Streaming Pixel Interface

What Is a Streaming Pixel Interface?

In hardware, processing an entire frame of video at one time has a high cost in memory and area. To save resources, serial processing is preferable in HDL designs. Vision HDL Toolbox™ blocks and System objects operate on a pixel, line, or neighborhood rather than a frame. The blocks and objects accept and generate video data as a serial stream of pixel data and control signals. The control signals indicate the relative location of each pixel within the image or video frame. The protocol mimics the timing of a video system, including inactive intervals between frames. Each block or object operates without full knowledge of the image format, and can tolerate imperfect timing of lines and frames.

All Vision HDL Toolbox blocks and System objects support single pixel streaming (with 1 pixel per cycle). Some blocks and System objects also support multipixel streaming (with 4 or 8 pixels per cycle) for high-rate or high-resolution video. Multipixel streaming increases hardware resources to support higher video resolutions with the same hardware clock rate as a smaller resolution video. HDL code generation for multipixel streaming is not supported with System objects. Use the equivalent blocks to generate HDL code for multipixel algorithms.

How Does a Streaming Pixel Interface Work?

Video capture systems scan video signals from left to right and from top to bottom. As these systems scan, they generate inactive intervals between lines and frames of active video.

The horizontal blanking interval is made up of the inactive cycles between the end of one line and the beginning of the next line. This interval is often split into two parts: the front porch and the back porch. These terms come from the synchronize pulse between lines in analog video waveforms. The front porch is the number of samples between the end of the active line and the synchronize pulse. The back porch is the number of samples between the synchronize pulse and the start of the active line.

The vertical blanking interval is made up of the inactive cycles between the ending active line of one frame and the starting active line of the next frame.

The scanning pattern requires start and end signals for both horizontal and vertical directions. The Vision HDL Toolbox streaming pixel protocol includes the blanking intervals, and allows you to configure the size of the active and inactive frame.

Why Use a Streaming Pixel Interface?

Format Independence

The blocks and objects using this interface do not need a configuration option for the exact image size or the size of the inactive regions. In addition, if you change the image format for your design, you do not need to update each block or object. Instead, update the image parameters once at the serialization step. Some blocks and objects still require a line buffer size parameter to allocate memory resources.

By isolating the image format details, you can develop a design using a small image for faster simulation. Then once the design is correct, update to the actual image size.

Error Tolerance

Video can come from various sources such as cameras, tape storage, digital storage, or switching and insertion gear. These sources can introduce timing problems. Human vision cannot detect small variance in video signals, so the timing for a video system does not need to be perfect. Therefore, video processing blocks must tolerate variable timing of lines and frames.

By using a streaming pixel interface with control signals, each Vision HDL Toolbox block or object starts computation on a fresh segment of pixels at the start-of-line or start-of-frame signal. The computation occurs whether or not the block or object receives the end signal for the previous segment.

The protocol tolerates minor timing errors. If the number of valid and invalid cycles between start signals varies, the blocks or objects continue to operate correctly. Some Vision HDL Toolbox blocks and objects require minimum horizontal blanking regions to accommodate memory buffer operations.

Pixel Stream Conversion Using Blocks and System Objects

In Simulink®, use the Frame To Pixels block to convert framed video data to a stream of pixels and control signals that conform to this protocol. The control signals are grouped in a nonvirtual bus data type called pixelcontrol. You can configure the block to return a pixel stream with 1, 4, or 8 pixels per cycle.

In MATLAB®, use the visionhdl.FrameToPixels object to convert framed video data to a stream of pixels and control signals that conform to this protocol. The control signals are grouped in a structure data type. You can configure the object to create a pixel stream with 1, 4, or 8 pixels per cycle.

If your input video is already in a serial format, you can design your own logic to generate pixelcontrol control signals from your existing serial control scheme. For example, see Convert Camera Control Signals to pixelcontrol Format and Integrate Vision HDL Blocks Into Camera Link System.

Supported Pixel Data Types

Vision HDL Toolbox blocks and objects include ports or arguments for streaming pixel data. Each block and object supports one or more pixel formats. The supported formats vary depending on the operation the block or object performs. This table details common video formats supported by Vision HDL Toolbox.

Type of VideoPixel Format
BinaryEach pixel is represented by a single boolean or logical value. Used for true black-and-white video.
GrayscaleEach pixel is represented by luma, which is the gamma-corrected luminance value. This pixel is a single unsigned integer or fixed-point value.
Color

Each pixel is represented by 2 to 4 unsigned integer or fixed-point values representing the color components of the pixel. Vision HDL Toolbox blocks and objects use gamma-corrected color spaces, such as R'G'B' and Y'CbCr.

