Despite the recent prophecy from Steve Jobs, publicly available statistics show that Adobe Flash reaches 99% of the worldwide audience. Not satisfied with that, Adobe has just released its 10.1 update which offers many new improvements. more on that to follow. For now, KitGuru has a very specific ‘need to know’ in mind.
Our focus today is entirely on GPU based H.264 hardware video decoding. This offers high quality video while ensuring that your central processing unit (CPU) is less loaded and subsequently free to handle other tasks.
So why the big deal? Well for those of you using a high end quad core processor this really won’t make much of a ‘real world’ difference. However, while desktop systems offer more power than a normal user can shake a stick at in the quad core processing area, the world is going mobile. And mobile processors are created with a different set of parameters in mind – like cost, efficiency and battery life.
If you’ve been unfortunate enough to watch content on sites like Youtube, with a low end processor, you will already be familar with 70-100% loading on your CPU. This presents as an unresponsive and ‘laggy’ system.
Flash Player 10.1 has been designed to use processing power within your graphicschip to decode H.264 video files, while displaying the output as a high quality stream. There are other benefits. For example, ATI’s Stream Technology GPU processing can not only improve performance, it can actually also improve the image quality.
To test this new combination of software components, we’ve also managed to get early access to Catalyst 10.6 – so let’s see if the CPU overhead drops, the images get better and the world is a nice place. Let’s see…
Within Catalyst 10.6 there is a driver option you can toggle to enable a split screen mode.
The screenshot above shows the original ‘default’ settings on the left and the adjusted view on the right, seperated by a red line. We have altered contrast, sharpness and colour to show you differences. We love these options as they enhance the quality of the image so much.
You can see the youtube video we’ve created to demonstrating these features. If you want to look at a higher quality source file, then click this Big Buck Bunny Catalyst 10.6 Demo (724). You can see the enhanced green grass, improved contrast and sharpened image. The increased quality is clearly noticeable.
These improvements can also be applied to flash content. Right-click inside the flash playback window to launch Adobe Flash player pop up menu, then left click on settings.
Then make sure you have enabled hardware acceleration. Be aware if you want to play now with acceleration on, you will need to reload the video.
Then head into the Video panel of the Catalyst Driver and go to the section on the far right, marked ‘all settings’.
Basic quality settings – check ‘use automatic deinterlacing’ and ‘pulldown detection’.
You can adjust edge enhancement to ‘sharpen’ the image and ‘de-noise’ to reduce image noise and artifacting.
The higher you move the edge enhancement, the sharper it will appear, but if you move the slider too far it will appear oversharp and rather unattractive. [Too much of a good thing? - Ed]
Color vibrance can also enhance the image depending on your screen and ‘brighter whites’ can also make images look cleaner in the highlight areas. Dynamic range we would set to ‘full’ (0-255), this is generally the automatic setting, however its worth checking.
Lastly you can turn on split screen mode to view the ‘before’ and ‘after’ images on the left and right of the display.
To get the benefits of GPU enabled ATI H.264 video encoding all you need is the following (please note the unusually copious use of ‘TM’ marks as we copy and paste with abandon).
An ATI Radeon™ discrete graphics card or integrated graphics product which supports ATI Stream technology
- ATI Radeon™ HD 4000 and HD 5000 series graphics
- ATI Mobility Radeon™ HD 4000 series graphics (and higher)
- ATI Radeon™ HD 3000 integrated graphics (and higher)
- ATI FirePro™ V3750, V5700, V7750, V8700 and V8750 graphics accelerators (and later)
- ATI Catalyst™ 10.3 (or newer) Driver Package (with ATI Catalyst Control Center™ and Display Drivers)
- Adobe® Flash® Player 10.1
- Windows® XP, Windows® Vista, Windows® 7, 32-bit or 64-bit
The latest ATI Catalyst Package (10.6 at time of press) can be downloaded from