H.264 performance on Vegas Pro 10

Disclaimer: This article is published with Sony’s permission, but they had no say in the content or benchmarks.

Vegas Pro 10 is almost out of the door, with many new features (particularly 3D support). One feature that is of major importance to modern dSLR and digicam videographers, is its new h.264 support.

In the past, Vegas was using Quicktime or MainConcept to decode the various h.264 streams. However, especially when Quicktime was used, there was a major stability and speed problem. Add more than a handful of h.264 MOV files on your timeline, and you will be most likely looking into a crashed application. And when it would not crash, you’d probably had to deal with low frame rate performance. A very common problem for dSLR users.

Thankfully for all of us, Vegas Pro 10 has dealt with the problem by optimizing their own h.264 Sony AVC decoder, named “compoundplug.dll”. Here’s the kick of the story: the decoder does not use special h.264 decoding APIs from graphics cards (like CUDA) for full hardware acceleration (like Premiere or CoreAVC do). Instead, it’s using the generic Windows APIs, but with some hard-earned hand optimizations. The downside is, that while fast, it can’t be faster than true hardware acceleration. But it might just be “good enough” for most of us who don’t own very expensive graphics cards (and a good bonus for laptop users too who can’t install fast nVidia cards).

Optimization was carried out especially around Canon’s dSRL/digicam MOV clips. However, the optimizations are also very visible on AVCHD and .MP4 h.264 files too! How fast you ask? Here’s a rundown, from my own PC:

Vegas Pro 9 32bit (Pro/Platinum 7/8/9 numbers should be pretty close to this):
30p 1080p Canon 5D file: about 8 fps
720/60p 7D file: about 10 fps
720/30p Canon P&S digicam file: 25-30 fps
Main Profile CABAC MP4 720/30p: 12 fps
AVCHD 60i: 28-30 fps (near real-time)

Premiere Pro CS5 64bit (software rendering):
30p 1080p Canon 5D file: choppy (~10-20 fps, no exact numbers available)
720/60p 7D file: choppy (~10-20 fps, no exact numbers available)
720/30p Canon P&S digicam file: real-time
Main Profile CABAC MP4 720/30p: real-time
AVCHD 60i: Anywhere between 10 and 30 fps (very choppy at times)

Vegas Pro 10 32bit (64bit version was identical in numbers):
30p 1080p Canon 5D file: smooth, real-time playback
720/60p 7D file: smooth, real-time playback
720/30p Canon P&S digicam file: smooth, real-time playback
Main Profile CABAC MP4 720/30p: smooth, real-time playback
AVCHD 60i: smooth, real-time playback

The PC used was a DELL workstation, with a 2.4 Ghz Core 2 Quad, 6 GB of RAM, 64bit Vista, Quicktime 7.6.6. Proper project settings, and Preview(“Full”) fullscreen view were used. The video performance was measured while running on a secondary 1080p screen. Please note that playing back a file on a 1080p screen, in full screen, is slower than on a smaller window — but it makes for a better stress test, and it is how most professionals would edit anyway.

Also note that my PC does not support Adobe’s Mercury Engine (it requires an nVidia card with 768 MB of VRAM, while my 9800GT is “only” 512 MB). However, even the plain software rendering on CS5 is significantly faster than on CS4, so this is a more even comparison to the “software-only” Vegas Pro 10 decoding ability. I have no way to test this for you, but common sense says that the Mercury Engine would be faster than any software-only hand optimization.

Anyways, the point is that for us dSLR/digicam users, Vegas Pro 10 is a major update in terms of h.264 stability and performance. h.264 is now fast enough, even on less fortunate machines.

For those who prefer the old way of doing things, like, converting to Cineform, you will also be glad to know that Vegas now uses the Cineform SDK to decode Cineform files, rather than the old “Video for Windows” API. This means that some modern, extra features of Cineform (e.g. 3D) will now be working on Vegas too, the same way they do on Premiere.

