Huge Improvements under OS X

The release notes for the Flash 10.1 preview say the following about cross-platform hardware accelerated H.264 decoding support:

In Flash Player 10.1, H.264 hardware acceleration is not supported under Linux and Mac OS. Linux currently lacks a developed standard API that supports H.264 hardware video decoding, and Mac OS X does not expose access to the required APIs. We will continue to evaluate adding the feature to Linux and Mac OS in future releases.

Ouch. Linux isn’t ready and Apple isn’t open enough. That’s not to say that there aren’t major performance gains to be had.

I took the same Office clip I’d been using for all of the other tests and ran it on my Mac Pro at full screen (2560 x 1600). Using Activity Monitor I looked at the CPU utilization of the Flash Player plug-in. I compared both versions of Flash and saw a significant drop in CPU utilization:

Hulu Full Screen (2560 x 1600) Average CPU Utilization Flash 10.0.32.18 Flash 10.1.51.45
Hulu 480p - The Office - Murder 450% 190%

Going from roughly 450% down to 190% (or a bit over 10% of total CPU utilization across 16 threads) made full-screen Hulu playable on my machine. In the past I always had to run it in a smaller window, but thanks to Flash 10.1 I don’t have to any longer.

With actual GPU-accelerated H.264 decoding I’m guessing those CPU utilization numbers could drop to a remotely reasonable value. But it’s up to Apple to expose the appropriate hooks to allow Adobe to (eventually) enable that functionality.

Until then, even OS X users have something to look forward to with the Flash 10.1 upgrade.

Final Words

It's finally here. GPU accelerated video decode for Adobe Flash. Grab the preview and let us know how it fares on your system in the comments.

ATI and Intel Update
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  • JarredWalton - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    Note: Got this working. See update on page 5. Reply
  • duploxxx - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    interesting article although i think it is to soon with those beta drivers and versions.

    Did you guys happen to test also what the influence was on total power consumption, I mean due to utilizing certain gpu more reducing cpu i wonder if power consumption actually went up more by reducing the load on the cpu, since it is known that gpu (well at least the mid-high end) can consume way more then just the cpu.
    Reply
  • mrbean1500 - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    works fine on my 4770 9.11 drivers

    works without a hitch in ff and ie
    Reply
  • bcronce - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    "I’ve got a two socket, 16-thread, 3GHz, Nehalem Mac Pro as my main workstatio[...]
    But the one thing it can’t do is play anything off of Hulu in full screen without dropping frames."

    My Win7 2.66ghz corei7-920 plays Hulu fullscreen HD trailors/videos at 2% cpu with smooth playback. No, I'm not using that new flash either.
    Reply
  • cmdrdredd - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    If your CPU is crap you want this.

    If your CPU is newer than 2 years old, you couldn't care less because your CPU can handle full screen HD no problem.

    I ran some HD video off youtube and Hulu and I see no more than 20% usage on my Quad. So this is worthless to me, sure I suppose someone could benefit.

    This assumes you are running Windows.
    Reply
  • damianrobertjones - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    Is something wrong with the database?

    I was expecting to read an article on Flash and not about your Mac? Odd.
    Reply
  • tk11 - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    Although offloading some video decoding to the GPU sounds nice I'm surprised Adobe would bother with it while there CPU decoder leaves so much room for improvement.

    I just setup a test and encoded a test h264 video (1280x532) in mp4 format and created a test webpage with the video embeded using both windows media player (using core AVC codec) and flash video (JW Mediaplayer). I then played the video in IE 7 on my GF's laptop running a core2 duo underclocked at 1163MHz using each player. IE's CPU usage playing the video using WMP was less than 20%; Embed the same video with flash and CPU usage goes up to 49-50 percent... near max cpu usage as the player is not multithreaded.

    Why doesn't adobe focus on improving their dismal software decoder? A decent CPU decoder would also prevent all the silly GPU and platform requirements.

    Hardware scaling would certainly be nice to prevent performance drops when going full screen but wasting resources developing GPU video decoding while their CPU decoders are in such a sad state is a clear misappropriation of resources.
    Reply
  • cosmotic - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    How are you so sure that WMP isn't using hardware decoding? I can almost guarantee you that it is. Reply
  • Exodite - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    Playing video through DVXA, GPU-enabled, decoders I average about 2% CPU utilization for 720p and 5% for 1080p content, including other background tasks. This using a C2D E6600 overclocked to 3.0GHz and a Radeon 4870.

    If you're looking at a CPU utilization of 20-50%, even for a CPU clocked just over a third of what mine is, for lower resolution content you're not getting any GPU offloading.
    Reply
  • tk11 - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    Core AVC only supports hardware (CUDA) decoding on certian nvidia products that the laptop does not contain.
    Reply

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