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Video Cards for Adobe Premiere CC 2015, CC 2015.2 and CC 2015.3

Video Cards and Adobe Premiere

Article Written on 07/22/2016

Copyright 2016, Studio 1 Productions
Written by David Knarr of Studio 1 Productions

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NOTE:  This article is for users of Adobe Premiere CC 2015.  There some special notes in this article for those who are running the Premiere CC version 2015.3 as it is no longer supporting older video cards.

This article is for NVidia video cards.  I don't cover the AMD video cards with this article.  Also, this article is written primarily for Windows users.  However, the majority of the information will still apply to a MAC user.

If you are running an earlier version of Adobe Premiere, please read this article on Video Cards for Adobe Premiere CS5, CS5.5, CS6, CC, CC 2014.

When Adobe came out with Adobe Premiere CS5, Adobe added the Mercury Playback Engine (MPE) so Premiere could use the GPU on an NVidia video card to accelerate playback, effects and rendering.

With the earlier versions of Adobe Premiere, you needed to update a file called cuda_supported_cards.txt in order for most video card to be used with the Mercury Playback Engine.  However, with Adobe Premiere CC 2015, this is no longer necessary.

Originally, Adobe only “certified” a few video cards from NVIDIA to work with the Mercury Playback Engine and these video cards were in the file cuda_supported_cards.txt.

Since Adobe Premiere CC 2015 allows all video cards to work, there is no longer a cuda_supported_cards.txt file to worry about.

Special Note for Adobe Premiere CC 2015.3 users on a Windows system:

Adobe updated Premiere CC to version 2015.3 and with this new version, they dropped support for older “legacy” video cards, which means they don't work correctly anymore with the Mercury Playback Engine set for GPU.

These cards include:

GTX-200 series and mobile versions
GTX-300 series and mobile versions
GTX-400 series and mobile versions
GTX-500 series and mobile versions
GTX-600 series and mobile versions

Quadro FX series and mobile versions
Quadro CX, 200, 2000, 4000, 5000 and 6000 and mobile versions

While these cards are still listed on the Adobe website as being "approved" video cards, they are not, so disregard what Adobe has listed on their website.  Hopefully, Adobe will update their website.  For a while the tech people at Adobe were telling people to roll back the video driver, but that doesn't do any good.  Since Adobe now consider these to be “legacy” video cards and you should not look for Adobe to provide support for these video cards.

The video cards that are being reported as working fine with Adobe Premiere CC 2015.3 are:

GTX-700 series and mobile versions
GTX-900 series and mobile versions
GTX-1000 series and mobile versions (GTX-1080, GTX-1070, etc.)
Quadro M series and mobile versions
Quadro K series and mobile versions

So what if you have one of the older video cards?  Well you have three choices:
1.  Upgrade your video card.
2.  Roll back Adobe Premiere to version 2015.2.  This version still works fine with all of the video cards.
3.  Use Premiere 2015.3 with the Mercury Playback Engine set to Software mode.

Going forward, I don't expect to Adobe to support the "legacy" video cards in future updates.

Note:  The GTX-600 series.  Some people have reported no problem with Premiere CC 2015.3, while other people have.  Before I updated to Premiere CC 2015.3 I did a full system backup.  This computer had a GTX-660 in it.  I installed Premiere CC 2015.3 and left the video card driver the same.  I created a new project and noticed had sluggish playback and it would error when exporting video.  I updated the video card driver to the latest version and nothing changed.  Then I swapped out the video card with a GTX-750 and used the same driver.  Everything worked just fine.

With the GTX-600 series, people have reported problems with Lumetri, export errors, playback problems and systems crashing.  Again, not everyone with the GTX-600 series video cards are reporting these problems.

NOTE:  The information above is for Windows users.  I don't have access to a MAC, so I don't know exactly what video cards are now being supported with a MAC.  

Number 1 - Introduction
There are two modes for the Mercury Playback Engine,  they are:

A) Mercury Playback Engine GPU Acceleration
B) Mercury Playback Engine Software Only

You are really going to want to run Premiere with the Mercury Playback Engine set to GPU acceleration for the best performance.

Number 2 - What will the GPU do for me
The GPU Acceleration is for accelerated playback, GPU accelerated effects, Lumetri, de-interlacing, blending modes, scaling and rendering the previews and final output.

Adobe Premiere CC 2015 does NOT use the GPU for encoding or decoding the video, only the CPU is used for that.

Number 3 - Maximum Render Quality Mode
Adobe Premiere CC 2015 has a setting called  the Maximum Render Quality mode (or MRQ).

The Maximum Render Quality mode will maximize the quality of motion in rendered clips and sequences.  So when you select this option, the video will often render moving objects more sharply.  Maximum Render Quality also maintains sharp detail when scaling from large formats to smaller formats, or from high-definition to standard-definition formats.  For the highest quality exports you should always use the Maximum Render Quality mode.

