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I’ve been a professional graphics card user for a series of years now. I’ve had 5 or 6 different models from the NVIDIA Quadro by PNY product line over the last few years…at the moment I have two dual-head cards in one workstation, lighting up four displays. I’ve become absolutely addicted to the speed of visual feedback I get while working on a system with a Quadro card installed…but Adobe CS5’s use of the GPU for edit effects preview changes everything…
The biggest return on my display card investment has historically been very fast previews from 3D applications and in my case, particularly After Effects. With CS4, Adobe added Open GL support for Photoshop which leveraged my graphics card investment even further.
Now, in CS5, Adobe Premiere Pro’s Mercury Playback Engine can employ the GPU cores on my NVIDIA Quadro FX 4800 by PNY to go to work processing the effects on my clips, freeing the CPU in my system to concentrate on video decoding and improving the responsiveness of my editing workstation significantly. With Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 supporting video from formats like AVCHD, XDcamHD, DSLR video, and RED RAW natively, a serious workstation is just a cost of doing business, but even a really beefy machine will be grunting during the kind of erratic access and playback of several tracks of MPEG4 based HD or RED RAW on the timeline through the course of aggressive editing.
When you add even simple effects like color correction (I can’t remember the last time I had a clip with absolutely no CC on it at some point through post…) to some native 4K RED RAW on the timeline, the calculations necessary to produce a fluid preview become a load for even a multi-processor, multi-core, hyper-threading behemoth. However, when it comes to processing cores, that’s where Quadro has something to bring to the party.
NVIDIA calls their parallel processing technology CUDA. From a user standpoint, NVIDIA has been opening up access to the power of the legion of GPU cores on their graphics cards to more processes that traditionally would have been done on the CPU. In the professional post production industry, companies like Avid and Autodesk (to name a few) have been leveraging GPU power on Quadro professional graphics cards for some time. Now, with the introduction of CS5, the Quadro FX 3800, 4800, 4800 for Mac, and 5800 are certified by Adobe for use with the Mercury Playback Engine. All three models add the processing power of their parallel GPU cores to your CPU to substantially enhance the timeline preview capability inside Premiere Pro CS5.
The four adobe-certified graphics cards represent a variety of cost and capability: the Quadro FX 3800 has 192 processing cores to tap, and 1 GB of RAM on board, the FX 4800 and FX 4800 for Mac ups the RAM to 1.5 GBs and adds 50% more memory bandwidth, and the flagship FX 5800 jumps to 240 GPU cores and 4 GBs of RAM to add an astounding amount of processing power to a post production workstation. The FX 3800 and FX 4800 have 2 Display Port and 1 Dual-Link DVI-Integrated connection and the FX 4800 for Mac and the 5800 have two Dual-Link DVI-I connections.
What’s the ROI?
The recent economic road we’ve been on has affected almost all of us in some way, and whenever some new piece of kit pops up, the price tag has to be considered in relationship to the return on that investment. The return on these powerful display cards really comes down to speed increases during the decision making process due to far faster visual feedback. I don’t think that my situation is all that unusual in that I’m faced with projects every day that are operating on tight deadlines and even tighter budgets. We’re all in the same spot there, but we’re also facing a client base that is becoming more aware of the massive advancements in our capabilities through press accounts of 14 year olds posting feature films in their basement with a laptop... If they come to those of us who are professionals, with business cards and some credentials and an hourly rate to match, they expect a no compromise experience. In the case of the Adobe suites, most of us who run this software are expected to have all the functionality available (and of course, expertise in each app), and be able to flip back and forth seamlessly in any given work session.
When you’re in the edit suite with a client, editing HD (or 2K or 4K RAW), creating graphics or possibly even compositing shots that would have gone to a VFX artist 5 years ago, and working in Photoshop on text graphics, image manipulation or logo preparation, etc…what is most important? Preview! Even clients, who may love working with you on their projects, start to count minutes when waiting for a render gauge or an effect to preview. They live in the same economy we do and paying that hourly rate while the computer “does something” that they can’t see, even for 30 seconds, is becoming less and less tolerable.
It would seem to me that making your client feel as if the time spent with you was productive and worth what they’re paying you is a pretty good return on investment as we all compete for work in a value-conscious economy.
The PNY Advantage
The piece of the value proposition in the tools we use that seems to get overlooked quite often is the support. My post production workstation has to run, and I am not an IT professional, nor am I a computer hobbyist who has time to experiment. I need my system to work. That said, many of us may be running some of the most sophisticated computer systems you can put on a desktop. The key components in my workstations are from companies that I can call with technical questions and there is an experienced technician on the other end who knows what I’m talking about.
In the case of NVIDIA Quadro display cards, this is the part where PNY comes in. It doesn’t matter who manufactured the computer I’m using, as long as I have a NVIDIA Quadro by PNY card, I can contact PNY’s professional support team directly using their toll-free number. They are technically solid and they have experience with the complex configurations that are typical for a professional post production environment. Getting this support after the sale is very good, but you can even get telephone assistance while determining what Quadro card is right for you…
I can vouch for the support myself as I’ve had to rely on PNY for some very specific system guidance as I’ve altered other components in my system which has necessitated everything from changes of slot for some cards to BIOS upgrades for my CPU to enable the proper system configuration for updated Quadro hardware.
When you consider the visual computing power the graphics card adds to my Adobe CS5 workflow, along with PNY’s 3-year warranty and professional support, the NVIDIA Quadro FX by PNY hardware is an upgrade that pays for itself.
I need more of those…