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V-Bridge Muses DTV Modulator and Video Encoder Review – Part 2: Muses-β Turnkey Solution Demo

November 12th, 2016 No comments

V-Bridge Muses-α and Muses-β boards can be used to respectively broadcast video to DTV standard from your PC, and as a turnkey solution taking any HDMI, CVBS, or USB inputs. The VATek SoC used in those  board support various DTV standards including DVB-T, DVB-C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB, ISDB-T/TB up to full HD resolution. I’ve received an early prototype for each, and I’ve already taken pictures and show how to assemble both Muses-α and Muses-β kits in the first part of the review. Today, I’ll show a demo with Muses-β turnkey solution taking HDMI input from an Android TV box (R-Box Pro), encoding and modulating the video to DVB-T, before broadcast it to an Android STB with a DVB-T/T2 tuner (U4 Quad Hybrid). This tool could be useful to test STB featuring ATSC or ISDB-T too, as those two standards are not supported in my country, and I could instead generate signals within my office.

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U4 Quad Hybrid (Left), Muses-Beta Kit (Center) and R-Box Pro TV box (left)

You could also connect it directly to your TV, but for this review it was easier to show with an external device, and my TV is using a coaxial input instead of a female F-connector, so that made it easier. If you connect it to your TV, you could still combine your local TV station signal with Muses-Beta signal by using a 2-way splitter as shown below.

2-way-splitter-antenna

The company provided a cable to connect the RF board to tuner directly, but you could also use the type of antenna shown above instead. The power level is -12dBm, which means it won’t affect others, and should not break any laws in your country. If you need longer range you’d need to use an amplifier, and check with your local authorities if you need any specific licenses.dtv-antenna

Now that the connection is done, let’s have a look at the LCD display, since it;s used to configure the DTV standard, frequency, and many more options. I did not have to change much for this demo. First I select DVB-T and QPSK modulation.

muses-beta-dvb-t
Then set the frequency to 628 MHz as it’s one of the listed frequencies in U4 Quad Hybrid.
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And kept HDMI to 720i-60, as the prototype can only handle HD resolution (720p) smoothly, and while Full HD (1080p) is possible it won’t be that smooth yet, but should be in the final hardware.
muses-beta-hdmi-resolution

There are many options as shown in the UI chart below.

User Interface State Machine (Click to Enlarge)

LCD User Interface Options (Click to Enlarge)

If HDMI input is detected, the LCD should then soon show three full squares on the top left indicating video is being broadcast with whatever standard you’ve chosen. In order to get the signal I had to configure U4 Quad Hybrid set-top box with the frequency, bandwidth, and delivery system  I selected for the modulator.

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Click to Enlarge

And it worked pretty much out of the box, as you can see from the photo below showing U4 Quad Hybrid menu overlaid over the DVB-T signal showing R-Box Pro user interface. Please ignore the vertical lines, as it’s just a problem with LG 4K TV.

Click to Enlarge

Click to Enlarge

I’ve also shot a video showing the setup, and how well it works. Sadly, the video I selected does not play optimally in R-Box Pro (the video source), but I found it only after the review, and other videos are being broadcast normally without smoothness issues nor audio cuts. But the important in the video is to show how easy it is to configure the system and that it works reasonably well. Quality will obviously suffer a bit compare to the source since its re-encoded and HDMI output is set to 720p.

Latency & video quality can be adjusted using three profiles: High Quality (500ms), Average (300ms) and Low latency (200ms). You’ll find some more details in the preliminary? Muses Turnkey Product user’s manual.

The kickstarter campaign is still on-going with 21 days to go. Muses-β kit with the LCD control board – as reviewed in this post – requires a $559 pledge, but if you prefer to replace the STM32 Board and LCD display by your own control board (API will be provided), you can get Muses-β board with AV input board and RF board for $399. I’ll test the cheaper $200 Muses-α board connected to a computer in the next few days in part 3 of the review.

MUSES-α & MUSES-β DVB-T/C, ISDB-T, DTMB & ATSC Modulator Boards Review – Part 1: The Hardware

October 19th, 2016 4 comments

V-Bridge Muses digital TV modulator boards launched on Kickstarter earlier this month, with the cheaper $200 MUSES-α board modulating video from a PC, and $600 MUSES-β turnkey solution capable of broadcasting HDMI or AV + stereo input to various digital TV standards including DVB-T/C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB, and ISDB-T/TB without the help of a computer. The company sent me the two hardware kits for evaluation and review on CNX Software, and today I’ll start by showing off the hardware I received.

muses-dvb-atsc-modulator-package

I got 3 packages and a F-female to F-female cable, which means you can connect the board directly to your TV tuner without having to rely on actual RF signals, and potential legal issues that goes with it.pc-modulator-kit

The first package I open if for the PC modulator kit that include MUSES-α board, an “RF” board, as a USB cable to connect to your computer.

