Calibre makes motion-compensated standards conversion affordable

When Tim Brooksbank, Chairman, of UK-based Calibre, set out introduce a new standards converter, his top priority was to make it affordable for everyone. Yet, it had to include motion-compensated technology to ensure high quality results.

Typically the two have not been compatible, as motion compensation algorithms—which compare two frames of video, decern the difference and estimate where the unique action in the next frame will be—are not cheap to produce.

Calibre UK’s new FoveaHD standards converter, set to be introduced at NAB (booth #N1817), uses a unique combination of ASIC, FPGA and SIMD processing to perform high-quality motion estimation, motion compensation (MEMC). The company said it provides motion compensated HD and SD standards conversion at the price of a standard linear video converter.

“The market positioning of FoveaHD is such that it competes directly with products that cannot offer high-definition, MEMC frame rate conversion but have a similar [low] street-price,” Brooksbank said, adding that he’s targeting newsgathering, mobile operations, outside broadcasting as well as conversion and picture improvement of live feeds received over IP or satellite links.

The converter has multiple SD and HD inputs and outputs to facilitate upconversion, downconversion, cross conversion, as well as converting between all common frame rates. The FoveaHD also supports 3G-SDI (for use as a test pattern generator) and Analog I/O. Audio delay is also built-in to correct the image for video processing delay.

The 2 RU FoveaHD box includes image restoration capabilities for archive conversion that, Brooksbank said, set it apart from general-purpose SD/HD format converters. It includes per-pixel motion adaptive noise reduction, MPEG-2 mosquito and block artifact reduction, 2-D detail enhancement and also real-time "unsharp mask" processing. Different features are applicable to different incoming signal formats, which helps to guide the user based on their specific requirements. A variety of processing amplification controls also allow for color and level correction.

So, why a new standards converter in a world that is increasingly file based? In general, the need for frame rate conversion and the more traditional 50/60 and 60/50 Hz conversions continues to increase, according to Brooksbank.

“Frame rate conversion requirements have grown for two reasons,” he said. “Firstly, TV continues to become more globalized especially for live events where non-linear FRC at post production is not an option. Secondly, a lot of HD footage is shot at 24p or even 25 or 30p yet needs to be broadcast at 50 or 60Hz. Traditionally, 3:2 pulldown would be used for 24p content but this gives poor motion reproduction. There is also a need to convert higher frame rate content back to lower frame rates, such as 24/25/30p which is used particularly for web-based IP delivery.”

There’s VITC embedded time code supported as well as automatic delay and correction features, which can all be controlled via Ethernet or front panel keyboard.

“The biggest value to a local TV station is that it makes conversion of international 50Hz or 24p content affordable, enabling regional stations to broadcast good quality images without motion blur but without the enormous price tag usually associated with MEMC conversion,” Brooksbank said.

The introduction of FoveaHD follows the success of the company’s VideoExcel series broadcast grade universal format converters and frame synchronizers, which will also be on show at NAB; along with Calibre’s latest HQView530 line of video scalers, format convertors and scan convertors.