OpenCL vs Metal for Adobe Rendering on a Mac

July 30, 2019 posted by

So the other day I was looking at Adobe Premiere
on a Mac when I noticed it had three rendering settings instead of just the two that my Windows
machine had. I was expecting the Mercury Playback Engine
GPU Acceleration with (OpenCL) option because it had an AMD Graphics card in it, but what
I wasn’t expecting was the GPU Acceleration (Metal) option. This led me to the inevitable question of,
which should I use. I did some online looking and wasn’t able
to find the answer so I decided to test it out myself. First a little background for the uninitiated
in hardware acceleration rendering. When you want to publish a video, you first
need to set it to render to the format you want, usually this is h.264 for web publishing
because it’s a small size and high quality. Computers take all of the edits you’ve done,
apply any effects, such as stabilization, filters or lighting changes, and then combine
them all into an output of your selected format. Some of these video effects can be done faster
on the Graphics Card due to its streamlined nature compared to using just the normal CPU. In order for the software, in this case Adobe
Media Encoder, to use the graphics card, it must use an Application Program Interface
or API. This generally comes in 2 flavors, CUDA supported
by Nvidia cards, or OpenCL which is used by AMD Cards and Intel Integrated Graphics. However, starting in 2014, a 3rd option became
available for Apple based products called Metal. Metal essentially does the same thing as CUDA
and OpenCL, but is created by Apple. It is convenient because it provides a similar
API for iPhones, iPads, Macs and AppleTVs. So, which should you choose when rendering using Adobe products on a Mac? Well, for my test I made a 5 minute test video
by combining 5 separate videos each using a different codecs. 2 of these were shot in 1080p and the other
3 were shot in 4k. One was also a different frame rate. I then applied an effect to each video, some
that were GPU accelerated and some that were not. Specifically, the GPU accelerated effects
were: Fast Blur, Invert, and Warp Stabilizer. The non-accelerated effects were: Channel
Blur, lighting effects and just for fun I reversed one of the videos, to make it run
backwards. The point was, I wanted to simulate a mixed
workload that wouldn’t favor one rendering method in particular. I selected the default Youtube 1080p HD setting
for my output. I ran the test 3 times using OpenCL, Metal
and Software Only, which doesn’t use GPU acceleration at all. I performed the tests with all other programs
turned off. For the hardware, I chose the absolute top
end 27 inch iMac model that Apple makes which comes with a 4 gigahertz quad-core Intel i7
6700k Skylake processor, 32 gigabytes DDR3 SDRAM, 1 terabyte of Flash Storage and an
AMD Radeon R9 M395X graphics card with 4 gigabytes of video memory. I also ran the tests on a Mid 2015, 15 inch
Macbook Pro with more modest specs. It has a 2.2 gigahertz quad-core Intel i7
Haswell processor, 16 gigabytes DDR3L onboard memory, 256 gigabytes of PCIe based flash
storage and it was using the integrated Intel Iris 5200 Pro graphics with 1536 megabytes of v-ram. This way we can see the effects of Metal on
both a dedicated AMD card and Intel integrated graphics. I was pretty surprised by the results. I was expecting OpenCL and Metal to be close,
which they are not. I definitely wasn’t prepared for Metal to
actually take longer on the iMac than the CPU only. The Macbook Pro scales nicer with the Intel
Graphics. What this says to me is that Apple and Adobe
still has a lot of work to do on the Metal API and that I recommend using the OpenCL
option in Adobe. This shouldn’t be too surprising though
because OpenCL has been around for 5 years longer than Metal. While this video was intended just to test
OpenCL vs Metal, I couldn’t leave it there. I wanted to know how my Windows computer compared
to the top end iMac. What differences would I see between a 1600
dollar PC and a 4000 dollar iMac. Well, for starters, my Windows PC has a 6700k
4 gigahertz Intel i7 Skylake processor, that’s the same one that’s in the iMac, 32 gigabytes
of DDR4 RAM, again the same amount that’s in the iMac. The fact that it is DDR4 doesn’t matter
as shown by the Linus Tech Tips video I have linked in the video description below. It has a Samsung 850 EVO 500 gigabytes SSD
which is slower than the iMac and finally it has an Nvidia GTX 1080 Founders Edition
graphics card with 8 gigabytes of GDDR5X v-ram. Now before I hear you complain that these
graphics cards aren’t comparable because one is much newer, just remember that this
is the highest graphics card available on an iMac. So, running the same test using CUDA acceleration
and then software only, here are the results compared to the OpenCL results for the Macs. It’s no surprise to see that the Nvidia
GPU took the cake, it being a more powerful card, but what I wanted to point out here
is how much faster the CPU was on a Windows machine. Not only was it almost the same speed as the
CUDA accelerated times, but it was nearly 30 minutes faster than the exact same CPU
on the iMac. Why the discrepancy between the PC and the
Mac? Well, the iMac has a much smaller enclosure
and can’t effectively cool it’s components as well as a tower PC. When it gets too hot, such as when rendering
video files, it has to thermal throttle the CPU down to a slower speed so that it doesn’t
overheat. This means you’re not always getting all
of those gigahertz you paid top dollar for. A well ventilated tower PC doesn’t have
this problem and the CPU can run at full speed the entire time. To bring this all together, currently, if
you want to use Adobe to edit and process videos on a Mac, make sure to set it to Render
with OpenCL GPU acceleration turned on. And I’m not knocking Macs because they do
have a lot of great features, but if you’re trying to decide what to spend your money
on for a video editing workstation, you could save yourself nearly 2000 dollars on a high
end Windows PC and 4K monitor over an iMac and see better performance to boot. Thanks for watching. If you found this video interesting, make
sure to give it a thumbs up. If you think I missed something or want to
see a different test, tell me in the comments. Don’t forget to subscribe and after you’ve
done all of that, check out one of our other videos up here. I’ll see you next time.


