Xilinx have some red-hot news with regard to the latest version of their Consumer Video Kit that gives systems designers a complete development platform for easily tapping into the flexibility and real-time video processing capabilities of FPGAs.
But before we go there, I would first like to note that I am constantly being amazed at the pace of innovation these days with regards to image and video capture solutions and displays. When I was a kid of around 7-years old circa 1964 living in Sheffield, England, we had a single (small, rinky-dinky) black-and-white television in our front room.
Anyone I knew who owned a television in those days had only a black-and-white set, and I don't think I'd even heard of (or dreamt of) a color TV. On Saturdays my parents used to take me into the Sheffield town center, but we didn’t have a lot of spare money in those days, so we would simply amble around looking in shop windows and generally have a good time just being together.
During one such outing as we meandered our way through the town, we passed a large department store. In one display window were row upon row of black-and-white televisions of all sorts of different shapes and sizes. And there – in solitary splendor in the middle of the display – was a single color television.
New Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA Consumer Video Kit
We were all transfixed. I stood there with my hands and face pressed against the window. I can even remember the program that was showing, which was some sort of documentary about a steel foundry. At one stage a big crucible full of liquid metal was tipped over to pour its contents into a network of channels that fed into molds.
The same program was showing on all of the televisions, which made the color screen stand out all-the-more. Seeing the white-hot metal pouring out of the crucible – turning to yellows and oranges and reds as it raced down the channels and cooled – was simply amazing!
Now of course we have flat-panel, color TVs in every room of our house. Even better, we have high-definition, which I still think is incredible. I remember when HD sets first came on the market (did you know the first HD program was broadcast ion 1996?), but there was relatively little content available for them for quite a long time. Then folks like the Discovery Channel announced that they were going to start filming everything in HD – and others followed suit – and prices of HDTVs fell – and now we live in an HD world.
The point is that innovation has not stopped or even slowed with the digital transition – instead it’s picking up the pace. Consider something like localized dimming, for example. The idea here is that a traditional LDC display will have bright backlights covering the whole display, then the liquid crystals associated with each red-green-blue (RGB) sub-pixels are used to control the color and brightness by varying the amount of light that goes through them.
But suppose that the part of the image on one side of the screen is really bright while the part on the other side is darker and gloomier. In traditional sets the backlights are all on full power and you use the liquid crystals in the darker portion of the image to restrict the amount of light getting through.
When you think about it this is a waste of power. It actually makes more sense for the gloomier areas of the picture to dim the backlighting and to then use the liquid crystals associated with this area to let more of this dimmer light through … if you see what I mean. This is called localized dimming, and it can add up to significant savings in power consumption, but it also involves a substantial amount of additional processing, and what better to perform this additional processing than FPGAs?
Continued innovation after the digital transition
And then consider the fact that current 1080p (2 megapixel) HD displays – as wonderful as they are – are already well on their way to becoming obsolete. In the very near-term future we’re going to start hearing more and more about next generation TV sets and projectors and suchlike. For example 4K2K (4096 x 2400 pixels = 10 megapixels) followed by 8K4K (7680 x 4320 pixels = 33 megapixels), where this latter version is also known as "Super Hi-Vision" or "Ultra HDTV".
What? You think this is science fiction or at least way in the future? Well, did you know that Japan has announced plans to make 8K4K a broadcast standard by 2015, and the BBC has plans to broadcast the 2012 Olympic games in 8K4K?
AND… in addition to all of this, there’s the advent of 3DHDTV. The sets I’ve seen this far require you to wear special glasses, but sets in the future will allow multiple viewers observing from different angles to see everything in 3D without the need for special glasses. (How is this possible? Ah, well, that will be the topic for a future article.)
“But what about 3D content?”
you cry. Well, my understanding is that the Discovery Channel has already stated that they are ramping up to start recording everything in 3D. As with HD, the fact that the Discovery Channel has made this commitment means that others are sure to follow.
The great thing is that going 3D from the filming/recording perspective is totally independent of the display technology – all that is required (in simple terms) is to use two cameras rather than one. Similarly, going 3D doesn’t demand an exponential increase in transmission bandwidth and storage capabilities – all that is requires is to store and transmit two video streams (one from each camera) rather than one.
Bandwidth continues to scale inside the TV
to see a larger, more detailed version of this image)
When you see things that say ultra HD3DTV requires bandwidths 100X greater than full HDTV (as in the graphic above), what they are talking about is the amount of processing that has to take place inside the television in order to take the dual (binocular) video streams and process them in such w way that they can be displayed in full 3D to multiple viewers located at different viewing angles. And, once again, what better to perform this additional processing than FPGAs?
All of which leads us to today’s announcement from Xilinx, which I present in its original form as shown below:
today announced at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show a new version of its popular Spartan-6 FPGA Consumer Video Kit that gives systems designers a complete development platform for easily tapping into the flexibility and real-time video processing capabilities of Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs). Co-developed with and distributed by Tokyo Electron Device, the Consumer Video Kit supports the latest serial digital TV interfaces, including DisplayPort 1.1a, V-by-One HS, HDMI 1.4a (now supporting 3DTV) and LVDS of up to 1.05 Gbps, to help original equipment manufacturers meet the challenges of shorter market windows and focus on the innovation and delivery of stunning 3D, Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED), Quad HD (4K2K resolution) and many other digital display technologies.
