TI to bring HD video capability to digital still cameras

San Diego (CA) - Texas Instruments (TI) has developed a processor for digital still cameras (DSCs), which promises not only to accelerate the processing speed of digital shots, but also to provide enough horsepower for the creation of HD quality videos.

TI's new processor is a member of the DaVinci DM644 chip family which is positioned by the company for implementation in a range of consumer electronics. The company claims that the processor delivers roughly three times the performance of current DSC processors and therefore will be enable new applications for digital cameras.

Among those new features envisioned by TI is a higher image quality for digital pictures with resolutions pf up to 16 megapixels. Processing of images can be done in real time without requiring a memory buffer. Images are written immediately to the memory, which should cut the storage time of digital images about in half, TI claims. DaVinci chips will also be able to apply red-eye removal while a picture is taken, improve image stabilization features, support image editing functions integrated into a camera and allow users to take low-light pictures with ISO settings up to ISO 3200.

The processor, however, also addresses the recording of video in DSCs, which is still not taken seriously by video enthusiasts. High-Definition is just beginning to become popular in high-end consumer camcorders, but TI claims that the DaVinci chip can actually bring HD recording to the DSC market. According to the chips specifications, 720p resolutions are supported for encoding and decoding MPEG2 formats, as well as for decoding WMV9 and MPEG4. The company also lists a DaVinci processor on its website that is described at "1080i+" capable. The maximum processing speed offered by the chip is 75 megapixels per second, TI said.

TI's processor design is based on the ARM926EJ-S, a 32-bit RISC processor blueprint provided by ARM. The specifications of the chip indicate that the basic 130nm design is developed for a clock speed of up to 266 MHz. However, TI is running its DaVinci chips at 300 MHz. Besides an increased frequency, TI added to the ARM design a DSP and video processing subsystem, support for on-screen displays and video encoding, as well as peripheral interfaces for example for USB 2.0, audio output and memory (DDR and Flash).

The question with such new designs is generally, when they can be implemented by system builders. TI claims that its DaVinci technology is a "flexible" processor that enables OEMS to "quickly, easily and cost-effectively differentiate their products." It may help that "manufacturers using DaVinci technology can implement their own intellectual property in their digital cameras designs" to increase the time to market, but rather lengthy product cycles of digital cameras tell us that DaVinci cameras are still two product generations away.