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04.24.2007
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
New LSI Logic media processors to fuel IPTV development, says Saffari

Want to know where the industry is headed? Look at the chips inside the technology that drives the ongoing evolution of the IPTV market.

That’s why when IPTV Update learned that LSI Logic announced a new family of programmable media processors and the DX-1810 encoder, it seemed like a good time to discuss the new Domino[X] Pro product family with Bob Saffari, LSI Logic senior director of marketing and business development for advanced video products.

IPTV Update: It’s commonly held that for IPTV service providers to compete successfully with cable operators, they must be able to offer at least two HD and two SD streams into the home in addition to telephony and Internet service. How does your newly announced Domino[X] Pro product family and the DX-1810 encoder specifically advance that goal?

Bob Saffari: The Domino[X] Pro product family advances IPTV’s goals by offering scalable and programmable media processing solutions that improve video quality and reduce the bit-rate per channel. Using bandwidth more efficiently leads to improved quality of service and the option to offer subscribers additional TV and HD VOD channels.

The LSI DX-1810 scalable high-definition (HD) encoder platform is an extremely powerful and flexible media processing solution. Its tera OPS processing power gives it the performance needed to provide superior video quality at low bit-rates. Sophisticated pre- and post-processing operations, such as motion compensated temporal filtering (MCTF) and deblocking, improve video quality while superior motion estimation, better Mode decisions, improved image analysis and advanced rate control enable higher compression efficiencies.

Additionally, the DX-1810 will support dual-pass operation, which will enable further bit-rate reductions. Furthermore, the Domino[X] architecture is flexible and powerful enough to enable our customers to achieve ongoing bit-rate reductions in the future, without completely re-architecting the system and starting from square one for every generation of encoder.

IPTVU: The Domino[X] Pro product family supports multiple compression approaches ranging from MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 H.264 and VC-1. How does that flexibility assist vendors building products for IPTV applications from the National Super Head-end to ad insertion, regional hub, local switching office to the set-top box in the home?

Bob Saffari: Although IPTV/telco TV is associated with distribution of the content in the H.264 compression format, the reality is that there are large MPEG-2 deployments, such as Verizon, and some VC-1 based deployments, such as Telecom Italia, as well as video over IP to Xbox video game console for HD VOD. System providers value flexible solutions that can address all the formats.

The Domino[X] Pro product family can be used across the entire IPTV infrastructure where content is being repurposed for distribution and storage.

The Domino[X] Pro product family consists of a number of product lines, not just a single solution. It includes professional multi-standard encoders, transcoders and decoders. For example, in the National Super Head-end, where highest quality at the lowest bit-rate video is required for both broadcast and on-demand content creation applications, the LSI DX1810 HD platform can be scaled to support multi-pass (i.e. triple pass) HD H.264 to provide the highest quality video at minimal bit-rates.

In regional hubs, the DX1810 can be used as a single pass but very high quality re-encoder to convert HD MPEG-2 content received from satellite or ATSC terrestrial feeds into HD H.264 bit-streams for distribution through an IPTV network.

To convert a large number of SD MPEG-2 channels to H.264, LSI offers the DX1710 single-chip transcoder that offers great video quality and efficient compression in a single chip. Each DX1710 processor is capable of transcoding up to two channels of standard-definition (SD) or a single channel of HD in real-time, enabling high-density solutions to be implemented.

Domino[X] Pro-based solutions will support ad insertion, logo insertion and other applications over time.

IPTVU: What sort of bandwidth performance can telcos using Domino[X] Pro-based products expect initially for HD and SD channels?

Bob Saffari: LSI focused on solving the most difficult HD challenges first. The LSI single-pass 1920x1080i HD encoder achieves state-of-the-art video quality at 6Mb/s to 8Mb/s bit-rate. Other solutions available in the market require dual- or triple-pass encoding to achieve the same level of quality at the same bit-rate.

IPTVU: Is there room for greater bandwidth efficiencies over time with this architecture?

Bob Saffari: Absolutely. The performance and flexibility of the Domino[X] Pro gives our customers a path to constantly and continuously improve BW efficiency and provide greatly reduced bit-rates over time. The key is the Domino[X] Pro’s powerful architecture that performs in the TOPS (tera operations per second) range. When combined with our customers’ algorithms and system expertise, quality is improved, and bit-rates are reduced year to year.

IPTVU: Unlike terrestrial broadcasters, IPTV operators are not locked into 1080i as a transmission standard for HD. Could Domino[X] Pro offer sufficient performance to make IPTV delivery of 1080p full HD practical, and are you aware of any interest in doing so, perhaps to offer it as a premium subscription tier?

Bob Saffari: Yes. It is really up to IPTV providers. Until now, most IPTV providers have focused on enabling 1920 x 1080i or 720p60 HD, which is challenging enough. For 1080p60, the raw bandwidth required is effectively doubled.

With architectural advancements and algorithm improvements of scalable encoders like the Domino[X] Pro, 1080p60 delivery through IPTV networks is now feasible because it can be delivered with high quality at 8Mb/s to 10Mb/s. The other side of the equation is also critical, meaning the set-top boxes need to be capable of decoding 1080p60 content. We envision that 2009 will be the year for 1080p60 (full HD) STB trials and deployments.

IPTVU: Could you quantify how powerful the Domino[X] architecture is in terms of operations, and how does it compare to previous LSI encoding chips? Can vendors making products for the IPTV market scale up the performance of their products by adding additional Domino[X] chips to their designs?

Bob Saffari: The Domino[X] Pro is our sixth generation of codec media processors and is capable of performing 250 BOPS for media processing. To put things in perspective, our previous generation product was capable of performing 29 BOPS for Motion Estimation, a key building block for superior compression.

The new Domino[X] performs close to 175 BOPS for the same function. The performance of our Video DSP functions also has increased substantially, by a factor of almost 10. We now have 75 BOPS dedicated to media processing.

With the addition of a general-purpose MIPS processor to the Domino[x], the architecture is now reaching close to 900 MIPS performance just for high-level tasks, allowing more flexibility for image analysis and system operations compared to only 300 MIPS in previous generation encoders. Last but not least, our inter-chip communication interface has 2.7 times more bandwidth than past implementations, going from 75MB/s to 200MB/s. Massive amounts of video data can be exchanged between processors, improving search ranges and compression efficiency.

The Domino[X] is a scalable platform. Increasing the number of processors scales up the performance.

IPTVU: What other markets and applications do you envision for the Domino[X] Pro product family?

Bob Saffari: The Domino[X] Pro product family addresses a wide range of professional markets and applications, including ENG and satellite news gathering, mobile TV broadcast infrastructure, Blu-ray and HD DVD authoring, and downloadable DVDs for retail kiosks.

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