Whether you are running the Mercury Playback Engine in the software mode or GPU hardware mode, you can turn the Maximum Render Quality mode on or off.

Here is how to set the Maximum Render Quality.
1)  Open up Adobe Premiere
2)  Click on Sequence at the top of the screen
3)  Then select Sequence Settings
4)  At the bottom of the window select Maximum Render Quality and click Okay

Basically, I recommend you always set the Maximum Render Quality mode to ON.

I have received numerous few emails from people who say they don't see much, if any speed difference between the Software mode and the GPU mode.  This is because, when they are testing in Software mode, the Maximum Render Quality mode is set to OFF, which results in rendering at a lower quality, which makes it run faster.  When it is set to GPU mode, the Maximum Render Quality mode is automatically set to ON and rendering in higher quality.

Number 4 - Updates & Video Card Drivers
Important - DO NOT use the video card drivers from the video card manufacturer or from Windows, they are almost never current.

Important - Do NOT use auto-updates for the video card drivers, they don't always have access to the latest version.

You need to go directly to the NVIDIA website yourself and download the drivers directly from them.  Please go to and download the latest drivers.

NOTE:  There was some problems with R3D media files with some video drivers prior to 368.81.  With the release of 368.81 the problem has been fixed.

Before you install your new NVIDIA video card, you should remove the old video drivers that you were using.  On Windows go into the Control Panel and select Programs and Features.  Scroll down the list of programs and remove the video driver that you are currently running.

Then power down the computer and install the new NVIDIA video card.  Once that is done, power up the computer and download from the website the latest driver for your video card and install it.  Then Reboot your computer.

DO NOT down load any Beta drivers.  They may not be stable.  Only download the WHQL drivers.

Number 5 - Decoding
The decoding of video footage is still handled by the CPU and not the GPU on the video card.  So if you are using heavily compressed video, such as AVCHD or h.264, you will need a fast processor, since the video card won’t help with the decoding of the video.  Also, keep in mind, that if you use a non-Mercury Playback Engine enabled plug-in or effect, the GPU on the video card won’t help you with rendering that effect.

Different types of footage, such as DV, HDV, XDCAM, AVCHD, H.264, DSLR footage, RED, 4K, etc. will all play a big part in overall editing performance, as the CPU has to do the decoding of the video format.  For example, HDV is easier to decode than AVCHD.

Number 6 - Types of Video Card Memory
The Mercury Playback Engine requires the NVIDIA video card to have at least 1 GB of memory or more.  Anything less, the Mercury Playback Engine will NOT work in the GPU accelerated mode.  It will work in the Software mode, but you want it to work in the GPU accelerated mode, you will need 1 GB or more of video ram on the graphics or video card.

Video cards come with different types of memory, such as DDR2, DDR3, and DDR5 type of memory.

Video cards with DDR2 memory will be to slow for the Mercury Playback Engine, causing problems with Premiere.  If you have a older video card with DDR2 memory, replace it, plain and simple.

If you already have a video card with DDR3 memory, you may be fine with that, but I would recommend replacing it for one with DDR5 memory for improved performance.

If you are buying a new video card, make sure it has DDR5 memory.  Don't settle for anything less.

Number 7 - How Much RAM on the Video Card do I need for Adobe Premiere?
Here is a chart with a basic guideline for the amount of video ram you should have on your video card.

SD Footage 1 GB is fine  
HD Footage 1 GB is min. 2 GB or more is better
2K Footage 3 GB is min. 4 GB or more is better
4K Footage 4 GB is min. 6 GB or more is better
5K Footage 6 GB is min. more is better

Remember, this is just a guideline. Having more ram on the video card than what is listed above is a good thing!

Depending on the complexity of your timeline and/or if you have large pixel photos or high dpi photos on the timeline, you may run out of video memory if your video card has only the minimum amount of RAM.  Once the Mercury Playback Engine runs out of memory, it will automatically switch to running in the slower Software mode and stay that way for the rest of the Rending process.  This is why I say, the more video ram, the better.

Now I know some of you are probably thinking, “I only have 1 GB of ram on my video card and I never had any problems working with or rendering HD footage with Adobe Premiere.”  Well, neither have I.  But, that is probably due to the fact that we are not working with a very complex timeline.

I have had several people contact me about Adobe Premiere shutting off the GPU mid-render and switching into software mode and the rendering slowing down dramatically.  After talking with them and seeing the complexity of their timeline, it was easy to see why they were running out of video ram on the video card.

Once they upgraded to a video card that offered more ram, their problems went away.

Number 8 - Overclocking your Video Card or Using a Factory Overclocked Video Card
For those of you who are not familiar with overclocking, this where you can change the clock speed on the video card to make them run slightly faster.

