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Tutorial: GPU-Assisted Multicam Editing and Encoding in Sony Vegas

Sony Vegas instructor David McKnight continues his video tutorial series with a look at Vegas' new GPU Assist feature, which enables Vegas editors to leverage the processing power of supported NVIDIA and AMD video cards to get full-frame previews of loaded timelines and accelerate rendering with many popular codecs.

CPU-only vs. GPU Assist

If I leave GPU acceleration off on my system, and leave the preview processing burden on my CPU, it takes it a couple seconds for Vegas to figure out what sort of preview quality it will be able to deliver, but ends up showing a full 24 frames per second (fps) (Figure 5, below) for my six-track HD project.

Sony Vegas Pro 11
Figure 5. We're getting Preview Half, 24fps playback for our 6-track project with GPU Assist off.

To engage the GPU, we need to go back to the Video Preview Preferences screen. I have two cards in my system (shown in Figure 4), and neither is particularly new or high-powered, but they are recognized and supported by Vegas Pro's GPU Assist. They're both in the NVIDIA GeForce 400 series, and the more powerful of the two is the 450, so I'll select that.

(Now, just as an aside, the reason I have two video cards is so I can connect three monitors for editing. I've got an HDTV and two computer monitors connected to the system. So selecting the 450 and choosing a plot tells me we're going to have to restart Vegas for those changes to take effect.)

Figure 6 (below) shows playback with GPU Assist (via the GeForce 450) enabled. We're at 24fps and our playback is at Preview Half. So, in my particular configuration, there's not a whole lot of difference.

Sony Vegas Pro 11
Figure 6. Playback with GPU Assist enabled: Preview Half, 24fps

In some cases, CPU-only might give you better performance. Just because you have a GPU doesn't mean it's going to perform better than what your current CPU does. So you have to kind of weigh one against the other. If you have a lower-powered CPU and a higher-powered GPU, you can expect a nice performance boost if you select GPU Assist. But if you have a higher-powered CPU and a lower/mid-range GPU, which is what I have here in those GT 400 series cards, you might see a little bit of difference in some things, depending on the nature of the media, but you shouldn't anticipate a huge difference one way or the other.

Rendering with the GPU

The other place that the GPU will be valuable to you is in rendering. Currently, there are only certain templates and codecs that take advantage of the GPU. Any of the templates under the Sony AVC/MVC will take advantage of the GPU (Figure 7, below).

Sony Vegas Pro 11
Figure 7. All of the Sony AVC/MVC codecs will leverage GPU Assist during encode.

Let's say one of the delivery media for your project was a Blu-ray Disc. First, you'd select one of the encoding presets for Blu-ray Disc, then click Customize Template (Figure 8, below).

Sony Vegas Pro 11
Figure 8. Choose a template, then click the Customize Template button to tailor it to your tastes.

The Customize Template dialog opens (Figure 9, below). Under Encode Mode you can either have Vegas select automatically whether to use the CPU or GPU for rendering, or you can say render using the CPU only, or render using GPU if available. I recommend leaving it set on automatic so that Vegas will adjust accordingly.

Sony Vegas Pro 11
Figure 9. Choosing GPU-assisted rendering, which is available because we have a supported card and have chosen a supported codec.

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