A few weeks ago, I sat down with my two daughters, aged 7 and 10, and taught them how to program on a PC using Scratch. Two weeks later, after emptying the fridge of all its contents, my youngest daughter had created a piano made out of bananas, a carrot and a spoon and my eldest had written a fruit slicing computer game involving real fruit. As any proud father would, I captured the moment as an HD clip on my phone and uploaded for the grand-parents to watch on their mobile devices. After explaining to my wife why we would be getting a takeaway for dinner, we sat down to proudly watch the same clips on our TV.
As well as a shameless plug for the great work CodeClub is doing teaching youngsters how to program (see here), this example of everyday life in the Porthouse household highlights the way in which millions of us now generate and consume video content.
According to Cisco, by 2017 two-thirds of the world's mobile data traffic will be video. Already today, 25% of global YouTube views come from mobile devices and, according to Google "HD is becoming dominant". It seems we can't get enough videos of cats, babies biting fingers and children playing banana pianos – consumers expect high quality HD video on any device with a screen.
From a hardware point of view, deploying high quality HD encode and decode into mass-market mobile devices is all about cost, power consumption, time-to-market - and cost!
This week at Computex ARM announces MaliTM-V500, the first in a new roadmap of video processors. The technology builds on our previous video solution, which has so far shipped over 100M units. Our goal was to extend that technology and enable partners to deliver a high-quality HD capture and playback experience on mass-market tablets and smartphones.
The Mali-V500 is optimized for silicon re-use by a variety of codecs, across encode and decode functionality, delivering multi-standard HD and 4K encode and decode in an incredibly small area with half the system power and memory bandwidth of competing solutions - all with the highest quality deliverables and support that partners expect from ARM which enable a fast time to market for high performance, high quality HD solutions at minimum cost.
As with ARM's CPU and GPU roadmap, Mali-V500 is a multicore solution, scaling from 1080p60 encode and decode in a single core to ultra-high performance 4K resolution at 120 frames per second using 8 cores.
Video and graphics are major users of memory bandwidth. As screens get bigger and resolutions grow, bandwidth goes up and power consumption increases if nothing is done about it. For example, 4K (2160p) at 60fps can consume around 600mW of power just due to LPDDR2 memory. Anything that can reduce memory bandwidth will also reduce power.
The video processor incorporates a novel lossless frame compression technique called ARM Frame Buffer Compression (AFBC), enabling increased efficiencies throughout the display pipeline. By coupling AFBC in Mali-V500 with AFBC in display or GPU a bandwidth saving of over 50% is achievable1, delivering system-wide power reduction and enabling the use of lower cost DDR memory, altogether bringing the system cost down.
While system power, performance and silicon area are all critical for our SoC partners, visual quality is also essential. Mali-V500 includes features such as a high bus latency tolerance whereby video processing can continue for over 5000 cycles without external memory access. This means consumers will not see jerky playback due to dropped frames when there are other things happening on the device – something seen in other video solutions today. Support for sub-10ms encode also enables a high quality gaming experience with WiFi display or WiFi Miracast.
The way movie and TV content is accessed is also changing. Major Hollywood studios generate more than 70% of their revenue post-theatrical/box office release and consumers want to view content on multiple devices at any time. In order to protect their multi-billion dollar investments, studios and content owners are demanding hardware-backed security across all devices that play their premium content. This means that in order to support premium content mobile and other consumer embedded devices must support hardware-backed protection of content from download to display.
In order to meet the stringent security requirements of movie content owners, Mali-V500 has been architected to efficiently support ARM TrustZone® and associated media playback use cases efficiently. ARM is able to support SoC partners with all major blocks of secure IP – from TrustZone-enabled CPU, to Trustzone-enabled Memory Controllers and TrustZone-ready Video – and the widest ecosystem care to ensure our partners are able to support the requirements of movie studios and content distributors alike.
The recent finalization of the specification for HEVC (High Efficiency Video Codec) is compelling as it enables network bandwidth savings due to the lower bitrates, thus lowering distribution costs and enabling new HD or 4K services. HEVC is designed to make parallelisation across multicore processors simple and efficient. ARM is working extensively with partners to ensure optimized HEVC solutions are available across the widest range of Cortex®-A CPUs with NEON, including Cortex-A12, and Mali-T600 family GPUs, including Mali-T622. Enabling HEVC on ARM CPUs and GPUs not only helps service providers get to market quickly, but it also provides flexibility for software solutions targeting the new specification, as it evolves, with subsequent updates to the decode aspects. This is inevitable because of the lack of content at present for verification and the high number of encode/transcode solutions under development. By implementing a software solution at this stage significantly reduces risks for OEMs. See this press release and blog from Ittiam for more details on what ARM partners are doing in this space. ARM is also working on a power efficient hardware implementation of HEVC, leveraging novel features in the Mali-V500 architecture to reduce silicon area. I look forward to revealing more details in a future blog!
Mali-V500 is a natural choice to put alongside an ARM CPU such as Cortex-A12 and Mali GPU such as Mali-T622. Partners are also able to leverage DS-5 profiling tools and ArtisanTM optimized physical IP to deliver high-quality, low-power systems with CPU, GPU and VPU all from ARM. Mali-V500 is available for license now and you can expect to record and play back many hours of high quality, HD videos of your own talented children and pets on a wide range of tablets and smartphones from 2014.
 Average of several BluRay DVDs playback using Mali-V500.