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Multicore DSP targets China MP3 market

Posted: 16 May 2007 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:multicore DSP for MP3 player platforms? QVGA video addition to MP3 platforms? multicore DSP for China MP3 market?

Vivace Semiconductor Inc. is targeting China with a multicore DSP intended to capitalize on the addition of QVGA video to basic MP3 player platforms, a market that is ramping up quickly for both domestic and export consumption.

Although headquartered in Massachusetts, Vivace runs most of its operations out of Beijing and has already secured a deal with Aigo, one of China's largest MP3/MP4 brands. The agreement gives the startup street credibility for other products soon to come, including devices for high-end personal media players and HDTVs.

"We are going after the larger brands, working with them and putting together a full reference design that's form-factor-ready. Then we will go after the little players and just implement that design over and over again," said Cary Ussery, president and CEO of Vivace.

The startup expects its VSP100 processor to be ready for mass production by June at a price of $5 to $6 in volume. The heart of the VSP100 is the 125MHz ViViD media engine, which spins three DSP cores to churn through video, image and audio data. Custom instructions handle video acceleration, allowing the device to work on up to three macroblocks at any given time, the company said. For control and peripheral functions, engineers designed in a 150MHz RISC core and several peripheral blocks from OpenCores.org.

The ViViD core supports QVGA resolution in real-time at 30fps. Video postprocessing includes deblocking, deringing, scaling and rotation. An integrated LCD controller supports user-programmable resolution, timing and control, with up to 32bit internal precision.

Because it uses parallel processing, the VSP100 operates at a low clock frequency and low power. The chip uses 25-50mW during video playback, and supports three power modes: active, sleep and power-down. It also supports integration with mobile DDR-1 memory.

Vivace believes it can leverage its advanced video-processing capability to hold its own against a host of low-cost competitors in mainland China, as well as some from Taiwan. Ussery said he will continue to highlight the VSP100's strength in real-time decode and downscaling as an attractive differentiator.

Putting video on many of today's existing devices sometimes requires transcoding, for which consumers use programs such as MPEG-4 Translator or proprietary software from multimedia player companies like Creative Technology. Transcoding can be an inconvenient, time-consuming process. So Vivace may indeed strike a chord with system makers by enabling low-end players to keep to low-power budgets yet still accomplish on-the-fly decode of MPEG-4, H.264 or China's Audio and Video Coding Standard (AVS) with high-quality resolution, including D1 video, QCIF and QVGA.

VSP100 supports major audio and video standards. DSP cores bolster ViViD subsystem.

Music can be transcoded quickly, Ussery said, "but video takes a long time to load, so you need something that can run real-time and handle multiple standards. And because of where broadcast is going, you must be able to consume D1-level video and do real-time downsampling onto a QVGA screen."

Supply-chain savvy
Although Vivace will not initially target many of the smaller China OEMs and ODMs that thrive in Shenzhen, Ussery noted that a short-term goal is to ramp up its field applications engineering (FAE) support quickly in China and to accumulate valuable expertise in supply chain management. FAE expertise and supply chain prowess are characteristics common to companies that have seen success in China, such as Actions Semiconductor and MediaTek Inc.

The VSP100 supports all major audio and video standards, including H.264, MPEG-4, DivX, MPEG-2, Windows Media Video, AVS and Real Video 10, as well as audio decoders and JPEG image compression and decompression. The fully programmable device includes a complete software development environment, with integrated compilers, debuggers, assemblers and profilers.

Later this year, Vivace will release the VSP200, delivering video at D1 resolution using less than 100mW and 320 x 240 displays at less than 15mW. Due out in early 2008 is an LCD-TV device, the VSP300, which will run at about 200MHz to deliver 1080p resolution with a power expenditure of less than 500mW.

- Mike Clendenin
EE Times




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