Back in May 2008, Nvidia’s Editors Day hosted a presentation by young guys from Elemental Technologies Inc (ETI). The demonstrated software was Badaboom, CUDA-powered video transcoder that demolished Intel’s Core 2 Quad processor when used in conjuction with GeForce 8800GTS.
Months have passed, and guys worked hard on developing Badaboom in order to be ready for August release. But, their second project, RapiHD encoder for Premiere CS4 Pro needed some engineering help. So, the guys pushed back the release of Badaboom and Badaboom Pro until after the launch of CS4. It was a tough call, but with the release of Adobe Creative Studio 4 over and done with, ETI got back to putting finishing touches on Badaboom and Badaboom Pro.
I spoke with Sam and he told me that they’ve changed the concept of Badaboom, so their focus will be on consumer version, which is being released couple of hours ago. But Elemental will not forget Pro features – in fact, they are going to roll Pro features into it over time. So, this is a major consumer-friendly step forward, since the company will be selling Badaboom for $30 and you will get features worth $70 as the time goes by.
This is a consumer friendly product, so hardcore users might object to “too fancy” interface. Personally, I have nothing against. Supported input video formats are .m2v, .mpg, .vob, .avi*, .trp, .ts, .m2t, .m2ts, .mpeg, .mts (MPEG-2, H.264, RAW, HDV, AVCHD, AC-3, MP2, PCM) in any resolution lower than full HD one. Output is being done in MP4 (H.264) profile with 2-channel AAC-LC audio, in any resolution below 720p one.
Since primary purpose of this application is to transcode video to your iPod, iPhone, PSP, MCE and other handheld devices. I’ve just got a Blackberry 9000 Bold, and it fits the reccomended PSP resolution perfectly (480×272). Of course, you have a choice of custom resolutions, audio settings, bit rate and so on. Bit rate is especially helpfull in order to get the movie fit on your mobile device – after some hacking, 8GB card on my Blackberry Bold had all three LOTRs for upcoming flight Zagreb-Munich-San Francisco. It may be 13 hours, but it will be more fun with Blackberry on ;)
Of course, writing this opinion while listening to Sex and The City on right monitor wasn’t helpful, but still my friends and myself were impressed with the speed of selecting the transcode options. Finally a no-brainer user interface which you can work with at 2AM.
Performance is a charm, but comes at a price…
So, what kind of performance can you expect from Badaboom? I’ve tried the software using AMD Athlon 64 5000BE @3GHz, Phenom 9950BE@2.6 GHz, Zotac’s GeForce 8800GTX AMP! Edition (so, higher clocked than 8800Ultra) and Nvidia’s reference GeForce GTX 280. Given the time constraints, I didn’t find the time to put slower cards such as 8600GTS and similar castrated brothers. For a video card minimum, Elemental reccomends GeForce 8800GT or 9600GSO (a brilliant card, don’t be surprised if Nvidia kills it).
My experience was the following – Phenom system with 8800GTX beat the living crap out of Athlon system with GTX280. 8800GTX was transcoding my test Lord of The Rings – FoTR at 184-195 fps, and was done in 14 minutes. Dual-core Athlon with GTX280 achieved only 145 fps on average, with the CPU load at 88-94%. Badaboom was eating 60-70% of Athlon system, while quad-core was loaded at 60%. So for Badaboom, you need a triple or a quaddie CPU.
But the performance is awesome. When I compare a 14 minute transcode to whole-nighter on CPU alone, it is just… let’s just say that this product rocks. In order to bypass stupid MPAAfia protection on my DVDs (I have more than 200 DVDs and 300 games for which I paid for, and MPAA and game developers/publishers still treat me like a criminal. Great moves, guys – I’ll crack my original games before you say “torrent”!), I’ve used AnyDVD. This piece of software is something that every owner of DVDs should buy. Removing the protection on the fly is something… well, user friendly.
Getting back to Badaboom, from this first look I can say that it is a must buy if you want to transcode movies, and own a GeForce card, this piece of software is something that you should buy. Nvidia is expanding its GPGPU (or GPU computing, as Jensen likes to call it) offering dramatically. First schorching Folding@home performance, then Photoshop and Premiere Pro, and now Badaboom.
I got a review copy for free. But yes, I am going to spend $30 to support the guys.
UPDATE 15:41 CET 24/10/2008: I’ve just filed new story regarding the CPU utilization. You can read it here.