Flash 10.1 hands off video work to graphics processor

June 18, 2010 by Dave Haynes

Well, we are still waiting for Adobe to hand off the definitive, uambiguous word on the whole licensing issue with the Flash Player for digital signage. That was going to be in the new year, and I suppose one might weakly argue the new year is only half over …

There are people out there who will say HTML 5 makes the whole issue moot, but it’s still early days for that and a lot of digital signage people use Flash.

So while we wait, a nice good piece of news, as flagged and tweeted by Jason Cremins of Signage Live.

The 10.1 release of the Flash Player hands off the heavy lifting of video playback using Flash from the CPU to the GPU. In non propellerhead terms, where I more comfortably live, that means it is not the Intel or AMD processor working hard to play the file, it’s the graphics chip.

Until now, when a PC plays a Flash SWF or FLV file the machine switches from jogging merrily down a flat road to climbing a steep hill. Its heart rate goes to 150 beats per minute just to keep the file moving. So what you end up with in modestly powered media players is playback performance that looks choppy, and therefore crappy.

With this new release, on a PC that has a decent graphics processor, that problem largely goes away.

The video on the Abobe Flash blog demos the difference on two laptops with the Nvidia Ion GPU on them. On Flash Player 10, it’s a slug. On an identical unit, running 10.1, the Flash video plays back smoothly.

Now, it’s still clear as mud if it is OK to even use this because of end user license interpretations, but one way or another this seems like a big step forward.

  1. Brent says:

    The devil is in the details 🙂 Flash 10.1 will not be as great for digital signage as most people think.

    First off, not all flash files will magically become GPU accelerated by Flash 10.1. Only h264 video within flash will become GPU accelerated. In the context of a digital signage system, it makes almost no sense to wrap h264 video in a flash file, when the DS player can most likely render it natively anyway.

    Most digital signage flash is the vector-based stuff, which cannot be GPU accelerated. It is however multi-threaded in Flash >= 9.

  2. Dave Haynes says:

    Great points Brent. If the vector stuff still huffs and puffs and Flash continues – to use a software developer’s description: “Leak memory like a firehouse” – then this is definitely no great leap forward.

  3. Matthew says:

    Just to add to Brents notes.
    There really isnt a reason to “wrap h264” video into a flash file when the GPU acceleration works with native mpeg, mp4 and mov files within flash.
    This is good news for signage software providers that licensed flash based players to allow active (vector based) content as well as video based.

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