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Apple Metal Adoption Increasing »The Rocket Yard Blog



A Brief Overview of API Terminology

An Application Programming Interface (or API) is a collection of resources (sometimes source code, sometimes a specification, or both) used by developers to achieve specific types of functionality in their apps. OpenGL is a long-standing open source API designed to increase the app's ability to display and accelerate 2D and 3D graphics. OpenCL is a lesser known open source API, often used to download certain types of computational tasks from the CPU – the Intel processor (s) on your Mac – to the GPU.

  OpenGL logo

OpenGL and OpenCL are examples of "open API standards" developed by a consortium of companies (including Apple) and characterized by slow, step-by-step changes over time. It is not uncommon for 3-4 years between the adoption of one version of one open API to the next. The benefits of an open API are stability (because it rarely changes), and developers can use a single API to develop specific features of an application, across multiple platforms.

  OpenCL Logo

The disadvantage is when a developer (who has the resources to create their own APIs and hardware) needs an API to achieve something outside the framework of the consortium's roadmap, the direction, or the development speed of that API can hinder the developer in achieving their vision for current products over time.

Apple is making a change

For this reason, Apple went another route in 2015 when it added its Metal® API – originally designed to accelerate 2D and 3D graphics on iOS devices – to the Mac platform. Originally, Metal was not widely adopted by Mac developers, but the intention was clear: replacing the OpenGL and OpenCL APIs in macOS with a simple, more efficient API that served all the same purposes, as well as providing extra functionality. Note: OpenGL and OpenCL were "depreciated" in macOS 10.14 Mojave for the first time, which means that the functionality still worked, but was no longer supported by Apple, and will eventually be removed. OpenGL and OpenCL maintain the outdated status in macOS 10.15, but it is unclear whether they will remain part of macOS beyond that.

  Metal Icon

Forward to the WWDC event in 2019: Apple announced revision 3 of the Metal API, bringing it to a level where many developers are now planning to update their OpenGL and OpenCL apps to use Metal in instead. This article provides a list of some popular creative apps that are part of this trend.

Note that the list below is based on the best information available at this time – which is sometimes sparse – and cannot be guaranteed. Only the latest app versions are listed; Earlier versions may support Metal to a lesser extent or not at all. This information is provided only as a courtesy. If you are curious about specific applications and how they use Metal, contact the developer.

Apps currently using Metal

  • Adobe Photoshop CC 2019
    • Camera Raw (select features)
    • Puppet Warp, Perspective Warp
  • Adobe Premiere Pro CC 2019
    • Mercury Playback Engine
    • More effects
  • Adobe After Effects CC 2019
    • Mercury GPU Acceleration
    • More effects
  • Pixelmator 1.3.4
    • All color adjustments
    • All Paint Engine features
    • 60+ effects
  • Affinity Photo 1.7
    • Select editing features
    • Raw processing
    • All Compositing features
    • All Paint features
  • Affinity Designer 1.7
    • Viewport
    • Grid layers and brush operations [19659016] DaVinci Resolve 16
      • Demosaising
      • Playback
      • Rating
      • Many Effects
      • Rendering
    • Pixar Hydra (release at the end of 2019) [19659014] Viewport, combined with various apps
  • AMD ProRender
    • Multi-purpose Renderer, bundled with different apps
  • Otoy Octane X renderer (release TBD)

Metal Updates Announced or Likely

  • Unity [19659018] AutoDesk Maya
  • AutoDesk AutoCAD
  • AutoDesk Flame
  • AutoDesk Fusion
  • Substance Painter
  • Substance Designer

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