Transcoding isn’t sexy until you think of it as translating the bits and bytes that make up Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood into a format you can watch on your PC, TV or iPod. But they may all require a different compression format, and without translating those formats to fit the device, Day-Lewis won’t show. That’s why General Catalyst Partners and Voyager Capital said today that they’ve put $7.1 million into a startup called Elemental Technologies.
It takes a mountain of computing work to do that translation, meaning it can take hours to rip an HD movie to your iPod. Elemental changes that with its transcoding software, which uses the graphics processor inside a computer rather than the general purpose CPU generally made by Intel or AMD. Elemental can rip the file in minutes — it can also rip it to a variety of different devices simultaneously. That’s because instead of doing the transcoding bit by bit on a processor with either two or four cores, the Elemental software breaks up the job into many parts and farms them out to the up to 240 processing cores inside the GPU that can do all those jobs at once.
The first product out from Elemental is consumer oriented, will arrive sometime before September and is expected to cost between $30 and $100, depending on the features. The software will allow consumers to take HD inputs such as a Blu-ray disc or homemade HD video and rip it to a computer, iPod or other device five to 10 times faster than existing technologies using the CPU. Elemental also plans to release a pro product for video editing soon after that.
Other companies can offer these transcoding services, but they work using the CPU. Elemental’s claim to fame — and a few pending patents — derive from its use of the GPU for a non-graphics process. Elemental is working with Nvidia to optimize the transcoding software on its graphics chips. Below is a video shot at Nvidia’s Editor’s Day earlier this year showing the Elemental software in action.
Additional reporting by Liz Gannes