Intel® Media SDK Accelerates Development on Sorenson Squeeze
If you looked “under the hood” of a computer processor, you would find that there are very few functions it could ever be asked to perform that required more raw computing power than video encoding, decoding and transcoding. The engineers at Carlsbad, Calif.-based Sorenson Media devote a great deal of their resources to devising the best ways to harness the power of specific processors (from manufacturers such as Intel). This targeted optimization allows the company’s enormously popular video encoding software, Sorenson Squeeze, to take advantage of every feature in their end users’ hardware to maximize speed and efficiency.
As anybody involved in moving video from place to place can attest, the expectations from a product like Squeeze are expanding at an exponential rate. Content creators are often mixing material from multiple codecs within a single project. Collaborators and clients expect to see dailies, rough cuts or visual effects iterations from remote locations. Consumers expect to access content immediately and seamlessly on an ever expanding list of devices. Expectations in both arenas are escalating as image resolutions expand to 2K and 4K.
As Sorenson’s developers embarked on the release of Squeeze 8.5, they were expecting to face a common frustration for software developers—common, that is, until the Intel® Media SDK (software developer kit) came along. Available as a free download, the Intel Media SDK allows software developers to optimize their products for 2nd and 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processors and also provides a gateway to future chips that don’t yet exist.
“The biggest worry for us is creating technology that will be obsolesced,” says Sorenson’s COO, Eric Quanstrom. “Every time Intel would release a new chipset, we would have to re-optimize the software.”
Intel Media SDK 2012 is a software development library that exposes the media acceleration capabilities of Intel platforms that exist in currently available products, such as the hardware acceleration technology associated with products that offer Intel Quick Sync Video 2.0, as well as the even greater hardware acceleration offerings that will be part of Intel’s processors in years to come.
Workstations, handheld devices, tablets—devices that are expected to encode, decode and/or transcode video—will, in the near future, contain Intel processors with ever-increasing hardware acceleration functionality, enabling products like Squeeze to work at maximum speed and efficiency. Before Intel Media SDK, developers had to re-engineer a significant portion of their products in order to take advantage of such hardware upgrades. With Intel Media SDK, re-engineering is no longer a requirement.
Essentially, Squeeze 8.5 can make the most of an Intel processor that has encode hardware acceleration, leaving the complexity of what platforms are supported in software. As the hardware manufacturer releases chips with more powerful hardware acceleration, the software maker can automatically scale its product to make the most of it.
“What we do is deliver the magic in the driver,” says Ryan Tabrah, Product Manager, Intel Media SDK and Codecs. “If you use an Intel system, most of the optimizations are in the driver. As long as your software can talk to our API, the API detects what system you’re on, what drivers are available and what functions can be hardware accelerated. This takes away the guesswork as to what’s the best way to optimize the workflow and can make it considerably easier for developers to innovate.”
Tabrah notes that the release in late 2011 of the first of Intel’s new 3rd Gen Intel Core processors offered the development community an excellent proof of concept. “We proved to the development community that applications that made use of Intel Media SDK using the previous generation of processors just worked on 3rd generation processors—and not only worked but automatically saw speed improvements in the neighborhood of 50%. Some workloads were already 300% faster because they could take advantage of Intel Quick Sync Video hardware acceleration. And they were not just faster but they were more powerful.”
From Quanstrom’s perspective, Intel’s Media SDK has allowed his team of software engineers to concentrate its efforts on innovating Squeeze and anticipating the constantly increasing demands being made on it.
“Not long ago 1080i and 1080p were the future,” Quanstrom muses. “Consumer electronics firms will soon be aiming for ‘ultra high def’ 4K. 4K workflows involve massive amounts of data—many gigabytes—that have to be pushed through an encoder, and 3D is lurking just around the corner. We need to harness every bit of speed and efficiency we can from every new Intel processor as it becomes available.
“With Intel Media SDK,” he concludes, “we know that we can do just that.”
Download Intel® Media SDK here.