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ATI Avivo and Nvidia's Purevideo Dissected

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December 18, 2006 10:49:45 AM

Video play is not created equal: Our quality and performance analysis shows quality gaps exist between the video processing and acceleration technologies used by ATI's Radeon X1000 and Nvidia's GeForce 7 generation.
December 18, 2006 12:43:44 PM

An interesting article.


Minor quibbles:

1) there are more than three DVD decoders out there, and you failed to mention what is arguably the best (TheaterTek).

2) I'd have liked some more discussion abolut the relative benefits of using Windows Media Player or not.

3) On the first page:
Quote:
If properly detected, the DVD player can reconstruct the original 24 fps source and eliminate the jaggies to deliver the original film's full frame of resolution.

Unless you have your Windows refresh rate set to an exact multiple of 24Hz, this is impossible. That's rather a shame - it would look a lot better refreshing at (say) 48 or 72Hz. With the refresh rate set to 60Hz, alternate frames will appear on the screen for different durations. Yes, the original frames can be reconstructed, but there will still be a lack of amoothness in motion, etc. because you aren't seeing the frames at the right times.


Large quibbles:

1) Why no mention of the difference between video- and film-deinterlacing? The whole 3:2 pulldown process shouldn't happen when the source is video rather than film. Do the players handle that correctly? And how, exactly, do they handle video-mode deinterlacing? Are they doing a simple "bob", or is it motion-adaptive, or region-based motion-adaptive, or per-pixel motion-adaptive...? Is there diagonal processing? All this makes a BIG difference.

2) I'm curious as to whether there's any difference in upscaling algorithms used if the video is played back at anything other than native resolution (e.g. upscaled to full screen). There might well be.

3) Worst of all, there is virtually no mention at all of 50Hz playback, which raises all kinds of problems.

First there's the refresh rate issue coming back to haunt you again - if the movie is 50 fields per second, how is that mapped onto a 60Hz display?

But even more seriously there's the issue of 2:2 pulldown - that is, of deinterlacing a 50Hz DVD. Detecting that you are viewing a source with 3:2 pulldown is relatively easy: certain sucessive fields will be exact duplicates. But distinguishing between film and video on 50Hz sources is extremely difficult - in fact it's a problem that has no rigorous solution.



So, all in all, you don't actually answer some of the most important questions. The two most important things to consider when reviewing video processing (on the grounds that they are the things most likely to be messed up) are: how well does it deinterlace video (rather than film)? and how good is it at distinguishing between film and video on 50Hz sources? Neither of these is really addressed in the article.
December 18, 2006 1:08:04 PM

those darn jaggies! :twisted:

so you have to pay to get features for nvidia and they still dont match the freebie given to you by ATI. hmmph. hopefully this will be rectified soon.

im curious to know how/if these features affect other sources such as the AIW cards. :?:
Related resources
December 18, 2006 1:10:18 PM

Quote:
so you have to pay to get features for nvidia and they still dont match the freebie given to you by ATI. hmmph. hopefully this will be rectified soon.

To be fair, G80 cards apparently score 128 out of 130 on the HQV test.
December 18, 2006 1:13:58 PM

ah i see. test were done on the 7600gt and 1900xtx
December 18, 2006 1:38:40 PM

Hi Nicolas,

Obviously you know quite a bit about video, which might be why you found the article dissatisfying.

The article was targeted towards the average joe who probably doesn't know what a field is.
It's not written to be the difinitive be-all-end-all information source, but an easy primer for those who don't know much about video playback and have been caught up in the AVIVO/Purevideo hype without really knowing what it offers.

I wish I had the time and knowledge to answer your deeper concerns, but I'm satisfied that this article covers the important basics of DVD viewing for the intended target audience. Personally I'm more concerned with letting people know that these features exist - that they're not on by default, and how to enable them - than focusing on the finer points.