Update: A friend sent me a link to test a Kodak Zi8 file (1080/30p h.264), and the results were:
– Vegas Pro 9: ~7 fps
– Vegas Pro 10: 30 fps, real time.

Update 2: Another friend sent me a link to a 1080/60p file from a Panasonic AVCHD camera. The results were:
– Vegas Pro 9: ~3-4 fps
– Vegas Pro 10: 18 fps.

44 Comments »

Glenn wrote on October 8th, 2010 at 4:23 AM PST:

Does the Cineform sdk improve playback performance of Cineform files? The improved AVCHD performance sounds promising, but I’ll be sticking with Cineform as First Light has become my main colour fix up tool.


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Eugenia wrote on October 8th, 2010 at 4:27 AM PST:

I did not notice any speed up or slow down. It’s real time on my PC.


Glenn Thomas wrote on October 8th, 2010 at 5:30 AM PST:

I’ve got a friend with Vegas Platinum and the same Ixy 510 IS as mine that he bought after seeing my videos. He couldn’t load the footage into Vegas Platinum 9 without it crashing and was extremely frustrated. He’s not really tech minded, so my suggestion that he visit the Sony Forums didn’t help. I then read somewhere (one of your articles I think) that Platinum 10 fixed the problem. So I suggested he upgrade, which he did. Same problem! I felt terrible. He’d just spent all this money on the upgrade and still couldn’t load the files into Vegas Platinum 10 without it crashing. The files from his crappy old Sony camera worked fine though.

Now I’m trying to convince him to get a copy of Neo Scene, but he doesn’t like the idea of paying out more money believing it still won’t work, and is even reluctant to try the demo. If only Sony would sort out the h.264 problem in Platinum also! I’m sure there must be a lot of consumers out there like my friend with the same problems and not familiar with the forums.


Perrone Ford wrote on October 8th, 2010 at 7:26 AM PST:

Nicely done, both to you and SCS. The press release said NOTHING of improved decoding speed for H.264, only optimized encoding, and only in their codec. I have a feeling Vegas 10 might be more warmly received if it can be publicized that decoding/playback has gotten a much needed boost as well.

Thanks Eugenia.


Cliff Etzel wrote on October 8th, 2010 at 7:46 AM PST:

How many video streams and effects did you test with Eugenia? A single stream isn’t going to tax the system – I’d like to see 3-4 streams on the timeline with some transitions and effects tested to get some real world numbers on how well Vegas Pro 10 performed.


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Eugenia wrote on October 8th, 2010 at 1:21 PM PST:

Cliff, when you add transitions/effects, then you don’t test the actual decoder, you test the transitions and effects. Of course and it will be slower when you add these. It’s only normal.

Glenn, Platinum 10 supposedly already has an earlier version of the compoundplug.dll, so some speed up should be seen there too. If all his Vegas versions crash with these Canon digicam files, then there’s something else to blame. I’d suggest him cleaning up his system from malware, and if all else fails, re-install the OS. Also, if the crash happens after he tries to import more than 50-60 MOV files at the same time (rather than just 10 or so), then it might indeed become unstable. Didn’t happen here, but it is a factor.

Perrone, I agree. This is a major point for dSLR users, and it should have been included in their advertising material.


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Eugenia wrote on October 8th, 2010 at 2:25 PM PST:

Glenn, I just loaded 279 Canon SD780 IS 720/30p digicam h.264 files *in one go* on Vegas Pro 10’s media bin, and there was no crash. In older versions, that would have been a sure-fire crash. So I think that your friend really needs to clean up his machine, or makes sure his RAM is healthy, for example.

Either that, or Platinum 10’s h.264 DLL decoder file is not as recent/fixed as Pro 10’s is.


Michael C. wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 12:35 AM PST:

To me, realtime for 60i is 60 images per second, not 30. Does Vegas 10 still insist on using frame rate instead of image rate for interlaced footage? This is lame. When I set deinterlacing to “interpolate” I expect the preview window to render 60 images per second.

