Will an advanced video card significantly improve rendering speed for video making?

My son makes videos on his computer. It’s a decent system (but not state of the art by any means - 4 core Phenom II, Windows 7/64 bit with 4GB of memory), but rendering seems to take forever. I’m trying to determine if the software he uses (Sony Vegas or Adobe Premiere or After Effects) will be able to take advantage of a high-performance video card (his current card is an old ATI Radeon X1300, IIRC) to improve rendering speed. If so, are there any recommended cards that won’t cost me an arm and a leg?


Yes: hardware support for Adobe Premiere Adobe After Effects, and Sony Vegas.

I would expect other cards to work, like the just released Geforce 660 Ti, but you’d be wise to check.

I would note, though, that your son’s system has the minimum required RAM. You may well get a larger - and cheaper - boost by upgrading that to 8 GB or 16 GB (and I’d go for the latter anyway if funds alow). Go to Crucial’s website and let it detect what you can have.

The regulars at forums.adobe.com for Premier and After affects are very helpful for questions like this.

I do video encoding with Vegas with a beefy nVidia video card, one thing to be cautious of:

The product I have is Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 12, and it definitely does not use the video card for rendering. (Although it has a checkbox in the Settings for it.)

This is either because:

  1. It doesn’t work at all
  2. It only works in Vegas Pro ($600, compared to the $90 I spent)
  3. It requires specific video cards to work, and I don’t have one

Since I do my video encoding overnight, I haven’t bothered to diagnose or look into it. So anyway, if you have Movie Studio Platinum, or any version of Vegas, you might want to look into it a bit more before deciding.

Sorry to reply to myself:

I did a bit of research into it. It looks like my version (supposedly?) does use GPU acceleration for encoding h.264 (that is, .mp4) video, but does not use GPU acceleration when doing things in the preview window. Considering its video encoding is the same speed as Handbrake (which I know does not use my GPU at all), I believe something about my copy isn’t working correctly, so I’ll have to figure that out when I’m home at my computer.

Edit: The plot thickens. ExtremeTech reports that GPU video encoding isn’t actually noticeably faster than CPU video encoding with the current state-of-the-art, so maybe a newer video card wouldn’t help much at all. Give it a read.

That article seems to be talking about one very specific piece of software, and about particular presets in that piece of software. Not sure how relevant that is to this discussion, IMHO.

My own personal experience is that GPU encoding can decrease encoding times by several orders of magnitude, assuming the particular render requires a lot of filters. The less filters being applied (or the less filters supported by the software with hardware acceleration) the less the speed boost will be.

Mind you, for the OP, going from a Phenom II to a GTX 660ti should have an appreciable impact on rendering time, even in a not best of case scenario.

Video encoding is one of those tasks that responds well to parallelization and can benefit from a GPU’s many hundreds of cores. But it’s going to come down the software support.

I don’t know if video encoding is similar to video rendering, but apparently modern Intel CPU’s have quite the advantage in this area.