Graphics card capabilities.
The capabilities of the graphics card will fall to three areas: Hardware support, driver support, and application support.
If a GPU supports a feature, such as hardware encoding of the H.264 video codec, in order for any system to use it the system will need drivers that support this feature, and then also require an application that interfaces with the driver properly as well. If any one of these links is broken or bypassed, then the encoding will be passed to the CPU or not work at all, resulting in a far slower encoding of the video file.
In Final Cut Pro, the program will use the video card to help with the rendering of the video, mainly because of support for video codecs (H.264) but also because of support for effects processing in real-time, which can be done and passed to the video encoder. All this will result in a faster Final Cut Pro experience when using a more advanced video card; however, there are times when video capabilities are not supported by the video card, and are processed by the CPU.
Apple hopes to tackle the gaps in processing power when the GPU is not fully utilized, by implementing the OpenCL libraries which application developers can use to speed up their applications. As such, the specific role of video cards in the computing environment is getting fuzzy.
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