"New consumer video technologies like 3DTV and the standards that support them are proliferating like never before as competition and innovation in digital television development pushes the limits of video processing and bandwidth,"
said Aaron Behman, Senior Marketing Manager, Consumer Segment, at Xilinx. "FPGAs have already made the delivery of 3DTV to consumers possible and are being used by leading manufacturers in their development of new generations of digital TV technologies and features."
At the heart of the Consumer Video Kit is a Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA, a low-cost, low-power programmable logic device that designers can use to simulate video algorithms in silicon during the development phase and then move into production without having to worry about coding video interface infrastructure. Spartan-6 FPGAs deliver 30% lower power and 15% faster performance than competing FPGAs to support emerging technologies such as locally dimmed LED and super-high resolution 4K2K (Quad HD), which are driving up the bandwidth requirements for next-generation displays.
"Manufacturers of consumer video are challenged to develop innovative 3D and other display technology applications while reducing the overall power consumption of their end equipment,"
said Masoud Beheshti, worldwide marketing manager, Power Management, TI. "Through this continued collaboration with Xilinx and Tokyo Electron, designers can easily implement TI's digital power management solutions to simulate power consumption in real-time in their FPGA-based designs."
"Aiptek selected Xilinx Spartan FPGAs to get to market first with the world's only pocket camcorder that captures 2D and 3D in high definition,"
said FH Cheng, Aiptek Vice President of Operations. "While others shoot in lower, VHS-type resolutions, our i2 3D-HD 720 Camcorder captures pristine quality, 720p HD video – the highest resolution for a 3D camcorder priced below $1,000. Xilinx met all of our performance, cost and power requirements, along with the flexibility to support new and evolving video standards. The company's strategy to offer a complete Targeted Design Platform for digital display design gives companies like Aiptek a fast path to low-cost innovation. Building upon our success with the i2 3D, we're planning to support full HD in 1080p with a larger screen with our next-generation camcorder."
Xilinx will be demonstrating the Aiptek camcorder and other customer innovations at CES Suite #MP25333.
Xilinx Consumer Video Kit drives innovation for 3DTV and other digital displays
The Spartan-6 FPGA Consumer Video Kit 2.0 is one of many market and application-specific Targeted Design Platforms from Xilinx and its network of third-party vendors that provide system designers with simpler and smarter methodologies for creating FPGA-based system-on-chip solutions. Targeted Design Platforms enable software and hardware designers to leverage open standards, common design methodologies, development tools, and run-time platforms so they can spend less time developing the infrastructure of an application and more time building differentiating features into their products. In addition to domain-optimized silicon devices, these platforms include IP (intellectual property) cores, design environments and reference designs, along with a base set of digital audio/video development boards and industry-standard FPGA Mezzanine Cards (FMCs) supporting specific video interfaces (1.05 Gbps LVDS, DisplayPort 1.1a (Tx/Rx), V-by-One HS and HDMI 1.4a).
The Spartan-6 FPGA Consumer Video Kit has been refreshed since its introduction at the CES 2010 as part of Xilinx and Tokyo Electron Device's continuous efforts to improve the out-of-the-box experience for designers. In addition to HDMI 1.4a support for immediate 3D development and new power-management modules from Texas Instruments, the Consumer Video Kit 2.0 increases video processing bandwidth in several ways, including:
- Multi channels of 1.05 Gbps LVDS
- DDR3 memory for frame buffering with memory bus increased from 32bits to 48bits
- FMC user I/Os increased from 250 to 312, providing access to increased bandwidth
for more information about Xilinx Targeted Design Platforms for Consumer applications, including a video demonstration of the Consumer Video Kit.
"The Xilinx Consumer Video Kit supports the need for development environments that enable designers to stay on schedule as standards such as DisplayPort 1.1a and V-by-One HS evolve,"
said Randy Lawson, Manager and Principal Analyst, Display and Consumer Electronics at iSuppli. "Development platforms such as the Xilinx Consumer Video Kit 2.0 help to enable the adoption of FPGAs, allowing new features to be introduced into consumer electronic products sooner than fully integrated solutions would allow, due to the expense often incurred when transitioning SoC solutions to smaller geometries below 90nm."
Pricing and availability
The Spartan-6 FPGA Consumer Video Kit 2.0 is available for order entry today from Xilinx Alliance Program member Tokyo Electron Device under the Inrevium brand name. Designers can purchase the entry-level foundation kit with LVDS and FPGA Mezzanine Connection (FMC) support for $1,395. The fully featured Consumer Video Kit Pro 2.0 which includes HDMI 1.4a TX & RX FMCs, DisplayPort, V-by-One HS, & LVDS FMC support is priced at $3,395. FMC cards supporting USB 3.0 and SATA Gen 2 are scheduled to be available at the end of Q1 2011. Click Here
for more information.