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Transcoding with TI's DaVinci Technology Drives Video Market Evolution
By J.B. Fowler, SoC Product Marketing Manager Texas Instruments 2008/12/23

As the accelerating digital video market widens its range, users are demanding easy access to video content throughout the home, at the office and on the go. Multi-format transcoding with TI's TMS320DM6467 digital media processor and DaVinci technology will enable the transmission of video content between all types of video devices.Digital video continues to gain momentum in the market, enabled by...

As the accelerating digital video market widens its range, users are demanding easy access to video content throughout the home, at the office and on the go. Multi-format transcoding with TI's TMS320DM6467 digital media processor and DaVinci technology will enable the transmission of video content between all types of video devices.

Digital video continues to gain momentum in the market, enabled by the availability of advanced display and storage technology and cost-effective digital signal processors (DSPs). Digital TV (DTV), especially high-definition TV (HDTV), is the most noticeable application, but any system that can be used for video reception or playback may eventually need to accept input from a DTV source, whether it can display the picture at full resolution or not. The communication and entertainment networks in homes are rapidly becoming more connected, so that video from various sources will be received and recorded in a number of formats and shared with devices with different capabilities in terms of resolutions and compression schemes. Enterprises are also making increased use of video conferencing, video security and other forms of digital video that require multiple formats, frequently in multiple simultaneous channels.

With the many potential variables, evolving video systems will often have to accept content input one way, and then shift it to the appropriate output. In other words, systems will have to be capable of transcoding—of changing resolutions, encoding schemes and data rates in real time. Transcoding has long been familiar in network infrastructure equipments, but its importance is only beginning to be felt in set-top boxes (STBs), DTVs, digital media adapters (DMAs), DVD and personal video recorders (PVRs), video cell phones and portable media players. In video conferencing, transcoding is often required to handle communications among different types of displays, or on networks with different bandwidths. Video security systems may need to display at one resolution while recording at another, and in addition to performing transcoding tasks, security systems may need to analyze the video to detect motion or recognize objects.

As system developers look for processing solutions for video transcoding in these and other products in the evolving market, they need to bear in mind both the performance requirements of transcoding and the necessary flexibility to support multiple video formats. All video has high data rates and throughput for HD is several times greater than for standard definition (SD, the digital equivalent of traditional analog TV), so that HD transcoding systems will need to be designed to provide even more memory and computations while taking into account cost constraints. Programming flexibility is essential in order to support evolving coding-decoding (codec) algorithms and to adapt to different codecs on the fly as inputs change.

Transcoding systems that are built using the new processor will realize 10× the performance of previous solutions at one-tenth the cost. Based on TI's most DSP architecture, the DM6467 processor is one of a family of media processors that form the hardware foundation of TI's DaVinci technology for digital video applications. DaVinci technology offers solutions for advanced digital video, including not only processors, but also in-depth video software, development tools and support that simplify development and speed time to market. Video systems based on the DM6467 processor and DaVinci technology will be able to handle video performance loads while adapting to the growing need for transcoded content that can shift across standards.

TI's TMS320DM6467 Processor and DaVinci Technology
By design, DSPs supply the high computational performance needed for video data streams and real-time codec algorithms. Multi-core processors have the added advantage of being able to partition performance between a DSP for signal processing and a RISC for control, communications and software applications. Programmability provides the flexibility needed to support varied transcoding needs, and it also allows the system to be scaled readily, so that the same basic design can support different market segments. A software platform with audio-video application programming interfaces (APIs) simplifies development, and system-on-a-chip (SoC) integration helps keep system costs down.

TI's DaVinci technology offers the features, from high-performance DSP-based hardware, to programmer-friendly system software, to a full range of application modules designed for transcoding. The hardware foundation of DaVinci's transcoding solution is the TMS320DM6467 digital media processor, which is specifically tuned for real-time simultaneous encoding and decoding of multiple video formats. The DM6467 processor delivers a 10× performance improvement over previously available solutions in formats up to 1080p30, the specified HD resolution and refresh rate. Moreover, the processor's high level of integration and optimization delivers this performance at as little as one-tenth the cost of previous application systems. The flexibility and efficiency of the device can benefit consumer and business applications that need transcoding, such as STBs, DMAs, multi-point control units, media gateways and multi-conferencing units; video telephony, which requires simultaneous HD encoding and decoding; video security, where simultaneous transcoding of multiple SD channels is important; and even video infrastructure equipments, which demand the full range of multi-channel, multi-format transcoding capabilities.

The DM6467 processor integrates a 600-MHz TMS320C64x+ DSP and an ARM926EJ-S RISC processor core, along with a High-Definition Video/Imaging Co-Processor (HD-VICP), video data conversion engine, video port interfaces and high-speed communications. The HD-VICP offers more than 3 GHz of DSP-equivalent processing power through dedicated accelerators for MPEG-4, MPEG-2, VC1 and H.264 high-profile transcoding. The HD-VICP's high throughput means that less than half of the DSP core's performance is needed to manage multi-format video transcoding, leaving the remainder for additional applications. The video data conversion engine manages video processing tasks, including downscaling, chroma sampling and menu overlay functionality that reduce the load on the DSP. The video ports simplify design and save interface components, and PCI bus, Gigabit Ethernet and ATA interfaces provide industry-standard high-speed connectivity.

Multi-conferencing units that in the past have been based on several DSPs can now be built using a single DM6467 processor, lowering the cost per channel, requiring less operating power and reducing the number and expense of system components. Video security systems see similar savings, as well as gaining the flexibility to implement multi-format multi-channel encode (up to four channels of MPEG-4/H.264 MP D1 plus four secondary channels of MPEG-4/H.264 MP CIF) or decode (up to six channels of MPEG-4/H.264 MP D1) for hybrid digital video recorder (DVR) and server (DVS) systems. The integrated C64x+ DSP core provides headroom for video analytics and proprietary video processing algorithms, whereas the ARM9 core, together with connectivity interfaces, enable a single chip DVR/DVS system by eliminating the need for an external host processor.

With its open platform, the DM6467 processor simplifies programming while taking full advantage of TI's proven DaVinci development environment. Support includes the DM6467 digital video evaluation module (DVEVM), which comes with MontaVista Linux, industry-standard and DaVinci application programming interfaces (APIs), the DaVinci Codec Engine and DSP/BIOS Link. Also included are standard video, imaging, speech and audio codecs, as well as new transcoders, such as MPEG-2 to H.264, which have been designed to improve system efficiency and maintain high picture quality. Additional application-specific software and design expertise is available from TI's DSP Developer Network. System developers will find that TI's DaVinci solution for high-performance transcoding not only provides performance and flexibility but also simplifies development, saves expense and speeds time to market.

Overcoming Video Complexity in an Evolving Market
As video appliances become more connected, the sheer number of standards for video display, compression, transmission and storage threatens to swamp users. Video systems that are capable of transcoding can overcome the complexity problem, allowing content to be shared automatically while using bandwidth and storage as efficiently as possible. For designers creating products in the evolving market, TI's DM6467 digital media processor offers the performance they need for video transcoding, plus the flexibility to introduce additional standards or upgrade existing ones—all at an affordable system cost. TI's DaVinci technology brings together the hardware and software needed for rapid development of cost-efficient video systems that not only handle HD-level throughputs, but also allow users to shift content among standards easily through transcoding.

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