Redefining High Definition by Design
Micronas’ new VGC video graphics controller is designed for advanced HDTV- and PC-ready flat-panel TV applications where uncompromising high-quality processing of video and data is required. Ulrich Langenkamp, Project Manager VGC, Micronas, discusses the features of the chip and explains how Synopsys tools were used to optimize the design.
The VGC is targeted at large-screen high-definition LCD and Plasma TVs with dual-channel video mode. The design enables development of advanced flat-panel TVs and supports display resolutions up to HDTV 1080p (1920×1080 progressive), enabling customers to design premium-class TV applications. Excellent picture quality is achieved by 10-bit signal processing, outstanding de-interlacers, a high-quality 3-D filter, and a comprehensive set of picture signal improvement features.
According to Langenkamp, "The chip delivers unprecedented picture HDTV quality, taking LCD and Plasma TVs to new levels of performance. Two fully independent picture channels allow the screen to display two images side-by-side, as Double Window, PIP, superimposed with text and graphics while preserving full image resolution and optimizing picture quality."
Multiple Processing Functions
The VGC combines all video processing functions in one monolithic IC: analog video input matrix up to HD, two separate color decoders with 3-D comb filter for NTSC and PAL, two independent VBI slicers, dual-channel motion-adaptive framebased de-interlacer, scaler, powerful 32-bit system controller, pixel graphics controller, PC connectivity, and built-in dual-channel 10-bit LVDS transmitter. Motion-compensated de-interlacing can be realized by using Micronas’ FRC 9429A.
Figure 1: VGC-based System Application: Dual-channel flat-panel TV
One of the key benefits of the design is the flexibility which enables OEMs to differentiate their end products. Langenkamp summarises the programmable aspects: "Software-driven features can be easily added by any TV manufacturer. For example, Micronas offers a JPEG viewer application, which enables consumers to plug in a Flash memory device and watch digital camera snapshots in full HD resolution on their TV."
Compared to the previous generation of video processing system-on-chips, Langenkamp notes that this new IC offers significant advantages. "It enables real-time dual-channel high-definition TV video processing and picture quality improvement. In addition to the common WXGA panel resolution, the VGC is able to drive the fast-growing 1080p full HDTV panel types. The 32-bit system CPU and graphics accelerator offer fast pixel graphics for user-friendly on-screen displays."
"Production cost is a key issue for our customers in the TV market," Langenkamp notes. Modular design was used to allow the economic integration of all the above features in all high-end flat-panel products.
"We needed to reduce area and power consumption as much as possible, and to integrate highly sensitive analog with digital circuitry. With flexible software design options, system manufacturers are able to target a range of different markets, reducing development costs as well as the number of components."
Manufacturers can also reduce time-to-market, which Micronas recognizes as a central concern. "In developing the first generation of VGC, we were keen to free TV manufacturers from time constraints," Langenkamp says. "Bringing new models to market in quick succession is possible thanks to the extensive programmability. The heart of the software solution is the Micronas real-time operating system, MICTOS®, which integrates a video driver and peripheral drivers, enabling easy control of the system. Also available are a GNU C++ compiler, JTAG-based debugger and OSD builder. Other development tools are available from various third party tools manufacturers."
The Micronas design team faced some specific technical challenges in developing the SoC. These included meeting the timing requirements at the DDR-SDRAM-interface and balancing the complex clock system. The high scale of integration, combining various connectivity options as well as two video channels meant that one of the major challenges became managing a 3-million gate chip as a flat design. There were also complex mixed-signal design requirements to consider for supporting the analog and/or digital I/O.
"Synopsys provided very high flexibility combined with powerful technology to optimize each design-specific objective," Langenkamp comments. The following Synopsys tools helped Micronas in the creation of the first VGC silicon:
- Design Compiler® including DesignWare® Foundation IP
- Astro and Astro-Rail
Langenkamp sees this chip as an innovation in video graphics controllers because of its unparalleled feature integration level with a unified memory architecture. Looking forward to the next projects, Langenkamp foresees an exciting future for the TV market. "Micronas has always been at the technological forefront of solutions for the TV market. We will be continuously upgrading our VGC product family to serve all major trends in the global large-screen flat-panel TV market by delivering optimized system solutions."
Micronas (SWX Swiss Exchange: MASN), a semiconductor designer and manufacturer with worldwide operations, is a leading supplier of cutting-edge IC and sensor system solutions for consumer and automotive electronics. As a market leader in innovative, global TV system solutions, Micronas leverages its expertise into new markets emerging through the digitization of audio and video content. Micronas serves all major consumer brands worldwide, many of them in continuous partnerships seeking joint success. While the holding company is headquartered in Zurich (Switzerland), operational headquarters are based in Freiburg (Germany). Currently, the Micronas Group employs about 2000 people. In 2004, it generated EUR 624/USD 777/CHF 963 million in sales. For more information on Micronas and its products, please visit www.micronas.com.
About Ulrich Langenkamp
Ulrich Langenkamp was born in 1952 in Wuppertal, Germany. He received his Diploma of Electrical Engineering in 1976 from the University of Bochum. As a design engineer and later on as a program manager he was part of the development team working on the first digital TV chipset at ITT, and worked on many subsequent mixed-signal projects for TV applications at ITT, Siemens, Infineon and Micronas. His focus has been on embedded DRAM products, before facing the challenge of shared memory concepts with external DRAMs that the ever-increasing demand for video memory brings along.
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