Video Transcoding Examined: AMD, Intel, And Nvidia In-Depth

Transcoding Quality: APP Versus CUDA Versus Quick Sync

Now let's switch from our Blu-ray source to the trailers we transcoded on the previous page. Since we are providing download links to our source content and our transcoded results, we are unable to use the original Blu-ray content due to copyright law.

First off, special thanks to Elemental Technologies for letting us have an exclusive first look at Badaboom 2.0. The company is basically in an alpha stage, so everything is still very preliminary. The reason we wanted to include even this early version, though, was that it came most highly recommended by Nvidia after discussing the results of our Brazos coverage. So, even though it is an early build, it should answer our quality-related questions. But because we are dealing with pre-beta build, we will not be releasing benchmark figures.


The transcoded video from the Radeon HD 6970 looks vastly better in MediaEspresso than it does in MediaConverter. Everything we output from MediaConverter looks like it has been put through some sort of heat filter. It looks as if you are always looking at the image through a mirage effect. Chris was sitting next to me and remarked, "the whole scene is shimmering."

Nvidia's CUDA

There are two anomalies here. As you might notice, the light on Doug's collar is slightly brighter in MediaConverter, and the frame is off in Badaboom (it's not the same frame at all). Both programs generate a file that doesn't properly track, which means during the reassemble process, something is off-kilter. This screen capture is not the result of human error, as we used the batch function to track and output specific frames. This is something specific to using CUDA in MediaConverter and Badaboom. Given that Elemental is still in alpha, we readily expected some errors, and entropy-related issues that affect the reassemble process are usually a quick fix. The issue in MediaConverter is more puzzling, though, since we used the retail edition to get CUDA functionality (the latest beta inexplicably doesn't recognize our GeForce GTX 580).

Aside from tracking issues, this time we are looking at poor quality output from MediaEspresso. It is particularly pronounced in some smooth panning scenes, and when there is a slow fade into another scene. Overall, CUDA does look better in MediaConverter than it does in MediaEspresso, but Badaboom's output looks the best. This would indicate that there is something problematic with the implementation of CUDA in the first two apps. With that said, only the CUDA videos from Badaboom and MediaConverter demonstrate poor motion prediction in areas we haven't see with MediaEspresso.

Intel's Quick Sync

The output from MediaEspresso is probably the best of the three tested programs. It is harder to nit pick when things look so similar...and we're not complaining. Aside from another tracking issue, output from Badaboom also spits out a file that is a tad grainier compared to the other three. Even the Performance and Quality settings for MediaEspresso show less difference than one might think. No doubt, the Quality setting outputs a larger file size, but you only notice the differences in high-motion areas, and where fine detail is showcased (like hair, for example).

CPU-Based Encode / Decode

Of all the output settings, the full software transcode pathway is consistently the best. We don't have any tracking errors, save for Badaboom's early build. The detail is consistently good, no matter how many times we transcode the file, and you can almost always which file was transcoded on the CPU, comparing output files from each program to each other.

  • spoiled1
    You have been around for over a decade, and you still haven't figured out the basics of web interfaces.

    When I want to open an image in a new tab using Ctrl+Click, that's what I want to do, I do not want to move away from my current page.

    Please fix your links.
  • spammit
    omgf, ^^^this^^^.

    I signed up just to agree with this. I've been reading this site for over 5 years and I have hoped and hoped that this site would change to accommodate the user, but, clearly, that's not going to happen. Not to mention all the spelling and grammar mistakes in the recent year. (Don't know about this article, didn't read it all).

    I didn't even finish reading the article and looking at the comparisons because of the problem sploiled1 mentioned. I don't want to click on a single image 4 times to see it fullsize, and I certainly don't want to do it 4 times (mind you, you'd have to open the article 4 separate times) in order to compare the images side by side (alt-tab, etc).

    Just abysmal.
  • cpy
    THW have worst image presentation ever, you can't even load multiple images so you can compare them in different tabs, could you do direct links to images instead of this bad design?
  • ProDigit10
    I would say not long from here we'll see encoders doing video parallel encoding by loading pieces between keyframes. keyframes are tiny jpegs inserted in a movie preferably when a scenery change happens that is greater than what a motion codec would be able to morph the existing screen into.
    The data between keyframes can easily be encoded in a parallel pipeline or thread of a cpu or gpu.
    Even on mobile platforms integrated graphics have more than 4 shader units, so I suspect even on mobile graphics cards you could run as much as 8 or more threads on encoding (depending on the gpu, between 400 and 800 Mhz), that would be equal to encoding a single thread video at the speed of a cpu encoding with speed of 1,6-6,4GHz, not to mention the laptop or mobile device still has at least one extra thread on the CPU to run the program, and operating system, as well as arrange the threads and be responsible for the reading and writing of data, while the other thread(s) of a CPU could help out the gpu in encoding video.

    The only issue here would be B-frames, but for fast encoding video you could give up 5-15MB video on a 700MB file due to no B-frame support, if it could save you time by processing threads in parallel.
  • intelx
    first thanks for the article i been looking for this, but your gallery really sucks, i mean it takes me good 5 mins just to get 3 pics next to each other to compare , the gallery should be updated to something else for fast viewing.
  • _Pez_
    Ups ! for tom's hardware's web page :P, Fix your links. :) !. And I agree with them; spoiled1 and spammit.
  • AppleBlowsDonkeyBalls
    I agree. Tom's needs to figure out how to properly make images accessible to the readers.
  • kikireeki
    spoiled1Tom, You have been around for over a decade, and you still haven't figured out the basics of web interfaces.When I want to open an image in a new tab using Ctrl+Click, that's what I want to do, I do not want to move away from my current page.Please fix your links.Thanks
    and to make things even worse, the new page will show you the picture with the same thumbnail size and you have to click on it again to see the full image size, brilliant!
  • acku
    Apologies to all. There are things I can control in the presentation of an article and things that I cannot, but everyone here has given fair criticism. I agree that right click and opening to a new window is an important feature for articles on image quality. I'll make sure Chris continues to push the subject with the right people.

    Web dev is a separate department, so we have no ability to influence the speed at which a feature is implemented. In the meantime, I've uploaded all the pictures to ZumoDrive. It's packed as a single download.

    Remember to view pictures in the native resolution to avoid scalers.

    Andrew Ku
  • Reynod
    An excellent read though Andrew.

    Please give us an update in a few months to see if there has been any noticeable improvements ... keep your base files for reference.

    I would imagine Quicksynch is now a major plus for those interested in rendering ... and AMD and NVidia have some work to do.

    I appreciate the time and effort you put into the research and the depth of the article.