A hardware h264 video encoder written in VHDL. Designed to be synthesized into an FPGA. Initial testing is using Xilinx tools and FPGAs but it is not specific to Xilinx.
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<H1>H.264 Hardware Encoder in VHDL</H1>

<P>A hardware h264 video encoder written in VHDL suited to IP cameras and
megapixel cameras. Designed to be synthesized into an FPGA. Initial testing is
using Xilinx tools and FPGAs but it is not specific to Xilinx.</P>

<P>Directory structure:</P>
<UL>
<LI>doc - documetation</LI>
<LI>src - vhdl source (synthesizable)</LI>
<LI>tests - test code and test vectors</LI>
</UL>

<P>Source code and other files are released here under a BSD-style licence</P>

<P>This is a mirror of the original project located at <A HREF="http://hardh264.sourceforge.net/">http://hardh264.sourceforge.net/</A></P>

<H1><I>Notes and usage information</I></H1>
<P ALIGN=LEFT>The H.264 hardware encoder is designed as a modular
system with small, efficient, low power components doing well defined
tasks.  The principle design aim was to make an scalable encoder for
megapixel images suitable for use in camera heads and low power
recorders.</P>
<P ALIGN=LEFT>The encoder is not designed to be all things to all
people, but rather designed to efficiently implement a non-interlaced
Base Profile with no limit to the number of streams or video
resolution. 
</P>
<P ALIGN=LEFT>As such few generic parameters are provided, but
components can be replaced as needed to customize the encoder
to a specific application.  For example, only CAVLC encoding is
performed, but this is performed by the h264cavlc and h264header
modules only.  If required, these can be replaced by custom modules
to perform another form of encoding.</P>
<H2>A tour of the Components</H2>
<P>A diagram of the principle components can be found below or in the CVS respository.</P>
<IMG SRC="http://hardh264.sourceforge.net/H264-encoder-manual-diagram.gif">
<P>Video comes in at the top, and is usually written to (external)
RAM to buffer it temporarily. When needed it is read into the
prediction components such as intra4x4.</P>
<P>Outputs from the prediction components pour through the transform
loop: coretransform, quantise, dequantise, invtransform, reconstruct.
  For intra encoding, these reconstructed pixels are required
immediately to predict the next block, in addition they are also
written to (external) RAM for use for the next inter coded frame.</P>
<P>Because of the feedback, especially for intra encoding, this
transform loop is timing-critical, since the latency is important as
well as the throughput.  Transform modules need all data in before
they can output the first output pixel, but the delay between the
last pixel in and the first pixel out is minimal.</P>
<P>For blocks which use DC as well as AC components, a 2x2 DC
transform (Hadamard transform) is also provided as part of the
feedback loop.  In order to speed the process, the intra8x8cc module
(which encodes chroma for intra encoding) outputs the sums of each
block as a separate DC data stream which is fed into the first
dctransform.</P>
<P>Output from quantise is fed to the buffer which delays and
reorders the blocks for output to the cavlc module which encodes the
data.   Header data is mixed in after cavlc, and the stream is turned
into a byte stream by tobytes, which also stuffs 03 bytes to prevent
startcode emulation.  The output from tobytes is a NAL, and a done
signal is asserted at the end.</P>
<P>It is up to higher level code to add Annex B startcodes between
frames (00 00 00 01), or else count and buffer the bytes output and
add a header in mp4 or rtp format, or other format as required.</P>
<P>Multiple streams may be simultaneously encoded by the H.264
encoder; these may be of different resolutions.  There is no design
limit to the video resolution.</P>
<P>The components are independently upgradeable if required.   
</P>
<H2>Target hardware</I></H2>
<P>The design has been compiled for the following devices:</P>
<UL>
	<LI><P>Xilinx Spartan 3 family - (3174 Slices)</P>
	<LI><P>Altera Cyclone III family &ndash; (26,754 LEs)</P>
</UL>
<P>It is likely to compile successfully for most other FPGA and ASIC
technologies.</P>
<P>This encoder is being built into a commercial application which
uses a Spartan 3A 1400 which is about 4 times the size of the
requirement quoted above.</P>
<P>Note that the Cyclone III is rather larger than the Spartan 3 due
to the use of small or unlatched RAM elements in the design which the
Spartan can map to distributed RAM but the Cyclone needs to implement
in discrete logic.  A modification to intra4x4 and intra8x8cc
components to permit TOPI to have a two-clock latency rather than one
