XVideo Xtra Technical Overview

Version 0.1
October 29, 1997

Under Construction

(c) Copyright Parallax Graphics, Inc. 1997. All Rights reserved.

Parallax Graphics, Inc.
2500 Condensa Street
Santa Clara, CA 95051
Telephone: (408) 727-2220
FAX: (408) 980-5139
email: info@parallax.com

XVideo and XVideo Xtra are trademarks of Parallax Graphics, Inc. Sun Microsystems is a registered trademark of Sun Microsystems, Inc. SPARC, SPARCstation, and SPARCserver are registered trademarks of SPARC International, Inc., licensed exclusively to Sun Microsystems, Inc.


XVideo Xtra Video Card
Multichannel Memory Access
JPEG Compression/Decompression
Analog to Digital Conversion
Crosspoint Switch
Composite or Y/C Video Input
Composite or Y/C Video Output
Supplied Cables
Xt Widgets and Resources
Xlib Extensions
DDX Extensions
Device Drivers
System Files
Test Files
Hardware Warranty

Software Warranty


Technical Specifications

XVideo Xtra
System Requirements
Video Architecture
Software Support
Video Performance


XVideo Xtra Video Card

Multichannel Memory Access

XVideo Xtra supports multiple I/Os to the video memory from various sources simultaneously over these high-speed memory interface channels:

To control these multichannel accesses, a sophisticated set of Applications Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) have been designed for XVideo Xtra, including an SBus interface and timing-and-control chipset.

JPEG Compression/Decompression

Realtime JPEG compression and decompression of stills and live video is supported through the use of the CL550B JPEG processor from C-Cube Microsystems, Inc. The CL550B, combined with the support buffers and control circuitry of our custom-designed ASICs, provide realtime digital video data to either of the two video channels described in Multichannel Memory Access.

Compression/decompression control is accomplished through special registers within the SBus interface hardware that resides on the XVideo control card. Data transfers between the SBus host and the CL550B are accomplished with standard Direct Memory Access (DMA) protocols.

The XVideo server extensions have been designed to take advantage of the JPEG hardware.

Analog to Digital Conversion

XVideo Xtra digitizes analog data immediately on input, greatly reducing the chances of introducing noise, producing a better- quality digital image, and easing the detection of the video standard of the signal.

Analog composite inputs are digitized--fed into a digital multistandards decoder (DMSD) and a digital color space converter (DCSC)--yielding a 24-bit RGB image with 8 bits for each RGB color component. Special software is provided to detect the standard of the incoming signal and to set up the digitizer for the proper format.

The digitized video data is sent immediately to the crosspoint switch and mapped into the frame buffer over one of two video channels. See Crosspoint Switch for more details.

Crosspoint Switch

A crosspoint switch is implemented to arbitrate between video I/O ports for asychronous access to the video memory over the two video I/O channels described in Multichannel Memory Access.

Under software control, the crosspoint switch provides these four video I/O ports with memory access:

Composite or Y/C Video Input

Composite or Y/C Video Output

The XVideo Xtra provides a video output port in either composite or SuperVHS (Y/C) formats. The standards supported are NTSC and PAL.

Software interfaces are provided to select the output format, the output standard, and the region of the video memory to be output.

Any portion of a video window or a JPEG decompress window, up to the maximum allowed by the selected output format (NTSC=640x483; PAL=767x575), can be output. A state machine is used to control the direction of the video channel, allowing portions of the video memory to be read directly into the output RAMDAC (A combination Digital-to-Analog Converter and Color Lookup Table RAM) at time intervals appropriate for the selected output signal format.

Also, any portion of image memory that is smaller than a full NTSC or PAL frame size may be zoomed up to fill out a full-sized NTSC or PAL output frame.

A SuperVHS output port is provided for use with monitors, VCRs, and other video input devices capable of handling Y/C input. Use of this port for output is recommended: Since the Y (luminance or brightness) and C (chrominance or color) components are output separately, a wider-signal bandwidth than the standard composite video output is provided, yielding superior quality video output.

Supplied Cables

The composite/S-VHS (Y/C) video input/output cable (HD26/3DIN-4BNC, part #HP-C-VIO). "Genlock In" does not work.

The video overlay cable connects the framebuffer to the video overlay card to the monitor (13W3/HD15/13W3, part# SUNO-C-DISP)



VideoTool is a Motif-based application that provides complete control of XVideo-Xtra's analog and digital video I/Os. Video input from any supported source can be mapped to a window on the display, moved, cropped, or scaled down in size while the video is being displayed live.

Individual frames can be frozen and saved to disk in either Sun Raster, Parallax JPEG, JFIF, or 24-bit TIFF format.

