Adobe Hardware Performance
Basic System Requirements:
Check the SpeedGrade CC technical specs web page on Adobe.com (tinyurl.com/AdobePWP-09) for updates.
The Lumetri Deep Color Engine in SpeedGrade CC uses massive parallel processing in a single
In addition to processing images, for proper evaluation of your footage during grading you need a storage system capable of playing back at least a single stream of your chosen media format in real time; it is best to plan on playing back two streams so you can use two timeline playheads for shot matching. Using Direct Link, Speedgrade CC utilizes Adobe Premiere Pro’s
Mercury Playback engine; indeed, it can even load its .prproj files. Therefore, all of the advice stated earlier about configuring a system for Adobe Premiere Pro CC applies to Speedgrade CC as well. If you are working in typical compressed High Definition (HD) formats such as HDV, AVCHD, or H.264, a single 7200 RPM or faster drive with a FireWire 800 or faster connection will work well. For digital cinema applications, consider a RAID with a fast interface and data rates high enough to sustain full-speed playback.
Basic System Requirements:
Check the Photoshop CC technical specs web page on Adobe.com (tinyurl.com/AdobePWP-10) for updates.
As is the case with After Effects, Photoshop CC makes significant use of the CPU. Most Photoshop CC features are faster on a multiprocessor system, with some features taking particular advantage of additional cores including Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) processing, Lens Blur, Radial Blur, Field Blur, Iris Blur, and Tilt/Shift. Only a few functions—such as reading PSD files, or the healing brush—are limited to single core due to the algorithms they use.
Beyond the CPU, the Mercury Graphics Engine in Photoshop CC includes features that use your single GPU for acceleration. In Photoshop CC this engine delivers near-instant results when editing with key tools such as Smart Sharpen, Liquify, Blur Gallery, Warp, Lighting Effects and the Oil Paint filter, plus delivers a more responsive, fluid feel as you work. The Mercury Graphics Engine uses both the OpenGL and OpenCL frameworks.
OpenGL GPU-accelerated display and image processing functions in Photoshop CC include the Adobe Color Engine (ACE), Pixel Grid, Smooth Pan/Zoom/Scrubby Zoom, Bird’s Eye View, Flick Pan, Rotate Canvas, the Heads-Up Display (HUD) Color Picker, on-canvas brush resizing and rich cursor info, Bristle Tip Preview, 3D (including Extrude, formerly known as Repoussé), Liquify, Adaptive Wide Angle, Lighting Effects Gallery, Oil Paint Filter, new 3D enhancements such as Draggable Shadows, Ground Plane and ground plane reflections, Roughness, On-canvas UI controls, Light widgets, and the image-based light controller, plus GPU previews for Warp and Transform including Puppet Warp and Content Aware Scale. Additionally, Photoshop CC can take advantage of OpenCL acceleration for Iris Blur, Field Blur, Tilt-Shift, and Smart Sharpen. OpenCL acceleration is also used for mouse-down interactive previewing in the Blur Gallery features (1GB of VRAM required).
In order to take advantage of the Mercury Graphics Engine in Photoshop CC, you must have a supported video card and updated driver. If you do not have a supported card, performance may be degraded. In most cases the acceleration is lost and the feature runs in the normal CPU mode. However, there are some features that will not work without a supported video card. Also, mixing multiple video cards of different models in the same computer may cause problems in Photoshop.
Tested and Approved Video Cards for Photoshop CC (as of February 2014):
The benefit of using the GPU for image processing can be significant for some functions. For example, AMD has found that enabling OpenCL can increase Smart Sharpen tasks by over twentyfold, with choice of video card making a large difference:
Render Times for Smart Sharpen in Photoshop CC (Intel Xeon 2.13 GHz E5506 PC)
Another factor to keep in mind is that Photoshop utilizes RAM to process images. If Photoshop
How much RAM is enough? Watch the Efficiency indicator (available at the bottom of each image’s window) while you work in Photoshop to determine when Photoshop maxes out on RAM and starts using the scratch disk, which slows performance. Click the pop-up menu at the bottom of the image window and choose Efficiency. (You can also view the Efficiency status in the Info panel.) If the Efficiency value is below 100%, Photoshop is using the scratch disk and, therefore, is operating more slowly. If the efficiency is less than 90% to 95%, allocate more RAM to Photoshop in Performance Preferences or add additional RAM to your system. 4GB will cover most digital photography uses; 8GB leaves room for other apps and fits huge documents in RAM.
If you are unable to add more RAM to your computer, then install or connect a fast drive and designate it as your scratch disk. An SSD (Solid State Drive) or the PCIe flash storage in the new generation Apple Mac Pro are the fastest solutions; an external RAID 0 system connected by Thunderbolt, USB3, or FireWire 800 is a workable alternative if you are unable to add internal storage.
Photoshop performance is discussed in greater detail in this Adobe Knowledge Base article (tinyurl.com/AdobePWP-11). For more on video card usage in Photoshop CC, visit the relevant Help page (tinyurl.com/AdobePWP-13).
Summary: Choosing the Right Tools for the Job
Now that you have an understanding of the major hardware components, and how Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, SpeedGrade, and Photoshop interact with them, you can make informed decisions on what options to order for your next computer system, or how to upgrade your existing computer to work more efficiently.
