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 Flash
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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  • Autisticgramma - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    I saw all this happening long ago, when adobe aquired flash to begin with.

    Adobe used to just make Acrobat reader, it sucked then it sucks now, its just so embedded in any corperate high-wire act its stoopid. Not to mention all the memory space want on start up, leaves in memory ect sloppy from day one.

    Macromedia was the company that created flash (at least to my memory). When macromedia owned it, it wasn't bloated crap ware. And then again we weren't streaming whole shows, and 720I 1080P were not the buzzwords of the day.

    I realize homestarrunner and illwillpress are not fully transmitted/encoded video, they are created in flash for flash.
    But I don't see how this is enough to require gpu acceleration, isn't there a way to streamline this? Why doesn't other video kill everything else with such efficency? Are we sure they're not just accelerating how fast my computer can be exploited, this is a net application.

    I'm not a coder, or some software guru, just a dude that works on computers. Could some one explain, or link me to something, that explains how this isn't an incoding issue, and a NEEDZ M0r3 PoWA issue? Adobe on my GPU - Sounds like "Sure I need some nike xtrainers for my ears?
  • cosmotic - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    Flash original came from FutureSplash.

    You really need to work on your spelling. =/

    Video decode is extremely CPU intensive. This is why most video decode now happens (at least partially) on the GPU.
  • PrinceGaz - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    Video decode is quite CPU intensive, but nowhere near as heavy as video encoding with decent quality settings. Also, all current HD video formats will be able to be handled by the CPU within a few years once sex and octal-core or higher CPUs are mainstream.

    The situation we are in currently regarding HD video playback of MPEG4 AVC type video is rather like the mid-late 1990's with DVD MPEG2 video, where hardware assistance was required for the CPUs of the day (typically around 200-400MHz) and you could even buy dedicated MPEG2 decoder cards. Within a few years, the CPU was doing all of the important decoding work with the only assistance being from graphics-cards for some later steps (and even that was not necessary as the CPU could do it easily if required). The same will apply with HD video in due course, especially as the boundary between a CPU and GPU narrows.
  • bcronce - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    I can watch 1080p 1920x1080 HD videos from Apple's site with 10% cpu, silky smooth. Now that is 80% of one of my logical CPUs, but that's also some crazy nice graphics.

    A Core i5 dual core should handle full HD videos with sub 25% cpu usage.
  • Autisticgramma - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    Thanks for that.

    Misspellers Untie! Engrish is strictly a method of conveying information/ideas.
    If ya get the gist the rest is irrelevant, at least to me.
  • johnsonx - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    Flash has always had a Hardware Acceleration checkbox, at least in 9 & 10. What did it do?
  • KidneyBean - Wednesday, November 18, 2009 - link

    For video, I think it allowed the GPU to scale the screen size. So now you can maximize or resize the video without it taking up extra CPU resources.
  • SanLouBlues - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    Adobe is kinda right about Linux, but we're getting closer:">
  • phaxmohdem - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    I'm still rocking my trusty 8800GTX card. My heart sunk a little bit when I read that G80 cards are not supported. This is the first time since I bought the ol' girl years ago that she has not been able to perform.

    However, I also have an 8600GT that runs two extra monitors in my workstation, and I always do my Hulu watching on one of those monitors anyway, so things may still work out between us for a while longer.
  • CharonPDX - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    I have an original early 2006 MacBook Pro (2.0 GHz Core Duo; 2 GB RAM, Radeon X1600) running Snow Leopard 10.6.2.

    I not only don't see any difference, but I think something was wrong with your Mac Pro. Hulu 480P and YouTube 720P videos have been fully watchable on my system, in full screen on a 1080p monitor, all along.

    When playing your same Hulu video (The Office - Murder, 480P, full screen) with both versions of Flash, I get a nice stable full frame rate (I don't know how to measure frame rate on OS X, but it looks the same as when I watch it on broadcast TV,) with 150% CPU usage. (Average; varies from 130% to 160%; but seems to hover in the 148-152 range the vast majority of the time.)

    And Legend of the Seeker, episode 1 in HD skips a few frames, but is perfectly watchable.

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