Amphion Accelerator Cores Deliver Low-power MPEG-4 Encoder Solutions for Digital Video Silicon Designers

11/8/2002 - Amphion Semiconductor, the leading provider of semiconductor intellectual-property (IP) for digital video and broadband wireless system-on-a-chip (SoC) design, has extended its CS6700 series of high performance cores for low power MPEG-4 enabled applications with an advanced modular accelerator-based solution for real-time MPEG-4 video compression. MPEG-4 technology is set to make an enormous impact in digital video and streaming media applications as diverse as game consoles, digital camcorders, multimedia PDAs, 3G mobile phones, digital TV and cinema.

Designed for ultra low power operation and easy system-level integration into processor-based SoC and platform solutions, the Amphion CS6701 MPEG-4 'Simple Profile' Video Encoder incorporates a number of highly optimized hardware blocks for the acceleration of key compute-intensive MPEG-4 video compression algorithms, including motion estimation. The same modular architecture is performance-scaleable to more compute-intensive MPEG-4 profiles, such as 'Advanced Simple' and the proposed 'Advanced Video Coding' (H.264) standard. Key component blocks for motion estimation, bitstream packing, pixel compression, and video pre-processing are also available as standalone hardware-accelerator cores for the rapid development of MPEG-4 systems-on-silicon.

"This is a truly scaleable, modular architecture for MPEG-4 encode that's equally adaptable for use in power-sensitive consumer electronics and high-end professional broadcast markets," said Stephen Farson, vice president of engineering at Amphion. "The CS6701 is a compact design that requires the absolute minimum of on-chip processor and memory support, yet delivers QCIF and CIF performance with no compromises on picture quality."

Ideal for MPEG-4 in wireless video
Amphion's MPEG-4 video encoder solution has been architected to implement a complete on-chip system for the real-time compression of source video into MPEG-4 'Simple Profile' (Level 0 - Level 3) compliant streams. Featuring the full compression capabilities of the MPEG-4 standard, the CS6701 addresses a wide range of end-applications, from handheld wireless video devices to 'home gateway' digital set-top box.

For example, in low bitrate 'Simple Profile' at Level 1 applications, the 110-kgate CS6701 encoder produces QCIF (176 x 144 pixel) resolution compressed video at 15 frames per second and consumes less than 15-mW of power when clocked at under 5-MHz. By comparison, in order to offer similar image quality, software-only encoders exhaust the cycles budget of embedded processors running at speeds ten times higher or more.

"The software-only approach is non-optimal from a power efficiency standpoint for QCIF encode and beyond," added Farson. "Amphion's accelerator-based encoder liberates the processor, freeing up cycles and memory for value-add system features and dramatically extending battery life in handheld portable devices, for example."

Accelerator cores for MPEG-4
Also in the CS6700 series, Amphion offers a selection of standalone function-dedicated cores for the rapid development of MPEG-4 chip designs. Designed for integration into any processor-based SoC/ASIC, these highly optimized hardware-accelerator blocks perform the major compute-intensive system functions central to MPEG-4 video processing. This series presently includes the CS6710 Motion Estimator, CS6711 Pixel Compressor, CS6712 Bitstream Packer, and CS6713 Video Pre-processor.

Motion estimation is the single most compute- and memory-intensive algorithm at the heart of MPEG-4 and other frame-based video compression techniques. Depending on the estimation method, and the degree of picture quality required, motion estimation in a software-only encoder can account for 60 to 95 percent of the cycles budget. The AMBA bus compatible Amphion CS6710 core performs motion estimation in fewer than 50-kgates, unburdening this heavily compute-intensive task from an embedded DSP or RISC processor.

Amphion CS6700 series MPEG-4 core solutions are available now for integration in SoC/ASIC and programmable logic technologies. The CS6701 encoder complements the CS6750 decoder core, an ultra low power 65-kgate design.

About MPEG-4
MPEG-4 is an ISO/IEC standard developed by the Moving Picture Experts Group, the same committee behind MPEG-2, the digital video compression standard enabling digital television and DVD. MPEG-4 builds on the proven success of digital television, interactive graphics, and multimedia systems, and enables the integration of production, distribution and content access across these applications. MPEG-4 combines a new level of interaction with visual content - the ability to view, access and manipulate 'objects' rather than pixels - with great error resilience over a wide range of bitrates.

About Amphion
Amphion is the leading supplier of application-specific cores for System-on-a-Chip (SoC) integrated circuit designs for multimedia, data security, wireless and broadband communications. Amphion delivers high-performance solutions for video and image compression, advanced encryption, and speech and channel coding with a comprehensive range of silicon-optimized products. Using proprietary techniques to directly map digital signal processing functions and algorithms into hardware, Amphion develops and licenses semiconductor intellectual-property (SIP) cores that are close to optimal in terms of power, cycles, and area - computationally up to several orders of magnitude more efficient than equivalent functions implemented on a programmable processor. Amphion cores operate standalone, or by direct interface to industry-standard RISC and DSP processors, and can be easily migrated through successive generations of fabrication technology, thus preserving engineering investments in SoC design. Amphion is a privately held company with corporate headquarters and engineering in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK and worldwide sales and marketing headquarters in San Jose, California, USA. Amphion was formerly known as Integrated Silicon Systems Ltd, or ISS.

Amphion, The Amphion logo, and "Virtual Components for the Converging World" are trademarks of Amphion Semiconductor Ltd. ARM and AMBA are registered trademarks of ARM Ltd.

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