Technology Sneek Peek: Adobe® Mercury Playback Engine
It is a game changer
By Dennis Radeke | November 27, 2009
Lets start with the big, bold, brash, brazen, big-time, blow-your-mind (are there any other 'big' adjectives I've missed?) statement about the Adobe® Mercury Playback Engine: It is a game changer.
Haven't heard about the Mercury Playback engine yet? Good - Read on!
Let's start with the back-story or history on the Adobe Mercury Playback engine. Back at IBC in September, the show happened in Amsterdam and while Adobe was there talking about several things including Adobe Story - over at the NVIDIA booth, we were showing a technology preview with quiet undertones. It didn't have the name Mercury and it wasn't even really the big thing we were showing. However, John at FXGuide was over there and among several other tidbits, included Adobe in a podcast that he did over at the show. A month crawls along and during that time, the podcast starts to get some mentions in various forums and chatter amongst the creative crowd... People start to get excited about the possibilities and ask questions. Here's the high bandwidth version for your viewing pleasure.
Let me be clear before I go any further: This is a technology demo only and while Adobe is very excited, it's not something that is available now in CS4 nor are we commenting about exactly when it will make an appearance. Now, back to our regularly scheduled exciting blog post...
Somewhere along the way, amidst the growing awareness at Adobe, we conferred upon how to let our customers know about this exciting technology that we were working on and how to respond to the growing awareness of it. Simple questions like, 'How do we respond?', 'How much do we tell customers' and several more like it. Another question was, 'What do we call it?' For, as each person began to play with prototypes of this technology, each was convinced of its incredible potential. This group included myself and my first casual examination of the Mercury Playback engine convinced me of it's importance - more on that later.
Mercury as a name is interesting. You could think of Greek/Roman mythology. The God Hermes/Mercury was the winged messenger (makes me think of Gustav Holst's "The Planets.") Mercury was fast, which makes sense in this context. There's also the idea of Quicksilver, another name for the element Mercury, which again connotes speed and value (quick + silver). Better perhaps is the idea of fluidity in the sense of the fluid editing experience that the Mercury Playback Engine creates. Mercury the element has several unique properties, the foremost of which is it is the only metal that has a liquid state at room temperatures. The Mercury Playback Engine has the potential of being very unique among the NLE players like the uniqueness of the element.
All of these things offer some shading and nuance to my thoughts about Adobe's Mercury and cause me to have this level of enthusiasm.
So, here we are today - what is the Mercury Playback engine about? In a word, performance! It makes Premiere Pro do cartwheels and flips and barely breaks a sweat. It's like rocket fuel for your car. It's flat out incredible...
In my first test of Mercury, I dropped several P2 clips on a timeline, made them picture-in-picture and looked to see if there were any dropped frames during playback...nada. I added more clips, bringing it up to eight or nine on my HP XW9400 with 12 cores of AMD goodness... Think it's the CPU? No! It's only being used at about 20-30%. It's GPU! I keep going and there is no hesitation in Premiere Pro. Okay, lets add some color correction to each one and while we're at it, lets drop in some blurs (that will stop it right?) Still playin' like buttah!
I could go on but I think you get the idea. As the FX Guide video described, we had 4 or 5 RED 4K images playing in real-time with very little CPU overhead which enabled us to do so much more in other areas.
So as a thought, lets put the pieces together. Premiere Pro CS4 is 64-bit optimized and making huge inroads into the high-end and having people all over the world taking another look if they're not using it today. In October, we announced that the next version of Premiere Pro would be 64 bit native and 64 bit only. So, in the future, not only will you have the most current programming code on either platform (very important!), you will have among the best CPU utilization in the business, you will have 64 bit native goodness throughout and you have the insane performance of the GPU backing you up to make more things possible at once than ever before. What's not to like? Good question - lets take some now...
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