63 Replies to “OpenCL vs Metal for Adobe Rendering on a Mac”

  1. James Drake says:

    interesting, thanks for going through the process and sharing your results!

  2. Gregory David says:

    Excellent, thanks! Too bad you did not do your test on the new MacBook Pro which has all sorts of issues using open CL and Metal running Premiere. Mine is going back – not spending 3k+ on a computer that forces me to use software only rendering. To be fair, the issue lies with both companies but the effect is the same on the user. There is is not much Pro in the MacBook Pro for adobe users. Did not think there would be another PC in my life but I guess I was wrong.

  3. Gary Fan says:

    Super helpful indeed, as this is exactly what I was looking for using a 15 inch Iris pro Macbook Pro. Ever since 2015.3 came out I have switched to metal hoping that it might be faster, if it were for your video, I'm probably gonna be still stuck with metal and wasting a huge amount of time. Many thanks!

  4. Анатолий Кияшко says:

    quite healthy tests, and helpful video. But you really need to change style of talking, reading form promter is mmm_bad. Just make video-line and background voice for better sound and style.

  5. Chris Edwards says:

    Great video! I saw this option tonight in media encoder when I was about to fire off some rendering of a few videos I edited today. I remember Apple bragging about how amazing Metal was, so I thought it would be faster. My Macbook is very similar specs to yours, and thanks to your video, I will stick with OpenCL. My videos are of speakers giving talks, so each is about 45 minutes long. Metal would have wasted so much time.

  6. VitaYu Agro says:

    What about CUDA VS OpenCL? So what should I buy if I need to work in Vegas Pro and Premiere Pro: AMD Radeon RX480 (4/8GB) or Nvidia GTX 1060 (3/6GB)?

  7. Gemini Braun says:

    Какой-то непредсказуемый результат…Получается что PC самый быстрый…(

  8. Tyler Hanson says:

    Don't read.

  9. green tokyo says:

    Thank you for this test!!!

  10. by Malte Helmhold says:

    crazynice test!!!!! you destroyed my world with your mac-cooler-throttles-the-cpu revelation, but anyway… thank you so much

  11. PumperWolf says:

    You are going to test the new updated iMacs when they come out? It supposed to arrive at the end of this year.

  12. B. says:

    great vid, too bad the mac pro wasn't in the comparison, interested how the pro would do compared to an iMac or pc.

  13. 0UdWK? says:

    A great video, subbed 😉

  14. Payton Scarth says:

    I would have like to see a comparison using a 3Ghz 8 Core Xeon E5 MacPro with 64GB ram with 2 AMD FirePro D700 6GB and a PC of comparable specs.

  15. Corey Frazier says:

    Thank you for making a video on this topic!

  16. Burhan says:

    Which mac faster and performance for video edit and render?

    Mac Pro
    3.5GHz 6-core with 12MB of L3 cache
    32GB (4x8GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC
    512GB PCIe-based flash storage
    Dual AMD FirePro D700 GPUs with 6GB of GDDR5 VRAM each

    iMac 2017
    4.2GHz quad-core 7th-generation Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz
    32GB 2400MHz DDR4
    512GB SSD
    Radeon Pro 580 with 8GB video memory

  17. Buzzworthy Media says:

    An outstanding and thorough video. I ran the same metal vs OpenCL test myself this morning on a 5 minute video and was surprised to get the same results that you did. As you said, OpenCL is still the way to go.

