FPGA innovation technology realizes the leap from broadcast to “super broadcast”

Over the past decade, the electronics industry has introduced a dizzying array of flat-panel TVs and related technologies, sweeping cathode-ray tube TVs, rear-projection TVs, and even analog standard-definition broadcast technology into dusty “antique” coffers. Today, companies are rolling out the latest TV technology at an unprecedented rate. However, enabling customers to fully capture the full value of this rapidly evolving technology requires a well-coordinated equipment chain to enable broadcasters and movie studios to deliver the latest programming from advanced technology to living rooms and local theaters, And in the not too distant future, to your handheld devices and car systems.

Companies competing in broadcast and cinema equipment have long used Xilinx FPGAs as the primary logic IC for most of their broadcast equipment, from ultra-high-end cameras to all types of studio editing and signal transmission equipment. figure. Today, designers in this market segment are also fully developing FPGA-based devices to make 1080p broadcast mainstream. Designers have even begun rolling out FPGA-based 3D TV devices that allow broadcasters to stream Avatar-quality TV shows on small TV screens. If you pay close attention to the largest segment of this type of market, the TV broadcast market, it is not difficult to see that designers will make full use of FPGAs throughout the chain of broadcast equipment to bring more exciting programming to consumers.

Radio 101: From the field to your screen

According to Ben Ruyan, marketing manager for Xilinx’s Broadcast Segment Marketing Group, the general characteristic of the broadcast market is that everyone sees the end result, but not many people know how much of an effort to put in the middle. Achieving the final result requires a lot of complex technology involved, and there’s a lot of work to be done behind the screen.

Beneath the brilliance on the surface, the broadcasting and cinema market is actually surging with a very fierce competition, which belongs to the market with high unit cost and relatively small sales volume. Companies competing in this market need to produce every device that can transmit a TV signal to a user’s latest digital TV, or a movie to an IMAX theater or a user’s home theater screen. Runyan noted that the theater market tends to act as an early adopter of the latest broadcast technologies, but stations are also introducing new technologies at an unprecedented pace due to the growing demand for high-quality broadcasts. “If you ever get the chance to visit a local TV studio or network, you’ll be amazed by the piles of equipment and miles of cables. They take up every inch of space between the ceiling and the walls,” says Runyan. The amount of work and level of technology required to stream to TV is staggering.”

In the case of live news coverage, the announcer looks into a very advanced and expensive digital camera while speaking into the microphone. The camera wired or wirelessly sends raw uncompressed voice signals to a news truck on site, which carries portable video surveillance and editing equipment and radio equipment. The various devices on the vehicle can perform very simple signal compression on the fly, and then transmit the live signal or associated tape content directly to the turntable, or via satellite to the broadcast studio.

The studio then uses multiple collaborative devices to receive broadcast feeds back from the field, record content on storage servers, and send the feed to mixing and editing equipment, as well as to multi-screen monitors in the control room. Program technicians, writers, and producers then blend the program content with other content from outside sources and those recorded in the studio with internal cameras (such as live news coverage by TV news anchors) and add on-screen text commentary Or the “horse race screen” screen to coordinate the sequence of events, and finally generate the main program content.

The broadcaster then sends the main program content to the studio’s transmission equipment, which compresses the program into a variety of codec (encoder/decoder) standard formats, each of which can be transmitted using a specific medium, Such as cable, satellite, terrestrial, and cable broadcasting (for IP network TV) or wireless broadcasting (for cell phones). The studio then broadcasts these compressed frequency bands over cable and wireless carrier networks to your cable or satellite set-top box, digital TV, PC or handheld device. At the end of consumer Electronic products, the above-mentioned system will decompress the signal and play the program.

Runyan said the entire broadcast chain, especially live broadcast, requires a lot of high-bandwidth fiber and satellite resources, as well as high-performance video editing and huge storage arrays. The device must be fairly reliable because it must work 24X7 without losing even a single byte of video data. All of these requirements—high throughput, flexibility, and reliability—make FPGAs ideal for broadcast equipment manufacturers (Figure 1).

FPGA innovation technology realizes the leap from broadcast to “super broadcast”

Figure 1 Each technology in this broadcast chain diagram uses Xilinx FPGA technology

“From cameras in the field, to equipment on news vans, editing equipment in editing studios (via switches, routers, and multi-screen monitors), and post-editing equipment and large video server storage farms, to compression and transmission,” said Runyan. equipment, Xilinx FPGAs play a very important role in every link of the entire broadcast chain. In fact, FPGAs have long replaced ASICs and ASSPs in the broadcast market and become the dominant logic IC now.” He said that because Not only do these large numbers of highly advanced devices not cover the cost of developing an ASIC, but ASSPs “do not have the basic hardware capabilities to enter this market” (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Xilinx continues to provide enabling technology to broadcast technology innovators through target design platforms

As the market moves towards 1080p, 3D and mobile broadcasting over the next few years, the specifications for TV broadcast equipment will become more stringent, placing higher demands on basic performance, reliability and especially flexibility. As a result, FPGAs are also more widely used, Runyan said. To help further accelerate innovation and increase productivity, Xilinx has launched its Targeted Design Platform strategy to support its latest Virtex-6 and Spartan-6 families of FPGAs.

