Posted by: ben | November 16, 2008

nVidia brought PureVideo to MPlayer/Linux

Regarding GPU, I always used to be an nVidia fan, especially considering Linux. I do like Intel too, but only because they have a relatively good OSS Linux driver (and having a MacMini, it’s well appreciated) but, on my main PC, I had to choose between ATI and nVidia and the choice was obvious.

The sad thing unfortunately is that nVidia GPU is fine under Linux only if you intend to use their proprietary binary driver. That’s a bit of a pity considering it’s fully bloated and closed-source but at least it works fine (way more than the ATI crap). Due to license issues, we won’t be able to ship it with GeeXboX though.

What’s interesting today, is that nVidia released their new version of Linux driver, which is particularly interesting for GeForce 8+ owners (those with cards that support CUDA API), because they manage to bring PureVideo h/w video decoding support to Linux.

This means that this driver is capable of using the GPU to handle parts of MPEG-2, MPEG-4, H.264 and VC-1 video decoding. OK, I know, ATI did the same kind of announce 3 weeks ago and released their own API too but they “forgot” to provide any libs and headers which make it unusable right now …

nVidia called its extension VDPAU, which stands for Video Decode and Presentation API for Unix (yes, it does work on FreeBSD and Solaris too). However, what is pretty interesting is that, for once, they did the full job, providing patches to ffmpeg and MPlayer so that Linux players are directly able to make use of their API. And the results are damn impressive !!

Phoronix has already performed benchmarks of it and the results are excellent. What used to take more than 50% of your CPU now only take 5. Real HDTV decoding is now completely doable under Linux at a reduced cost. It’s likely that patches will get merged into upstream MPlayer and all we have to hope now is that OSS Nouveau driver become stable enough and find a way to provide CUDA API access so that we’ll be able to do it the OSS way 🙂


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