Avivo Holiday 2005 Update

ATI have characterised Avivo as having three distinct functions, with each of them encompassing various elements. They can be categorised as follows:

  • Image Quality
    • 3D Comb Filtering
    • 10-bit processing
    • HQ TV-Out
  • Connectivity
  • HD Video
    • Format Conversion (Transcoding)
    • H.264 / AVC
    • Advanced Video Playback

In the initial part of the Avivo article we took a look at an overview of many of these points, and a little at the technology that's been implemented into parts that fall under the Avivo banner. In this part of the article, covering the Avivo Winter Update, we are focusing on the HD Video processing elements.

Although ATI, over recent years, have adopted a monthly official driver release schedule, at the end of 2005 ATI released an extra set of drivers, Catalyst 5.13, specifically with updates for Avivo on the X1000 series of graphics boards, covering format conversion, Video Playback and H.264.

Avivo Transcode

The method by which Avivo is able to transcode video files from one format to another, such as a high definition WMV down to a PSP video format, has, for the time being, been encapsulated by ATI's Avivo Video Converter application:

Avivo Video Converter

The Avivo Video Convertor is a fairly simple tool that allows you to select an input video file, an output location, a video format to covert to (from a pre-set supported list), with an output quality slider that will dictate the bit-rate of the converted file, hence the file size and quality. The point of the application is to display the conversion speed of ATI's transcoding methods, in relation to other solutions, as ATI state they are significantly faster than other software solutions whilst still providing the same quality.

We've put the performance of the application to the test by converting the 1080p WMV Trailer of Terminator 2, available at Microsoft's WMV HD Content Showcase, and a standard definition DiVX version of it, and coded that to a DVD MPEG file using TMPGEnc and Avivo Video Convertor.

TMPGEnc 280 150
Avivo Video Converter 66 23
Avivo % Faster 324% 552%

It's evident that Avivo Video Converter tool is significantly faster than TMPGEnc for DVD MPEG conversion with both the high definition WMV file and the standard definition DiVX version here, and there appeared to be no appreciable difference in the resultant output.

For another test we've taken the same video file, again from the high definition WMV as well as a standard definition MPEG2 version, and converted it to a PSP video format using the software based PSP Video 9 conversion utility:

PSP Video 9 118 61
Avivo Video Converter 56 32
Avivo % Faster 111% 91%

As with the previous test, the Avivo transcoding application is significantly faster than the software PSP Video 9 solution, although apparently not quite to the same degree as before. On the whole, though, it appears to validate ATI's primary goals with the application.

The Avivo Video Converter utility is, basically, a proof of concept. At the moment this doesn't appear to be available on ATI's website, instead available for download externally, nor is it supported and we suspect that it won't be longer term. The capabilities of the tool are limited, with elements such as resolution or scaling selections not available. As surprising as it may be, though, the application is also software based itself and is not using using any graphics hardware acceleration yet. Evidently ATI utilised their knowledge of video encoding, taken from the consumer video side of their business, to create the transcoding routines and speed them up in relation to other software solutions.

The primary point of the application, right now, is to really demonstrate that the new video conversion API that ATI have created, which sits under the application, actually works. ATI are currently in discussions with independent video software vendors to incorporate the API calls in their software, such that they will write the interface and and conversion criteria, but hook on to ATI's API in order to gain the speed. By creating and controlling the API, ATI can update it independently of the applications, making improvements, and providing them via standard driver updates. This being the case, ATI can move the transcoding to operate over the graphics hardware at some point in the future, thus making further performance improvements. However, with an eye on these potential future updates, ATI have had to draw a line in the support for the transcoding API (hence the Avivo Video Conversion utility as well), limiting it to the X1000 series and above.