection kit either via USB or by removing the Micro-SD card, slotting it into an SD card adaptor. I’m waiting to have this confirmed. I’m hoping that this author has the answer soon.
Even if the Nokia N8 files don’t work with the iPad, it enables netbook usage which opens up the user to more software options. Windows Live Movie Maker can handle the 480p files without re-rendering for editing and output a 480p WMV file at a time ratio of 3.24 mins per minute of video rendered. For clips of 5 mins or less, as are many mobile videos, this is acceptable.
Here’s a 480p video posted directly from the N8 to YouTube via Pixelpipe. It was a 92MB upload and the bitrate was just over 3Mbps. It would make sense to try this at 2.5Mbps and via a service that posts direct to the YouTube API to cut down time and failure-points.
Obviously you should watch this in HQ and at full-frame size.
Here’s the same source video edited in Windows Live Movie Maker with titles and crossfades. The output format from Movie Maker is WMV which means there could be some degradation in quality as the file is converted back to H.264 at YouTube. Update: I see some frame-rate and smoothness issues. You too?
I used the Acer Aspire One 522 for this and the rendering time ratio was 3.24:1 (3 mins 15s per minute of video)
As a camera, the N8 just keeps on getting better and with developers continuing to write specialized apps for it you wonder why there aren’t many other good quality internet and app-enabled cameras around. It’s these sort of enhancements that just aren’t possible on closed-firmware dedicated cameras.
I plan to buy a 3G-enabled iPad2 when they become available here in Europe but I’m sure others are going to test out the N8/iPad2 combo beforehand. When they do, I’ll try and link the information in below. If you know of any articles or videos on the subject, please feel free to link them in the comments below (one URL per comment otherwise the comment is held for approval.)
In Part 1 of this series I covered three strategies for ultra mobile video editing and decided that the traditional, PC-based solution was the only real choice for today. I also set out some parameters.
The solution comes in three parts.
1 – The Camera
2 – The PC
3 – The Editing Software
The parameters I’ve set for the project are:
PC and software to cost less than 600 Euros
PC to be less than 1.5KG with 12” screen or less.
Total camera + PC solution to weigh less than 2KG and cost less than 1000 Euro
Source video should be 720p
Video sent to YouTube should be 480p minimum
Editing solution must include watermarking, overlays, crossfades, and multiple audio tracks.
I have personal requirements for the camera that mean it also needs to be able to take photographs for the site. It should also include self-shooting (front or swivel viewfinder), built-in stereo microphone. 28mm wide-angle capability. Good low-light performance and long zoom range for close-up to press conference zoom-ins. An external mic input and hot-shoe would be an advantage.
It this stage I have two cameras in mind. The Canon SX20IS and the new (currently unavailable) Fujifilm HS20 EXR which is said to have some good, and very helpful, low-light options. It doesn’t have the self-shooting viewfinder though. I’m still looking at other solutions but for this post I want to refine the choice of PC down to a shortlist.
The current shortlist is shown below. Please feel free to propose alternatives.
12” Intel Atom solution: Asus 1215N (Intel N550 + Ion2 with 16-core CUDA) 1.45KG
12” AMD Fusion Solution: Asus 1215B (AMD E-350 APU) 1.4KG or HP DM1Z (AMD E-350)
Netbook solutions (*1): Samsung NC210 (N550 dual-core + 6-cells – 1.22Kg) or N350 (N550 + 3 cells – 1KG) or NF310 (N550 + 6 cells + 1366×768 screen – 1.3KG) or ASUS 1015PN (N550+Ion2 – 1.25KG) or ASUS 1015B (AMD C-50) or Toshiba NB550D (AMD C-50) or Acer Aspire One 522 (with AMD C-50)
13” devices will remain out of scope because of size. I have to draw the line somewhere and I feel that 13” just goes beyond what is acceptable on a seat-back table, in one hand and in a small bag.
(*1) At this stage it seems fairly clear to me that a dual-core Intel Atom alone isn’t going to be enough on its own to process 720P video which means the pure netbook solutions fall away leaving only the Ion2-enhanced Asus 1215N where CUDA could help push the performance. The E-350 CPU performance isn’t a huge step forward from the N550 but with the 3D and HD decoding support, should help the editing experience and, possibly, a 720p-to-480p conversion stage that allows faster editing. Note that the ION2 in the Acer P1015PN doesn’t have the CUDA core required for enhanced video rendering performance. The AMD C-50 based solutions aren’t as powerful as Intel N550 for general purpose computing but do include video decoding support (not hardware encoding) which could help in a 720p to 480p pre-editing conversion process. Due to this, the NB550D and 1215B stay in the shortlist.
Interestingly, the new Intel Oaktrail platform includes 720p encoding and decoding in hardware. Unfortauntely this won’t help much in the video rendering process where almost everything is done in software. It could help with a 720p to 480p conversion process before editing but the CPU and GPU is then unlikely to be strong enough to support a smooth video editing experience.
