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February 17, 2008

Release 0.1.2: Meep meep!

I’m actively working on support for the Apple Remote (and after that other remote control options), but we had quite a spectacularly good development over the weekend that I wanted to share earlier rather than later. It turns out that a fellow named Andreas Öman (bless his heart) made available an experimental patch to ffmpeg back in September 2007 that provides impressive speedups for multi-core decoding of H.264 content. We’ve applied it to the ffmpeg sources we’re using and the results are nothing short of stellar. The infamous 1080p Planet Earth encode plays back much better on a mini, without audio dropouts and with far fewer frames dropped. It’s not perfect, but it’s *much* better.

Additionally (and perhaps more importantly), all other 1080p content I tried played back virtually flawlessly on my Mac Mini 2.0 GHz. This includes Kill Bill Vol. I (tried the last third), a Lost episode at 1080p, and cullman even tried a crazy 5GB .ts/H.264 format Lost episode.

Whereas without the patch the CPU load is concentrated in a single core (with non-slice encoded H.264 content, at least), with the patch the load seems to be distributed much more evenly between cores. The author claims a speedup of 20-30%, which doesn’t sound like much, but it appears to push the envelope far enough to provide a much better experience.

So without further ado, give this new version a try and let us know how it works for you.

N.B. The author does mention a lack of support for the MBAFF subtype of H.264 encodings – which apparently isn’t used all that much – so it’s possible (but fairly unlikely) that content that played without the patch is now broken.

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