Back in the Radeon 9700 technology article , we gave you a quick preview of ATi's new FullStream video technology. The Radeon 9700 is no longer equipped with hard-wired video acceleration features. The pixel shader has now taken on this task. In addition to the usual video filters, this allows for real-time effects and optimizations of the video stream.
One possible practical application would be Internet video stream, whose images are often blocky due to heavy compression and low resolution. FullStream is supposed to be able to compensate for these defects and smooth the image, increasing overall image quality.
Contrary to ATi's original claims, applications do need to be adapted to make use of the FullStream technology and its features. Standard videos do not profit from these new techniques. So far, the only application that is "FullStream ready" is a special version of the RealPlayer. According to ATi, a FullStream patch for the Windows Media Player is already in the works and is currently undergoing beta-testing. It is unknown at this point whether the DivX platform will also benefit from this technology in the future.
Unfortunately, we can't give you an image quality comparison between the standard RealPlayer and its optimized sibling, since the latter version did not allow us to take any screenshots, making a side-by-side comparison impossible. Even specialized screen-capture programs like Hypersnap were unable to create screenshots, since the program would need direct access to the hardware - which it obviously did not get. Instead, let me offer my subjective impression of this feature.
Although the amount of blockiness and the number of artifacts were indeed reduced, this came at the cost of overall image clarity and crispness, which caused some of the details in the image to become unrecognizable. Fortunately, this feature can be disabled in the RealPlayer.
FullStream left us with a decidedly mixed impression. As a feature, it's "nice to have," but not quite mature enough to be a serious selling point.