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nVidia's Graphic Vision

Jeff Brown details current products and strategic directions at NAB By Frank Moldstad

Jeff Brown
Known primarily for 3D content creation products, nVidia is expanding its horizons to HD and SDI video applications in the ever-widening world of pixels, where graphics is video and video is graphics. We caught up with Jeff Brown, nVidia's GM of professional graphics product management, for the lowdown at NAB.

Brown's professional solutions group at nVidia focuses on developing products for professional users. Although this was its first year on the NAB show floor, the group had a whisper suite last year to preview new SDI products and the Gelato renderer, which was developed in house. Now, a year later, the seeds of those products have borne fruit, with a wide range of graphics and video initiatives, from high end HD and SDI products to component products aimed at corporate video and prosumer users.

Brown sees a growing role for the nVidia with the broadcast and postproduction applications that define NAB. "Everyone's describing the visual production pipeline differently, but here's how we think about our role here at NAB. We were known primarily for content creation, Maya, 3ds max. Gelato is part of that world, he says. And I think what's unique about the digital pipeline is you've got HD, HD cameras and you're capturing digitally, all of your digital content is being created in floating point precision," he says. 

"You've got this whole explosion of digital intermediate applications, so you maintain that floating point format into your color grading or your editing applications. And on the delivery side we figured out you need to get this stuff out in a high quality way, so that's where the HD/SDI card fits, as well as the component output card for edting and delivery."

Spanning all of this is the graphics processor, which is broadening its video capabilities, Brown notes.

"It's a pixel process where graphics is video and video is graphics, the difference being that you can carry this high precision all the way through. So, we're threading through all these things, trying to encapsulate the work we're doing in video in this technology called PureVideo. If you've ever seen a die shot of one of our GPUs, we actually have a dedicated video processor. It's a microarchitecture, and we use it to program a bunch of video algorithms. So far it's been used for things like MPEG decode," Brown says.

"Part of this is how we color convert from graphics space, RGB, YUV, gamma, things like that. We're incorporating all of that within the PureVideo brand. This architecture is really flexible, so we can actually microarchitect it through codecs, for example. So it will evolve with our GPUs, our video capability."

Uses for PureVideo range widely, from professional delivery all the way to the consumer TV tuners and personal cinemas. But for the NAB crowd, nVidia was talking up functions such as hardware accelerated playback, and creative ways to use pixel buffer overlays. The latter includes rendering video to the pixel buffer, grabbing it, outputting it, VMR video rendering and Genlock.

NVIDIA Quadro FX 540
nVidia now has a full range of Quadro workstation graphics boards, Brown says, priced from a couple of hundred dollars up to a couple thousand dollars, scaling in terms of performance capability. Two notable new professional entries are the Quadro FX 540, which can now handle component out, and thePCI Express version of the Quadro FX 4000 SDI card., used for HD/SDI video out.

"As you move up the range you obviously add things like frame buffers getting larger," says Brown. "For example, the 3400 will support dual-link DVI for driving an Apple display, and the 4400 does dual dual-link to drive two Apple displays. So starting at the entry point, one of the demos we have here is the Quadro FX 540, which is an entry level card from a 3D graphics perspective, a couple hundred dollars."

What's unique about it is based on some feedback from Adobe, we've added a really nice quality component output," he adds. "PNY, our distribution partner, developed a higher quality BNC-based breakout. You plug in this 7-pin connector and you can get component out from one side, and S-Video from the other. And now that Premiere Pro has this HDV wrapper, with an HDV camera it makes a really cost-effective prosumer editing suite."

At the high end is the SDI card. The new PCI Xpress version follows the release of the AGP version at last year's NAB.

NVIDIA Quadro FX 4000 SDI for PCI Express
"We've been evolving the product over time," notes Brown. "It's really a very flexible engine in terms of outputting HD or SDI, and 8-bit or 10-bit. The basic architecture is a pretty standard Quadro graphics card, and we interface a daughter card. Then we can load in new formats as they evolve, like the European broadcast formats."

Not only does the SDI card drive digital out of the card and format it, it also does color space conversion and gamma correction. The dual-link DVI outputs are configurable. There are two inputs for Genlock, and two channels of fill, configurable as fill-fill or fill-key, as 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 dual link. The key can be Alpha or Z for matte work, chromakeying or virtual set applications. The card is compatible with both Linux and Windows.

"We have two modes of operation," notes Brown. "One is Transparent mode, where you can scribe a region of interest, just output that and scale it. Or there's Activate, where you say this is my active window, output that, scale all the scaling. Or there's an API that allows you to render into a P buffer, pixel buffer, grab that and output it." 

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Related Keywords:nVidia, NAB, Gelato, SDI, HD, Pure Video, Quadro, workstation graphics

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