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Upgrading to 64-bit for Video Production

Are you 64 bits? If you're working with video, and especially high-def video, it's time to take the step up to 64-bit processing and performance. Older systems just are not up to the demands of efficiently editing today's HD video, much less running multiple applications so that you can switch effectively between longer tasks like capturing, rendering, and encoding.

Companies including Adobe, Avid, and Sony have been making this transition for several product generations, and now the newly announced Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5 in Adobe Creative Suite 5 are optimized for 64-bit only, and will no longer run on 32-bit systems (see previous post).

So how much more is 64 bits?

Under traditional 32-bit versions of Windows, your computer can only use up to 4 GB of memory. Moving up to a 64-bit address space means your that computer can theoretically address 2^64 chunks of data, corresponding to 16 billion gigabytes (also known as 16 exabytes). With current operating systems, Mac OS X Snow Leopard is ready to support up to 16 terabytes of RAM, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate, Enterprise, and Professional editions can use up to 192 GB of memory (a big step up from 4 GB).

The good news is that the chip, computer, and operating system vendors also have been making this transition to 64 bits, so your current system may already be 64-bit ready, so all you need to do is to add more memory and possibly upgrade your operating system.

The situation is especially easy on the Apple Macintosh, as all but the oldest Intel-based Macs are 64-bit capable, and Mac OS X comes in one version that runs both 64-bit and 32-bit applications. In Snow Leopard, nearly all system applications were rewritten in 64-bit, with support for addressing massive amounts of memory. Even better, 64-bit applications still work with your existing storage devices, PCI cards, and compatible printers (see New in Snow Leopard: 64-Bit).

On PCs, computers have been shipping with 64-bit capable processors since around 2005, including the Intel Core 2 Duo and Xeon, and subsequent processors. You can check the capabilities of your system's CPU with the Intel Processor Identification Utility.

Then you need to install an upgrade to a 64-bit edition of Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows 7. This requires a "Custom" re-install, not a simple upgrade. You will also need to upgrade to 64-bit drivers for your hardware devices (32-bit drivers do not work). Use the Windows 7 Compatibility Center to check your system for hardware and software compatibility.

And there are further performance gains to be found from upgrading your system. For example, Premiere Pro CS5 also is optimized to take advantage of specific NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards with CUDA technology to further accelerate video processing and effects on the graphics co-processor

So step up to 64 bits, and pile on the memory. The result will be a system that opens and runs your applications faster, and plays and processes video much more efficiently, at higher resolution and with greater precision. Even better, you can keep many applications open at the same time to quickly switch between different tasks, and even leave complex operations running without dragging down your system.

See the Adobe notes, Speed up production with CS5 Production Premium, and associated whitepaper, Accelerate HD workflows with native 64-bit
support in CS5 Production Premium
(PDF), for more on upgrading your system for greater editing performance.

For more on optimizing for the Adobe CS5 Production Suite, see my article, Editing for the Future: Moving to 64-bit Video Production, in the May issue of Videomaker magazine

See my article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 5, for a breakdown of the tools and suites, and highlights of what's new with the CS5 applications.

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This entry posted on April 14, 2010.

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