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Should creators care about the RTX 30 series?

Nvidia has just announced three new and very powerful GPUs. As a nerd, this obviously interests me. But how can I make a post on these new RTX graphics cards relevant to photography/videography? Well GPUs play an ever increasingly important role in video and photo editing. So there’s your link.

A bit of background on the RTX 30 series

Before I get going I do want to give a quick primer for those who don’t read any tech journalism. Nvidia has recently unveiled their latest GPUs. More specifically these are the RTX 3070, the RTX 3080, and RTX 3090. These cards succeed the current RTX 20 series. The RTX 20 series wasn’t received too warmly and in terms of raw power they weren’t a huge step up from the previous GTX 10 line of cards.

With this generation things change and we should be seeing a huge step up in relative performance. According to NVIDIA the mid-range RTX 3070, costing $499, will be more powerful than the $1200 RTX 2080 Ti.

Disclaimer

Just a small disclaimer before I get on with the relevant content. I use the Adobe Creative Cloud suite and thus will focus on Lightroom Classic, Photoshop, and Premiere Pro. I believe Davinci heavily uses the GPU so it’s safe to assume that it too will profit from a more powerful card. I still edit all of my photos and videos on an aging and mobile GTX 1050. You definitely don’t always need the latest and greatest. I’m not telling you to go out and buy a new card, I just want to tell you in which scenarios you might want to consider a GPU from this new lineup.

Lightroom Classic and RTX 30

Let’s start off with Lightroom Classic, my editing tool of choice. And also the editing tool for many many photographers. In a previous video I already mentioned that Lightroom Classic doesn’t necessarily need a powerful GPU. Many time intensive processes such as the generation of panoramas and HDR merges aren’t currently GPU accelerated.

There are certain functions in Lightroom Classic that are accelerated. Those include many from the develop module such as the tone curve and split toning. But then again the GPU acceleration isn’t without it’s fair share of issues. If you enable GPU acceleration using a weaker GPU it can actually make things slower.

Resolution matters

I wish things weren’t so complicated but unfortunately they are. Because there’s another factor determining whether you should use GPU acceleration or not. And that is screen resolution. Enabling GPU acceleration on a 4K monitor will make more of a difference.

However the Enhance Details feature does utilise the GPU. So if your current rig struggles with that it might be worth looking at the new GPUs.

Is it worth the upgrade?

So, should you upgrade or not? That’s not an easy question to answer. If you’re using an old GPU, let’s say something from the GTX 10, 9 or older line of cards, and you use a 4K or higher resolution monitor, a new GPU will make a difference to speed and stability. But if you’ve already got a relatively new GPU, and you don’t find it chugging along while enhancing details, that money might be better invested elsewhere.

For example if you’ve got a card from the RTX20 line and you think that Lightroom Classic is running slowly despite having GPU acceleration enabled, maybe open up the task manager and see if your CPU is struggling while editing. If it is, you should upgrade your CPU before you invest in a new GPU.

Photoshop and RTX 30

Let’s move onto Photoshop. In Photoshop a number of functions require or are accelerated by the GPU. These include Perspective Warp, Scrubby Zoom, and Camera Raw. In fact Adobe has a list online of all the features that either require or are accelerated by the GPU. If you’re a heavy user of any of those features and your GPU is struggling, you might be interested in the RTX30 series.

I’ll recommend the same as I did for Lightroom Classic. If your rig is struggling, open up the task manager and try to find out where your bottleneck is. It might be your GPUs memory, the system memory, or maybe the CPU. There’s only one way to find out and that is by analysing your own system.

The same advice I gave for Lightroom Classic also applies here. You probably won’t need the latest and greatest GPU for most of your work in Photoshop. If you’re on a budget a second-hand card from the RTX20 series will in most cases suffice. But if you do have cash burning a hole in your pocket go ahead and get yourself a shiny new RTX 30 card.

Premiere Pro and RTX 30

And finally I want to take some time and discuss video editing. In terms of decoding and encoding you won’t find much of a difference between the RTX 20 and 30 cards. Both use the same generation of NVENC, which is NVIDIA’s encoder. The RTX 30 cards will however be able to decode, but not encode, AV1 footage.

Premiere Pro uses NVIDIA’s cuda cores for accelerating a number of video effects. These include lumetri looks. You can tell whether an effect uses GPU acceleration by the little icon next to its name. The good news is that these new cards all have more cuda cores than the RTX 2080 Ti. So you’ll likely get a better performance out of an RTX3070 than that card. And the 3070 costs less than half the price and uses less energy.

So the answer to the question whether you should upgrade once again depends on what you already have and how you use Premiere Pro. If you do think your GPU is the root cause of your rig’s sluggishness… I’m going to repeat myself for a third time. Open task manager next time you’re working on a project and look for your bottleneck. Make sure you check things in detail such as the usage of your video memory. Because despite all of the mentioned advantages the RTX3070 has, it has less memory than a RTX2080 Ti.

Conclusion

And I’m going to repeat myself once again before closing out. Just in case you missed it the previous three times. If your system is sluggish go ahead and open up the task manager while you’re working and find the bottleneck before you go out and spend loads of money on an unnecessary GPU.


Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

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