Performance evaluation of H.264/AVC decoding and visualization using the GPU

Bart Pieters, Dieter Van Rijsselbergen, Wesley De Neve, Rik Van de Walle
Department of Electronics and Information Systems Multimedia Lab, Ghent University IBBT, Gaston Crommenlaan 8 bus 201, B-9050 Ledeberg Ghent, Belgium
Applications of Digital Image Processing XXX, Vol. 6696, No. 1. (2007), 669606.


   title={Performance Evaluation of H. 264/AVC Decoding and Visualization using the GPU},

   author={Pieters, B. and Van Rijsselbergen, D. and De Neve, W. and Van de Walle, R.},






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The coding efficiency of the H.264/AVC standard makes the decoding process computationally demanding. This has limited the availability of cost-effective, high-performance solutions. Modern computers are typically equipped with powerful yet cost-effective Graphics Processing Units (GPUs) to accelerate graphics operations. These GPUs can be addressed by means of a 3-D graphics API such as Microsoft Direct3D or OpenGL, using programmable shaders as generic processing units for vector data. The new CUDA (Compute Unified Device Architecture) platform of NVIDIA provides a straightforward way to address the GPU directly, without the need for a 3-D graphics API in the middle. In CUDA, a compiler generates executable code from C code with specific modifiers that determine the execution model. This paper first presents an own-developed H.264/AVC renderer, which is capable of executing motion compensation (MC), reconstruction, and Color Space Conversion (CSC) entirely on the GPU. To steer the GPU, Direct3D combined with programmable pixel and vertex shaders is used. Next, we also present a GPU-enabled decoder utilizing the new CUDA architecture from NVIDIA. This decoder performs MC, reconstruction, and CSC on the GPU as well. Our results compare both GPU-enabled decoders, as well as a CPU-only decoder in terms of speed, complexity, and CPU requirements. Our measurements show that a significant speedup is possible, relative to a CPU-only solution. As an example, real-time playback of high-definition video (1080p) was achieved with our Direct3D and CUDA-based H.264/AVC renderers.
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