NVIDIA Maximus and Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.52

With the advent of version 5.52 of Premiere Pro, Adobe offered support for what NVIDIA calls Maximus on the PC platform. Maximus in essence is a Quadro card combined with a Tesla card. Okay, what’s a Tesla card? Basically, it’s a Quadro card without the display outputs – essentially, a headless GPU processing powerhouse.

I wanted to take what I had done with the NVIDIA Quadro card comparison and apply the same tests to the Maximus card set I have. Read on, to learn the results.

My previous blog entry is here – give it a read if you haven’t gone through it yet. To review, I have a HP Z800 that is a couple of years old but still pretty solid all the way around. For my Maximus test, I took the comparatively lowly Quadro 2000 and matched it up with the Tesla C2075.

If you’ve looked at the Tesla C2075, you’ll notice that it seems like the Quadro 6000. Well, that’s because it is. 448 cores and 6GB of memory, meow! There are however, two downsides as I see it. First is price: While prices on this delicious card are dropping, it is still going to cost you something north of $2,000 as of this writing. In my opinion, that precludes a lot of potential Premiere Pro customers. You need to either have a lot of expendable cash or have a real need for it (more on that in a bit).

The second problem is a little more basic. You need to have a big computer power supply to drive this card. I wanted to try the Quadro 4000 + C2075, but I didn’t have two separate molex adapters to hook up both of them. Even if I did, I wasn’t entirely sure that the power supply in the Z800 would be entirely happy with me if I did. If you’re considering a Maximus configuration, be sure to know what your computer’s power supply is capable of.

The idea of how Premiere Pro uses the Quadro 2000 + C2075 is pretty nifty. It puts all of the display duties (drawing the screen, the Premiere Pro UI, etc) to the Quadro 2000 and assigns all of the Mercury Playback acceleration to the beefy Tesla C2075.

Okay, enough with the downsides – playing with this GPU combination is just flat out fun. In addition, the advantages of this card were clear and make sense for a particular type of Premiere Pro user.

Take a look at the spreadsheet graphic here (The areas highlighted yellow are data points that show a significant change.)

There is no denying that this card offers top performance and offered at least one significant improvement in the area of scrubbing AVCHD. When you think that AVCHD is H.264 and that so many cameras and devices are going that way, the scrubbing becomes a REAL advantage. I went from awful to awesome in one shot and that was the biggest surprise of these tests for me.

And while the numbers don’t support it, I feel that the RED workflow was just a bit snappier as well. RED workflows are really enhanced by CPUs (not a typo), but having the GPU for FX to keep the CPU free is another clear advantage. Certainly the scrubbing on the RED was better, though it is not as dramatic as AVCHD. I also really liked the feeling of confidence in that I had a card doing the screen display and another dedicated card fueling Premiere Pro.

Comparing a Maximus to anything other than a Quadro 5000 just isn’t fair. The Maximus laughs at the Quadro 2000 and 4000.

Where I can see this really being useful is high-end production, specifically with things like RED and other big or temporal type codecs. If you’re looking at these kinds of workflows and can afford the coin, there’s nothing like it.

Clearly though, this solution is not for everyone. It’s expensive and if you don’t have a solid P/S, it’s going to set you back even more. What I’d like to see is NVIDIA and Adobe working together to certify other Maximus combinations that are more affordable to a broad set of Premiere Pro users. Give me a Quadro 4000 + C2050 or something similar. I’d love for Adobe users to have a $800 investment in a NVIDIA card and then be able to double it and get a significant boost in performance. I’m all about being able to take incremental steps in my investments. Right now, the Quadro 2000 + Tesla C2075 will set you back $2500. When you consider that I can buy a whole desktop PC for the same or less, I think a lot of Premiere Pro users will pass on this very powerful GPU option…and I understand.

There’s also the longstanding idea of using SLI or multiple Quadro or GeForce cards together and multiply your GPU processing power. That’s something that we’d like to do, but haven’t so far. I see supporting Maximus as a step in the right direction.

In addition, I’d love to see the Maximus combination be extended out to Mac users though a lot of that depends on the Apple. Heck, I’d like to see more NVIDIA options for the Mac period, but I believe the Quadro 4000 is the right card to have and I’m very happy to see it available for Mac users.

Next up on the docket for me is to test a GeForce card – as soon as I get one, I will try to put it through its paces as I have received several requests to do so.

Comments and discussion are always welcome – post below if you’ve got something to say.


Dennis Radeke