I've only got so many pages to work with. :) 
December 18, 2006 1:40:45 PM

Quote:

im curious to know how/if these features affect other sources such as the AIW cards. :?:


The AVIVO features are included in ANY Ati X1k series card, AIW or not, as far as I know.

The only difference is that AIW cards include tuner/capture hardware.
December 18, 2006 2:36:58 PM

For an average user like myself, who just wants the dvd's to look nice without having to do ten hours of research, the article was great. I just watched a dvd yesterday and never knew I needed to enable the video acceleration in power dvd or that I needed to enable pull down detection in CCC. So this article not only informed me on what the better card is for dvd's and why, it made my videos nicer!
Thanks a lot Don
December 18, 2006 2:57:14 PM

you've done a great job Cleeve. I found this article very interesting and helpful, and I had NO IDEA any of this existed. Unfortunately I do not yet own a x1000 or 7000 series card, but it's great to know ahead of time how I can improve the appearance of DVD's. In fact, I am surprised there are still issues with improving DVD picture quality, when the technology has existed for so long. It's like improving the sound quality of cassette tapes lol, I'm surprised there is still room for improvement.
December 18, 2006 3:13:13 PM

Quote:
Nvidia Purevideo: 0 points

Purevideo appears to have no noise reduction capability. This makes a big difference and is a notable strike against Purevideo.



Did THG overlook this control panel setting or is it another pice of broken Nvidia software? BTW, I'm using a go 7600 w/ 93.81. I haven't had time to test this, but if anyone has any info on the effectiveness of these settings I would appreciate it.


December 18, 2006 3:15:14 PM

This was a good read. Long, but a good read.

I for one am partial to Nvidia's PureVideo decoder rather than ATI AVIVO. I for one have had a better experience with it on my hardware.

One thing I have learned in the madness of video reviews is the resolutions tested are the keys. You can show me a close-up of a 480p PureVideo image and then show me a close-up of a 720p or 1080p AVIVO image and tell me the AVIVO sports the better image. DUH!!!! I don't to knock on your article because your equipment my be more suited to ATI AVIVO decoding. What I am saying, to your readers, is use some of the common sense you've learned on THG. If the images are not the same size, then you are viewing different resolutions of the same image.
December 18, 2006 3:34:07 PM

Being a good Canadian I have a multiple-ATI rig...
But I guess that's all over now :( 
Anyway heheh, my vidcard + ATI HDTV wonder do give me top performance and quality.
ATI has always been more into TV/video inputs, VIVO and DVD than nVidia has, traditionally.
But wow! That's a BIG factor in value for vidcard purchased, or what?
The ATI is far superior. Like I want to buy nVidia's extra stuff for another $50 bucks, LoL...
Good article. Hit the Sweet Spot (from a technical point of view) right on,
Regards
December 18, 2006 5:00:51 PM

Quote:
One thing I have learned in the madness of video reviews is the resolutions tested are the keys. You can show me a close-up of a 480p PureVideo image and then show me a close-up of a 720p or 1080p AVIVO image and tell me the AVIVO sports the better image. DUH!!!!


This test was for regular DVD playback. 720p and 1080i are HD, and will be covered in a future article. From what I hear Nvidia will do much better in that arena, but in the DVD arena they simply don't stand up well to Ati.

As far as settings, there's nothing to debate as far as image quality if you're talking about pulldown, Nvidia simply doesn't support many of them and it looks like crap if they're played. Seriously, it's not pretty.

If you pay the extra $$ for the purevideo decoder it handles the main ones but if you use fringe DVDs like Anime it makes a huge difference. It's not like you have to study for the difference in a screenshot, the difference is colossal.

Noise reduction is a BIG one against Nvidia compared to Ati as well... once again, if there's no noise reduction it is painfully obvious and distracting.

But then I never saw the noise reduction setting mentioned by "wontonroigato"... I was using the standard control panel. I also never looked for it because none of the Nvidia literature I read mentioned noise reduction. The only reason I found the Ati pulldown checkbox in the driver was because pulldown detection was advertised and mentioned in other places.