To set up multipixel streaming for color video, use a separate Frame To Pixels block for each color component. For example, for a R'G'B' stream with 4 pixels per cycle, use three Frame To Pixels blocks to create three vectors of 4 pixels per cycle. The pixelcontrol bus for all three components is identical, so you need to carry only one bus forward through your design.

Vision HDL Toolbox blocks have an input or output port, pixel, for the pixel data. Vision HDL Toolbox System objects expect or return an argument representing the pixel data. The following table describes the format of the pixel data.

Port or ArgumentDescriptionData Type
pixel
  • Single pixel streaming — A scalar that represents a binary or grayscale pixel value or a row vector of two to four values representing a color pixel

  • Multipixel streaming — Column vector of four or eight pixel values

    You can simulate System objects with a multipixel streaming interface, but they are not supported for HDL code generation. Use the equivalent blocks to generate HDL code for multipixel algorithms.

Supported data types can include:

  • boolean or logical

  • uint or int

  • fixdt()

double and single data types are supported for simulation, but not for HDL code generation.

Streaming Pixel Control Signals

Vision HDL Toolbox blocks and objects include ports or arguments for control signals relating to each pixel. These five control signals indicate the validity of a pixel and its location in the frame. For multipixel streaming, each vector of pixel values has one set of control signals.

In Simulink, the control signal port is a nonvirtual bus data type called pixelcontrol. For details of the bus data type, see Pixel Control Bus.

In MATLAB, the control signal argument is a structure. For details of the structure data type, see Pixel Control Structure.

Timing Diagram of Single Pixel Serial Interface

To illustrate the streaming pixel protocol, this example converts a frame to a sequence of control and data signals. Consider a 2-by-3 pixel image. To model the blanking intervals, configure the serialized image to include inactive pixels in these areas around the active image:

  • 1-pixel-wide back porch

  • 2-pixel-wide front porch

  • 1 line before the first active line

  • 1 line after the last active line

You can configure the dimensions of the active and inactive regions with the Frame To Pixels block or the visionhdl.FrameToPixels object.

In the figure, the active image area is in the dashed rectangle, and the inactive pixels surround it. The pixels are labeled with their grayscale values.

The block or object serializes the image from left to right, one line at a time. The timing diagram shows the control signals and pixel data that correspond to this image, which is the serial output of the Frame To Pixels block for this frame, configured for single-pixel streaming.

For an example using the Frame to Pixels block to serialize an image, see Design Video Processing Algorithms for HDL in Simulink.

For an example using the FrameToPixels object to serialize an image, see Design a Hardware-Targeted Image Filter in MATLAB.

Timing Diagram of Multipixel Serial Interface

This example converts a frame to a multipixel stream with 4 pixels per cycle and corresponding control signals. Consider a 64-pixel-wide frame with these inactive areas around the active image.

  • 4-pixel-wide back porch

  • 4-pixel-wide front porch

  • 4 lines before the first active line

  • 4 lines after the last active line

The Frame to Pixels block configured for multipixel streaming returns pixel vectors formed from the pixels of each line in the frame from left to right. This diagram shows the top-left corner of the frame. The gray pixels show the active area of the frame, and the zero-value pixels represent blanking pixels. The label on each active pixel represents the location of the pixel in the frame. The highlighted boxes show the sets of pixels streamed on one cycle. The pixels in the inactive region are also streamed four at a time. The gray box shows the four blanking pixels streamed the cycle before the start of the active frame. The blue box shows the four pixel values streamed on the first valid cycle of the frame, and the orange box shows the four pixel values streamed on the second valid cycle of the frame. The green box shows the first four pixels of the next active line.

This waveform shows the multipixel streaming data and control signals for the first line of the same frame, streamed with 4 pixels per cycle. The pixelcontrol signals that apply to each set of four pixel values are shown below the data signals. Because the vector has only one valid signal, the pixels in the vector are either all valid or all invalid. The hStart and vStart signals apply to the pixel with the lowest index in the vector. The hEnd and vEnd signals apply to the pixel with the highest index in the vector.

Prior to the time period shown, the initial vertical blanking pixels are streamed four at a time, with all control signals set to false. This waveform shows the pixel stream of the first line of the image. The gray, blue, and orange boxes correspond to the highlighted areas of the frame diagram. After the first line is complete, the stream has two cycles of horizontal blanking that contains 8 invalid pixels (front and back porch). Then, the waveform shows the next line in the stream, starting with the green box.

For an example model that uses multipixel streaming, see Filter Multipixel Video Streams.

See Also

| | |

Related Topics