In the continuing quest for speed using Compressor, after testing to find the fastest workflow for me I started looking for hardware acceleration.
It looks like the main player in this is Matrox with their Max Technology as an option on their hardware In/Out boxes and cards. The cheapest implementation is the Matrox CompressHD card ($499 retail) which only gives you H.264 acceleration, no I/O. After finding several bad reviews of the video capabilities of the next cheapest product, the Matrox Mini02, I decided to just try the CompressHD card.
I found one on eBay for about $100 less than retail. Being used, I was taking a chance, but the guy said it tested perfectly. The card arrived today in a plain brown box with lots of bubble wrap but nothing else.
I installed it in an empty PCI-e slot in the Mac Pro and fired it up. Then I went to the Matrox site to download the software.
(Note to self: Write down the serial number of a used card before installing it! Matrox required the serial number to download the software & I had to open the Mac back up and pull the card to find it.)
There were about a dozen choices of software to download, based on the Mac OS you’re using and whether you’re using Compressor or Adobe Media Encoder. None of them matched OS 10.6.8 that I’m using, but I picked the closest one before it. Software installation was straightforward but caused some anxiety when it automatically updated firmware on the card, since I didn’t even know if the card was working yet. Luckily things went smoothly and after a restart I was ready to go.
The software installs the Matrox Max H.264 settings into the Custom folder of Compressor’s settings. I loaded up the 90 second ProRes LT test file from my previous tests, grabbed the High Quality 720p/29.97 Matrox setting and started the compression.
Previous fastest encode was 03:07. Encoding with the Matrox Max CompressHD card:
01:22 — More than twice as fast with the card, and 8 seconds faster than real time!
I also tried Fast Encode, which finished in 50 seconds but the quality suffered a bit. I could see some stairstepping in the titles and the image appeared softer. So I’ll probably stick to High Quality unless it’s just for a quick approval clip. Good to know it’s there if I need it.
I’ll try a longer file soon, but this is very promising.