Am I considering tablets like the Hanvon B10 and the EeePC Slate E121? No, because being lap-capable is critical and inputting text around a video is a requirement for almost everyone. Adding a USB or Bluetooth keyboard is considered a point-of-failure and would bring the weight up by 200gm.
In summary, we have an entry point of 11.1” screen and a minimum weight of 1.3KG. I’m surprised that I can’t find anything in the 1.0-1.2KG range. The only solutions available are all close to 1K Euro which puts them out of scope.
Prices of the items on the shortlist range from €300 to just over €600
Note: Why limit the price? I want to come up with a solution that as many people as possible can consider.
Where do we start?
I will say now that I’m looking for someone that can supply these devices for testing because i’m not about to go out and buy 5 laptops so – Free series sponsorship to any reseller that can help us with this project – but I will put my own funds into the pot and start with the smallest, lightest, cheapest option. Later today I will be heading out to pick up the 299 Euro Acer Aspire One 522 with the AMD Fusion CPU and 720p screen. For that price, it would be stupid not to!
I wrote a few days ago on my personal blog about my mobile video editingI project aims. Soon after I posted that, I had a long talk with @jkkmobile who, like me, is always looking for ways to improve speed and quality while keeping the weight down. We both deeply understand the tech involved, the requirements and challenges and have come up with a set of initial thoughts that we hopebare worth sharing.
To recap, the three areas of interest are cloud-based processing, arm-based smartphone and tablet processing and traditional x86 laptops. The target for this project is a sub €600 solution that is able to post 16:9 HQ quality (480p) edited content with watermarks, titles, crossfade and other cpu-bound processes. The computer solution should weigh less than 1.5 kg. Trust me, this is quite a challenge as you’ll see below.
We quickly discussed the idea of cloud-based editing but while that might be possible over good cable networks, over 3g networks it is too unreliable and too slow. We’re both interested in this as a future possibility and Clesh is a service we’re watching closely.
As for ARM based editing on smartphones and tablets, again, there are issues. While the technology is maturing quickly and there are some interesting software solutions out there (Reel Director on IOS, Movie Studio on Honeycomb Android) these solutions need tight integration of hardware and software. We’re thinking of future cameras that include camera hardware you just don’t get in ‘general purpose’ smartphones and Tablets. For a smooth and fast editing experience we also need to wait for at least the next generation of ARM platforms. There’s definitely an opportunity for someone to make a niche ARM/ANDROID camera for mobile reporters although we’re not sure that the carriers would be too pleased about the upload usage! Software needs to mature too. Of course, it doesn’t mean you can’t post the occasional 30 second clip from a phone without editing. I plan to do some of that using the Galaxy Tab which, although not a 16:9 solution, records in 720×480 and has some very simple and easy sharing tools.
Todays video editing solutions are very much about traditional computing. X86 processors, desktop operating system, rich software, common file formats and separate devices for the camera and editing parts of the process. Many will actually tell you that you shouldn’t even think about a low cost laptop. As for netbook, people that do video editing for a living often laugh.
Having used a netbook for editing and posting videos at expos’s I know its possible. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t do it because JKK and I have over 20 million combined YouTube views and most of these were done on-the-go with a netbook but as I mentioned in the last post, the requirements have changed over the last 2 years and 4:3 VGA videos aren’t acceptable to many. Its a trend, it works against the mobile user but I (JKK already produces videos in 16:9) have to play along now if I’m to be taken seriously.
JKK and I agree that there are a number of approaches that can be made in the x86 world.
Firstly we’ve discounted the idea of using Apple Mac products with iMovie for mobile video editing due to the import process which converts video into the AIC format usable by the video editing software. The process simply takes too long. There are other software solutions though which could be interesting on the MacBook Air product, as long as there is no import processing. This needs further research but even if the import problem could be solved, the price of the Apple MBA products is outside our range. I’m focusing this project on low-cost and lightweight solutions.
In our discussion we repeatedly came back to Nvidias CUDA technology which allows a certain amount of general purpose computing to be done on the graphics module. It is truly a game-changing technology but it does require software to be re-written to take advantage of it.
You see, graphics modules (gpu) are very specific processing engines for 2d, 3D and video decoding. In some cases the GPU can also handle encoding but these basic processes are often not what you need for video editing. Consider a fade, an overlay, a watermark or a transition. These processes require general purpose processing on a frame by frame basis. This is why CUDA is so interesting for mobile and low power video editing; it breaks the requirement for pure CPU processing.
CUDA doesn’t just appear in high end graphics solutions because it also appears in the Nvidia ion2 platform that is offered with the netbook-class Pinetrail CPU. Beware though, this ion2 variant doesn’t include the CUDA you need for video processing. The lowest power processing platform that we have found that includes full CUDA capability is the Ion2 12″ Netbook platform. it couples the D525 dual-core, 1.8Ghz Atom with the full 16-core CUDA engine. They are not the best mobile cpus (speedstep is missing) but they are in a processing class that easily outpaced traditional netbook platforms. The ion2 solution also allows the platform to fall back to the embedded graphics thus saving power when the GPU is not needed. The platform also idles down to a very low power drain state. For our purposes, its a very interesting platform.
