Minor or major update

NVIDIA knew that the Elemental Technologies Badaboom application was a bit lacking in terms of features in the original release and ATI’s Avivo Video Converter likely pushed the software to its newest version a bit faster. See what changes v1.1 offers!

Last week I spent a lot of time writing about the new pair of GPU-based transcoding applications from NVIDIA and AMD in Battle of the GPU Transcoders.  The Elemental Technologies Badaboom program was initially declared the slower but higher quality piece of software while the ATI Avivo Video Converter was faster but had some issues with image quality overall.  Much has come out since our initial review, including the 1.1 revision of Badaboom that we are going to take a brief overview of today. 

New Features for Badaboom v1.1

While we already spent a lot of time recently looking at Elemental’s Badaboom application, the user interface, performance and functionality, a new revision of the software is now available that adds quite a bit of what was missing to the table.  Version 1.1 will take the existing Badaboom application and add support for more input file formats, new output profiles, another H.264 profile, higher resolution output and even multi-GPU capability.

The limited number of input formats that were supported in Badaboom 1.0 was one of the major drawbacks of the software and limited its usefulness to enthusiasts.  Though still not as all encompassing as ATI’s Avivo Video Converter, v1.1 of Badaboom now supports DivX, XviD, MPEG-1, VC-1 and WMV video formats as well as AAC audio.  These video files can be contained in file structures including MKV, AVI, WMV, MOVE and MP4.  This collection of input formats and containers is really starting to give Badaboom enough wingspan to cover just about any required user video source.

Along with these new input formats v1.1 adds three new output profiles to mix for the Blackberry Bold, YouTube (widescreen) and the Microsoft Zune. 

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Profiles are just an easy was for a Badaboom user to quickly select recommended settings for their output target including resolution, bit rate, audio quality and more.  All of these settings can be adjusted for each profile as you desire and they will be saved for you as well once you have found your personal selections. 

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The new software now adds support for the H.264 Main Profile, a vast improvement over the still-included Baseline Profile for any content over 480p resolution.  H.264 profiles are used by the standard to target specific applications and available compute resources; in effect if a system (like an iPod) has a slower processor, it uses a less compute-intense (and also lower quality) algorithm.  Baseline profile was originally created for low-quality applications like phones and videoconferencing while the Main Profile offers higher quality for consumer-level products.  Unfortunately, the real profile we are after is still High Profile as it offers the best quality encoding and is what is used on Blu-ray titles and digital TV broadcasts. 

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Another quality improvement with this revision of the software is support for full 1920×1080 resolution video output – previous versions were limited to 720p likely due to the lack of any profile support other than Baseline.  While most users will likely still just want to use 720p or lower resolutions to save file space and retain NEARLY the same video quality, anyone looking to minimize disc space ONLY will find output support of 1080p to a be a nice addition.

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Finally, we have the tantalizing words of multi-GPU support; but don’t get TOO excited just yet.  Badaboom v1.1 is still not able to split the rendering of a single video file to multiple GPUs for additional speed up; instead the multi-GPU support allows you to transcoder separate files to each CUDA-capable GPU in your system.  Need to get a few movies on your iPod before you jump on the plane?  Then multi-GPU will help you with that.  Elemental has said that their goal is get multi-GPU-on-a-single-file working though, so stay tuned!

There are some of annoying requirements for multi-GPU to work though: SLI must be disabled, each GPU needs to be connected to a display and each GPU must have a desktop enabled.  Again, Elemental has said they are working on alleviating the application of these issues going forward but for now, we must simply deal with it.  Ugh.

Some Screenshots

Nothing has changed on the user interface side of things, so I’ll just throw in a few shots of the software at work, in particular the new output profiles.
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Blackberry Bold – my latest phone purchase actually

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Widescreen YouTube – finally, H.264 encoded hamsters on pianos!

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Microsoft Zune – I got nuthin’…

More Quality Issues for ATI

Even though we were the first to discover that there was something wrong with the ATI Avivo Video converter when it came to quality of transcoding, Anandtech has done another write up that shed some more light on the issue at least proven that I am not crazy.  AMD said they had never seen any results like the ones I showed them (and included video and screenshot examples of) but obviously after reading of Anandtech’s tale, there is definitely a big problem here.

Here is the video the results:

As you can see, the results weren’t pretty.  Thanks again for Anandtech for providing the video.   You can clearly the see that the result not only lacks audio but is completely unwatchable. 

A number of people did ask about showing the difference in bitrate selections in the transcoding applications and I have done with Badaboom v1.1 here below.   What you see is a transcoded 720p H.264 file (from the US Navy) at both 500 kbps and 2500 kbps, the minimum and maximum for the Blackberry Bold profile.

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500 kbps quality – notice the face of the pilot on the far left and the Secret Service shoulder behind Clinton

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2500 kbps – a much clearer image

Obviously this slider-bar mentality that both ATI and NVIDIA have for each respective transcoder application does allow some flexibility if your quality and file sizes.  The 500 kbps file came in at 18.7MB while the 2500 kbps file was just under 78MB. 

Performance Questions

Another accusation that was made about AMD’s implementation of the Avivo Video Converter was that it didn’t really use the GPU in its transcoding process as evident from our initial article and the CPU utilization graphs therein.  The following two graphs were presented by Elemental Technologies and shows how their software scales with different NVIDIA GPUs versus how AMD’s Avivo software scales with different AMD GPU and how each software application scales with a few different CPU platforms as well. 

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Here you can see that though performance on the AMD graphics cards stays the same with the Avivo software application from the $500 GPU down to the $100 GPU, NVIDIA’s GPUs see increasing performance as the power of the graphics card increases.  Try not to pay too much attention to the actual transcode speeds as we never trust performance comparisons from interested parties but the scaling numbers are valid and indicative of our testing as well. 

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The second graph looks at how a single GPU from each NVIDIA and AMD scales with a selection of dual-core and quad-core processors.  What NVIDIA and Elemental want you to see here is that as your CPU power decreases, so does the speed of your supposedly GPU-based transcoding program, but as much as 88% from the Phenom X4 9950 to the Athlon X2 3800+.  However, NVIDIA’s 9800 GT-based transcoding is much more stable on goes only sees a performance drop of 7% from the top CPU to the bottom. 

What does this really mean?  In short, the ATI Avivo Video Converter is really only as good as your CPU and might not be as GPU-based as we had originally expected.  Does that really matter?  Speed is speed as far as I am concerned but as we have seen there are quite a few quality issues popping their head up as well that put that speed into question.

Final Thoughts

The release of Badaboom v1.1 is not going to dramatically change the very early face of the consumer-level – it is a solid upgrade to an application that is only a few months old.  The new features in this revision, including expanding input file support, multi-GPU support, 1080p output, H.264 Main profile support and some new pre-built output profiles make the program much more useable and functional for real-world use but there is still some room for improvement.  I’d love to see support for more than just stereo audio and more H.264 profile support (or even more output formats!) and after this recent upgrade I feel confident that Elemental Technologies will pursue the software for some time to come.

And just for show, here is the entire feature list for the new 1.1 revision of the software:

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