Two live video inputs can be viewed and controlled simultaneously. Full support is standard for all input formats supported by XVideo-Xtra, including composite and Y/C.

Control of the video output is provided with this application. Any NTSC/PAL-sized (or smaller) portion of a video window or JPEG decompression window can be sent in realtime to the video output port.

All window mapping, placement, and size adjustments are done from mouse-oriented menus and require no special knowledge or programming skills. Adjustments for analog video input settings are possible from a simple slider panel, with controls for hue, contrast, saturation, and brightness.

The Zoom function may also be selected via the menu functions.


MovieTool is an easy-to-use application for recording and playing back digital JPEG Movie clips. Video input from any supported source can be mapped to a window, and recorded.

The user can select recording speed (1 to 30 frames per second), and the Quantization (Q) factor, controlling how much JPEG compression is performed on each frame before it is written to the movie file.

The size of the video window can also be controlled to help the user save on disk space. A control panel used for record and playback mimics VCR controls, including play, fastforward, pause, and stop. In addition, time controls are shown and attached to buttons, allowing frame-by-frame stepping through the recorded movie.

The recorded movie may be played back into a window on the screen, and can also be sent to the XVideo-Xtra analog output for display on a large-screen device or record onto a VCR.

The Zoom function may also be selected via the menu functions.

Video Development Environment

Xt Widgets and Resources

Xt Widget: VideoIn displays live or still video in an X window

  • XtnblankIntervalHeight
  • XtNbrightness
  • XtNchannel
  • XtNcontrast
  • XtNcropped
  • XtNdiagnostics
  • XtNdisplayrect
  • XtNhardwareType
  • XtNhue
  • XtNinterlaced
  • XtNlive
  • XtNnewFrame
  • XtNnormalAspectRatio
  • Xt Widget: VideoOut exports digital video data to the output channel of an XVideo card

  • XtNchannel
  • XtNdestRect
  • XtNdiagnostics
  • XtNhardwareType
  • XtNnormalAspectRatio
  • XtNsignalFormat
  • Xt Widget: JPEG stores the contents of an X window in a JPEG-compressed image file, decompresses and displays a JPEG-compressed file, or translates JPEG-compressed images.

  • XtNcompressDestRect
  • XtNcompressSourceRect
  • XtNdestWin
  • XtNdiagnostics
  • XtNdisplayDestRect
  • XtNdisplaySourceRect
  • XtNgetNewImage
  • XtNjfifInputFile
  • Motif Functions provide cascading menus for users te select a specific video input and for XVideo users, video output

  • PlxCreateInputCascade
  • PlxCreateOutputCascade
  • Xlib Extensions

    Xlib Video Extension provides core video functionality.

  • XPlxQueryConfig
  • XPlxQueryVideo
  • XPlxSetVideoParameterString
  • XPlxVideoInputSelect
  • XPlxVideoLive
  • XPlxVideoOutputSelect
  • XPlxVideoScaleOutput
  • XPlxVideoSqueezeLive
  • XPlxVideoSqueezeStill
  • XPlxVideoStill
  • XPlxVideoStop
  • System

    DDX Extensions

    The Parallax Graphics XVideo Xtra card has a "DDX" driver to provide extensions to the standard SUN-provided "XSun" server. These extensions allow the windows to be created and placed onto the screen prior to the digitization of video. The modules "extXV.so.1" and "plxSHM.so.1" are placed into the Openwindows directory structure at install time, and are configured into the Openwindows start routines

    Device Drivers

    The Parallax Graphics XVideo Xtra card is represented by the /dev/plxv0 device. If multiple cards are installed, they are labelled as /dev/plxv2 and /dev/plxv4

    System Files

    The Parallax Graphics software installation process creates the file "/etc/xvconfig" which relates the XVideo Xtra devices to the appropriate X-Window servers.

    Test Files

    The Parallax Graphics software installation process creates a directory under $PARALLAX_HOME/diag which provides a diagnostic test program "why_no_xv". The output of this file may be helpful if problems occur during installation of the software.


    The Calibrate program (in $PARALLAX_HOME/bin) allow the user to correctly align the input signal from the SUN framebuffer with the video signal produced by the Parallax XVideo-Xtra card. Files with standard resolutions and refresh rates are provided. Normally, the user must then complete the Calibration with some fine alignment.

    Hardware Warranty

    Parallax Graphics hardware products are guaranteed to be free from manufacturing defects for one year from date of shipment.

    All warranty repair work is FOB Parallax Graphics, Santa Clara, CA and includes parts and labor and return shipment to Parallax's customer. Expedited return shipments are available at additional cost.

    This warranty does not cover gross neglect, physical damage, or use outside of published operating limits, nor does it cover software or firmware.

