For the past couple of years NVIDIA has been telling us about how amazing its GPUs are at non-gaming applications. We kept seeing slides like this one that showed exactly how fast NVIDIA's GPUs were compared to dual and quad-core CPUs:


The performance advancements were incredible, NVIDIA was promising upwards of 100x gains over the fastest workstation CPUs. Unfortunately we couldn't get too terribly excited as most of these applications were far beyond the reach of the typical desktop user. Medical imaging and scientific analysis benefitted tremendously from GPU acceleration, but it's rare that a gamer with a $400 GPU is going to be searching for oil deposits in his/her spare time on the same machine.

What NVIDIA needed was that killer application that actually had relevance to the desktop user, and it was that sort of application that NVIDIA lacked. Until recently.

Enter Elemental Technologies, the makers of an unfortunately named application called Badaboom (cue cheesy mobster promo videos). Elemental took one of the most time consuming tasks on the desktop, and offloaded a great deal of it to the GPU.

We've seen the benefits of GPU accelerated video decoding, especially with the recent transition to high definition video formats encoded in MPEG-2/VC-1/H.264. Blu-ray movies went from completely unplayable on many machines to a total non-issue with the advent of hardware HD video decode acceleration in GPUs. Both ATI and NVIDIA resorted to specialized hardware to provide support for the full decode pipeline of codecs like H.264, but the small addition of die space was more than worth it. It would take at least 8 of Intel's cores to have the same video decoding power of a single GPU outfitted with either ATI's UVD or NVIDIA's PureVideo HD decode engine - the GPU approach is simply more sensible.

As soon as we got GPU video decode acceleration we wanted to know if/when it would be possible to accelerate video encoding on the GPU. For years ATI and NVIDIA have been telling us that video encoding could be accelerated on the GPU, but for years we were given nothing more than that statement. With the latest round of GPU releases things seemed different. Alongside its GT200 GPU, NVIDIA sent out very early copies of Elemental's Badaboom GPU accelerated video transcoder. Badaboom promised the unimaginable - GPU accelerated H.264 video transcoding at many times the performance of the fastest Intel CPUs.

The initial beta showed promise: the performance gains were significant, but we couldn't really measure quality. Today we have a near-final build of Elemental's Badaboom and we're able to look at the full picture. Today it's more than just about performance, we're looking at the feasibility of the first mainstream GPU-accelerated video transcoding application.

The Application
POST A COMMENT

38 Comments

View All Comments

  • Staples - Monday, August 18, 2008 - link

    From the intro

    Medical imaging and scientific analysis benefitted tremendously from GPU acceleration, but it's rare that you are a gamer with a $400 GPU is going to be searching for oil deposits in his/her spare time on the same machine.
    Reply
  • Dobs - Tuesday, August 19, 2008 - link

    Perhaps you can help me understand what Medical Imaging has to do with searching for oil deposits? Reply
  • Staples - Monday, August 18, 2008 - link

    Or maybe that should be:

    a typical gamer

    Probably the latter.
    Reply
  • Doormat - Monday, August 18, 2008 - link

    "I want a CUDA enabled version of x264"

    Amen to that. Plus possibly a WPF version of Handbrake to make it look more elegant. I could care less about video preview.

    Also, does BadaBoom support reading from ISOs or do I have to mount with DaemonTools?

    I have a Q9450 OC'd to 3.2GHz, so I'm pretty happy with my x264 performance. My iPhone movies are usually done in about 3x realtime (90 minute movie in 30 mintues) at 700-900kbit/s, and the PS3/360 movies are done a little bit quicker (since there is no resizing going on, just transcoding).
    Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, August 19, 2008 - link

    Badaboom doesn't support reading from ISOs, you have to mount with DT.

    -A
    Reply
  • Manabu - Monday, August 18, 2008 - link

    >> "I want a CUDA enabled version of x264"

    It was already tried: http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=139158">http://forum.doom9.org/showthread.php?t=139158

    Dark Shikari (x264 developer) said:

    "Given my experience so far in trying to port the motion search to CUDA, and Avail's hiring of a contractor to attempt to do so, I'd put the quote for porting the whole encoder somewhere on the level of a few million dollars... if you can even find people willing and able to do it."

    "GPU encoding has a lot of potential, but it has a lot of weaknesses too. Its a bit like programming for a Cell or an FPGA, except exponentially more of a nightmare."
    Reply
  • EvilBob - Monday, August 18, 2008 - link

    page 6 appears to have the wrong figure - according to the text, it should show energy use information, but the table currently rendering shows the badaboom regular v. pro comparison. Reply
  • sideshow23bob - Monday, August 18, 2008 - link

    Isn't the product name Badaboom maybe a Fifth Element reference considering the company has the name Elemental in its name. Just a guess. If that's the case it's slightly cooler. Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now