If Noise reduction does work on Nvidia cards, it's a big deal too and I'll edit the review accordingly.
December 18, 2006 5:31:37 PM

OK, stupid question. Does AVIVO have a DVD/Mpeg2 Decoder? I have PureVideo (purchased separately for my 6800 vid card) on one machine and AVIVO on another (on a X1950XT VIVO/HDCP). PureVideo is a decoder so I can watch DVD movies in Windows Media Player, I cannot with AVIVO and have to use WinDVD. Is AVIVO simply a hardware accelerator/decoder that requires third party software to take advantage of this capabilities? I keep hearing nVidia is ripping their customers because they have to pay for PureVideo while ATI is giving their decoder out for free. What am I missing here?

(Note: I have searched the included disks and installed the entire ATI package with no luck).
December 18, 2006 5:51:52 PM

There are two different things here: The MPEG2 decoder and the hardware playback enhancements.

PureVideo is nVidia's very own MPEG2 decoder, designed to take advantage of specialized hardware on their cards. But it costs $20-50 depending on which package you go with. You can play DVDs with hardware acceleration on an nVidia card without PureVideo, but it looks the results are less than spectacular (as I've seen on my old 6600GT). So to get "proper" hardware acceleration on an nVidia card, you need to pay $$.

AVIVO is the branding ATI has applied to the hardware acceleration features on its X1K series of cards, and you don't need to buy anything to enable it. It doesn't come with an MPEG2 decoder, but you can get one almost anywhere (like the software that comes with your DVD burner, often). I believe ATI does also have its own MPEG2 decoder package, but it appears to be available only for the All-in-Wonder cards (I looked into this after buying an X1900XT).
December 18, 2006 7:27:17 PM

I agree with nicolas on a number of points, but I do understand this was a basic intro article. What I would like clarification on is whether testing was done via a monitor or component out settings, and what those settings were since it can have an effect on playback quality.

I have to agree nVidia messed up with their packaging of DVD decoding features specifically the 3:2 pull down. The cost difference for the other packages is for the Dolby and dts liscensing which often isn't accessable via other players only WMP. I don't know what nVidia was thinking there, or if the player software should be able to access it.

The "Bronze" version can often be found for free (it costs you $20, but you get a $20 credit) when you purchase a nVidia card, or bug your PC supplier. About a year and a half ago I saw the earlier player included in card bundles, and then it became a separate option with the $20 credit option.

IMO both drivers need to include full DVD (and HD) optimization for free as part of the purchase price and have full control via Hardware optimization settings. I could care less about Dolby and dts, those are player options.
December 19, 2006 1:40:05 AM

To claim that nVidia doesn't include 3:2 pull down, edge enhancement, or noise reduction is just sloppy.
They're all there in the control panel.

That said, I have no idea how they compare to ATI.

3:2 pulldown is off by default. (I'm assuming that's what 'inverse telecine' is)
December 19, 2006 2:47:27 AM

http://download.nvidia.com/downloads/nZone/videos/PureVideo_1080p.wmv
Above is a link to a demo 1080i video from the nzone website.

When i play this video on my machine, I get the following results, I have a dual core AMD x2 4200+.
Video Out Driver -> Cpu Usage
X11 -> 60% each core
XV -> not steady, both cores swing between 25% to 100% together
GL -> 40% each core
GL2 -> 100% core 1 and 0% core 2
XVMC -> Doesnt work
Note: In all cases, video and audio play beautifully

I was wondering if anyone could explain to me,Which vo driver is doing the best job?

And the other question is, why is it that a 2Ghz cpu needs to break a sweat to crunch this stuff, when a $200 dvd player can do it with ease. does this mean the chip in the dvd player is faster then 2ghz?
December 19, 2006 3:28:26 AM

Quote:
To claim that nVidia doesn't include 3:2 pull down, edge enhancement, or noise reduction is just sloppy.
They're all there in the control panel.