Could you try loading a 1080p60 clip from the Panasonic TM700 and try that one? If you cannot find such a clip I can send you one.


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Eugenia wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 1:51 AM PST:

Michael, I don’t believe that anything has changed in that front. You must turn 60i to 60p manually and then load it as such.


Andi wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 5:06 AM PST:

I would like to see such hard-earned hand-coded optimizations in other apps/OS too, all other the place would be best.
Apps feel better, are more responsive, more effective, it’s great.
Downside is, Hardware is sold because the Apps are “slow” on “older” machines, so optimizations will hurt hardware sales maybe…


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Eugenia wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 10:22 AM PST:

The problem with these kinds of optimizations is that they take a lot of time — as much as fixing bugs. When the shipping date goes back because of such fixes, then two things happen: either the product gets canceled, or the price gets higher. I’m sure no one would buy Vegas if it was to cost $20,000 (because that’s the kind of price we talk when you take the time to optimize and fix all bugs on the whole app/plugins/codecs the same way). The need for optimization to a specific part of the app must be very important in order to get done and bring-in new sales, as it is true with this new dSLR support.


Burk wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 11:23 AM PST:

This is great news! Thanks for doing this, very excited about the DSLR and 3D stuff in Vegas 10 – can’t wait to get my hands on it!

One question, from what I understand Cineform does a slight gamma correction to DSLR footage. Am I understanding that correctly? I guess what I’m trying to find out is if a Cineform file and a native DSLR file will look the same on the Vegas 10 timeline.

Thanks again for the report!


Michael C. wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 11:36 AM PST:

Anyway, could you compare 1080p60 on Vegas 9 and Vegas 10?


David Newman wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 12:50 PM PST:

Burk,

The correction we apply to the Canon DLSRs is a conversion from the full range YUV 601, to the more standard for HD 16-235 Rec709 — gamma is not changed (still 2.2.) Nothing is lost as we do all the processing in 10-bit. This is done as YUV HDSDI/HDMI playback from Canon DLSR would be wrong if not for this fix. While we could do this upon decode, that is additional processing where you don’t want it. This fix help normalize Canon DSLR footage across all NLEs and helps when mixing with other cameras sources.

David Newman
CTO, CineForm


Burk wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 1:34 PM PST:

Wow! Thanks a bunch Mr. Newman!

Soooo I think I got it, it’s more a color space correction (601 to 709). So how would this color space difference manifest itself from the Vegas timeline monitoring out via HDMI? Say I’ve got a 7D Cineform clip and raw 7d clip side by side on the Vegas timeline. Same shot – how would they differ via “preview to second monitor” via HDMI?

Thanks a bunch for all this info, really appreciate it!


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Eugenia wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 1:47 PM PST:

Michael, what exactly do you expect to find from 1080/60p footage? If the footage is 60p, all you will see is faster playback. If the footage is 60i and you want to make it 60p via interpolation on the fly, this won’t work. The same manual work must be done as in previous versions of Vegas.


Frédéric wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 2:36 PM PST:

Thanks for the information!

However I am surprised because they say the following on the Vegas 10 Pro product page (http://www.sonycreativesoftware.com/vegaspro10):

“GPU-Accelerated AVC Encoding

Editors using a CUDA-enabled NVIDIA® video card are able to encode to the Sony AVC format using GPU-accelerated rendering — providing improved AVC rendering performance and speed, ensuring final projects are published faster than ever before”

So it sounds like CUDA is definitely leveraged, but you seem to say the opposite.

May Cuda is not used for preview, but only for rendering?? or not for decoding, but for encoding?

Thanks for any additional clarification! 🙂
Frédéric


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Eugenia wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 2:39 PM PST:

Frederik, you are confusing things. The CUDA-enabled ability is ONLY for the Sony AVC *encoding*, not the decoding we discuss here. Encoding is used at the very end, when you export your video, while decoding is used while you edit. Different things.