CPU: After Effects CC and Photoshop CC benefit the most from faster CPUs and more CPU cores. Indeed, given sufficient RAM (discussed earlier), After Effects CC is capable of running multiple copies of itself on individual physical cores to speed previews and rendering. Although Adobe Premiere Pro CC’s Mercury Playback Engine (MPE) also benefits from faster CPU configurations, as noted earlier using an approved AMD OpenCL or NVIDIA CUDA-enabled GPU accelerates MPE by an even larger amount and is preferred. On the other hand, if you are relying on the relatively few functions in Adobe Premiere Pro that are not accelerated by the MPE—for example, if you are primarily converting media from one codec to another, rather than combining multiple streams of different-sized media—then CPU power is more important to you. SpeedGrade CC runs almost entirely on the GPU rather than the CPU, so if that is the only software you intend to use, then the CPU is far less important.
Note that Adobe Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC, Speedgrade CC, and Photoshop CC run locally on your computer—not over the internet—so the speed of your internet connection will not affect the performance of these applications.
GPU: A faster compatible OpenGL video card will allow you to perform more real-time processing with the Lumetri Deep Color Engine in SpeedGrade CC, and will also accelerate numerous functions (outlined earlier) with the Mercury Graphics Engine in Photoshop CC. It will also give incremental performance boosts to Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects.
As detailed earlier in this document, to really get performance improvements with the Mercury Playback Engine (MPE) in Adobe Premiere Pro CC you need to use an approved CUDA-compatible GPU from NVIDIA or an OpenCL-compatible AMD GPU. Note that Adobe Premiere Pro can also take advantage of multiple GPUs in the same system (such as a new generation Mac Pro). As a bonus, both Adobe Premiere Pro and SpeedGrade can utilize an NVIDIA Quadro SDI Output card. If an approved OpenCL or CUDA-enabled card or chipset is simply not an option for you, then choose a computer with the maximum number of CPU cores available to help make up the difference.
Note that if you rely heavily on ray-traced 3D in After Effects CC, it requires an approved CUDA-compatible GPU from NVIDIA for true acceleration. After Effects can also take advantage of multiple cards running the same version of CUDA. For example, if we compare the render times for the transparent and reflective logo seen earlier in this document (times in minutes:seconds):
In short, it is worth upgrading to newer generation cards, and installing multiple cards if possible. In that vein, note that an HP Z820 has three 16-lane PCIe slots that can accept GPUs. Again, for maximum performance make sure any add-in video card is installed in a 16x PCI slot inside the host computer. For more on choosing the right GPU, refer to this blog (tinyurl.com/AdobePWP-12) by Adobe Pro Video & Audio Field Team manager David Helmly. Both AMD (tinyurl.com/AdobePWP-14) and NVIDIA (tinyurl.com/AdobePWP-15) also have web pages dedicated to helping you choose the right GPU for your Adobe Creative Cloud video application.
RAM: If you plan to primarily run After Effects CC, then you will directly benefit from installing more RAM. Although the stated minimum is 4 GB of memory, if you plan on taking advantage of multiprocessing, you should consider installing as much as 48 GB for a 12-core system and 64 GB for a 16-core system (check with the manufacturer for optimal memory configurations to
If you plan to use Adobe Premiere Pro, 4 or 6 GB of RAM is minimum, while 8 or 12 GB is suggested for most users. SpeedGrade is the least RAM-dependent of the applications discussed here; 4GB is the minimum recommended amount, with 8 GB preferred. Although Photoshop’s Minimum System Requirements states only 1 GB is needed, you should consider allocating 4 GB, with 8 GB allowing you to work on very large documents.
Remember that each of these numbers are for the software running alone (along with the operating system); add at least their minimum requirements together if you plan on having them open at the same time.
Storage: A recurring theme you may have noticed in this document is that employing multiple drives is the secret to optimizing performance. As stated earlier, you should consider a two-drive system as a minimum configuration, with one drive containing your operating system, software, and media cache or scratch disk, while the other is used for your source files, previews, and final exported renders. Preferred is a four-drive system, with one dedicated to the operating system and software, the second for source media and project files, the third for the media cache or scratch disk, and the fourth for exports and final renders. You can use a RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Drives) in lieu of multiple non-system individual drives. An SSD (Solid State Drive) is an excellent choice for your media cache/scratch disk; PCI-based storage devices such as the Fusion ioFX provide even higher performance.
Although Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Speedgrade, and Photoshop all benefit from faster drive configurations, Adobe Premiere Pro (and by extension, Speedgrade CC as it uses Premiere Pro’s playback system and can load its project files) is the most sensitive as you will inevitably want to play multiple media streams in real time. A drive system that isn’t fast enough doesn’t just mean a longer wait, it means dropped frames and jumpy playback. Although you can do a remarkable amount with a single source drive (7200 RPM or faster) with a speedy connection, if you plan to work with larger digital cinema formats, you need to consider moving up to a RAID. In addition to transfer speed, look at the specification for disk seek times as well: For example, for a single stream of 2k-pixel 10 bit DPX frames, your drive system will need to transfer frames of data at 270 MB per second while also performing a head seek potentially on every frame—every 42 msec for 24 FPS (frames per second) source.
Keep in mind that your computer system is an interconnected unit; not just a collection of individual components. The goal is a balanced system with sufficient performance in every area required, rather than a system that’s really fast in one area but deficient in others. For example, there is little point in having a large number of processor cores if you don’t have enough RAM installed to use multiprocessing in After Effects—if you are on a budget, you may be better off spending it on more RAM rather than a hotter CPU. Similarly, the GPU can be even more important than the CPU if you plan to edit multiple streams of media in Adobe Premiere Pro, use ray-traced 3D rendering in After Effects, or are a colorist interested in SpeedGrade.
And as we mentioned in the introduction, there are many things you can do as a user to optimize your software, operating system, and—perhaps most importantly—how you use them. A good starting point is the Adobe video team’s blog (tinyurl.com/AdobePWP-02), as well as the online Help files for each program as well as the numerous blogs dedicated to each program published by Adobe personnel (blogs.adobe.com).