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CAST adds H.264 Main Profile Video Encoder Core to Compression IP Family

January 26, 2011, Woodcliff Lake, NJ — Semiconductor intellectual property (IP) provider CAST, Inc. has expanded its suite of video and image compression IP with a new H.264 Main Profile Video Encoder core (http://www.cast-inc.com/ip-cores/video/h264-mp-e/).

The new core complements the Baseline Profile encoder CAST already offers by delivering better video compression with only a small increase in chip size. Both encoders are sourced from technology partner Alma Technologies S.A, and are distinguished by three factors:

Extremely high quality video output. 

This was the top design priority, and typical compromising shortcuts were avoided. CAST can provide objective measures of the successful results, and a software model or prototype board for subjective evaluation by potential customers.

Easier system integration and application support. 

Integration in a variety of hardware systems is facilitated by flexible, streaming-capable interfaces; stand-alone, processor-free operation; and a low-bandwidth, latency-tolerant, external memory interface that’s independent of memory type and pin-compatible with popular controllers. Run-time tunable parameters and switching between modes—Constant Bit Rate, Variable Bit Rate, or Intra-Only—ensure suitability for a variety of applications and compatibility with even limited-functionality decoders.

Economical, efficient performance. 

The encoders’ performance and area characteristics are extremely competitive. They enable Full HD, 1920x1080p 30 frames per second (fps) video in inexpensive FPGAs, and beyond 1920x1080p at 60 fps in ASICs.

“Support for the H.264 standard, specific profiles, operating levels, resolutions, and bit rates is only part of the story when considering video encoder cores,” said Nikos Zervas, vice president of marketing for CAST. “There is a considerable degree of freedom in choosing specific techniques and methods when designing an H.264 encoder. For this encoder, every such decision was taken in favor of achieving the highest quality possible, and new, custom techniques were devised for the most critical functions.”

Motion estimation, for example, significantly impacts video quality, and the cores use the most powerful search algorithm (Full Search) as well as all the coding tools the H.264 standard makes available (Variable Block Size, with ¼ pixel accuracy).

The superior video quality is largely a result of two features: an especially efficient mode selection algorithm, and an advanced rate control implementation based on run-time adaptive content complexity and rate-distortion models. Excellent adaptability to temporal and spatial content variations—enabled by quantization adjustments performed on a sub-frame basis—as well as respect to the decoder’s decoding buffer (HRD compliance) achieve a level of live streaming quality rarely met in hardware encoders. Frame sizes from QCIF to 4Kx4K pixels and compliance up to level 5.1 for both CABAC and CAVLC coders further make these excellent choices for applications ranging from severe low-bandwidth situations to those with data transmission requirements as high as 240 Mbps.

The new H264-MP-E Main Profile Encoder core with its greater compression results is available now, as is the smaller H264-BP-E Baseline Profile Encoder core. The cores are available in RTL source for ASICs, or netlists for FPGAs from multiple vendors.

CAST will be running live demonstrations of the new H.264 encoder core at: EDSF 2011, Yokohama, Japan, Jan. 26-27 (booth 207), and DesignCon 2011, Santa Clara, California, Feb. 1-2, booth 710.

Learn about all the video and image compression IP CAST offers by calling (+1 201.391.8300) or visiting http://www.cast-inc.com/ip-cores/images/.

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