Well, that was fast. It was only last week that Apple decided to play nice with Adobe and open up its APIs to allow low-level access to hardware acceleration. Adobe had long complained that a lack of access to core APIs for hardware acceleration was the reason for poor performance of Flash Player on OS X.
Now Adobe Labs is showcasing a new pre-release of Flash Player 10.1 “Gala” for OS X that supports hardware acceleration of H.264 video content. Gala takes advantage of hardware acceleration on Mac computers with NVIDIA GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M, or GeForce GT 330M GPUs.
Adobe explains the importance of hardware acceleration with the following statement:
Many video professionals point out that access to hardware video decoding is the single most important factor in overall CPU load when playing video. Mac OS X 10.6.3, which became available on March 29, 2010, is the first Mac OS X release to expose APIs that support H.264 hardware video decoding in the browser. The combination of NVIDIA GPUs (GeForce 9400M, GeForce 320M or GeForce GT 330M) with the Gala version of Flash Player enables supported Macs running the current version of OS X to deliver smooth, flicker-free HD video with substantially decreased power consumption. Users will be able to enjoy a much smoother viewing experience when accessing rich, H.264 video content built with the Flash Platform from popular sites like Hulu.com or YouTube.
Tinic Uro has a little more insight on Gala on his blog including the revelation that hardware acceleration was included in previous betas of Flash Player 10.1, but it simply wasn’t enabled. Uro explains:
As some have noticed, previous release candidates we have made available on labs.adobe.com referenced this hardware decoding API provided by Apple. We are not in a position yet to enable this by default (hence the extra beta version we are making available) as this has only seen very limited testing by the engineers. Because of some of the issues I mentioned above, we want to put the hardware acceleration functionality through a full public beta cycle before including it in a final shipping version of Flash Player.
Gala will not be incorporated into the initial release of Flash Player 10.1 this summer. Instead, it will be available as a download some time after Flash Player 10.1 is made widely available. Adobe also notes that CPU utilization is reduced by up to two-thirds when compared to previous release candidate versions of Flash Player 10.1.
Currently, Gala will only operate on OS X 10.6.3 and only supports hardware decoding for H.264. You can access the direct download of Gala here [DMG].
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