  18. Bruno Villela says:

    What if you were running a Mac with NVidia Cards?
    Which one would be better? CUDA or Metal?

    Im running a Hackintosh with gtx1060 6gb

  19. HSIN LYNN says:

    interesting, thanks for going through the process and sharing your results!

  20. David Escalante says:

    The thing with a Mac is to use FCPX, I have seen other people claiming, rendering the same video content in Premiere vs FCPX, you will get amazing rendering speeds using FCPX.

  21. Teselkin video says:

    Thanks man!!!

  22. Gabriel Sánchez says:

    OpenCL still faster for me as well.

  23. Rayuu says:

    That is because Adobe became Window's slut. Probably they were not able to clear all code.

  24. Yamit Rosenbach says:


  25. Celso Moskowitz says:

    I would love to have a cheap and powerful editing machine, but unfortunately the software just isn't there. I've tried both premiere and resolve on a machine running an i5 quad core and a gtx 670, and the performance was laughable compared to FCPX running on a dual core mb 13 with an intel iris graphics card. The Mac  benchmarks 900% slower than the gtx 670 on uniheaven, and the cpu is also slower than the pc. Yet playback, rendering, and just plain around moving around the NLE interface is vastly superior on FCPX, even with the way lower specs, to the point I found using either premiere or resolve highly unpleasant. I know that a 670gtx and run of the mill i5 are not what's considered "serious hardware" by any standards, but it's still inexcusable, and defeats your whole point about hardware pricing. If I want to edit video, I can buy a 1000$ pc for the same theoretical performance as a 2000$ iMac,  but in practice I'll need a 2000$ pc to get the real world performance out of my NLE, both in render times and general interface fluidity (if I can even get it at that price). I don't know why this is the case (os optimisation, the respective dev teams, etc.), but it's something I've felt again and again. It's a bit like gaming on a Mac, but the other way around – you simply do not get the experience you should given your hardware.  The obvious solution is to build an Hackintosh, which is what I'm trying to do at the moment. It's driving me crazy, actually, how difficult it is, and I still don't know how well it will work. I'm expecting it to be slower than a Mac with the same specs, but not by much. And that will be a huge win over windows for editing video, FCP blows everything out of the water in terms of performance, if running on the same specs.

  26. Bill Pyke says:

    Thanks! Super helpful.

  27. Matthew Vandeputte says:

    Thanks for the video, looks like OpenCL is the way to go on my imac 27 5k.

  28. Jay Johnston says:

    compare premier to FCP X (final cut pro) I think you will be surprised

  29. The House of RB26 says:

    Great video. Good explanations. A question for you, in sequence settings under Video Previews, is there a better option than I-Frame only Mpeg to speed up work flow? I'm using a GH5 set on 4k, 8bit, 25fps, 150Mbps. I think they called this Rec420. Thank you.

  30. Carlos Ugarte says:

    Great comparison. Which PC would you recommend for processing raw and 4k footage now in Premiere Pro 2018 CC to get the best possible performance? Thanks!

  31. Maxwell Millermaier says:

    I wonder if you'd get the same results today now that Metal 2 is out?

  32. 박준성 says:

    thanks for your test. it brings me solid conclusion to use OpenCL API.

  33. jgrah500 says:

    Try this. Run a GTX1080 using an egpu Thunderbolt box. Bye the way I'm running a GTX1080 in my 3ghz 8 core Mac towner.

  34. Rohan Van Twest says:

    Thanks for taking the time to share your research and explaining it in a simple straightforward way.

  35. Neon Cloud says:

    Maybe it's not apple's system. Maybe it's adobe.

  36. John Carmack says:

    Exactly what I needed! Thanks for the vid. 🙂

  37. Neutral Zone says:

    Great video bro

  38. kishan varmora says:

    What is Open CL ? I get this error on My GPU using for Mining Rigs

  39. Giulio Ferraro says:

    There is no throttling in the iMacs, tower PC is faster with the same processor because After Effects isn’t well optimized for MacOS. If you install Windows with Bootcamp the results are the same

  40. Grow Op The Series says:

    THANK YOU For doing this!

  41. SenorQuichotte says:

    Run your texts on a Linux OS with cuda driver's using ffmpeg

  42. M Oczakow says:

    WOW! Apple still uses DDR3 ram in this day and age? how lame, i remember running 2000mhz ddr3 from crucial back in 2008.

