GPU Transcoding in your future

Now that both NVIDIA and AMD each have its own GPU-based transcoding application, I thought it was time to get a head-to-head comparison going and see which of the two software applications is really the best for consumer usage. While NVIDIA’s offering will run you $30 for the full version, the ATI software is completely free. Is that all that matters though?

I have to admit I have been less excited about GPU-based video transcoding than I should have been.  For me, moving content between a DVD collection and your phone was never a top priority as I just didn’t use media in that fashion.  With the iPhone, a lot of that changed and being able to put some movies or videos on your mobile device for a couple hour flight for some meetings became a much more interesting prospect.  Apparently the same is true for the engineers and marketeers at NVIDIA and AMD.

GPU transcoding applications were first introduced by ATI three years ago but since then has stymied until this summer.  Both NVIDA and AMD have taken to promoting their own versions of GPU-based video transcoding as a means of easily demonstrating the power and promise of the GPU computing in general.  Most recently, NVIDIA was the first to have a modern GPU assisted transcoding application on the market with the help of Elemental Technologies in the form of the “Badaboom” program – available for free with a watermark or $30 without one, Badaboom now has to compete with AMD’s analogous application that comes bundled free with the pending release of the Catalyst 8.12 drivers

In this article, I’ll be looking at both applications, Badaboom and the ATI Video Transcoder, to see what advantages each has and comparing performance and quality where applicable.  As it turns out, there probably more differences between these two applications than there are similarities making a 1:1 comparison difficult; but heck, we’ve never let that stop us before!

For NVIDIA: Badaboom!

While Badaboom might sound cheesy as a name for a video transcoding application, it is somewhat catchier than the ATI Video Transcoder.  You can find it available for download at where you can see some demos and get some information from the people actually making the program.  It will ONLY work with NVIDIA GPUs that support CUDA technology, namely the GeForce 8-series and up, and will cost you $29.99 if you want to use it longer than 30 days, for more than 30 transcodes or to get rid of the watermark.  Basically, you need to buy it.

Battle of GPU Transcoders: ATI Avivo Converter and NVIDIA Elemental Badaboom - Graphics Cards 21
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The interface for Badaboom is very simple and is probably both its best and worst feature.  Users that don’t have any idea what the term “transcoding” means will absolutely fall in love with icon-based interface that reads right to left: source, settings and destination.  On the left you can choose between a DVD, DVD content on a hard drive or a single video file as the source video to be converted and on the right you select which output profile you would like to move the video to.

Most prominent on the output options are Apple products: iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, etc but there are also options for the Xbox 360, Sony PS3, PSP and PC-based home theater PC that is their most generic output.  Once you have selected your output format you use the options in the middle to decide the quality of the video. 
Be default, Badaboom runs in “basic” mode that only offers a single slider bar to adjust image quality either towards “smaller files” or “higher quality” as that is the standard balance any video compression has to make.  In this screenshot above you can see what happens when you select the “advanced” mode: you get to manually select some of the more common options for video encoding including the bitrate, keyframes, variable or constant bitrates, resolution and more. 

Once your options are set, you simply need to hit the “Start” button at the bottom and transcoding process will commence. 

Battle of GPU Transcoders: ATI Avivo Converter and NVIDIA Elemental Badaboom - Graphics Cards 22
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For source content, the DVD options will only allow you to rip unencrypted DVDs like those made with your home video camera or with personal software.  To encode a retail DVD, you’ll first have to find some software to backup the DVD to your hard drive and then access it through the “Browse VIDEO_TS Folder” option.  When you do so, the Badaboom application lets you select which titles and chapters you would like to encode if you only want a portion of the content outlined in the video files – this is a very helpful portion of the software.

Another important not on Badaboom is that it only supports individual video files of either MPEG2 or H.264 for transcoding and will ONLY transcode TO H.264 media.  You will not be able to encode from or to DivX, MPEG-4, Windows Media, etc. 

Battle of GPU Transcoders: ATI Avivo Converter and NVIDIA Elemental Badaboom - Graphics Cards 23
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The transcode process itself is detailed with a progress bar along the top, frame rate of video encoding as a reference for speed and a preview of the video on the screen as it transcodes.  Once completed you can simply navigate to the created file and put in your iTunes library or wherever the appropriate content type is stored on your system. 

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