You can buy some video cards that are factory overclocked or that are designed so you can overclock them.

My advice is DO NOT overclock the video card yourself.  Yes, I know, your video card runs fine in other programs when it is overclocked.  Well guess what?  Premiere is pushing your video card harder than you other programs.

Now, on my system I do run video cards that are factory overclocked.  This is where the manufacturer overclocks the card at the factory.  Generally, you will not have problems with these video card running Premiere.

However, with that said, a couple of people have contact me and they were running a factory overclocked video card and Premiere would crash when they would start to render.  As soon as they reset the video card back to the non-overclocked specs, everything ran fine.  For some reason these video cards were a bit touchy with Premiere.

Another problem with overclocked video cards is, they tend to generate run hotter than a non-overclocked video card.  I worked with one guy for several days trying different things with his factory overclocked video card.  Finally, when he added an additional fan to his computer that blew air directly across the video card, the problem was solved.  This is why it is important to have adequate cooling for your computer.

So be aware of problems you may have from overclocked video cards.

Number 9 - Chart of NVidia graphics Cards

Here is a link to a chart of the different NVidia Graphics Cards.

This chart will open up in a separate window so you won't loose your place here in the article.  It will show you how many CUDA cores are on each card, the Memory Interface Width, the Memory Bandwidth Speed, the Recommend Size of the Power Supply.

NOTE:  The specs and power supply requirements listed in the chart are based on NVidia's web site.  PLEASE check with the manufacturer of the video card you plan on purchasing to see what their power supply requirements are.

Number 10 - Power Supplies
The Power Supply - Before you run out and buy an NVIDIA video card, you need to know how big your power supply is in watts.  Different video cards will require that you have a minimum number of watts power supply.  So open your computer, if you are comfortable doing that, otherwise, find someone who is.

Look on the label on the power supply for the number of watts it is rated at. It may say something like 300 watts, 450 watts or higher.  Once you know the watts, then you can select a video card that will work with your power supply.

For example, the NVIDIA GeForce GTX-960 will work fine with a 400 watt power supply.  But, the GeForce GTX-980 will require a minimum of a 600 watt power supply.

Make sure your power supply can handle the video card you want to use, otherwise, you will need to replace the power supply also.

If you do upgrade your power supply, it is always best to upgrade to a higher wattage power supply than what the video card recommends.  For example, if you are buying a GTX-980 video card and it requires a 600 watt power supply, then get a power supply that is 750 watts or higher.  The reason for this is you don't want to over stress the power supply as it can cause system stability problems.

If you don't want to upgrade the power supply, then make sure you stick with a video card that will work with the size of your current power supply.

In this chart of the different NVidia Graphics Cards, we list a minimum power supply size needed for the each video card.  This list above are based on NVidia's web site recommendations.

Number 11 - WARNING About the GTX-970 Video Card
NVidia advertised the GTX 970 as having 4GB of vram running at 224GB/S.  HOWEVER, it has been revealed that the first 3.5GB operates at 192GB/s (7/8th) while the remaining 0.5GB operates at 1/8th that speed.  A quite a drop in ram speed and this does effect performance.

When I ran our benchmark tests I didn't notice any problems.  I was monitoring the video ram usage and it never got over 3GB, so I didn't  have had any problems.

Some people who are using 4K media with the GTX-970 have reported have reported problems, while others have not.  It all comes down to the complexity of the time line.  If you are working with 4K media or higher, you might want to stay clear of the GTX-970.

Number 12 - Quadro or GeForce Video Cards
The only reason to use a Quadro video card with Adobe Premiere is if you are using  a 10 bit monitor like the HP Dreamcolor or similar or you need SDI output. Otherwise, the Quadro’s are under powered and over priced.

Let’s take a look at some of the Quadro cards.

The Quadro K2000 - This video card only has 384 CUDA cores, a 128bit memory interface and a memory bandwidth of 64 GB/s. Basically, it is like a GT-740 video card, but it is priced much higher.

The Quadro K4000 - This video card has 768 CUDA cores, a 192 bit memory interface and a memory bandwidth of 134 GB/s. Basically, this video card is like the GTX-650 Ti Boost.  Again, at a much higher price.

Quadro K5000 - This video card has 1536 CUDA cores, a 256 bit memory interface and a memory bandwidth of 173 GB/s.  This video card is like theGTX-680 and is also priced higher than the GTX-680.

Okay, starting to get the picture.  The Quadro video cards are simply overpriced version of the Geforce video cards.

I do not recommend a Quadro video card, unless you have a specific program that requires a Quadro video card or if you have the HP Dreamcolor monitor or similar 10bit monitor or you need SDI output from the video card.

You will get better performance for a lot less money with the GeForce cards.

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