Frédéric wrote on October 9th, 2010 at 11:49 PM PST:

ok, that’s clear now. Thanks.

And did you make any tests for rendering performance improvements with Cuda and Vegas Pro 10?

Thanks again!
Frédéric


Michael C. wrote on October 10th, 2010 at 12:53 AM PST:

Eugenia, I am not talking about 60i anymore. I am just curious what is difference in preview frame rate when you play 1080p60 on Vegas 9 and Vegas 10. If you need raw clips I can send you a couple.


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Eugenia wrote on October 10th, 2010 at 1:41 AM PST:

Frederik, in my tests the encoding is not as dramatic as the decoding speed ups. I never got better than 10-20% speed ups, while the decoding speed up could go up to 300% or faster.

Michael, email me directly and send me a link to such a file url.


Frédéric wrote on October 10th, 2010 at 3:05 AM PST:

Thanks Eugenia.

For information, I made a benchmark to compare MP4 rendering on Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum HD 10, Vegas Pro 9 and Premiere Pro CS5. putting together 5 MOV clips from my EOS 7D to the time line. Only one video track and one audio track, no effects. Movie duration 1’40. Job done on the same i7-950 machine. Here is what I got:

– Vegas Studio or Pro with MainConcept MP4 plugin: about 3’20 (+ Cineform conversion before)
– Vegas Studio or Pro with Sony AVC plugin : about 6’30
– Premiere Pro CS5 (with MainConcept) : 1’40 –> half the time.

Should I mention that I took care to have the same settings in all cases (resolution, bitrate etc.)?

I hope I will get rendering times equivalent to Premiere Pro CS5 with Vegas Pro 10 tomorrow!!! but according to what you say, I am kind of sceptical.

Thanks again,
Frédéric


Glenn Thomas wrote on October 10th, 2010 at 4:50 AM PST:

Hi Eugenia, there would definitely be no malware on his machine as I built it myself and it’s not connected to the internet. All legitimate software too.

Anyway, he got the Neo Scene trial running without any issues, so will be purchasing a copy of that.


Sebastien wrote on October 10th, 2010 at 8:56 AM PST:

How much of a gain for AVCHD files (ex. from Panasonic HMC-150).

Also, what’s your opinion on the Stabilization plug-in? Worth the upgrade or not?


Ivan wrote on October 10th, 2010 at 12:35 PM PST:

Very interesting to read and very promising.

Just want to clear out the following: SCS’s numbering of Vegas and Vegas Movie Studio Plat Ed. has always been a pain, and if you ask me, suspecious and deliberately misleading.
The fact is that Vegas (the expensive pro version) is always more advanced than VMS, while the numbering of the program is the opposite. Example: Vegas 7 came out and a while later VMS8 Plat ed came out, with some advanced technology of Vegas 7 in it. Vegas 9 came, and some time later VMS 10 HD came out, sharing some advanced features that were in Vegas 9. So now Vegas 10 is out, so I would expect these promising new features only to be found in VMS11, and NOT in VMS10.


Ivan wrote on October 10th, 2010 at 12:39 PM PST:

I forgot to mention that also on my system, VMS10 Production Suite is crashing often when putting several mov files to the timeline, or when rendering more complex projects.

I can only hope that a patched VMS10a/b/c… will come out soon, with these desperately needed codecs.


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Eugenia wrote on October 10th, 2010 at 1:02 PM PST:

>How much of a gain for AVCHD files (ex. from Panasonic HMC-150).

An AVCHD file was already tested in the article. It’s usually 4x faster than before.

>Also, what’s your opinion on the Stabilization plug-in? Worth the upgrade or not?

I haven’t tried it on Vegas Pro 10, only on VMS Platinum 10. It was just ok.