    The hardware warranty can be extended through the purchase of a hardware maintenance agreement (Parallax Part# MAG-XVS), which entitles the customer to replacement of warranted parts for a period of one year. A factory repair service is also available for out-of-warranty hardware.

    Software Warranty

    Parallax Graphics licensed software is guaranteed to conform to the equivalent user's manual for a period of ninety (90) days from the date of shipment.

    Parallax's sole obligation under this warranty is limited to using reasonable efforts to correct defects and, upon written notification of defects, to supply a corrected version of the software and/or user's manual as soon as practicable.

    Parallax does NOT warranty that (1) software operations will be uninterrupted or error-free; (2) software functions, routines, or modules will work in any/all selectable combinations or meet all user requirements; or (3) all reported software defects will be corrected.

    Parallax's warranty obligations will be void if the software is modified without the written consent of Parallax.

    The software warranty can be extended through the purchase of a software subscription service, which entitles the customer to software updates for the period of one year.


    Parallax Graphics offers both pre- and post-sales technical support. for more information, contact Parallax Graphics. The technical support email address is "tsupport@parallax.com". Technical Support is available from the Parallax Technical Support office in Herndon, Virginia, USA at +1 703 450 7718

    Technical Specifications

    Technical Specifications
    XVideo Xtra
    Video Display Display up to two simultaneous live video windows from composite and/or S-VHS (Y/C) analog inputs
    Video Input Formats NTSC, PAL, SECAM as composite or S-VHS (Y/C), software selectable
    Video Output Formats Send digital video overlay out to a VCR or other device as NTSC or PAL, as composite or S-VHS (Y/C)
    Compression Hardware accelerated JPEG compression and decompresson for real-time motion video capture and playback, and for live networked video (compression ratios 15:1 to 100:1)
    Video Overlay Cable 13W3 to HD15 to 13W3 Y cable
    Video I/O Cable HD26 to 3 DIN and 4 BNC cable, plus RCA adapters
    Software VideoTool, MovieTool, Video Development Environment (see decriptions below)
    Video Performance NTSC 640 x 480 pixels @ 60 fields (30 frames) per second (525 line)
    PAL/SECAM 768 x 576 pixels @ 50 fields (25 frames) per second (625 line)
    Sampling Frequency Square pixels 525 line: 12.2727 MHz, 625 line: 14.75 MHz
    Placement Arbitrary placement on screen; real-time image sizing; switch video on a pixel-by-pixel basis
    Clipping/Stenciling Pixel-by-pixel masking of live video
    Display Pixel Replication Hardware enabled zoom at 1x and 2x (2x width/height, 4x area: zooms to full screen) for one live video window
    Color Mode 24-bit RGB video (4:2:2)
    Software Support Applications VideoTool supports video display and still image capture;
    MovieTool supports motion video capture and playback
    Developer Tools Video Development Environment includes API, libraries, widgets, and sample source code and programs so you can build your own video applications
    Driver Device driver for Solaris 2.5 or higher for SBus; 2.5.1 or higher for PCI Bus
    Interoperability Interoperable with Parallax Graphics SBus/Solaris framebuffer video cards and software (XVideo family), and with EISA Bus/HP-UX video overlay cards and software (XVideo700 family); captured movies, networked video, and still images can be used by third party software applications
    Video Architecture Video Overlay Card (up to 1280 x 1024 x 32 bit overlay)
    Platform Sun workstations with SBus or PCI Bus slots (see Release Notes for a current list of tested systems)
    Bus Interface One available SBus or PCI Bus slot
    Operating System Solaris 2.5 or higher; 2.5.1 or higher required for PCI Bus
    Window Environment OpenWindows 3.5 or higher, or CDE
    Available Disk Space 35 Megabytes (MB) space on a local hard drive
    System RAM 64 MB recommended (32 MB minimum)
    Swap Space 64 MB recommended (32 MB minimum)
    Framebuffer Types Tested with Creator or Creator 3D (SBus and PCI Bus); TGX or TGX+ (SBus only) (see Release Notes for a current list of tested framebuffers)
    Display Resolutions Tested with and Calibration files provided for 1280 x 1024 @ 67 or 76Hz, 1152 x 900 @ 66 or 76 Hz, and 1024 x 768 @ 76 Hz
    Environment Power Requirements SBus: 4.0A@+5VDC 5%; 0.03A@+12VDC 10%, 0.035A@-12VDC 10%
    PCI Bus: 5.0A@+5VDC 5%; 0.03A@+12VDC 10%; 0.035A@-12VDC 10%
    Operating Temperature 10 - 50 degrees C (50 - 120 degrees F)
    Warranty 1 year limited hardware warranty (included). Extensions available (optional).

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