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Media processor enables multiformat transcoding of digital video

Posted: 24 Oct 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:LSI Logic? Domino? media processor? mobile TV? HD-DVD?

LSI Logic's Domino [X]

LSI Logic Corp. recently detailed its next-generation multicore transcoding media processor architecture, Domino[X]. The architecture, the successor to the company's popular Domino architecture, provides multiformat encoding, decoding and transcoding of digital video, enabling content to be converted and reformatted for viewing for applications ranging from mobile TV to next-generation HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc DVD formats.

Unique scalability
Domino[X] offers a level of scalability unique among this class of products, said Neil Bullock, senior strategic product manager for LSI Logic's consumer products group. It supports cost-sensitive consumer applications as well as high-end professional codec solutions for infrastructure and content-creation applications, he said.

"It's a fine balance to strike. We believe we've managed that with Domino[X]." Bullock said the architecture covers "the range, from HD to portable formats, including advanced codecs like H.264 and legacy formats. We've had to address things like format diversity and complexity of all of these formats, as well as emerging requirements for transcoding."

Domino[X] is a hybrid between a strictly hardwired approach and the embedded-software approach of a traditional processor or digital signal processor. Pixel-level processing is heavily accelerated in hardware, while higher-level processing is scheduled in software, the company said. The architecture provides some programmability to enable customers to get new features to market as fast as possible, but also contains hardwired functionality to offer a low-cost and low-power solution, according to LSI Logic.

A video-processing enginecomprised of a RISC processor, a closely coupled video DSP coprocessor and loosely coupled motion-estimation and entropy processorsis responsible for the preprocessing, encoding, transcoding, decoding and postprocessing of digital video. In all, the company lists eight video formats supported by Domino[X].

The audio-processing engine is a combination of a RISC processor and a closely coupled audio DSP. Domino[X] also contains a graphics-processing engine that supports the high-performance requirements of STB standards and the real-time requirements of the Blu-Ray and HD-DVD standards. It supports common compositing and copying capabilities, and permits the prioritization of real-time operations over less-time-sensitive operations, the company said.

The Domino[X] application-processing engine is an autonomous MIPS 32bit RISC processor dedicated to use by application-level software. Its performance is sufficient to support demanding application environments, the company said. The processor is capable of running sophisticated operating systems such as Linux and Windows CE.

Fast path to DRAM
Domino[X] uses what LSI Logic describes as a narrow, fast path to DRAM. The 32bit memory data interface is managed as two semi-independent 16bit interfaces with an interleaving strategy suited to media applications. "We try to run the individual processing units as slowly as possible, just to do the job at hand. That really helps us on the cost side," Bullock said. "Typically, to have a narrow interface is cheaper than having a very wide [one] with lots of interfaces."

The first products based on Domino[X] won't be available until the second half of 2007, according to Bullock. They will use a MIPS core for the application processor and Sparc cores for the video and audio engines, he added. In the case of the video and audio engines, most of LSI Logic's intellectual property resides in the application-specific functions surrounding each core, and there is nothing to preclude migration to a different architecture at a later time if it is merited, he said.

Domino[X] is said to be capable of processing multiple streams of digital video, including dual high-definition (HD) video; dual standard-definition (SD) encode and decode; HD and SD decode; and HD-to-HD transcode. A content security function called transcrypting enables content sharing while maintaining content owners' rights, according to the company.

With Domino[X], LSI Logic is targeting an exploding market. According to estimates from InStat, the combined market for digital media products and professional content and broadcast infrastructure devices is expected to be worth $36 billion in 2010. LSI Logic estimates that the total available market for media processors will reach $1.4 billion the same year.

- Dylan McGrath
EE Times

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