and more Microsoft Media Center systems appear in
households around the world, hordes of people will
be packing away their old stereo equipment and replacing
the entire home entertainment system with a high
quality Media Center PC. ATI currently offers an
industry leading range of multi-media solutions.
Turning an existing system into a media hub could
involve the simple addition of a Theatre 550 Pro
based TV tuner card or an HDTV Wonder card (if in
an area that can receive free over the air high
definition signals). Those of you that are looking
for a video card with full multimedia capabilities
you may want to try the Cadillac of solutions; one
of their new lineup of All-In-Wonder video cards.
Not only are these cards unmatched in multi-media
functionality they also provide an excellent gaming
experience. Additionally, thanks to ATI's robust
display focused feature set, AVIVO technology is
able to render games more precisely at higher screen
resolutions and can connect to a plethora of display
types. Currently the All in Wonder 2006, X1800XL
and X1900 feature ATI's AVIVO technology.
All of these
new products offer users the ability to capture
stills and record an incoming video source virtually
eliminating the need for a Digital Recording Device
like a TIVO or DVR (or Sky + if based in Europe)
that cable or Satellite providers are currently
renting or selling. These new ATI products also
provide a superior 12-bit analog to digital converter
(ADC) compared to older lower quality 9 or 10-bit
analog to digital converters used in previous generations.
the basic gist of AVIVO, let us now look at it in
a little more detail.
and the Video Pipeline:
can go any further we are going to need to gain
a better understanding of the Video pipeline and
how it fits into the world of AVIVO enhanced technology.
As soon as a signal is received by a multi-media
capable device like a Television/cable box combination
or a PC equipped with a TV tuner the Video Pipeline
immediately steps up and becomes involved in the
processing of the source signal.
capture process consists of the following stages.
You start by receiving an incoming video signal
through the capture device. Then store the source
data on the hard drive before processing it and
outputting the end result to a display device. (TV
screen or Monitor) If the source signal is an analog
one, the capture device will have to tune to and
then demodulate (separates the video signal from
the carriers signal...such as a TV Station) the
signal before it can begin encoding it. Once they
have been separated, it can begin to compress and
digitize the captured video signal.
If the source
is a digital signal it has previously been compressed
and is ready to be decoded before post processing
and being output to a display. ATI adds to the capture
process by implementing a subset of features that
go hand and hand during the capture process. When
it comes to analog capture devices ATI's new technologies
include Automatic Gain Control, 12-bit analog to
digital conversion, 3D Comb filtering and hardware
introduction of the Theater 550 Pro, ATI TV/Video
capture devices have used an automatic gain control
feature. This feature gives their devices the ability
to examine the incoming signal and determine if
there is any gain control required. If it detects
any type of flawed video signal, the device can
dynamically boost the gain to a level that will
provide a rich and vibrant level of brightness and
color contrast before passing the signal on to the
remainder of the video pipeline.
new 12-bit analog to digital converters:
When it comes
to convert an analog signal to a digital one making
sure only the highest quality data is being passed
further down the video pipeline is critical. If
the analog data is not converted correctly anything
missed during the conversion process is lost and
can’t be retrieved. This lost data could be
responsible for less than perfect conversion throughout
the remainder of the video pipeline. ATI's new 12-bit
analog to digital converters examine the source
data right down to the finest details. This intensive
analysis helps to ensure that only the best possible
data gets any further along the video pipeline.
is nothing new as it has been an important part
of television picture quality for ages. Broadcast
video signals contain two major parts, the luminance
and chrominance. Comb filtering is a pre-processing
step that is used to separate the color and brightness
from any incoming video signal when these two items
are input together. Composite video signals are
an example of a source signal that packages the
color and brightness together. When looking at video
certain areas that contain greater level of detail
will require more attention. The use of high quality
comb filtering will definitely increase the quality
of the output video signal. One factor that Comb
filtering concentrates on is what is referred to
as Dot Crawl. If you look very closely at a video
stream provided through a composite video connection
you may see what looks like a series of moving dots
around the sharp edges where contrasting colors
meet. This problem is virtually eliminated with
the Theatre 550 Pro. The 3D Comb filter used on
ATI's new AVIVO ready products uses a 3D Motion
adaptive comb filter that is based on technology
that they use in high quality digital televisions.
