Pushing The FPGA Video Player Further

A fact universally known among the Hackaday community is that projects are never truly done. You can always spin another board release to fix a silkscreen mistake, get that extra little boost of performance, or finally spend the time to track down that weird transient bug. Or in [ultraembedded’s] case, take a custom FPGA player from 800 x 600 to 1280 x 720. The hardware used is a Digilent Arty A7 and PMOD boards for I2S2, VGA, and MicroSD. We previously covered this project back when it was first getting started.

Getting from 800 x 600 to 1280 x 720 — 31% more pixels — required implementing a higher performance JPEG decoder that can read in the MPJEG frames, pushing out a pixel every 2.1 clock cycles. The improvements also include a few convenience features such as an IR remote. The number of submodules inside the system is just incredible, with most of them being implemented or tweaked by [ultraembedded] himself.

For the FPGA Verilog, there’s the SD/MMC interface, the JPEG decoder, the audio controller, the DVI framebuffer, a peripheral core, and a custom RISC-V CPU. For the firmware loaded off the SD card, it uses a custom RTOS running an MP3 decoder, a FAT32 interface, an IR decoder, and a UI based on LVGL.

We think this project represents a wonderful culmination of all the different IP cores that [ultraembedded] has produced over the years. All the code for the FPGA media player is available on GitHub.

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Escape To An Alternate Reality Anywhere With Port-A-Vid

There was a time when only the most expensive televisions could boast crystal clear pixels on a wall-mountable thin screen. What used to be novelty from “High Definition Flat Screen Televisions are now just “TV” available everywhere. So as a change of pace from our modern pixel perfection, [Emily Velasco] built the Port-A-Vid as a relic from another timeline.

The centerpiece of any aesthetically focused video project is obviously the screen, and a CRT would be the first choice for a retro theme. Unfortunately, small CRTs have recently become scarce, and a real glass picture tube would not fit within the available space anyhow. Instead, we’re actually looking at a modern LCD sitting behind a big lens to give it an old school appearance.

The lens, harvested from a rear-projection TV, was chosen because it was a good size to replace the dial of a vacuum gauge. This project enclosure started life as a Snap-On Tools MT425 but had become just another piece of broken equipment at a salvage yard. The bottom section, formerly a storage bin for hoses and adapters, is now home to the battery and electronics. All original markings on the hinged storage lid were removed and converted to the Port-A-Vid control panel.

A single press of the big green button triggers a video to play, randomly chosen from a collection of content [Emily] curated to fit with the aesthetic. We may get a clip from an old educational film, or something shot with a composite video camera. If any computer graphics pop up, they will be primitive vector graphics. This is not the place to seek ultra high definition content.

As a final nod to common artifacts of electronics history, [Emily] wrote an user’s manual for the Port-A-Vid. Naturally it’s not a downloadable PDF, but a stack of paper stapled together. Each page written in the style of electronics manuals of yore, treated with the rough look of multiple generation photocopy rumpled with use.

If you have to ask “Why?” it is doubtful any explanation would suffice. This is a trait shared with many other eclectic projects from [Emily]. But if you are delighted by fantastical projects hailing from an imaginary past, [Emily] has also built an ASCII art cartridge for old parallel port printers.

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An FPGA Video Player Built Just For Fun

Sometimes, projects are borne out of neccessity; a fix for a problem that needs to be solved. Other times, they’re done just for the love of creation and experimentation. [ultraembedded]’s FPGAmp media player falls under the latter, and served as a great learning experience along the way.

The aim of FPGAmp is to play back a variety of media files on the Arty A7 development board, based around the Xilinx Artix-7 FPGA. Capable of playing back MJPEG video at 800 x 600 resolution and 25 fps, it’s also able to play back MP3s as well for stereo audio. Demonstrating the device on Twitter, [ultraembedded] notes that the method of using an LED to do SPDIF optical audio output isn’t legit, but does work. A later update switches to using a dedicated audio output board with the Arty A7 platform, featuring an excellent song from The Cardigans.

Using a RISC V processor core and a hardware JPEG decoder, we imagine [ultraembedded] really sharpened their FPGA skills with this project. Particularly in the wake of the sale of ARM to NVIDIA, RISC V continues to gain relevance in the hardware community. We were lucky enough to feature a keynote at last year’s Supercon, with Megan Wachs speaking on the technology. Video after the break.

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CBS To Advertise Using Video-in-Print Technology


In what seems like another move to blur the line between digital and print media, CBS has announced that they will be introducing something called Video-in-Print technology in next month’s issue of Entertainment Weekly. Video-in-Print, or ViP, technology consists of a small LCD screen and circuit board that can be inserted into print media and play video and audio content. CBS is using the ViP technology to promote their fall prime-time television lineup. Video-in-Print technology is the brainchild of Americhip, a company that claims to specialize in multisensory marketing. The ViP player in next month’s issue of Entertainment Weekly incorporates a 320×240 resolution TFT LCD screen and a rechargeable battery lasting 50-60 hours. The battery can be recharged via the player’s on-board mini USB port. While this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen a magazine do something like this, as far as we know this is the first time that anyone has put a video player into a magazine. That being said, there seems to be no indication whether or not CBS will make it easy for us to modify the ViP player’s software like Esquire did with their e-ink display. We’re not entirely sure what we’re going to do with the ViP player, but the fact that it has a mini USB port gives us some interesting ideas. Juicebox, anyone?

VLC Media Player 0.9.2 Released

VideoLAN just released VLC media player 0.9.2. VLC is probably the best known open source media player, and supports most audio/video formats without additional codecs. Before VLC, we usually installed buggy codec packs to watch videos in Winamp or Windows Media Player. We’ve found the nightly builds to be pretty stable for the past month, but it’s nice to see the final version released.

Download Squad gushed over the new interface design, but omitted the real change — VideoLAN switched from wxWidgets to the Qt toolkit. Among many changes, Qt allows video effects to be applied without restarting the media.

One of our favorite new features is an adjustments and effects menu for quick picture, sound, and subtitle tweaks. The new version has better support for flash videos (FLV), and will stream from most online video sharing sites. See the full changelog at the VideoLAN wiki, and help out if that’s your thing.

[via Download Squad]