would permit latched RAM in this situation.</P>
<H2>Parameters: PP and SP</H2>
<P>It is necessary to include Picture Parameters (PP) and Stream
Parameters (SP) to specify the details of the encoder for the decoder
to use.   These are usually encoded as separate NAL units which can
be transmitted immediately before the first NAL unit of image stream.</P>
<P>Some recommended Stream Parameters (SP) are:</P>
<DL>
	<DT><TT>profile_idc                                  01000010 ( 66) </TT>
	<DT><TT>constrained_set0_flag                               0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>constrained_set1_flag                               0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>constrained_set2_flag                               0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>constrained_set3_flag                               0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>reserved_zero_4bits                              0000 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>level_idc                                    00101000 ( 40) </TT>
	<DT><TT>seq_parameter_set_id                                1 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>log2_max_frame_num_minus4                           1 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>pic_order_cnt_type                                011 (  2) </TT>
	<DT><TT>num_ref_frames                                    010 (  1) </TT>
	<DT><TT>gaps_in_frame_num_value_allowed_flag                0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>pic_width_in_mbs_minus1                     000010110 ( 21)
	**</TT><DT>
	<TT>pic_height_in_map_units_minus1              000010010 ( 17) **</TT><DT>
	<TT>frame_mbs_only_flag                                 1 (  1) </TT>
	<DT><TT>direct_8x8_inference_flag                           1 (  1) </TT>
	<DT><TT>frame_cropping_flag                                 0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>vui_parameters_present_flag                         0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><BR>
</DL>
<P>** Replace the pic_width and pic_height with appropriate values,
these are in 16-pixel-units and thus the parameters here encode an
image of 352x288.</P>
<DL>
	<DT>As a NAL, these can be encoded as (hex bytes):<DT>
	<TT>67 42 00 28 DA 05 82 59</TT><DT>
	<BR>
</DL>
<P>Some recommended Picture Parameters (PP) are:</P>
<DL>
	<DT><TT>pic_parameter_set_id                                1 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>seq_parameter_set_id                                1 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>entropy_coding_mode_flag                            0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>pic_order_present_flag                              0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>num_slice_groups_minus1                             1 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>num_ref_idx_l0_active_minus1                        1 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>num_ref_idx_l1_active_minus1                        1 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>weighted_pred_flag                                  0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>weighted_bipred_idc                                00 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>pic_init_qp_minus26                                 1 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>pic_init_qs_minus26                                 1 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>chroma_qp_index_offset                              1 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>deblocking_filter_control_present_flag              0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>constrained_intra_pred_flag                         0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><TT>redundant_pic_cnt_present_flag                      0 (  0) </TT>
	<DT><BR>
	<DT>As a NAL these can be encoded as (hex bytes):<DT>
	<TT>68 CE 38 80</TT><DT>
	<BR>
	<DT>So encoding both using Annex B format (ie, with startcode of 00
	00 00 01), gives:<DT>
	<TT>00 00 00 01 <TT>67 42 00 28 DA 05 82 59</TT></TT><DT>
	<TT>00 00 00 01 68 CE 38 80</TT><DT>
	<BR>
	<DT>These bytes can be put at the start of the stream (and repeated
	if needed before any IDR frame).<DT>
	<BR>
</DL>
<H2>Clocks</H2>
<P ALIGN=LEFT>There are two clocks in use by the modules, CLK which
is nominally the pixel clock rate, with a design frequency of 60MHz
or below, and CLK2 which is a double rate clock and should run at
exactly twice CLK rate.   CLK is used in the h264cavlc module and
also by the back end which emits the byte stream.  CLK2 is used by