You are absolutely right.

This has been an oversight on my part and we'll be posting a retraction and changes within the next little while.

For anyone who checks out this thread, please note indeed, Nvidia Purevideo does offer better pulldown detection and noise reduction than is represented in this article. I have to do a bit more research as far as the edge enhancement goes.

These settings can be accessed in the new control panel in the 'advanced view' under the 'enhancements' tab of the 'video & television' settings.

Stay tuned for updates.
December 19, 2006 9:47:00 AM

Quote:

This test was for regular DVD playback. 720p and 1080i are HD, and will be covered in a future article.


Hey Cleeve,

thanx so much for this arcticle. I always appreciate your site. This time however the expectations of the title "ATI Avivo and Nvidia's Purevideo Dissected" were not really met - since this article only scratches the surface [and tomshardware usually provides lots of insight]. I'm missing:

a) H.264 acceleration
b) WMV9/VC-1 acceleration
c) tables which tell, which player supports which acceleration mode

While DVD Playback is rather straightforward, there is much confusion about the above mentioned topics. To give some hints about interesting fields of technical research:

to a) H.264
. only a few people know that all current acceleration implementations require SSE2. That means you can't power up your AthlonXP based system by putting a PureVideo card in it
. compare CPU load of accelerated display to a good software codec like CoreAVC
. compare overall [GPU + CPU] power consumption of systems, while playing back with different acceleration modes

to b) WMV9
. Though nvidia states PureVideo works on AGP Systems. This specific type of acceleration seems to be deactivated since decades of driver releases for AGP systems.

to c) player support
. provide an in depth discussion about acceleration modes and players. E.g. see http://www.inmatrix.com/zplayer/highlights/vidrender.sh...
. e.g. for accel. WMV9 playback it is requied to patch your WMP10

Still - thanx for the article. At least you mentioned that there is no GPU based encoding accel around. Hope the follow up is presented soon.

regards,
7oby

PS: The pull down table of content is very messy in this article.
December 19, 2006 12:17:22 PM

Quote:
this article only scratches the surface [and tomshardware usually provides lots of insight].


Hi 7oby,

It's mentioned in the article and I'll say it again, that this piece is only part 1 of 2.

The follow up will cover HD, the 8800, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

Regards,

- Don
December 19, 2006 1:24:40 PM

I hope to see if their are any differences with the 8800 and DVD as well as HD.

Also, out of curiousity, which setting did you use in the decoder properties for De-interlace control.

Automatic
Film
Video
Smart

From other sources on the net, I hear Automatic is the ideal setting.
December 19, 2006 3:55:32 PM

Barely worth reading, considering the way in which this was handled by another tech-related online magazine way back yon. 2005.

Perhaps of some use to see how far ATI's team have come with AVIVO.
Quote:
... Purevideo does about as well as Avivo here. The text looks really good, maybe even slightly better than Avivos'... but the guitar strings look a little worse.

Actually, come to think of it, 'see' is the wrong word entirely.
December 19, 2006 4:26:29 PM

Quote:
we'll be posting a retraction and changes within the next little while.

............

Stay tuned for updates.



Any chance of including clarification on whether testing was done via a monitor or component out settings, and what those settings were since it can have an effect on playback quality.
December 19, 2006 4:39:56 PM

Testing was done on a PC monitor. Purevideo decoder settings were at default.
December 19, 2006 4:44:14 PM

Quote:
Testing was done on a PC monitor. Purevideo decoder settings were at default.


Which I think is the smart setting, no? Give it a spin on the automatic setting.
December 20, 2006 1:56:00 PM

Quote:
Testing was done on a PC monitor.


