Transcoding video from one codec to another, such as from MPEG-2 cable-TV transmissions to H.264 for more efficient storage, is one of those thorny problems of the modern digital video era that many product designers would be happy to do without. Yet, to maintain compatibility and to more efficiently use resources, it's often a requirement. So design engineers should be delighted this week with news of two significant transcoder product introductions (see TI rolls DaVinci for HD transcoding and Broadcom samples real-time HD video/audio transcoder.)
The timing would appear to be more than coincidental, and having spoken a bit with the players involved here -- TI and Broadcom -- it's not hard to guess who is trying to grab the spotlight from the other. Of course, this is a time-honored marketing tradition, and bravo to those who pull it off successfully -- just look at how Steve Jobs managed to steal the show from CES last January with his six-month premature iPhone announcement.
In a briefing with TI on their announcement, a spokesperson mentioned TI's commitment to selling their new transcoder chip to just about anyone who wants to design with it -- they are not playing favorites, or limiting sales only to key customers. Broadcom is well known for playing favorites and supplying many of the largest players in the set top box industry with exclusive chips. How they respond to smaller customers for this particular transcoder chip remains to be seen.
All designers from companies big and small benefit from the competition, and it's certainly refreshing to see the competition for transcoding chips heating up. Some HD transcoding operations that used to cost hundreds of dollars will now cost tens of dollars, making transcoding a more palatable option to a wider number of designers and consumer products.
Clearly, there are performance and capabilities differences between TI's TMS320DM6467 and Broadcom's BCM7043. If you're interested, feel free to weigh in with your observations in our new, recently revamped forums section. Happy transcoding.