The Shift to Software
The ability to perform real-time, broadcast-quality, software-based
media processing for all delivery applications can be attributed to
Moore’s Law. Over time, the capabilities of general-
purpose processors have grown faster than the
increasing performance demands of state-of-the-art
As video has become more ubiquitous, specific video
functions have found their way into general
processors. Through a combination of integrated graphics
processing units (GPUs) and fixed-function, video-specific
circuitry, general-purpose CPUs now have hard-wired
support for many of the complex math functions required by
video encoding and decoding. By embedding dedicated
video functions into the silicon, we are able to achieve highly
efficient, highly scalable video processing.
The underlying architectures for general-purpose CPUs
and video-specific processors have largely converged.
Application-specific standard products (ASSPs) include
powerful multi-core general-purpose processors that are
used to perform video processing functions, while general-purpose CPUs increasingly include function-specific blocks.
Thus, not only are CPUs getting faster, the existence of
functional blocks amplifies the power of the CPUs. AES
encryption is a great example of function-specific hardware
on a CPU. 3 The Intel® Media SDK accelerates many video
processing, decoding and encoding functions in function-specific gates. Increased instruction word length and
the power of SIMD (single instruction, multiple data)
instructions means that general-purpose CPUs can
process as many pixels in parallel as today’s ASSPs.
What does this mean for our industry?
The shift to software-based encoding offers a number of advantages.
Chief among them are improved video quality, shorter innovation
cycles, reduced CAPEX and OPEX, and greater operational flexibility.
One drawback of all this change is that general-purpose CPUs require
more watts per video stream than ASSPs; however, as more and more
functions are collapsed into fewer discrete solutions, the difference is
becoming smaller for some classes of CPU. In fact, the streams-per-package differences between general-purpose CPUs
The Benefits of
• Superior Video Quality
• Shorter Innovation Cycles
• CAPEX and OPEX Savings
• Increased Flexibility
Con;nuous Improvement Through Innova;on
Sponsored Content Harmonic