  43. Aaron Allsop says:

    This is one of the most in-depth yet concise video on the subject I've ever seen. You jumped right to the point, keep up the good work.

  44. He Tian Heng Pictures says:

    It took over 100mins to render a 5min video?! Did I miss something? o.O

  45. Sri Uma Computers says:

    My system configuration is i7 4790k processor
    Gigabyte b85m d3h motherboard
    Sapphire rx 550 GPU but GPU show only 7mb how to fix pls help me

  46. FOCUSBELLA says:

    Does the same apply to iMac Pro?

  47. Jatniel Salim says:

    Excellent analysis! Thanks!!!

  48. Rinat Iakupov says:


  49. Robert Motyka says:

    Thanks for in details explanation!

  50. NDxTremePro says:

    2 points.
    1. Apple also created OpenCL.
    2. Another reason Windows was faster is the Microsoft compiler does a better job of optimizing code than LLVM that is used on Macs.

  51. Christopher Feldmann says:

    I appreciate the efforts put into the testing. I'm curious where these number stack up now after 1.5 years but more curiously I'm wondering how long the render might take through and FCPX workflow. MKBHD (a notorious Android user) even says that FCPX on a mac will run significantly faster than Premier on a similarly spec'd PC.

  52. Paul C says:

    All I see are the reindeers flying into your right ear.

  53. mp4vids says:

    +Flarecorp Media – I have a MacBook Pro that I had received from Full Sail University and I tried both Open CL and Metal. Metal seemed like it was rendering much faster than Open CL at first, but what I noticed, when I was using the Multi-Camera option, my system performance was horrible. I couldn't understand why? Then it hit me. I went back to change the setting from Metal to Open CL and all of a sudden, the performance went right back in stride again with seamless editing in in multi-camera mode. Eventually, they will work out the bugs, however, what isn't mentioned is the compiler. That compiler from Adobe was originally written for the PC, not the Mac. I would have figured that this would have been solved back around 2006 because the benchmarks always seemed to favor the PC over the Mac. But regardless of that, I love my Mac because of the SSD drive and that helps to break all rules in a good way for speed performance! Thanks for the video!

  54. Ananta Shahane says:

    7:08 Or just. use FCPX and get 50% discount on PC time.

  55. Jonathan Jeswald says:

    I have a Imac 27 inch late 2013 model 14,2 What Cuda driver or Nvidia driver should I use I keep showing unavailable with High sierra 10.13.6

  56. S B says:

    If I know correctly, the Metal API works by having the CPU and GPU work together in harmony. If some effects are software only, and using metal, then the CPU could become fully utilized, while the GPU would be underutilized.

  57. Дмитрий Стариков says:

    Переведите на русский!!!! У меня на Mac сейчас это очень актуально!!

  58. John Samuels says:

    Please update

  59. TheThebeep says:

    Can you compare rendering on Windows and OSX on same machine?

  60. Shadoufang says:

    Clear, quick video and well-executed tests! You got a new subscriber =')

  61. Jeff z says:

    why not use a imac with windows installed to compare a normal imac , that is

  62. Zena Merton says:

    I've just spent 2 hrs outputting 20-odd interviews from my Mac using adobe for the first time (other than tiny little outputs.) About ten mins from the end, I noticed the render option button on media encoder. Not knowing what it meant I came here. Half way through I followed your advice and switched from metal. It suddenly speeded up. 3/4 of the way through the penultimate video. Great. But I know for next time.

    Had to switch to Mac in 2008 when my beloved started a film course. FCP6. So we start with an MBP. The also get an iMac for her MA. Then, after that's finished, they stop supporting FCP7 which is 32-bit and we don't want FCPX, so had to switch to Adobe.

    I got £3.5k insurance for my iMac when I dropped it down the stairs. I did think about getting a PC for the money, but it would have meant we'd have had to change both laptops, too, and our old projects of Mac drives wouldn't have worked.

    Also, everyone in that circle is on Macs, so she needs to be able to plug things in. It's a joke.

    But when I thought of installing Win 10 via Bootcamp on a tiny external SSD I gave up after a few hours with a PC mate as I realised I couldn't be bothered learning the switch to Windows again. I'd done the switch once – the other way, but she was at college then and had tech support . But the idea of buying a top-end new machine but then getting pissed off as things didn't work as I expected would have been too much.

    Well done, LCC. Got us to switch to Apple for FCP, which then didn't go to 64-bit except in the idiotic FCPX. So now have 3 expensive macs running slower software.

    Thank God we hardly use any graphics.

    Thanks for the help.

  63. Niel Jarred says:

    Thanks so much brah! Got a nice g4tv vibe.

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