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Is GPU Important for 4k Video Editing?

Is GPU Important for 4k Video Editing?

Is the GPU important for video editing? let's discuss the role of the GPU in a laptop or desktop computer during video editing. And then I'm gonna show you some 4K benchmarks in Premiere Pro to show you how it works and the different preferences you can set up in Premiere Pro to make sure it is most efficient. All that coming at you right now.

The first thing we're going to discuss is the role of the GPU inside of the computer. So is the GPU important for video editing?


What does the GPU do?

The GPU handles all of the graphic renderings. Now, this comes with a little bit of confusion. I have a lot of graphic designers ask if they need a high-performance GPU to do graphic design. The simple answer is no. When you're designing in Photoshop or Illustrator for instance you are not rendering graphics in motion as you would in After Effects and Premiere Pro for instance the GPU is responsible for smoothly displaying the high definition graphics that are displayed on your screen and or played back within the timeline of say Premiere Pro or After Effects.

Some argue that you need the same GPU horsepower if you are using an external 4K Ultra HD monitor while working in Photoshop or Illustrator. But I disagree. I have never experienced a lag and design experience due to a slow GPU while designing or editing still images.


Importance of a GPU while video editing

If you're editing 4K footage in Premiere Pro you have video files with a very large Pixel ratio which are either 308040 by 20160 or 496 by 2160. These are large files that take a lot of power to produce on your screen and most CPUs become quickly overloaded by this because they are not optimized to produce the size of the image that you are trying to display. So the GPU assists the CPU. The CPU fetches the request from say Premiere Pro decodes the information and then executes a message to the GPU telling it to render the video files within your timeline to be displayed smoothly on your screen during playback.

The reason the GPU can handle this amount of information of visual information that is is due to the number of cores it contains. So Here's a quick reference of the 10 series graphics processing units from Nvidia and how many cores they have per the unit associated with it.

Is GPU Important for 4k Video Editing?

So with a lower-end GPU containing around 642 to 770 cores, this allows the GPU to execute what is referred to as parallel processing through a technique Nvidia developed called CUDA cores. So rather than a CPU having 6 main powerful cores that attack operations one at a time, the GPU attacks many many more computational tasks at once. More cores equals more workers. So basically the CPU is like the general contractor, planning the building of a large dam and the GPU is the 750 workers all working at the same time to get the dam up in a fraction of the time.

It would take the GC the general contractor if you try to do it all by himself. GPUs are best used on visual tasks which is why we see their effect so prominent in video editing.

There is an awesome video of really like a GPU how it works visually in action by the guys who put on the MythBusters. So if you look up like Mythbusters Nvidia definitely watch that video after you finish this because it is just super cool. It's entertaining and it also creates a lot of clarity behind this topic.


Let's jump into the tests.

For this test, I used a Gigabyte arrow 15i7 9750h processor, 16 gigs of RAM in an RTX 2070 Max-q. I have tasted a 9-minute 4K Premiere Pro project with talking head footage and B-roll footage. Now I'm gonna have CUDA cores optimized in Premiere Pro I'm going to have that enabled. And the 4K playback was really smooth. As the timeline begins to play the CPU is sending a task to the GPU to render and display the 4K image on the timeline. It's handling it exceptionally.

Okay, what happens when I switch off the GPU. The timeline nearly comes to a halt. With a CPU running that nearly full bore it can't keep up with the task. There are too many mathematical calculations for the CPU to keep up with something that the parallel CUDA cores in the GPU can handle with great ease.


Let's turn on the CUDA cores again and do a quick render test.

Now, this was a minute 19 project. It has a talking head it has B-roll and it has some motion graphics in it. It took 3:25 minutes to render out the 7240 frames with the GPU support CUDA cores turn on. I turned off the CUDA cores and it took 28 minutes and 6 seconds to render the entire minute 19 project with no GPU support. 

I also ran the same test with my 2017 Dell XPS15. This model has the i7 7700h HQ that's a quad-core processor, 32gigs of RAM, and the GTX 1050 graphics processing unit. To provide an example of what an entry-level GPU can accomplish regarding 4K timeline playback and rendering.

With the CUDA cores turn on the 4K playback and the timeline is smooth but as the CPU begins to heat up it begins to throttle. This causes the timeline to become jumpy and inconsistent. The throttle, The CPU decreases the CPUs capability to quickly send the GPU the information it needs to accomplish its tasks.

And GPU becomes underutilized as the CPU starts to throttle. When I first started the playback before the CPU heated up the GPU was bouncing around 65 to 80% utilization. But now that the CPU is throttled it sits much lower.


How this system handles rendering?

So we're going to take that say 19-minute clip and we're going to do the render and it takes 5 minutes and 53 seconds to render out 7240 frames with CUDA cores turned on. Now turn off. The CUDA cores have no GPU help. It took 1 hour and 50 minutes to render the entire minute project with no GPU support.

So it's important to consider both components. It's not just about having a great GPU or a fantastic CPU it's about complementing the CPUs really well together. So if you have any more questions about GPUs importance for video editing definitely comment below. I'd love to answer those questions for you.

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