GPU acceleration was first introduced in Vegas Pro 11 and has not been significantly updated since, but it can still bring significant benefits with the right graphics card.
1. GPU ACCELERATION OF VIDEO PROCESSING
VEGAS uses OpenCL for GPU acceleration. It uses it to accelerate playback of the timeline and GPU-enabled FX.
1a. Enabling GPU acceleration of video processing
GPU acceleration of video processing is enabled or disabled here: "Options" menu > "Preferences" > "Video" > "GPU acceleration of video processing". You will need to restart VEGAS after changing the setting.
1b. Graphics cards that work well for GPU acceleration of video processing
Although both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs support OpenCL, AMD's implementation is stronger. The following GPUs/graphics cards have been known to work well with VEGAS Pro 11-14:
- AMD Radeon RX 480/470
- AMD Radeon R9 390X/390/290X/290
- AMD Radeon R9 Fury X
- AMD R7 370
- AMD Radeon HD6970/6870/5870 (now old but good for MainConcept AVC GPU rendering)
Presumably similar variants of those cards will also perform well.
1c. Graphics cards that don't work so well
The following GPUs/graphics cards have been known to give disappointing performance with VEGAS Pro 11-14 (of course your decision may be affected by other applications which work well with these cards):
- NVIDIA GeForce GTX - Except GTX 580 and earlier, specifically for MainConcept AVC GPU rendering (see below)
- NVIDIA Quadro - Unless you specifically need NVIDIA 3D Vision live preview, which requires a Quadro card, or (debateably) 10-bit montitoring. AMD Radeon gives more acceleration for less expense. Choice of driver may make a huge difference in Quadro performance (example).
AMD FirePro - These workstation cards may work OK but most users choose Radeon.
1d. Notes about GPU acceleration of video processing
- Artifacts may appear with some formats.
- Some FX and compositing may behave slightly differently with GPU enabled.
- Windows may update your graphics card driver and introduce problems such as VEGAS not recognizing the card. If so, update your driver from the manufacturer's website or from the NVIDIA or AMD website. In some cases the driver may need to be rolled back to an earlier version. Display Driver Uninstaller can help with a clean uninstall.
- Some Geforce cards (e.g. GTX 745, GT 730) cannot be recognized by VEGAS with certain drivers and the driver may need to be rolled back.
- If your preview window is blank with an NVIDIA card, there are reports that this can be solved by installing a CUDA Toolkit. There is a particular problem with Nvidia driver 378.66.
- You don't need GPU acceleration. I successfully edit UHD video in VEGAS without it using my Intel i7-5960X processor, and there are other alternatives to speed things up such as proxy editing.
- AMD Vega is due for release in the first half of 2017 and may perform very well with VEGAS.
- There are some reports of NVIDIA drivers improving in terms of OpenCL performance (example 1, example 2).
- Some VEGAS FX that were purchased from Velvetmatter cause VEGAS to crash with some AMD drivers more recent than 16.10.1. They may also work better with Nvidia GPUs anyway. The affected FX are:
- Fill Light
- Soft Contrast
2. LEGACY AVC GPU RENDERING
The two AVC/AAC encoders available in VEGAS allow GPU-accelerated rendering, which is a different thing from GPU acceleration of video processing explained above in part 1.
In Vegas Pro 11 to 13, the GPU rendering options were diplayed by default. Since VEGAS Pro 14 build 201, GPU rendering must be enabled here: "Options" menu > "Preferences" > "General" > "Allow legacy GPU rendering".
The term "legacy" is used because the code was optimized for the GPUs that were available when it was written, a number of years ago. The code is not optimized for currently-available graphics cards.
2b. MainConcept AVC/AAC
GPU rendering with the MainConcept AVC/AAC codec is enabled here: "Render As" > "MainConcept AVC/AAC" > "Customize Template" > "Encode mode"
CUDA GPU rendering in MainConcept AVC/AAC is not supported on GTX 600 series or later cards, however it works well on the GTX 400-500 series, which were based on the Fermi architecture. The GeForce 296.10 driver is proven to work well, but is reported not to work after Windows 7. Users have successfully used 334.89 and other later drivers by tweaking the "OpenCL Memory Size Filter" in the internal preferences. The official information from the Support team is that the GeForce 337.88 or Quadro/Tesla 341.05 (an R340 driver) or older driver is required.
If fast rendering of AVC video is critical for you, then consider using CUDA with an NVIDIA GTX 580 card, which was the last and fastest card supported. They are still available on eBay etc.. If your PC case is large enough, you could fit one alongside an AMD card that is better for OpenCL acceleration of video processing and combine the benefits of both. I have had a GTX 580 and an HD 6970 in the same PC without issue.
OpenCL GPU rendering in MainConcept AVC/AAC requires an AMD Radeon HD 4000/5000/6000 series GPU. The latest, fastest card to support it was the AMD Radeon HD 6970. CUDA rendering with the GTX 580 is reported to be faster. Note that you can still select "Render using OpenCL if available" even with later cards that support OpenCL, but doing so will probably make your render slower.
2c. Sony AVC/MVC
GPU rendering with the Sony AVC/MVC codec is enabled here: "Render As" > "Sony AVC/MVC" > "Customize Template" > "Encode mode" > "Render using GPU if available"
OpenCL GPU rendering typically does not significantly accelerate the Sony AVC/MVC encoder and in some cases it can makes it slower.
2d. Notes about GPU-accelerated rendering
- The rendering result will be different with GPU-acceleration enabled. It is likely to be slightly inferior for the same settings.
- If "GPU acceleration of video processing" is enabled, a suitable GPU will still accelerate your render even if "Encode mode" is set to "Render using CPU only", because VEGAS still has to process your timeline.
3. GENERAL NOTES ABOUT GRAPHICS CARD & GPU-ACCELERATION
- GPU acceleration may not work well if your CPU is relatively under-powered or over-powered. The two should be in balance.
- In some cases GPU acceleration or rendering may actually be slower or less stable than with CPU only.
- Driver choice can be critical to GPU compatibility, stability and performance. Different versions of Windows may support or prefer different graphics card drivers. Updating or rolling back a driver can make a huge difference.
- VEGAS does not benefit from NVIDIA SLI or AMD CrossFire.
- Powerful graphics cards may be extra-long and take up multiple slots. Be sure your motherboard and case have enough room.
- The guidelines in this post are based on users' experience and may not represent performance in your own system. If in doubt, test the options yourself.
4. USEFUL LINKS RELATED TO GPU-ACCELERATION IN VEGAS
- Official VEGAS Pro system requirements including GPU
- Selecting a Video Card for Sony Vegas and Sony Movie Studio (2015)
- GPU Acceleration Explained (2015, Sony Help Center article)
- Benchmark tests for new video card (2016, includes AMD FirePro & HD 5670 vs RX480)
- I found the best graphics card for Vegas Pro 12.0 (2014, re. HD 5870)
- Why can't Vegas run with current nVidia drivers? (2013)
- Sony Vegas Pro 11 (Red Car) Benchmark download
- Sony Vegas Pro 12 Benchmark results (2013)
- List of AMD graphics processing units
- List of Nvidia graphics processing units
- AMD GPU comparison (astar)
- Help with rolling back to an older NVIDIA driver
- Reasons why GPU rendering does not work on modern cards
- Old AMD display drivers - Windows 10 x64
- AMD Clean Uninstall Utility
Guru3D Display Driver Uninstaller