We’ve all seen fuzzy license plates snap into focus on television detective shows like CBS’ “CSI” series. Now, the forensic software used for such visual tricks is available to anyone — including television broadcasters — at a cost of only $50 from MotionDSP, a Santa Clara, CA-based developer of super-resolution algorithms for government and commercial use.
As a Windows application for PCs (sorry, no Macs), vReveal can fix common problems afflicting consumer-generated video, including blur, shakes, noise and darkness. The technology can save low-resolution news video sent to television stations from mobile phones, digital cameras and other mobile devices.
The product was adapted from MotionDSP’s professional forensic application, Ikena, priced at $7700 and used by law enforcement authorities to recover details like license plate numbers in low-quality video. It essentially analyzes the color and position of pixels in frames adjacent to ones with the poor images and then adds information found in those nearby frames to make improvements.
The technology uses the parallel processing power of NVIDIA’s Cuda-enabled GPUs, now found on most new PCs. NVIDIA is an investor and a marketing partner for vReveal. The software also works on non Cuda PCs, but must use the central processor to function. A specific list of PCs using Cuda cards is available online.
“After years of R&D, we are offering the most powerful video enhancement techniques available in an application simple enough for any consumer to use,” said Dr. Sean Varah, CEO of MotionDSP. “By tapping into the NVIDIA Cuda architecture, vReveal can leverage the impressive number-crunching power available on affordable consumer video cards.”
The software is made up of a series “one click fixes,” including clean, sharpen, auto contrast, stabilize, and fill light. For low-resolution files, the resolution can be doubled, while removing noise, graininess and pixelation. The user can choose each function individually, or apply all at once.
In a fine-tuning section, vReveal has sliders for user control over the amount of each fix, plus adds a color option to adjust saturation or white balance. The application can also capture print-quality still images from enhanced videos and do some editing, including trimming clips and rotating sideways video.
The vReveal software is targeted at low-resolution video, so it works only on videos with a vertical resolution of 576 pixels or smaller. Files can be saved to Windows Media (WMV) or uncompressed AVI on the PC, or sent directly to YouTube.
Cuda is the brand name of Nvidia’s parallel computing architecture. The first Cuda GPU was introduced in November 2006 with the GeForce 8800 and has been in every new GPU since then. The software is programmed to leverage the parallel processing power of the 150 million Cuda-enabled NVIDIA GPUs that are used in PCs throughout the world.
With an NVIDIA GPU, vReveal enhances videos up to five times faster than with a CPU, freeing up the CPU for normal tasks.
The image-enhancement algorithms used in vReveal are part of a research field called super-resolution, whose techniques include the computationally intensive process of seeking extra, compensatory information in nearby frames. MotionDSP is now testing the technology to clean up video in real time as it streams to the viewer.
Users can download a free 30-day trial of vReveal at www.vreveal.com. It is also available for download from EVGA and PNY and for purchase from www.nzone.com.