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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  • rnj - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    it is not gamma settings definitely, i noticed this as well.
  • ahar - Friday, November 20, 2009 - link

    I tried 10.1 on my system which has a Pentium E6500 and 9500GT and the latest Nvidia drivers. The CPU utilisation went way down whilst watching a HD stream on the BBC iPlayer but the image quality had also dropped considerably. There were noticeable block artefacts - it looks like the AA which was previously applied was no longer happening. I had a quick play around with the PureVideo settings it the Nvidia control panel but nothing seemed to make a difference.
    I've reverted back to Flash 10 now.
  • magicalz - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    Hardware video decoding of H.264 content in Flash Player 10.1 is supported on AMD/ATI products with
    UVD2 with the ATI Catalyst? Software Suite, starting with version 9.11 for the ATI Radeon? family of
    products, and driver release 8.68 for the ATI FirePro? family of products.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    Well, that would explain things, though I *swear* it said Catalyst 9.10 earlier today/tonight. I think Adobe fixed a typo, because I even followed a link at one point to download the Mobile 9.10 drivers.
  • Scali - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    You can download the 9.11 RC from AMD, as it is also required for the 2.0 beta4 release of the Stream SDK (with OpenCL support).

    Perhaps you could try and see if it makes a difference? I'd like to see that, especially since I have ordered a Radeon 5770 a few days ago.
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    The 9.11 RC you mention through AMD's developer site does not support Flash 10.1 GPU acceleration, I just confirmed. Waiting for a driver that does from AMD, also trying to see when AMD will make it public.

    Take care,
  • Scali - Thursday, November 19, 2009 - link

    Yes, it seems that AMD released the 9.11 drivers at about the same time as I made that comment.
    The final 9.11 release should have the GPU acceleration for Flash... However, it didn't seem like they left the OpenCL support in the final release.
    So the 9.11 RC drivers and the 9.11 final release seem to be very different :)
  • hechacker1 - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    1. So I'm assuming flash now takes advantage of DXVA2 EVR rendering, so the GPU is now responsible for decoding quality? I should now be able to adjust my AVIVO settings for flash? I'm not too sure how EVR/dxva and the video card is related.

    2. Too bad linux isn't yet supported. Flash on linux is notoriously bad. Nvidia is pushing their accelerated VDPAU, and many software players now include support for it. ATI and intel though are doing something different, but it seems binding are available to translate. So hopefully in the near future linux gets a modern bitstream accelerated video acceleartion framework.

    3. Does it work with H.264 only? Or does it also work with sorenson and vp6 codecs? So youtube HQ or better is mp4 always?
  • hechacker1 - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    And thanks for the article!
  • blyndy - Tuesday, November 17, 2009 - link

    HTML5 is the real long-term solution, not flash 10.1.

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