I assume the refresh rate was at 60Hz with a DVI connection. As mentioned if it was 72Hz, 75Hz, or something other than a multiple of 30, this MIGHT throw some things off. Maybe it is too in depth for the scope of your article, which may highlight that both decoders need better clarification / control panel since all this may be beyond the average user (ie the person who just bought an HTPC and wonders why DVD's look better from a stand alone DVD player).

I have wondered how the all the multiple monitor resolutions and refresh rates, and output choices (DVI/RGB/Component) are handled by both ATI and Nvidia with regard to pulldowns, interlacing, noise reduction, and all. I know Nvidia gives me some different menu screens depending on whether I am connected to a CRT with RGB, or DVI to HT projector.

Another twist are LCD monitors and native resolutions. This adds another dimension to scaling that can effect image quality. I am not sure how that would relate to AVIVO or PureVideo. It may relate to the card itself.
December 20, 2006 2:28:09 PM

native resolution is one thing that's driving me mad. even now, the 22" Dell LCD I could afford is 1600x1050 native, along with most 20+" monitors I have looked at. WTF is that?? how about bumping it up a little to 1900x1080 native resolution, to better warrant spending the money on this size monitor for future HDTV viewing when I can afford an internal HDDVD/Blueray player for my PC??

I keep wanting to buy an LCD finally, but keep finding new reasons not to! STANDARDIZE, geez!
December 21, 2006 5:30:33 AM

Why has the article been removed?
December 21, 2006 7:31:04 AM

Quote:
Why has the article been removed?

It was removed shortly after Cleeve found out about the Noise Reduction and Edge Enhancement in the nVidia control panel - And I truly hope it because the article it getting a work over so he don't confuse more people :-)

Cheers, and happy holidays,
Steff
December 21, 2006 9:11:31 AM

Quote:
Why has the article been removed?

It was removed shortly after Cleeve found out about the Noise Reduction and Edge Enhancement in the nVidia control panel - And I truly hope it because the article it getting a work over so he don't confuse more people :-)

Cheers, and happy holidays,
Steff

Yeah, I went back to re-read the article regarding the tweaking in the Catalyst driver portion, which, needless to say, I can't find where in my catalyst version 6.12 it would be, & was disappointed to learn that the article had been pulled.
December 21, 2006 9:18:34 AM

Quote:
Why has the article been removed?

It was removed shortly after Cleeve found out about the Noise Reduction and Edge Enhancement in the nVidia control panel - And I truly hope it because the article it getting a work over so he don't confuse more people :-)

Cheers, and happy holidays,
Steff

Yeah, I went back to re-read the article regarding the tweaking in the Catalyst driver portion, which, needless to say, I can't find where in my catalyst version 6.12 it would be, & was disappointed to learn that the article had been pulled.

I think I may have come out a little vague - I'm sure the article will be up again soon, with Cleeves new discovered functions in the ForceWare drivers evening out the scores.

Cheers,
Steff
December 21, 2006 1:52:15 PM

I just wish I had been able to finish reading the article before it was pulled. Could have been interesting to compare the scores from the original and the revised article when it appears.
December 24, 2006 5:17:06 AM

im hoping the 8800 will be the optimum choice for dvd and hd
December 26, 2006 3:50:27 AM

Quote:

im curious to know how/if these features affect other sources such as the AIW cards. :?:


The AVIVO features are included in ANY Ati X1k series card, AIW or not, as far as I know.

The only difference is that AIW cards include tuner/capture hardware.

I'll be getting an X1950 Pro AGP by the end of January as one last upgrade for my Northwood, but I'll miss the All in Wonder cards. I've read that they're being discontinued in the DX10 generation. I have an AIW Radeon 8500 Pro in an older. They've been decent gaming cards and great multimedia.

As is, I'll have to get an ATI PCI TV card for my AGP box. Unless I snag an X1900 AIW before they disappear completely, I'll have to get a PCIe x1 TV card for the dual core AMD 690 T system I aim for by the second half of the year.
!