Decoding HEVC in 10-bit colours at 4K resolutions: PowerVR D5500, a Rosetta Stone for video decode

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With the recent launch of our next generation PowerVR Series5 video IP cores, Imagination has brought a series of exciting new features to the PowerVR D5500 video decoder core designed to preserve colour fidelity from source to display and provide the performance required for [email protected] and H.265 (HEVC).

All our PowerVR VPU (video processing unit) IP is designed to support multi-standard, multi-stream video decoding. The newly announced PowerVR D5500 video decoder core makes no exception – it scales very efficiently in different multiprocessor configurations to achieve the desired performance up to full H.265 level 5.0 for high resolutions or high frame rate applications.

PowerVR D5500 block diagram

This enables 4K resolution content to be decoded up to H.265 L5.0 [email protected] at ultra-low power consumption. The PowerVR Series5 video IP family can also handle all other major video standards including H.264 HP, H.264 MP, H.264 BP, H.264 MVC, VC-1, VP8/WebM, H.263, RMVB (Real Video), MPEG-2, MPEG-4, AVS, VP6, DivX, Sorenson and JPEG.

10-bit colour depth is a market requirement

10-bit colours create a wider gamut without increasing banding effects which then enables video codecs to display colours that are not currently available.

Recent announcements from leading companies in the video transcoding space all point to 10-bit colours as the next big thing in consumer electronics. The newly released Sony XAVC standard is pushing 10-bit into the prosumer/consumer arena for camcorder, DSLR and camera solutions. The ITU-R 2020 standard mandates minimum 10-bit for Ultra HD resolutions to prevent loss of fidelity and improve transcoding efficiency.

ColorEdge_CG243WThe Eizo ColorEdge CG243W monitor can display 10-bit colour from a 16-bit look-up table via its DisplayPort input.

Meanwhile, wireless displays will use 10-bit colours to remove banding effects and keep transcoding efficiency throughout the Wi-Fi transmission pipeline. XBMC users might also be familiar with Hi10P (also called “10-bit”), which is a profile of the H.264 video codec. It has recently become popular in the anime scene for video encodes and is now supported in the current release of XBMC (v12 “Frodo”).

This all begs the question of why a wider colour gamut is needed; after all, present day HDTVs look gorgeous, with vibrant colours and great resolution. Who needs more than that?  The answer lies with the changing way we use our displays and the new ways content for those displays is created. User created content and augmented reality are the two buzzwords to look for here: the wider gamut is needed to allow more perfect matching of real life scenes. This doesn’t mean just some arbitrary scene in some other place where colour fidelity is a sort of nice-to-have theoretical objective but the scene right here in which the user is present and can be compared to itself on the screen. That is a much higher bar to clear and HEVC’s high bit depth modes are designed to help clear it.

8bit vs 10bit processingA comparison of 10-bit and 8-bit colour processing

Companies which are using a platform’s multimedia capabilities to build a strong message around the unique selling points for their consumer devices understand this very well and are moving quickly to take advantage. Even though 10-bit colour depth might seem high end today, it is rapidly expanding to the mainstream market, especially since even affordable tablets and ultrabooks are now pushing higher resolutions.

Why go H.265 only? Have them all with the PowerVR Series5 video IP family

For all the benefits offered by HEVC, the older standards cannot be abandoned. Vast amounts of digital content, professionally and consumer produced, will continue to exist for as long as the public plans to hold on to their DVD and Blu-ray collections!

This means that multi-standard decode will effectively always be a requirement and while point solutions might be possible, and might seem to offer a quick way to market, Imagination’s introduction of the PowerVR Series5 video IP family reduces or eliminates the need for short term solutions.

PowerVR D5500 - video codecs in use todayVideo codecs in use today – why we need multi-standard video IP like PowerVR D5500

Imagination aims to bring multi-standard, HEVC enabled decode to market in a timeframe calculated to meet early adopter schedules and eliminate the need to redo early designs in order to achieve cost optimised, mass market products.

For example, PowerVR D5500 provides a single core HEVC solution that also handles all other major video standards and offers performance scalability from low-definition single stream to high-definition multi-stream hardware video decode.

The PowerVR Series5 video IP family introduces an architecture designed for flexibility

Customers using our PowerVR D5500 core have the flexibility to use it for several different product ranges that address different market specifications. If they wish to support only one or a limited set of standards, all unnecessary logic is removed, so area is optimised. They can therefore scale from single pipe, 8-bit solutions where affordability is key to high end, dual pipe 10-bit versions that support hardware scaling and rotation as well as a wide range of standards – including H.265.

PowerVR D5500 PowerVR D4500 - PowerVR video IP roadmap

Even when you look at the baseline multi-standard formats supported, PowerVR D5500 gets you not just H.265 but a multitude of other codecs too, making it one the most fully featured video IP cores available on the market today.

All our partners who license the PowerVR D5500 core get a solution designed for mobile and consumer applications with class-leading performance because Imagination’s solutions fit in a very a small area and have been optimized for low power consumption, making them ideal for consumer applications.

If you want to stay in the know about 4K, HEVC and our PowerVR video IP, follow us on Twitter (@ImaginationTech) and keep coming back to our blog.

Alex Voica

Alex Voica

Before deciding to pursue his dream of working in technology marketing, Alexandru held various engineering roles at leading semiconductor companies in Europe. His background also includes research in computer graphics and VR at the School of Advanced Studies Sant'Anna in Pisa. You can follow him on Twitter @alexvoica.

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