MADISON, Wis. — For the conventioneers in Las Vegas at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) next week, one of the not-to-be-missed demos is how the motion video quality of movies and NFL football games, displayed on smartphones or tablets, can be sharpened with display processing technology.
Demonstrations at CES will include side-by-side video quality comparisons of mobile devices -- with and without display processing -- at Pixelworks' suite in the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino.
Pixelworks, a company known for enabling very high-quality images on gigantic 4Kx2K Ultra High Definition TVs for the world's leading brand names, claims to be extending its principles of video display processing to 5-inch smartphones and 6-inch to 10-inch tablets -- for the first time in the industry.
"You will see pretty impressive differences," Richard Miller, senior vice president of Pixelworks, told EE Times.
Pixelworks is betting on an on-going market shift that is turning a so-called "third screen" (mobile display) into many consumers "first screen" (TV).
More and more people no longer think twice about treating their media tablet as their primary TV-viewing screen. They cuddle up with their tablet on a sofa or in bed, simply to watch a movie or a TV show, or catch a football game on the go, more often than they might readily admit.
The irony, Miller said, is that the display processors now commonly used in every HDTV and UHDTV set have never been included in mobile devices.
New battle line
Pixelworks hopes that 2014 will be the first year for content owners and mobile device manufacturers to start exploiting mobile video display processing as a new battle line to differentiate their offerings and consumers' mobile video viewing experience.
On a very high-quality mobile display, such as Retina display, the industry consensus is that "you can't see pixels anymore." But let's not forget that this claim applies just to still images. Motion video is another matter.
Typical issues with moving video -- such as judder, motion blur, contrast, sharpness, and color artifacts -- can be even more pronounced, and "look objectionable to human eyes," on higher resolution mobile displays, according to Miller.
In order to display content -- movies at 24Hz or sports at 30Hz -- on a 60Hz mobile display, there are only two ways to adjust the mismatch, said Miller. One is "frame repeat," showing the first frame twice and the second frame three times in case of 24Hz movies, or doubling every frame for sports. Another is using temporal interpolation -- essentially guessing where the pixel goes next without repeating frames -- based on Motion Estimation and Motion Compensation (MEMC) technologies. MEMC is a well understood technique, but there are many different ways to do it.
Pixelworks' portfolio of video display solutions includes its own patented MEMC and unique Frame Rate Conversion (FRC), which the company claims significantly reduce judder and motion blur while increasing the sharpness of motion video.
Simply slapping a separate display processor onto a smartphone or tablet won't solve the problem, however. Mobile devices face additional issues such as power and memory bandwidth, explained Miller.