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Click to Enlarge

MUSES-α board features Vatek A1 chip, a USB port, an Ethernet port, a power jack, and  headers for UART, I2C, TS, JTAG, RF board and GPIOs.

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The back of the board just has a Winbond flash.

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Click to Enlarge

The RF board is based on Texas Instruments TRF372017 IQ modulator PLL/VCO chip, and includes an F-male connector.

muses-alpha-usb-cable-tuner-cable

To get started you’d have to connect the USB cable, the coax cable to your TV’s tuner, as well as a 5V power supply.

The next package is the STM32 + LCD control board allowing to use MUSES-β board without PC.

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Click to Enlarge

It’s made of off-the-shelf parts including DF Robots LCD keypad shield for Arduino, connected to an STM32 based board via jumper cables + some glue.

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Click to Enlarge

The “STM32F4xx” board is also an off-the-shelf STM32F407ZET6 ARM Cortex-M4 board found on Aliexpress for $15.50. So what you are paying for here, is not really hardware, but all the development work required for a niche product.

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Click to Enlarge

The third package includes the rest of the turnkey solution with an RF board, MUSES-β board based on Vatek B2 modulator and video encoding chip, and a video & audio input board with HDMI input, and 3 RCA connector for video composite and stereo audio input. All boards are already attached to an acrylic base, and the kit adds the top acrylic cover, some spacers and screws, and a 5V/2A power supply.

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Click to Enlarge

The RF board is exactly the same as the one used with MUSES-α board, and the AV input board features Explore Microelectronics EP9555E  for HDMI input and Intersil TW9912 for CVBS input.

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Click to Enlarge

MUSES-β board comes with a USB port, a power jack, headers for the RF and AV input boards, I2C, MCU connect, and a TS port. I must have a received a prototype board, so there’s also some rework that should be gone once the kit ships to backers.

MUSES-β Kit Fully Assembled - Click to Enlarge

MUSES-β Kit Fully Assembled – Click to Enlarge

Assembly is quite straightforward:

  1. Connect the STM32 board to the “MCU connect” header
  2. Optionally add the top acrylic cover
  3. Connect the 5V/2A power supply
  4. Connect the coax cable to your TV, and add video and audio input(s) to the HDMI port or CVBS + stereo audio RCA jacks
  5. Scan the channel on your TV, and enjoy

That’s exactly what I’ll try in the second part of the review, once I receive some documentation from the company.

V-Bridge Muses Digital TV Modulator Boards Let You Broadcast Your Own TV Channel for $199 and Up (Crowdfunding)

October 5th, 2016 15 comments

I wrote about VATek VMB8202D Enmoder SoC handling both DVB, ATSC, DTMB and ISDB modulation and H.264 hardware encoding earlier this summer, and at the time, the company also planned to launch a crowdfunding campaign for two open source hardware DTV modulation boards in a couple of weeks. Weeks turned into months, but finally V-Bridge Muses boards and video input & RF daughterboards have now launched on Kickstarter where you can get your own live video broadcasting board for $199 and up.

MUSES-α board

muses-alpha-dvb-modulator-board

Muses Alpha Board

MUSES-α board is the cheapest of the two boards, and features a header for the RF daughter board, and a USB port to connect to a computer.
MUSES-α board specifications:

  • SoC – VATek A1 32-bit RISC modulator chip
  • Storage – SPI flash (unclear whether it can be accessed/modified by user)
  • Modulation – DVB-T/C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB; RF header
  • Video Encoding – N/A (handled by PC via USB or another board via TS header)
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port
  • Expansion – UART header, Master I2C header, TS header, GPIO header
  • Debugging – JTAG pin
  • Misc – License MCU
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel

MUSES-α board is sold with the RF board, and allows you to broadcast video over your chosen modulation scheme, through a GUI and video encoded on your PC via the USB interface. Alternatively, you should also be able to input the video signal via the TS serial/parallel header with video encoded by your own board.

MUSES-β board

Muses Beta Board

Muses Beta Board

MUSES-β board combined with the RF daughterboard, video input board, and an optional STM32 kits with display and buttons, is a standalone solution taking video composite + stereo audio (RCA connectors) or HDMI input, encoding the video to MPEG2 or H.264, and broadcasting using your selected modulation scheme.

