Elemental Shakes Up Video Servers With Parallel Processing


Elemental Technologies — aka the smart young startup in Portland that makes video processing better by doing it in parallel — is beta-releasing a video encoding and transcoding server.

Elemental Founders and Server 2 0509

In the last year, Elemental has put GPUs (graphics processing units) to work on the non-graphics jobs CPUs (central processing units) normally do, using its breakthrough software to do an awful lot of computing with the GPU processing cores in parallel. After raising $7.1 million in Series A funding last July, the company released the Badaboom video file converter, for consumers, and a professional video processing product called the RapiHD. Badaboom, which costs $30, has already been downloaded 1 million times.

Now, Elemental is taking on a whole new category, by releasing its Elemental Server, which it says can do the job of seven dual quad-core CPU servers while taking up less space, using less power and costing less than half the price. Using the GPU for transcoding can be 5-10 times faster than using the CPU. The server will enable real-time transcoding on-demand, and Elemental already has customers like Brightcove and partners like Adobe (s adbe) on board.

Because Elemental takes advantage of Nvidia’s (s nvda) CUDA processing language, its server will only run on Nvidia chips for the time being. The company will also make the software available for customers to run on their own Nvidia-based hardware.

Elemental CEO Sam Blackman isn’t content with just providing transformative technology; he’d also like to revolutionize video monetization. (Hey Sam, while you’re at it, can we put in a request for a pony?)

Blackman told us last week he thinks the Elemental server will enable new business models because video providers will be able to customize content and targeted ads to end users on the fly. Eventually he’d like the servers to power cable, broadcast and satellite video processing. For now, video providers are constantly dealing with increasing demand as well as upgrading to high-definition and live-streaming, so buying new servers is a matter of course.

Blackman said he isn’t worried about competition from cloud computing alternatives — we’ve written about ones such as HD Cloud and Encoding.com — because content providers require a sturdier solution. However he made it clear Elemental plans to incorporate the cloud as part of in its own products later on.

Blackman said Elemental, which has 20 employees, was nearly cash-flow positive in 2008 even though it only had products on the market in the fourth quarter of the year. He said he doesn’t anticipate raising more funding.

Pictured: Elemental founders and their server: Brian Lewis (Chief Architect), Sam Blackman (Chairman and CEO) and Jesse Rosenzweig (CTO).


Eric Fontaine

Hi, I am the Marketing Director at HeyWatch.
That is true, Encoding.com is a great service.

But you should also have a look at HeyWatch – http://heywatch.com – the first professional, scalable and cost-effective transcoding Web Service. HeyWatch has been the leader in Online Video Encoding since 2006. Cheaper, with exclusive and innovative features and a REST API for an easy and fast white label integration.

Sam Blackman

Reading NewTeeVee? Of course we are, Liz! Good question re: how we compare to RipCode. They have built innovative transcoding technology around using digital signal processors (DSPs) to process video, while Elemental’s technology runs on off-the-shelf GPUs from NVIDIA and CPUs from Intel. Each solution has unique strengths, but neither one includes a pony that we are aware of. :)

Liz Gannes

Thanks Sam. I wouldn’t say that completely answers Noam’s question, but I can see how that would be hard to do without writing an essay. We’ll have to follow up on this one and keep hoping on the pony.

Noam Lovinsky

My elementary understanding is that DSPs should outperform GPUs, but there is more flexibility when developing on a GPU architecture. I’d also love to know what these two companies think about Intel getting into the game with its 16 core Larrabee chip set.

Liz Gannes

Cool, we are going to do a follow-up story on the broader picture of where this all is heading. Should be soon!

Liz Gannes

@Noam – As I understand it, Ripcode uses digital signal processors, a different kind of chip architecture that is also parallel and low power compared to CPUs. Would be cool to see how the two match up. If the folks from Elemental are reading, can you let us know?

Kfir Pravda

Great post. I looked at their Accelerator product, which looks very interesting. I wonder how they benchmark vs Elgato H264 Encoder (a new version was announced recently, that supports HD). Though positioned as a consumer solution, the Elgato product offers a very powerful DSP based H264 encoding, in a format of a USB dongle. Really great product, that works on every file. As I am using Final Cut and not Adobe, it is my tool of choice.

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