>So now Vegas 10 is out, so I would expect these promising new features only to be found in VMS11

Actually, VMS10 does have a lot of the Vegas Pro 10 features in it. It’s just that they are early versions of it. I agree that VMS needs more love from Sony.


Guido Rehme wrote on October 10th, 2010 at 11:10 PM PST:

Hello Eugenia,
all talked about nvidia as a pc solution. So i want ask you if you have some experience with Matrox cards?
And do you know how important it is, how much bit a card must have? Big Consumer cards have up to 512bit, but a expensive Matrox have 128bit only! I have a quad amd win7 64bit 8gb ram machine and using vegas, do u have a advice for a card for me?
Sure, for photoshop i must use it too!

thank you
Guido


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Eugenia wrote on October 10th, 2010 at 11:39 PM PST:

As I wrote on the article, Vegas does not use cuda, so all PCs with different gfx cards will get speed up. Some more, some less. So I don’t understand the nature of your question, since this is already answered. As for matrox in particular, you can’t expect me to know exact numbers. This would preposterous since there are many gfx cards our there.


Bob wrote on October 11th, 2010 at 3:58 PM PST:

Thank you Eugenia,
Have you noticed if the new decoder gives more latitude or flexibility in the shadows (or are they crunched as before)?
I am refering to Canon MOV clips.


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Eugenia wrote on October 11th, 2010 at 4:23 PM PST:

You can download the Vegas Pro 10 trial to try it yourself and let us know too. It will install in parallel to your existing Vegas.


Glenn Thomas wrote on October 11th, 2010 at 11:55 PM PST:

Just picked this up this morning. I made the big mistake of choosing the Seminar Series free offer. They briefly explain the new features.. Very disappointing 🙁 Anyone yet to upgrade, go for the 6 month Particle Illusion or Sound Effects option!

Still, a great upgrade. The audio events and group tracks features alone make it worth the upgrade. Especially for music and CD mastering, event effects will make a huge difference. I no longer have to use Samplitude SE for that functionality.


Vilius M. wrote on October 12th, 2010 at 10:20 AM PST:

Hello, I just tested out Vegas 10 pro on my system with Windows Server 2003 installed. I got the crash when movie clips in my project media exceeded like 15 or 20 clips. And sometimes they have appeared like only green square in preview window and green in timeline too. When I have converted files from my t2i they worked with no problems… Could it be because of the settings that my project is set to be? Right now they seems to be on default configuration…


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Eugenia wrote on October 12th, 2010 at 10:41 AM PST:

I don’t know. I loaded 279 720p such files in one go and it didn’t crash.


Michael C. wrote on October 12th, 2010 at 10:59 AM PST:

Vilius, I had “green” clips in Vegas 8 Pro (as well as in 8.1 Pro 64-bit) with MPEG-2 clips, when I was adding more than about 40 clips into a project. Vegas 9 is robust in this regard: more than 70 clips and no green ones. Maybe Vegas 10 has a regression error compared to Vegas 9.

Eugenia, Vilius does not talk about crashing. He means that when you scroll your project window up and down, Vegas re-creates thumbnails (it does not seem to store thumbnails in project files, rather stupid), so you go down the project first time, it is fine, then you scroll up, and when Vegas re-renders thumbnails, it fails occasionally, and shows a green rectangle instead. Because of this bug, the clips on the timeline may also be affected and shown green. Even worse, Vegas seems to associate thumbnail with the first frame of a clip, so when you scrub or render, you can get green flashes in video at the points where clips touch. This is horrible experience, it almost made me to throw the stupid Vegas out. I spend tons of money on it, I bought legally three versions of it, and it does this crap for me. I even had several “red” clips. I was really infuriated with it. I blamed my machine, RAM, the external drives. Now I use Vegas 9, which seems to be much more robust in this regard. I still get crashes when trying to render out AVC or MPEG-2 with “wrong” settings, but rendering with “correct” settings seems to work fine. And no green clips so far.

