Intel Quick Sync Video
Intel Quick Sync Video is the name given to Intel's hardware video encoding and decoding technology integrated into some of its CPUs. The name "Quick Sync" refers to the use case of quickly transcoding ("syncing") a video from, for example, a DVD or Blu-ray Disc to a format appropriate to, for example, a smartphone. Quick Sync was introduced with the Sandy Bridge CPU microarchitecture on 9 January 2011.
Quick Sync has been praised for its speed. The eighth annual MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 video codecs comparison showed that Quick Sync is comparable to x264 superfast preset in terms of speed, compression ratio and quality (SSIM); tests were performed on an Intel Core i7 3770 (Ivy Bridge) processor. A benchmark from Tom's Hardware showed in 2011 that Quick Sync could convert a 449 MB, four-minute 1080p file to 1024×768 in 22 seconds. The same encoding using only software took 172 seconds but it is not clear what software encoder was used and how it was configured. The same encoding took 83 or 86 seconds GPU-assisted, using an Nvidia GeForce GTX 570 and an AMD Radeon HD 6870, respectively, both of which where at that time (5 years ago) contemporary high-end GPUs. Unlike video encoding on a general-purpose GPU, Quick Sync is a dedicated hardware core on the processor die. This allows for faster and more power efficient video processing.
Quick Sync, like other hardware accelerated video encoding technologies, gives lower quality results than with CPU only encoders. Speed is prioritized over quality.
Quick Sync development
Quick Sync was first unveiled at Intel Developer Forum 2010 (13 September) but, according to Tom's Hardware, Quick Sync had been conceptualized 5 years before that. The older Clarkdale microarchitecture had hardware video decoding support, but no hardware encoding support. known as Intel Clear Video.
- Version 1 (Sandy Bridge)
- Quick Sync was initially built into some Sandy Bridge CPUs, but not into Sandy Bridge Pentiums or Celerons.
- Version 2 (Ivy Bridge)
- The Ivy Bridge microarchitecture included a "next-generation" implementation of Quick Sync.
- Version 3 (Haswell)
- The Haswell microarchitecture implementation is focused on quality, with speed about the same as before (for any given clip length vs. encoding length). It has seven hard-coded quality/performance levels (called "target usages"), compared to the three in previous generations. The highest-quality TU1 setting is intended to be higher quality than Ivy Bridge's version, and the highest speed TU7 setting should be faster, higher-quality, and more battery-friendly for mobile devices.
- This generation of Quick Sync supports the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC, VC-1 and H.262/MPEG-2 Part 2 video standards.
- Version 4 (Broadwell)
- The Broadwell microarchitecture adds VP8 hardware decoding and encoding support. Also, it has two independent bit stream decoder (BSD) rings to process video commands on GT3 GPUs; this allows one BSD ring to process decoding and the other BSD ring to process encoding at the same time.
- Version 5 (Skylake)
- The Skylake microarchitecture adds a full fixed-function H.265/HEVC main/8-bit encoding and decoding acceleration, hybrid and partial HEVC main10/10-bit decoding acceleration, JPEG encoding acceleration for resolutions up to 16,000×16,000 pixels, and partial VP9 encoding and decoding acceleration.
- Version 6 (Kaby Lake)
- The Kaby Lake microarchitecture adds full fixed-function H.265/HEVC Main10/10-bit encoding and decoding acceleration & full fixed-function VP9 8-bit & 10-bit decoding acceleration & 8-bit encoding acceleration.
Operating system support
The Quick Sync Video SIP core needs to be supported by the device driver. The device driver provides one or more interfaces, for example VDPAU, VAAPI or DXVA for video decoding, and OpenMAX IL or VAAPI for video encoding. One of these interfaces is then used by end-user software, for example VLC media player or GStreamer, to access the Quick Sync Video hardware and make use of it.
Quick Sync support by Intel Media SDK on Linux is available, and as of November 2013[update] it is supported by Wowza Streaming Engine (formerly known as Wowza Media Server) for transcoding of media streams using their transcoder add-on. Quick Sync is also supported by the VA API, for both encoding and decoding.
Microsoft offers a wide support for Quick Sync in Windows based on supporting driver software from Intel and good support through both DirectShow/DirectX as well as WMF (Windows Media Foundation). A wide range of applications are based upon this base support for the technology in Windows. Windows Vista and later have support for Quick Sync Video.
Hardware decoding and encoding
Support for Quick Sync hardware accelerated decoding of H.264, MPEG-2, and VC-1 video is widely available today. One common way to gain access to the technology on the Microsoft Windows platform is by use of the free ffdshow filter. Some other free software like VLC media player (since 2.1.0 "Rincewind") support Quick Sync as well. However, many commercial applications also benefit from the technology today, including CyberLink PowerDVD, CyberLink PowerDirector and MacroMotion Bogart "gold" edition.
It has been claimed that in testing it keeps the CPU at its lowest possible frequency to reduce power consumption in order to maximize battery life for mobile devices while being about twice as fast as libavcodec.
Support for hardware-assisted media encoding tailored for Quick Sync is widely available. Examples of such software with Quick Sync support during encoding processes are Badaboom Media Converter, CyberLink MediaShow, CyberLink MediaEspresso, ArcSoft MediaConverter, MAGIX Video Pro X, Pinnacle Studio (since version 18), Roxio Toast, Roxio Creator, XSplit Broadcaster, XSplit Gamecaster (all commercial) and projects like HandBrake (windows build only), or Open Broadcaster Software.
- Intel Clear Video, video decoding using a general purpose Intel GPU.
- Video Coding Engine, AMD's equivalent SIP core
- Nvidia NVENC, Nvidia's equivalent SIP core
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