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LSI Logic processor supports multiple DVD recording formats

Posted: 10 Jan 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:lsi logic? processor? multimedia processor? dvd processor? digital signal processor?

LSI Logic Corp. announced a single-chip DVD recorder system processor in Las Vegas this week at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). In a nod to the still-unresolved disparities among the market's three dominant DVD recording formats, the chip is said to support all prevalent physical and logical schemes for DVD playback and recording.

The DiMeNsion-8600 (DMN-8600) replaces "five to seven discrete digital signal-processing chips and separate memory chips used in the current generation of DVD recorders," said Jim Chase, senior marketing manager for the consumer products broadband entertainment division of LSI Logic.

A number of chip makers offer discrete, multipiece chipsets for DVD playback and recording. But Tim Vehling, senior director of marketing for LSI Logic's consumer products broadband entertainment division, claimed the DMN-8600 is the most highly integrated solution offered to date for DVD recording. "We think we are at least a year ahead of our competitors," he said.

The fledgling DVD recorder market has been fragmented by the appearance of three incompatible formats: DVD-RW, DVD-RAM and DVD+RW. All three are represented on the U.S. market today. Key system players include Pioneer, with DVD-RW-based systems; Panasonic, with DVD-RAM recorders; and Philips, with DVD+RW systems. Street prices for recorders have fallen from more than $1,000 to $750 in some cases.

The DVD-RW and DVD-RAM camps have embraced the same logical formats, including DVD-Video (DVD-V) and DVD-Video Recording (DVD-VR), Vehling noted. Use of a DVD-V logical format on a DVD write-once disk for archival purposes will allow playback of the disk on any of the millions of DVD players in use today, he said. By contrast, the Philips-led DVD+RW camp, whose claim to fame is backward compatibility, uses a proprietary logical format.

But LSI Logic doesn't "see any of the formats dying out anytime soon, given the marketing power and brand strength" of the companies leading the three camps, Vehling said. Therefore, "we support all three [physical] formats at LSI Logic," as well as the dominant logical formats.

Thus, second- or third-tier OEMs that adopt the LSI Logic chip "can safely select one recordable format now and later change to another, if necessary, without worrying about re-architecting the entire circuit and system designs," Vehling said.

Chase predicted global shipments of 1.4 million DVD recorders in 2002, 3 million units in 2003 and 5 million units in 2004. "We see that two big barriers for DVD recordershigh system cost and format incompatibilityare starting to fall," he said.

Built with DoMiNo

The DMN-8600 is the first product designed using DoMiNo, a multistream, multiformat network media processor architecture developed by C-Cube Microsystems before LSI Logic acquired that company last year. The silicon architecture enables simultaneous encode and decode and is aimed at new-generation networked digital entertainment products. Those include such consumer offerings as recordable DVDs, personal video recorders, advanced set-tops with hard drives and residential gateways.

The DMN-8600 can process three separate streamsone for encoding; another for decoding to enable playback; and a third for "transcoding," or taking streams in one format and re-recording them in another. For example, Vehling said, one might convert a DV stream to MPEG for archival storage or convert CD-Audio to MP3 for making music on the go.

The DoMiNo-based silicon also offers a "transrating" feature, or the re-encoding of media streams in one format by retargeting the bits for more-efficient program storage.

But the chip does not support high-definition video encoding/decoding, MPEG-4 streaming, transport demux or the PCI bus. Many of those features are part of the DoMiNo architecture and may be required for such products as residential gateways or advanced set-tops.

The DMN-8600 integrates dual 32-bit SPARC RISC processors, a motion estimation engine, a video DSP, storage and IEEE 1394 interfaces, a 2D graphics engine, and a unified memory system architecture. It can handle such digital audio and video encoding and decoding tasks as MPEG-2 main profile at main level and DV codec. The processor can run proprietary filtering and de-interlacing algorithms.

The chip's 32-bit SPARC CPUs have DSP coprocessing engines that are said to provide as much as 600MIPS of performance. One of the SPARCs processes real-time video; the other is used for audio and system functionality, Vehling said.

Besides the dual CPUs, the DMN-8600 features a separate motion estimation engine and a video DSP. The latter is a homegrown fifth-generation processor designed for video encoding and decoding of multiple streams.

Memory requirements for the DMN-8600 range from 8MB to 64MB of DRAM, depending on the application, said Vehling. "If a recorder is designed to offer time-shifting capabilities, for example, it requires substantial buffering, as DVD video recording is essentially the same thing as real-time DVD authoring," he said.

The chip is sampling now and will sell for $30 in volume, with production slated for the second quarter. It is being fabricated at TSMC using a 0.185m CMOS process technology.

Junko Yoshida

EE Times

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