Sony must fix this green/red clip issue in Vegas 10, if they let a regression bug through.


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Eugenia wrote on October 12th, 2010 at 11:07 AM PST:

I had this bug with Cineform on Pro 9 and Platinum 10. The green/black frames it created in the timeline, it would result in a crash eventually. However, I found what was causing this: it was the Matrox MPEG-2 AVI codec! Removing that codec from my PC, fixed the black/green frames. Can’t say for sure about other kinds of formats, but for Cineform AVI, that’s what’s fixed it.


Jashan Makan wrote on October 12th, 2010 at 3:44 PM PST:

I’ve just noticed a weird bug with vegas pro 10. When keyframing video fx, the slider within the video fx window does not affect the video preview so you cannot preview the effects that you are applying as you are keyframing the effects. The keyframing in Pan/crop does affect the preview window when moving the slider within the window however.


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Eugenia wrote on October 12th, 2010 at 3:54 PM PST:

File a bug report with Sony then.


Ben Hickson wrote on October 14th, 2010 at 8:23 AM PST:

Way up earlier in the comments you noted that you noticed no improvement with cineform files because they always play back real time on your PC.

My PC’s been getting wonky lately (blame me, I just can’t stop tweaking it), and my cineform playback has slowed. It plays real time when there is only one stream, but when there are two tracks above one another playback slows down. I’m not trying to do any fades or opacity or anything like that, so why is cineform/vegas not just decoding the top (single) stream? have you had this problem? it’s very frequent when editing to have clips overlap each other when I’m moving stuff around. can you test and see if playback slows for you if you stack like eight cineform files on separate tracks? it should only decode the top stream right? but it seems to be trying to decode them all.

the major changes I have made lately:

started with 8.0c 32 bit on XP 32. : all good
upgraded to 9.0e 32 bit on XP 32: still good
installed windows 7 64 bit on another internal drive and 9.0e 64 bit: slow
changed boot order to go back to xp and 9.0e 32 bit: still slow? (what?)

you seem to be running 64 bit vista and 32 bit vegas? does that seem to make the best use of your pc’s performance? Should win7 64 and vegas 32 be my best path? or does vista actually beat win7 in some weird way?

How does the stabilization feature compare to FCP’s smoothcam?

Should I upgrade to vegas 10? Is 10.0a stable enough yet? 8.0c is good and so is 9.0e, so I’m wondering if “a” is far enough along in updates to make a move. if I build my system from scratch (AGAIN) is 10.0a bankable?

any improvement in the RED system? can I copy R3D metadata settings between files yet? Any more user friendly, or have they not tweaked with their RED stuff at all for this release? I realize 3D and h.264 is two HUGE improvements and worthy of leaving their RED system be for now.

You are such a huge asset to the vegas community. We each need to buy you a beer sometime. Lets get sony to give you some free cameras or something, kinda the way pbloom does with canon 😉


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Eugenia wrote on October 14th, 2010 at 8:51 AM PST:

I think you need to download the trial version and try all that yourself. The 30-day trial is out since Monday, and it installs in parallel.

Regarding multiple Cineform clips on top of each other in the timeline, just select each, right click, properties, and set transparency to NONE. This helps immensely with speed.


Ben Hickson wrote on October 16th, 2010 at 3:48 PM PST:

Can you screenshot where it says transparency none? I can’t find it? I feel silly.


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Eugenia wrote on October 16th, 2010 at 8:37 PM PST:

On your cineform clip in the timeline, right click, properties, media, alpha channel, none.


Ben Hickson wrote on October 17th, 2010 at 2:28 AM PST:

Cool Thanks! Check out this script I found.

http://forums.creativecow.net/readpost/24/915848

You just change the little comment slashes // to choose what you want the alpha channel to change to. I set mine to none, but I could change it easily back to premultiplied, or something else.


Ralph Thompson wrote on October 18th, 2010 at 12:58 AM PST:

great post thanks


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