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Listing the tricks to enhance audio, video

Posted: 16 Mar 2002 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:stb? dvd? dsp? mpeg4? soundmax?

Have you priced a Sony Playstation 2 lately? Despite the tough economic climate, the biggest movers in stores are DVD players and computer games.

"The DVD player has become the fastest-selling consumer electronics product of all time," said Alson Kemp, senior field applications engineer at Cirrus Logic, Inc. The Consumer Electronics Association estimated that 3 million DVD units have been sold at the beginning of this year. Kemp noted that the "dramatic price decrease in VLSI silicon has created room for innovation, allowing for cost-effective chips that contain the large, complicated functional blocks required for DVD playback."

Meanwhile, engineers at Analog Devices have been hard at work designing SoundMAX digital audio decoderchips. Now a de facto standard on Intel-sanctioned PC motherboards, the chips are responsible for the sound-effects firmware that adds realism to PC games.

Denis Labrecque, director of marketing in the company's Audio Rendering Technology Center, pointed out that while there have been major improvements in visual realism in games, there is a noticeable lag in the audio effects. Labrecque believes designer tools such as the company's SoundMAX, which models sounds as algorithmic audio blocks in memory and then assembles them on the fly to create a realistic sound field, will be a valuable addition for building game platforms.

On the other hand, engineers at QuickSilver Technology, Inc. are figuring out how to deal with the MIPS that come with the latest MPEG standards. "MPEG-4especially advanced audio coding, whose sampling frequencies can go up 96kHz for up to 48 channelsrequires about 30MIPS," said Paul Master, technology VP and Fu-Huei Lin, senior member of the technical staff.

But even those 30MIPS can overwhelm a portable processor and turn it into a power hog, if it is not optimized to run through 2,048 coefficients of a modified discrete cosine transform. QuickSilver holds portents of a good deal of next year's product developments, as PDA and cellphone makers try to cram more features onto their handhelds without totally trashing the battery life.

Meanwhile, engineers at Philips Semiconductors are assessing the effect of the recording capability on STBs where the design challenge lies in still uncertain services for the home media center of the future. Mark Samuel, marketing director for STBs, emphasizes the importance of a hardware/software balance and more up-front planning.

? Stephan Ohr

EE Times

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