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Platform enables simultaneous dual-resolution recording

Posted: 08 Jan 2009 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:platform SoC? camera digital? recording dual-resolution?

A5 SoC platform

Ambarella Inc. has announced its A5 SoC platform for hybrid cameras, claiming it represents a new breakthrough in performance for low-priced hybrid cameras. The A5 platform enables key hybrid camera functions such as 10Mpixel still images, full HD recording and simultaneous dual-resolution recording for fast Internet sharing. Tucked into a small low-power package, the company said that the A5 SoC platform lets consumers take high-quality photos and video in affordably priced pocket-sized cameras.

The A5 family consists of three products: A530, A550 and A570. Each is available with a full reference design. The A530 IC can capture 10Mpixel still pictures while generating and compressing HD video in both 720p60 and 1080p30 formats. In addition, the A550 supports the standard HD broadcast format 1080i60. The A570 captures as many as 5.3Mpixel at 60fps. This allows full HD video recording while concurrently storing 5.3Mpixel still images (16:9 aspect ratio) without interrupting the video recording.

Dual recording capability
The A5 family includes many advanced features of contemporary camerassuch as face detectionto help auto focus and local exposure contrast. One novel feature is the dual recording capability: Both HD and mobile video are recorded at the same time. Most photographers want to record video in the highest possible HD quality, share the video on the Internet and play it on their handset.

"By incorporating simultaneous capture of high-resolution stills, HD video and mobile video, the Ambarella A5 will enable a true mass market hybrid cameraone that combines the best of still photography, HD video recording, and Internet video sharing," said Fermi Wang, Ambarella CEO.

High-speed video capture
The A550 and A570 support sensors with a high-speed serial interface. The A570 captures data as fast as 320Mpixel per second; this is a number in excess of 60fps at 5.3Mpixel. As is common in digital still cameras and in most HD camcorders, a single color filter array sensor (Bayer) generates red, green and blue primaries (RGB). The A570 converts data from Bayer pattern to RGB (de-mosaic-ing) with a virtually artifact free and full-resolution video signal. This is more accurate in terms of clean edges, no Bayer artifacts etc. than the simple binning (combination of adjacent pixels) commonly used in many cameras. It also yields a higher resolution output than the extrapolative techniques used with three sensors (3 CCD).

Imaging sensors generate a substantial amount of noise in low light, making it necessary to filter this noise to produce high-quality images. For still cameras, the A5 family implements advanced algorithms to enable clean, high-quality pictures at 3200 ISO. In video, the challenge is to reduce the noise without causing a loss of resolution or a loss of detail, and advanced spatio-temporal (3D) filters must be used. Most of the solutions available are motion adaptive and switch from a predominantly temporal to a predominantly spatial filter based on detecting the presence of motion. The Ambarella A5 SoC uses motion compensation instead of being just motion adaptive and truly tracks the motion of the objects in the scene, thereby eliminating typical noise reduction induced motion artifacts.

According to Ambarella, the A5 platform represents a breakthrough in price and functionality for high-quality still and full HD video performance at a mass-market price. Ambarella expects that consumer hybrid cameras based on the A5 platform can be priced under $199 price threshold this year.

The A5 platform is available now in sampling quantities. Manufacturers can choose multiple configurations to accommodate their specific requirements. Evaluation kits are also available now.

- Cliff Roth
Video Imaging DesignLine

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