Examples of devices that use this platform are the Acer EeePC 1215n and the Acer Lamborghini VX6 which even offers a useful 3GB of memory. Both are around 1.5kg in weight.
But what about dropping CUDA and going for a general purpose CPU with a bit more power than Atom? It’s possible. The Lenovo U160 offers CPU options up to core i5. Could a boost in cpu equal the CUDA solution? It would certainly be more useful for general purpose activities and opens up the choice of software to that which isn’t optimized for CUDA. Using a higher-end architecture with faster bus speeds and one well matched to a GPU for more efficiency might bring benefits.
Two choices in the low-cost area that I’m looking at are the Lenovo U160 and the Acer Aspire 1830T. Both are available with a low power Core i5 and weigh about 1.4kg. The Acer has the better performance and battery life of the two according to reports I’ve read. Cost is relatively high though and it is going to be tough to find a solution under 600 Euro.
The other interesting thoughts we discussed was that of the keyboard requirement. Could we used Tablet PCs and save weight and space?
Editing movies is largely a mouse operation which means it could be suited to tablet operation. In general though, battery sizes are smaller (and spares more expensive.) I haven’t seen any Tablets with the CUDA 12″ netbook platform and there are only a few low cost options with laptop cpus. The Hanvon B10 is one of them. We see the advantage of the ‘modular’ tablet solution but we’re both wanting to keep or lapping scenario, the keyboard and the protection it brings when folded together.
JKK and I discussed a bunch of other important items too. Fast SSD helps a lot. Using fast SD cards means you can edit from the SD card without having to copy it to the hard drive first.
We also discussed file formats, bitrate and sizes. We’re currently in agreement that h.264 is the format that provides most flexibility but there’s a huge CPU load associated with h.264 that is used to compress files down much further than standard mpeg4 part 2 codecs. The important thing to note is that our initial and most important file transfer is from an SD card in a PC. The bitrate and file size can be large without affecting the transfer time significantly. Final compression into h.264 at 2 or even 3 mbps doesn’t save that much in final file size and its not important to us how YouTube sends the file out so why even bother with h.264?.
It seems to me that a recording format of Mpeg-2 at a bitrate of 10mbps would be acceptable for our sub 10 minute clips. They would be relatively easy to work with. One thing to note on this is that CUDA might not work with mpeg2 which brings us back to using a general purpose CPU. Testing is needed here. If we can find video editing software that uses CUDA for mpeg-2 editing (note that we also need to choose our output file format carefully too) then mpeg2 could be exactly the right choice of source codec.
There is other slight problem here in that there are very very few cameras that record in mpeg2 now.
Resolution, bitrate and aspect ratio.
16:9 is the ratio we need to aim for with YouTube. The lowest acceptable resolution is 854×480 with a bitrate of around 2mbps. This triggers HQ encoding in YouTube although I’ve had no problems with my 640×480 resolutions showing as HQ. Another option would be 720×480 which isn’t quite 16:9 but doesn’t look as bad 640×480.
Note: Recording in the resolution you want to output in will save processing.
Recording in 720p (1280×720) is another option but could require re-encoding to 480p before using in an editor because it’s a huge jump in pixels per frame. Ideally the camera will allow 480p and 780p at various bitrates. If you consider the requirement for viewfinder and Mic input you will only really find solutions in the video camera world. Combining a digital camera with these video requirements results in very little choice.
As for bitrates for the final upload file, it will depend on final codec and resolution. To ensure a reasonable chance of using 3g services to upload the file, a bitrate of around 2mbps needs to be used. For a 480p resolution it means you really need an advanced codec like h.264 to preserve the quality.
So in summary, mpeg2 at 854×480 at a relatively high bitrate seems like a good source and editing choice. Output files should be the same resolution but at around 2mbps bitrate in the h.264 codec.
What does jkkmobile use? He currently records in mpeg2 at a 16:9 ratio. Resolution is 960×540, bitrate either 6 or 9mbps. He converts that down to 854×480 which is 480p resolution. I’m not sure what format and bitrate he outputs to send to YouTube. If he has enough cpu power he will be using h.264 but he may be using wmv or something else that it is a little easier on the CPU. He certainly has the optimal settings for source files. His camera is a Canon FS100 which you can’t buy any more. There are other SD cameras from Canon that also offer 16:9 capture though.
A quick step back to the world of camera products shows that 1080p rules and it’s difficult to know exactly what alternative resolutions a device will offer. In addition, h.264 is the popular codec which at anything bigger than 480p resolution, will be a problem.
Can CUDA do all that we require or are we going to have to rely 100% on a general purpose CPU? From what I have read and been told, most video editing software that is CUDA-enabled is doing so on output to h.264 only. I’ve seen test result with mpeg2 source formats too so mpeg2 again looks like the best source format.
There is only one way to find out. I’m arranging an Asus 1215n loan device for CeBIT next week and I plan to do as much testing as I can. I will use JKKs cam to create some 16:9 mpeg2 source and test it with some CUDA-enabled software. Power Director from Cyberlink looks like a good starting point.