Specifically, the upcoming release of the Virtex-6FPGA Broadcast Connectivity Kit will help device makers gain a clear advantage in the market.

According to Runyan, “With the target design platform, customers can focus more on the differentiated development of the product, rather than having to develop the system completely from scratch. We have a variety of customized broadcast-specific platforms to help companies develop unique Transmission and modulation equipment with many outstanding features, such as advanced audio, video and network connectivity, real-time high-definition video processing, multi-channel professional encoding and decoding, and high-speed digital signal processing.”

The Most Significant Trend in TV Broadcast Technology: 1080p

As CEO and Principal Analyst at DIS Consulting Corp, a broadcast analytics partner of Strategy Analytics, Douglas I. Sheer is a 40-year broadcast industry veteran. He believes that the reason why the broadcast industry is developing so rapidly today is that many people have fought countless “battles” over standards, large and small, over the past 25 years, finally paving the way for the arrival of the digital TV era. Sheer said: “This enables companies to develop the latest types of broadcast – audio and video – and deliver them to us in an ever-increasing variety of ways. The most unusual is the convergence of IT and the traditional broadcast industry, which many people use Computers, and even more, use handheld terminals to watch programs. This is what the National Association of Broadcasters calls ‘Broader-cast’.”

Today, to support 1080p resolution, Full HD and over-the-air video broadcasts, most TV broadcasters are adopting 3Gbps technology when upgrading or building new studios.

About 8 years ago, when most companies in the industry were still debating high-definition development strategies, TV broadcasters such as ESPN boldly invested millions of dollars in transmission equipment to build fully digital 720p HDTV broadcasts. room. But there are plenty of other TV broadcasters holding on to old equipment for as long as they can.

Markets in North America and around the world have seen an upgrade to digital broadcasting, in part because of government policy, Runyan said. In the US, many companies that once rejected 720p technology simply skipped 720p and went straight to building or upgrading studios capable of supporting 1080p HD broadcasts.

Runyan said: “This action is no small matter, even for companies that were the first to adopt 720p technology. The data rate of the HD serial digital interface used in the 720p progressive scan format is about 1.5Gps, and the 60 frames per second data rate is about 1.5Gps. A 1080p image requires a data rate of about 3Gbps. That’s double the bit rate and bandwidth used by 720p because you need twice the amount of data.”

He said that many people use the word “HD” casually, saying: “In the appliance store, they may not see any change in TV resolution. But in terms of the advanced level of broadcast equipment, the difference between 720p and 1080p It’s not the same thing.”

Analyst Sheer said that in the past 10 years, most broadcasters were forced to take the first big step towards HD, investing heavily in buying and installing digital transmission equipment, and now, as most consumers put their TVs Upgrade to more affordable 1080p HDTVs, and they’ll have to start buying 3Gbps equipment to support 1080p right away. “There’s a tug-of-war behind this,” Sheer said. The 1080p consumer TV market started before this recession, weakened during this recession, and then recovered when the economy improved. Most Broadcasters see 1080p as where the consumer electronics market is headed, so they’re now sourcing gear for it again.”

Runyan points out that depending on the data rates required for 1080p, broadcast studios and every device throughout the TV chain will need higher bandwidth and some level of hardware programming capability to accommodate new features and to deal with the industry’s possible changes in codecs. any changes made to the device standards.

Runyan said: “For most broadcasters, moving to 1080p means a huge capital investment. Some broadcasters have been using the same equipment for 20 years and now they have to move to new equipment. In some cases , companies do this simply because their outdated equipment is unsupported.”

For example, a studio may employ several broadcast quality experts to monitor each video feed and observe its quality. In the past, these experts have used ultra-high-end CRT TVs, but no one makes them anymore. So broadcasters had to turn to new flat-screen TVs. “These experts have eyes that can distinguish every object, every color and every shade,” said Runyan. “They’ve been debating which flat-panel TV — LCD, plasma or OLED — and which brand of flat-panel TV is best for them. Be a studio-level monitor.”

Runyan said that in the transition to 1080p, broadcasters will primarily use the latest H.264/MPEG-4 AVC codec standard, but will still support MPEG-2 and other legacy standards. The H.264/MPEG-4 AVC codec is strongly associated with Blu-ray and Ultra HD video streams. Like most emerging video specifications, H.264/AVC is a multi-party standard. Its basic characteristics are now fully defined, but the standard continues to evolve with new derivatives such as Scalable Video Codec (SVC) and Multi-View Codec (MVC) for 3D broadcasting. The standard will continue to grow more robustly as broadcasters use MPEG-4 more widely and discover more of the functionality needed to deliver HD and 3D broadcasts quickly and reliably.

