Aki Kuusela, Hantro Products
Nov 28, 2005 (5:00 AM)
Digital video capture and playback has rapidly become a standard feature in many portable consumer and communications devices, including digital still cameras, portable media players, and, of course, mobile handsets. Compared to consumer video equipment, like camcorders, DVD players, and set-top boxes, the design of mobile devices places stricter requirements on size, power consumption, and manufacturing cost. To meet these requirements, system makers use ICs specifically developed for this environment.
Typical components that enable digital video in mobile devices are general-purpose application ICs for handsets and smart devices, coprocessors that implement video functionality in conjunction with camera and LCD control functions, and stand-alone video-coding chips. As 3G technology becomes mainstream, video circuitry will be integrated onto digital radio baseband ICs.
The most common video format in mobile devices is MPEG-4 (H.283), which is gradually being replaced by the MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) standard. The VC-1 video standard (originally implemented by Microsoft as the Windows Media Video format) is also making inroads into mobile devices. Proprietary video formats, such as Real Video, are also found in some mobile devices.
SIP requirements for mobile video
SIP vendors develop silicon solutions, such as hardware video codecs, that enable their customers to bring their chips to market faster. While the SIP vendor can develop video coding functions in-house, developing the interface between the customers' logic and the SIP blocks usually requires attention from both parties. And because video coding is a very data-intensive application in which the performance depends on the ability to move large amounts of data over the IC and system buses, solving these integration issues can take time.
Most general-purpose application ICs use industry-standard, on-chip buses, such as the AMBA bus specified by ARM, but some vendors employ proprietary buses. In the coprocessor and camera-chip market, proprietary bus solutions are quite common. Supporting the array of interface standards is an additional cost to SIP vendors. Alternatively, proprietary buses make SIP procurement difficult for IC vendors that have made large investments in their in-house solutions. OCP technology can solve the problems for both parties. Therefore, demand for OCP support in SIP products has risen recently.
Video coding by itself is an area that requires special skills, and the plethora of formats that must be supported is a challenge for semiconductor component makers. That's why most component vendors buy video coding technology from specialized silicon intellectual property (SIP) providers.
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