Using NI FlexRIO to Develop a Cost-Effective Solution for 3D and HD Video Test

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"Using NI FlexRIO, we were able to focus our effort on the video test application. We estimate that we developed a complete product for several applications in approximately half the time it would have taken to develop a fully custom solution."

- Mauro Arigossi, Alfamation

The Challenge:
Creating a series of products to test complex video devices, such as high-definition (HD) and 3D TVs, that have high resolution, deep colors, and high frame rates.

The Solution:
Using NI FlexRIO to create the FlexMedia V-Series line of products to deliver a cost-effective solution for high-speed, automated, low-voltage differential signaling (LVDS) video test.

Author(s):
Mauro Arigossi - Alfamation

Founded in 1991, NI Platinum Alliance Partner Alfamation leverages scientific passion and knowledge to engineer functional test systems in continually developing and evolving markets. Alfamation takes an out-of-the-box approach to creating products and services for design, test, and manufacturing engineers and managers in the automotive, consumer electronics, telecommunications, and medical industries.

With the evolution of the flat screen display technology to HD and 3D TV, engineers face the challenge of quickly and accurately testing complex devices with ever-increasing resolutions, deep colors, and higher frame rates. We needed to create high-performance functional test solutions that engineers could use to test these top-of-the-line consumer electronics devices

Using NI FlexRIO

The vision for the FlexMedia V-Series devices was to create a set of high-performance modules for high-speed, LVDS video testing. To create these products, we considered a variety of different platforms but chose PXI for its compact size, modularity, industry-wide acceptance, and the availability of complementary modules. At the core of our system, we used NI FlexRIO to provide off-the-shelf field-programmable gate array (FPGA) modules for high-speed processing, along with the NI FlexRIO Adapter Module Development Kit (MDK) to customize our I/O to interface the video signals to the FPGA. Using NI FlexRIO, we were able to focus our effort on the video test application, rather than spending significant time on data processing, engine design, or computer interfacing.

We programmed the FPGA using the NI LabVIEW FPGA Module, which uses code generation techniques to synthesize the graphical code to an FPGA bitfile. This allowed us to develop our FPGA code using a block diagram approach, which intuitively depicts the inherent parallelism of an FPGA. We already had in-house VHDL expertise and IP that we wanted to leverage, but LabVIEW FPGA helped increase our productivity. We easily integrated VHDL IP while using built-in LabVIEW FPGA IP for infrastructure components like PCI Express bus interfacing and I/O integration, and developing graphical code when it increased efficiency. This helped us to quickly customize the device and reduce the time and cost of traditional FPGA programming.

Overall, we estimate that we developed a complete product for several applications in approximately half the time it takes to develop a fully custom product. In addition, we generally had only three or four resources working on each product development, a much smaller team than the fully custom effort would have required.    

Video Test Solutions

We used the high-throughput capabilities of PXI Express and the high-end processing power of NI FlexRIO to deliver a cost-effective solution for automated video testing with the FlexMedia VA-01 Video Analyzer and the FlexMedia VG-01 HD Video Generator. The FlexMedia V-Series video test modules can perform tests at rates above 20 Gbit/s on 3D and HD TVs and computer monitor mainboards, allowing electronics manufacturers to significantly reduce their test time while continuing to deliver a high-quality end product.

The cost-effective FlexMedia V-Series products are ideal for high-volume video production testing, offering comprehensive, low-footprint solutions for HD and 3D screens. Users benefit from human-independent, fully automated testing that is more than 30 seconds faster than when controlled by a human operator. The new system helps reduce outgoing manufacturing defects and delivers improved support and maintenance because the products are based on the industry-standard PXI platform.

The FlexMedia V-Series Products

The VA-01 Video Analyzer features high-speed LVDS acquisition to perform Full HD video pixel and bit error analysis in real time. It can test up to eight HDTVs simultaneously (including 1080p video at 240 Hz and the latest 4Kx2K superwide displays at 60 Hz), and at up to 30-bit color depth. In addition to multiple UUT parallel processing and high video resolution capabilities, the VA-01 fits in a single-slot PXI design. Engineers can also use the included LabVIEW libraries for easy software integration.

The VG-01 HD Video Generator offers high-quality video generation over composite, component, and digital interfaces. The VG-01 can generate video at up to 1080p at 30 Hz/48-bit color or 1080p at 60 Hz/36-bit color with 3D, HEC and ARC support, and CEC, DDC, and Content Type bit transmission. The system can support 7+1 audio, and has YPbPr, RGB, RGBS, YC, CVBS analog video, and video trigger outputs with a 6-channel video matrix.

Conclusion

The FlexMedia VA-01 Video Analyzer and VG-01 HD Video Generator help deliver a cost-effective solution for automated video testing. By basing the products around PXI and NI FlexRIO, we developed a solution that provides very high performance and throughput for the user, and is easier to support and maintain because it leverages an industry-standard platform. Finally, we delivered this high performance for video test applications in significantly less time and with a much smaller team than a fully custom solution.

Author Information:
Mauro Arigossi
Alfamation
mauro.arigossi@alfamationglobal.com

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