SANTA CLARA, Calif. Startup QuArc Inc. launched a DV-based video encoder and decoder core at the IP2000 Conference this week. The company expects the core, named Videris-DV, to be integrated into IEEE-1394 ICs as well as digital camcorders. DV is a digital video compression standard originally developed as an acquisition format and now used broadly in digital camcorders and editing machines.
The Videris-DV uses the same data-driven processing architecture as the high-definition MPEG-2 video decoder core that QuArc introduced late last year. Each block, embedded with a small amount of memory, can autonomously operate as an object without intervention by an external microcontroller. Use of this architecture yields "a very small, high-performance DV core with lower power consumption," said Ron Richter, vice president of sales and marketing at QuArc, based here.
Thus far, t he market for DV codecs has been totally dominated by Japanese semiconductor vendors. However, several U.S. companies are starting to challenge that hegemony, in the belief that even if their DV chips don't find sockets in camcorders, they might find use in a growing list of consumer appliances. Products ranging from personal video recorders to digital TVs and set-top boxes now call for DV decoding or DV-to-MPEG-2 transcoding capabilities.
As DV camcorders become more prevalent, "DV becomes something you'll have to have," said Richter. Especially in cases where consumers are to plug their DV camcorders into digital TV or any other digital appliances, system vendors will need IEEE-1394 interface ICs to integrate DV decoding or transcoding capabilities.
QuArc's intellectual-property (IP) core supports all the variations of DV codecs. These include DV 25 (standard definition), the SMPTE314M 25- and 50-Mbit/second standards (formerly known as DVCPRO-25 and DVCPRO-50), and DV-SDL for long-play support.
In addition, Videris-DV implements what the company calls the QuArc DV, or QDV, extension. QDV was designed "to give flexibility to users," said Kris Monsen, design manager at QuArc, so that they can specify their own preferred compression rate, from 8 to 80 Mbits/s, to optimize storage space or encoding quality.
The QDV extension also supports square-pixel formats for NTSC (640 x 480) and PAL (768 x 576). For content creators developing for progressive-scan displays such as a PC monitor, video can be created in the native screen format, with no aspect ratio scaling required, thus making it easier to overlay graphics.
QuArc will make Videris-DV available either as an encoder/decoder or as a decode-only IP core. The gate count for Videris-DV is 60,000 to 70,000 gates, said Richter. If not including encoding capability, "you can save about 6,000 gates," he added. The core, however, needs to be integrated with local SRAM, which is 2,048 bytes in total.
"With the low gate count and low power co nsumption, we think our core can go into not only handheld camcorders but also IEEE-1394 chips and MPEG-2 encoder ICs," said Richter.
The core is capable of real-time encoding of a single video stream, or decoding two or more DV-compressed video streams, when semiconductors that incorporate it use an 81-MHz clock. The core does not include audio capability.
Along with DV pioneers Divio Inc. (Sunnyvale, Calif.), a leading DV codec company, and C-Cube Microsystems (San Jose, Calif.), other companies also appear to be integrating DV support in their IC products. Stephen Solari, vice president of sales and marketing at iCompression (Santa Clara), said that his company's upcoming MPEG-2 IC features DV-to-MPEG-2 transcoding capability. The chip has just taped out, Solari added.
QuArc will provide its semiconductor customers with a complete video hardware design solution including gate-level net-list, bit-accurate C modules, functional-test bit streams, Verilog simulation shells and support scripts, do cumentation and Verilog source code. The company will make Videris-DV available to licensed customers in July.
Meanwhile, QuArc, which has eight employees, has signed up its first customer for the high-definition MPEG-2 video decoder IP core, according to Sorin Cismas, president and CEO. "We are in discussion with some more [potential customers] right now," he said.
The privately held company, originally funded by Cismas with no outside financing, is beginning to look for investment by venture capitalists. Cismas created QuArc based upon his experience as a co-founder of CompCore Multimedia, the first company to develop MPEG-2 video cores.