“These codecs tend to be in a state of being used and evolving as device manufacturers are constantly working to improve video quality,” said Runyan. “Some codecs may change, which is why FPGAs have been and will be the Reasons why it’s the best choice in the market. With FPGA-based systems, broadcasters can add new features as their needs change and as standards evolve. If a codec changes, it usually needs to be changed accordingly Not just one piece of equipment, but most of it.” He said, “Even if the equipment is already in place in the customer’s studio,” Xilinx and its intellectual property (IP) partners offer a portfolio of codec IP that Enables customers to quickly add new codec capabilities to their products.

Sheer said 1080p is just one of many new technological achievements that can be achieved with 3Gbps data rate equipment. “The timing of all of this is critical,” he said. “It’s up in the air when demand for 1080p will peak, or what format will eventually become the most widely used standard.” Thanks to 3Gbps equipment, people Radio shows are now available on mobile devices and cars.

“Mobile broadcasting is not ideal today, but it may be ideal as data rates increase,” Sheer said. Wireless broadcasting technology will continue to evolve due to the demand for viewing broadcast programs on laptops and laptops.

The next big market: 3D

TV In addition to producing the equipment needed for 1080p broadcast television, broadcast equipment manufacturers continue to introduce equipment that enables broadcasters to bring better 3D TV programming to homes. Both Sheer and Runyan mentioned that broadcasters have been able to broadcast 3D programming for decades, but the picture quality is poor. Now, a new generation of high-definition 3D has also come out. In recent years, consumers have experienced it in the theater, and will soon enter the common street. At this year’s Las Vegas International Consumer Electronics Show (Consumer Electronics Show), a number of manufacturers have launched 3D TVs. Some require viewers to wear 3D glasses, while others do not.

Going “to 3D TV,” Runyan said, will enable program producers to deliver unprecedented quality to their viewers. They will not only be able to offer digital, HD, or 3D cable or satellite packaged programming, but also on-demand programming. You can watch 3D movies as well as live football and baseball games.” In fact, British broadcasters (visit http://www.teleisonbroadcast.com/article/93870) have begun testing live 3D broadcasts and More extensive applications are planned during the 2010 World Cup.

For those broadcasters who already have 1080p studio equipment installed, the move to 3D is a relatively light but extremely important upgrade, Runyan said. To broadcast 3D TV signals, the industry needs to adopt the new H.264 codec technology and MVC to cope with the increased bandwidth brought about by the multipoint production required for 3D TV. This means that studio equipment must support this functionality and greater data throughput.

“The studio’s equipment also needs to be more sophisticated,” Runyan said. “At least they need to be able to handle two inputs simultaneously: a 2D broadcast and a 3D broadcast. In some cases, broadcasters use post-editing equipment to convert regular 2D The show is converted to 3D. The more advanced way is to shoot the show with a 3D camera, which is the way the studios have used for many years, the way James Cameron shot his blockbuster “Avatar”, Then a 2D HD version is generated from the content.”

Much of this 3D technology has yet to undergo full field testing. Many people have doubts about whether 3D TVs are bright enough without glasses, and whether viewers have the appetite to wear 3D glasses every night.

Sheer believes that 3D TVs will quickly adjust once the market decides what works and what doesn’t. “Everyone remembers watching a movie in the theater with card-shaped glasses, but this generation of 3D technology, stereoscopic 3D, is much better,” he said. “It’s supported by a lot of people in Hollywood, and it’s already used at sporting events. The most important factor is probably its ability to catch up with HD.” In fact, “HD took 25 years to mature, we think 3D took much less time, Because HD has largely laid the foundation for that in terms of infrastructure.”

In Sheer’s view, leading the 3D TV market will be 3D Blu-ray DVD players capable of playing a steady stream of stereoscopic 3D movies from the film industry. After them, that is when 3D TV entered the home. “The temptation to watch live sports in 3D is irresistible,” says Sheer.

Beyond 1080p and 3D TV

One might feel that as 1080p TV broadcasts gain popularity around the world, 3D technology becomes widespread in theaters, and quickly becomes mainstream TV technology, the pace of development in broadcast technology might slow down as the industry stops and rests. tone. Apparently this is not the case.

Runyan says companies are already demonstrating “Ultra HDTV” cameras capable of capturing images at a stunning 7,680 x 4,320 pixel resolution, which is 16 times the resolution of today’s HDTVs. The required bit rates are so high that today such cameras can only capture 20 minutes of footage per day. However, with the advancement of electronic technology and the in-depth development of codecs, UHD TV-level video quality will undoubtedly become mainstream in the near future. Wouldn’t it?

Runyan said: “If the industry can achieve the bit rate of UHD TV, our TVs and theaters will be very different from today. In fact, this bit stream is large enough to support true holographic projection. Live sports, you can watch it from any angle. The magnification is at least 1080p, basically the same as what we see on the most advanced commercial TVs today.”

By then, we’ll probably not be watching shows on TV either, but a whole new holographic projection device, powered by Xilinx FPGAs, of course.

Author: Mike Santarini

Publisher of Xcell Magazine, Xilinx Corporation

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