ATI Stream: Finally, CUDA Has Competition

Underground Stream: A GPGPU History

The December 2008 launch of the ATI Catalyst 8.12 driver officially brought Stream to the masses, and to showcase it, AMD re-spun the ATI Avivo Video Converter to be Stream-compatible. It was a big deal, with AMD promoting the technology to anyone and everyone who would listen. Unfortunately, the software wasn’t quite finished. Initial positive impressions of performance gains quickly evaporated in the face of critical output issues, and Stream flowed underground for nearly five months.

I anticipated that AMD would follow Nvidia’s lead and resurface with a posse of application developers in tow. This seemed reasonable given that AMD’s November 2008 launch presentation for Catalyst 8.12 contained slides showing “a sizeable selection of developers lined up to adopt Stream come launch--including some pretty big guns.” How big? ArcSoft and Cyberlink show up almost as an afterthought. Adobe got its own slide for Acrobat Reader, Photoshop CS4 Extended, After Effects CS4, and Flash 10. Microsoft also got its own real estate for Vista, Expression Encoder, PowerPoint 2007, and Silverlight.

Fast forward to today. Who showed up to the new Stream party with AMD? CyberLink, with PowerDirector 7 and MediaShow Espresso, as well as ArcSoft with its SimHD plug-in for the TotalMedia Theatre 3 player. And that’s it. LoiLo, which we saw in our recent CUDA coverage, was in AMD’s Stream presentation, but the company has yet as of this writing to supply a Stream-optimized version of its video editor. Video preview in LoiLoScope has been UVD-accelerated since January, but this isn’t the same as Stream acceleration. Also, it didn’t take long during the Stream re-launch presentation to notice that everyone was talking about Espresso while almost completely ignoring PowerDirector 7. Why? Because CyberLink hasn’t updated the engine in PD7 yet. The app is still only accelerating encoding, as per the old Catalyst driver. This is also true of AMD’s own ATI Avivo Video Converter. To get the complete Stream meal, you need to run Espresso. Thus far, it is the only application with full Stream pipeline support.

“MediaShow Espresso takes full advantage of the new Stream encoding pipeline when you are transcoding from MPEG-2 or AVC to MPEG-2 or AVC,” says Tom Vaughan, director of business development at CyberLink. “So, with the new pipeline, we can offload more of the process to the GPU. Sometimes the performance improvement with the new Stream pipeline might show up as lower CPU usage, depending on your GPU, your CPU and other factors.”

  • radiowars
    So..... TBH they both work pretty well, I hope that we don't start a whole competition over this.
  • falchard
    Did someone necro an old topic? I think ATI has been talking about ATI Stream for a while. I know atleast a year since FireStream.
  • cl_spdhax1
    arcsoft simhd plugin is currently only enabled for n- cuda graphic cards.
  • Andraxxus
    They're good but hopefully they will manage to improve them more. Competition is good for business.
  • DjEaZy
    ... why just now talk about? I use it sins Catalyst 8.12...
  • IzzyCraft
    Stream is old but not nearly as old and compatible as CUDA I'd get it a year or two more when more capable cards circulate the market and trickle down to the people before i would call it competition.

    Well it's good to see more then just 1 app that supports it.
  • ThisIsMe
    Just for the sake of it, and the fact that many pros would like to know the result, it would be nice to see comparisons like this using nVidia's Quadro cards vs. ATI's FirePro cards.
  • ohim
    why use 185.85 since those drivers are a total wreck

    13 pages with ppl having different problems with that driver
  • I think the second graph on the "Mixed Messages" page isn't the right graph.

    It's the same graph from the following "Heavier Lifting" page instead of a graph for the 298MB VOB file that should be shown?
  • Spanky Deluxe
    Stream and CUDA are likely to go the way of the dodo soon though. OpenCL's where its at. Unfortunately its a tad hard to get programming with it right now since you need to be a registered developer on nVidia's Early Access Program or you have to be a registered developer with Apple's developer program with access to pre-release copies of Snow Leopard.
    Virtually no one will bother using CUDA or Steam after OpenCL's out - why limit yourself to one hardware base after all? It'd be like writing Windows software that only ran on AMD processors and not Intel. Developers will not bother writing for both when they can just use one language that can run on both hardware platforms.