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HD SoC supports progressive video format

Posted: 11 Jan 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:HD SoC? progressive video format? HD camcorder?

Ambarella Inc. has released its third-generation of low-power A3 SoC targeted at high-definition (HD) camcorders using H.264/AVC compression technology. The SoC comes in two versions: the A350 supporting the 1080i 60 interlaced HD standard; and the A380 supporting the emerging 1080p60 progressive video format.

The A3 HD SoC enables the development of full high-resolution camcorders at the highest image quality with smooth 60fps video. A3 is the first single-chip H.264 codec capable of encoding full 1080p60 at 1920 pixels per line resolution. In addition, A3 integrates a high-performance image processing pipeline with high speed signal acquisition, still image compression, audio compression and all key system functions. The A3 platform has low operating power and increased system integration that makes the HD experience a reality for mainstream consumers.

HD standards
The platform is based on the H.264/AVC video compression standard, which is the next generation of video compression technology. Ambarella's patent-pending platform delivers a 2.5x compression gain over current MPEG-2/4 solutions, providing the efficiency required to store HD video content in convenient flash-based memory, hard disk drive or recordable DVD. The platform programmability also enables implementation of multiple formats for HD video such as the AVCHD specification for 1080i HD camcorders as well as many formats commonly used on PC platforms.

In a recent survey more than 90 percent of the TVs sold in Japan, 88 percent in the European Union, and 76 percent in North America, were flat progressive TVs. All of these displays are progressive in nature with a refresh rate at 50Hz (EU) or 60Hz (North America and Japan). Among these TVs, the large majority of the devices with screens larger than 36 inches have "full HD" configuration and can display a raster of 1920x1080. The 1080p60 standard has become the de facto HD display format. Because the CMOS sensors used in HD camcorder are also progressive devices it is only natural that camcorders adopt the same format as sensors and TVs.

Progressive format
The advantages of progressive formats are evident in three different aspects: twice the resolution; lack of motion induced interlaced artifacts, particular noticeable on a large TV; and ease of editing since video editors would rather avoid the field/frame distinction where two halves of a full frame are acquired at different instants in time.

While a progressive 60p format has twice the data rate (about 3Gbit/s) of the equivalent interlaced video, the signal exhibit much stronger vertical correlation and as such compresses more easily to about 1.2 times more bits that the progressive one. This means that twice the vertical resolution can be obtained for only a small 20 percent additional bandwidth or storage capacity. The A380 SoC allows consumers to record as much as one hour of 1080p60 video on a 4Gbyte flash card.

In addition, due to the dominance of TV sets capable of 1920x1980 60p, the industry has adopted an interface (and a connector) HDMI that supports 1080p 60. This allows DVD players, Cable/Satellite set-top boxes and now camcorders to deliver data at the full resolution of the TV. Ambarella's A3 platform has a built-in HDMI interface, including support for1080p60 signals.

"The combination of a high performance image pipeline, motion compensated 3D noise reduction and a 1080p60 H.264 AVC codec allows us to redefine the HD camcorder," said Fermi Wang, Ambarella CEO.

The Ambarella A3 platform is a solution supporting both the 1080i format (A350) and 1080p (A380) as well as hybrid cameras. The A3 platform is available in multiple configurations for differing requirements. Evaluation kits are available and pricing information can be obtained from Ambarella.

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