the prediction and transform logic which works at higher data rates
than the pixel rate.  As a result, 512 double rate clocks are
available for each macroblock (256 pixels) for the prediction and
transform logic feedback loop.</P>
<H2>Top level</H2>
<P>A skeleton top level is provided, to allow a real one to be
written for your application.  A simple top level is provided for
simulation which reads and writes files and can dump intermediate
data and an annotated output bit stream if required.</P>
<H2>RAM</H2>
<P>At minimum, an entire uncompressed reference image must be
buffered in RAM to allow inter prediction[*].  Usually the incoming
image is buffered as well as the reference image, so two copies might
be needed.  If encoding multiple streams, images from all streams
need to be buffered.  Depending on resolution, this might be a lot of
memory, and thus it is anticipated that this is implemented off-chip.</P>
<P>[*] of course, you could use intra prediction only and thus avoid
this overhead, but compression is then usually around 10:1, rather
than the 50:1 quoted for inter compressed streams.  The actual
compression will vary with the contents of the picture stream.</P>
<H2>Prediction components</H2>
<P ALIGN=LEFT>The intra prediction currently available (intra4x4 and
intra8x8cc) only considers a subset of possible modes, and uses a
simple SAD (sum of absolute differences) comparison.  This makes the
intra frames a little larger than they otherwise might be, but tests
against reference software (which can choose a wider range of modes
and other better comparison computations) shows only a few percent
improvement.</P>
<P ALIGN=LEFT>Also, only a simple inter prediction (p-frames)
component is available at present.   Zexia has others available but
they cannot be released at present under an open source license; they
will probably be released once commercial agreements expire.  If you
want to work on this, please drop me an email, since a pool of good
inter prediction components will enhance this <SPAN LANG="en-GB">codec</SPAN>
and I'd be pleased to help.</P>
<P ALIGN=LEFT>Since the target is Base Profile, no attempt has been
made to encode B-frames, however the same cavlc and transform loop
can be used so it's just a case of modifying the front end prediction
and header generation.</P>
<H2>Patents</H2>
<P>H.264 is covered by patents, you will need a license from MPEG-LA.
 According to the MPEG-LA web site (http://www.mpegla.com), there is
no royalty payable on less than 100,000 units.</P>
<P>The author knows of no other patents which cover this encoder, but
that doesn't mean to say there are none (see the disclaimer below).</P>
<H2>Copyright (BSD-style license)</H2>
<DL>
	<DT>Written by Andy Henson<DT>
	Copyright (c) 2008 Zexia Access Ltd<DT>
	All rights reserved.<DT>
	--<DT>
	Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without
	modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions
	are met:<DT>
	   * Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright<DT>
	      notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.<DT>
	   * Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above
	copyright<DT>
	      notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer
	in the<DT>
	     documentation and/or other materials provided with the
	distribution.<DT>
	   * Neither the name of the Zexia Access Ltd nor the<DT>
	      names of its contributors may be used to endorse or promote
	products<DT>
	      derived from this software without specific prior written
	permission.<DT>
	--<DT>
	THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED BY ZEXIA ACCESS LTD ``AS IS'' AND ANY
	EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE
	IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR
	PURPOSE ARE DISCLAIMED. IN NO EVENT SHALL ZEXIA ACCESS LTD OR ANDY
	HENSON BE LIABLE FOR ANY DIRECT, INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, SPECIAL,
	EXEMPLARY, OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES (INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO,
	PROCUREMENT OF SUBSTITUTE GOODS OR SERVICES; LOSS OF USE, DATA, OR
	PROFITS; OR BUSINESS INTERRUPTION) HOWEVER CAUSED AND ON ANY THEORY
	OF LIABILITY, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, STRICT LIABILITY, OR TORT
	(INCLUDING NEGLIGENCE OR OTHERWISE) ARISING IN ANY WAY OUT OF THE
	USE OF THIS SOFTWARE, EVEN IF ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH
	DAMAGE.<DT>
	<BR>
	<DT><BR>
</DL>
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	<P><FONT COLOR="#4c4c4c"><A HREF="http://www.zexia.co.uk/">Zexia Access Ltd</A> &copy; 2008
		- H.264 Hardware Encoder</FONT>
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