ATI has added
a hardware based noise reduction system to their
line of AVIVO ready products. As many of you will
know, noise in a video signal is not a good thing.
Noise adds snow or a grainy look to your video signal.
This noise or interference can ruin the video viewing
experience by distracting focus from the content
we are trying to enjoy. Another downside of unwanted
noise in a video signal is the larger file sizes.
This noise adds actual data to the video file which
causes the size to increase. This also adds to the
total amount of bandwidth required to view your
video. By adding noise reduction at the hardware
level ATI better prepare the video signal for the
of a video signal follows the capture portion of
how video signal travels through the video pipeline.
It is often referred to as the compression of a
captured video signal. This compression involves
changing the source video signal to a format such
as MPEG-2. When dealing with a captured digital
video signal this data may require transcoding.
So what is transcoding? Transcoding involves the
decoding of a digitally captured video signal and
the conversion of the decoded signal into a different
format. This is required whenever we change the
original format to something that is going to be
viewed on a different type of media device like
a PDA, PSP, or video capable cell phone. When the
encoding of a video signal is done correctly the
end result will be high quality video that is optimized
and puts less strain on the systems CPU/VPU.
new AVIVO technology encoding is supported at two
levels. ATI’s TV Wonder Elite and HDTV Wonder
have onboard compression hardware and the AVIVO
enabled integrated display devices and graphics
cards (X1300/X1600/X1800/X1900) have hardware compression
and transcoding capabilities built into the cards
GPU. With these features included on the X1XX lineup
we should notice a big decrease in CPU usage when
playing back (or in some cases, encoding) video
the decoding phase, all of the compressed video
captures are now decompressed and re assembled into
actual moving images. During decoding there is no
set in stone method for users to follow. The video
signals depend on which video codec is chosen during
the decoding phase. Once a particular codec has
been chosen it will follow steps specific to that
particular codec. After the decoding process is
completed the only real way to determine the efficiency
or quality of your decoding is to do a comparison
of how much CPU utilization takes place during playback.
A good decode job will produce lower CPU usage later
on. Once the decoding is complete the video signals
are then passed onto the post processing stage.
AVIVO technology, ATI’s VPU provides dedicated
blocks for the video decode stage. This along with
the ability to support 3rd party codec’s leaves
ATI with a very flexible solution. When HD-DVD and
Blu-ray are accepted as the standard, AVIVO enabled
hardware will be in high demand.
Now we have
reached the final stage (post processing) prior
to outputting the finished product to a display.
It’s at this stage that accurate reproduction
of the source video signal is critical. For example:
we are going to be displaying an interlaced television
signal on a non interlaced PC screen, then the post
processing stage is critical in order to offer a
high quality result.
to decoding which follows a specific step by step
process, post processing results unfortunately are
totally subjective to the end users own perception
of what is quality and what is not. There is however
certain steps that can be followed to increase your
odds of producing a high quality finished product
such as de-interlacing and the use of what is referred
to as 3:2 pulldown.
two specific parts to the display process. The first
being what type of connection device you use to
and the actual display type that is being used for
viewing your video files.
Display Engine is made up of two symmetrical display
pipelines. These pipelines make sure that the video
signal that needs to be outputted is best matched
to whatever display device is being used to view
the finished product.
on the specific display device used for the video
playback there are several variables that have to
be considered as different devices output things
in different methods. Here are some of the things
that need to be considered.
Resolution and aspect ratio (Standard 4:3, Widescreen
16:9 or 16:10)
2 Color Space (RGB or YPrPb)
3 The depth of the Color (bits per color)
4 Gamma Response
graphic cards have two outputs. In many cases there
is an Analog D-Sub (15 pin) an S-Video or Composite
port as well as a digital DVI or HDMI port which
will provide a superior quality signal output. The
choice of which port often is determined by the
monitor used to view video content. If it is an
older type display or even one of many entry level
LCD’s, you may only have the option to use
the Analog D-Sub connector. This may be adequate
in many cases but if the graphics card and monitor
have a DVI port it is strongly recommended to make
use of the digital port.
for European consumers ATI’s latest All-In-Wonder
products feature a scart output for both pictures
we have looked at the Video Pipeline and how it
relates to ATI’s AVIVO technology, we will
take a closer look at some of their AVIVO enabled
hardware. We are going to look at the AIW X1800XL
and the TV Wonder Elite.