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Adobe, nVidia Work to Speed Up Apps

Desktop computers have come with graphics processing units (GPUs) for years, but desktop applications like Adobe's Photoshop and Premier have never made use of the graphics acceleration these cards provided.

Until now. Adobe Systems (NASDAQ: ADBE) and nVidia (NASDAQ: NVDA) today announced that for users with nVidia graphics cards, Adobe's new Creative Suite 4 applications would support native GPU acceleration in working with images and video.

Adobe announced Creative Suite 4 on Tuesday, with six bundles containing a mixture of 13 different products and 14 different technologies, many of which come from the Macromedia acquisition in 2005. The bundles include Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design editions, standard and premium, CS4 4 Web editions, standard and premium, CS4 Production Premium, and CS4 Master Collection. These products include Photoshop, InDesign, Illustrator, Flash, Fireworks, Dreamweaver, After Effects and Premiere Pro.

Photoshop and Premier Pro will be the two to benefit the most from the GPU integration, the companies said. With a special plug-in, Premier Pro can cut the rendering time for a high-definition movie from 28 hours to two or three hours.

"If you're using Premier Pro to make a living, where you're making your money is the output of your workflow, so we're going to enable much more output," said Jeff Brown, general manager of the Professional Solutions group at nVidia, during a conference call with reporters.

Roger Kay, president of Endpoint Technologies, agreed. "If you're a pro, you're going to want that," he told InternetNews.com. "The experience is better but also it's just faster. If you're a pro, that speed means something. For graphics pros, their time is money."

Three main applications in CS4 support the nVidia Quadro or GeForce GPUs. Photoshop, the standard in 2D graphics editing, will support real-time image rotation, zooming, and panning, instead of entering incremental changes and watching it redraw on the screen. Photoshop will also use the GPU for 2D and 3D compositing and high-quality antialiasing, which takes the jagged edges off image elements and smooths them out.

Adobe After Effects CS4 will use the nVidia GPU to provide depth of field, bilateral blur effects, turbulent noise such as flowing water or waving flags and cartoon effects. Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 can do motion, opacity, color and image distortion in real-time rendering. This will allow for faster editing of multiple, high-definition video streams and graphic overlays.

Brown said the two firms achieved the enhancements by working together to rewrite the core imaging kernels so that they take opt to take advantage of the GPU instead of a CPU, if a graphics processor is found in the system.

The software and hardware do this using the OpenGL graphics library, instead of Microsoft's DirectX graphics library, used by many video games for graphics acceleration.

"OpenGL is more extensible than DirectX," Brown explained. "It's a better choice for developers who want to add their own extensions or if we want to add our own extensions to the library."

CS4 is due to ship in October. Estimated street price for the Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium will be $1,799, $1,699 for Adobe Creative Suite 4 Web Premium, $1,699 for Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium, and $2,499 for Adobe Creative Suite 4 Master Collection. Adobe plans to offer tiered upgrade pricing from previous versions.