MUSES-β board specifications:

  • SoC – VATek B2 Enmoder 32-bit RISC chip
  • Storage – SPI flash (unclear whether it can be accessed/modified by user)
  • Modulation – DVB-T/C, ATSC/QAM, DTMB, ISDB-T/TB; RF header
  • Video Encoding – MPEG-2 in full HD resolution, H.264 in SD resolution
  • Video/Audio Input – 2x BT 601/605 header, 1x TS header, video input daughterboard header
  • USB – 1x USB 2.0 port
  • Expansion – UART header, Master I2C header, GPIO header, Ethernet module header, MCU connect header
  • Misc – License MCU, audio switch MCU, reset and rescue buttons
  • Power Supply – 5V/2A via power barrel

You can also connected to a PC via the USB port to do the same task as you would with Muses-α board. You can more control with the more complete board, as it can be programmed via an host MCU if needed.

Video Input Board (Left) & RF module (Right) - Click to Enlarge

Video Input Board (Left) & RF module (Right) – Click to Enlarge

 

You’ll be given STM32 sample code, an MCU Porting Guide, operating tools, PCB layout & schematic, and a user’s manual  once the boards are shipping.

Three kits are available on Kickstarter:

  1. $199 Basic Package –  MUSES-α Board, RF Board, Power supply (Design complete)
  2. $399 Standard Package –  MUSES-β Board, Video Board, RF Board, Power supply (Work in progress)
  3. $559 (Early bird)/$599 Turnkey Package –  MUSES-β Board, Video Board, RF Board, STM32F4 MCU Board, Panel & Button, Power supply (Design complete)

While you’ll be paying $169 to $200 for a MCU board with LCD display with buttons for the turnkey package, it should be the easiest way to get started with MUSES-β board. The standard package requires you to connect and program your own MCU board to control the system. The basic package should also be straightforward to use then it just relies on the GUI program (no detailed info yet).

Shipping adds $25 (Taiwan) to $70 depending on the destination country, and delivery is scheduled for January 2017. You may also be able to get some more details on V-Bridge Tech website.

VATek VMB8202D Enmoder SoC Supports DVB, ATSC, DTMB and ISDB Modulation, H.264 & MPEG-2 Encoding up to 1080p30

June 3rd, 2016 12 comments

Terrestrial digital TV transmitters normally cost over 1,000 dollars because there are usually implemented with expensive FPGA chips, but Taiwan based VATek has designed a low cost chips such as VMB8202D Enmoder (aka B2 Enmoder) capable of encoding 1080p60 video input to MPEG-2  (1080p30 max) or H.264 (SD resolution max), and transmitting the resulting video over DVB-C, DVB-T, ATSC, DTMB, or ISDB-T standards.
DVB_Encoder_Chip

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Click to Enlarge

VATek B2 Enmoder SoC specifications:

  • CPU – 32-bit RISC @ 400MHz
  • Memory – Built-in DDR
  • Modulation Engine – VATek Multi-standard Modulator 1.0 ATSC / DTMB / DVB-T / DVB-C
  • Media Encoder – VATek Ultral Low Latency HD Encoder supporting 1080p30 or SD MPEG-2 and SD H.264 encoding
  • Audio Formats – MPEG-1 Layer 2, AAC
  • Raw Video Inputs – 1x ITU-R BT.1120 or 2x ITU-R BT.656 up to 74.25MHz pixel clock
  • Raw Audio Inputs – I2S up to 48kHz sample rate
  • Stream Input Interface – Ethernet,  Transport Serial serial interface, or USB 2.0 device
  • Stream Engine – Auto Stream Regulator / Advance Header generator
  • Encryption – DVB CSA V1 & V2 / Triple DES
  • Baseband outputs – IQ / IF up to 50MHz
  • MER (modulation error rate) – 45.08 dB as measured with Agilent N9010 signal analyzer.
  • Peripheral I/O – UART / I2C / SPI
  • Control Interfaces – I2C / USB
  • Control Protocol – VATek Gateway for I2C & USB
  • Typical Power Consumption – 2.5 W
  • Operating Temperature – 0 to 70 deg. C
  • Package – 128-LQFP package

VATEK_B2_ENMODER_Modulation_CapabilitiesThe company informed me that the chip supports Linux, and there API allows for control of many of the video encoder and modulation parameters, including bit rate, latency, GOP, quant control, and frequency, bandwidth, FFT, GI, code rate… They also have sample code for STmicro STM32 to control the chip via I2C on their reference/evaluation platform.

VATek also have a modular only chip (A1) without video encoder where the video encoding must be handled by a external processor (e.g. ARM SoC), as well as a lower end B1 Enmoder chip called that supports 720p60 max, and the same modulation standards as B2, except ISDB-T.

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DTV modulation platform – Click to Enlarge

The company is also working on DTV modulation boards based on B1 and B2 that will be open source hardware with both API tools, PCB layout, etc.. released, so that developers can integrates the board into drones, use for HAM radio, and surveillance or DTV applications. The solution will be launched on Kickstarter in a few weeks for around $200 (A1 board + RF board) and $400 (B2 board + RF board + video input board as pictured above).

You can contact the company or find some more info on VATek Enmoder product page.