1. Reducing Investment – Testing Analog and Digital Video with a Single System
One of the major challenges manufacturers face is that nearly all video devices (for example, set-top boxes, DVD players, and so on) have multiple analog interfaces (component, composite, S-video) along with at least one digital interface such as High Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI). This rise in device complexity has required manufacturers to change their test strategies. In the past, vendors worked with traditional box instruments, which can usually test up to one or two analog video interfaces. Today, however, traditional box instruments simply do not provide the capability to test all of the different interfaces required. As a result, multiple instruments are required to test all of the analog formats, and additional instruments are needed to test digital video. With this approach, a full video test system may include three to five different instruments and cost in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, making it very expensive and not very modular. Programming and synchronizing these devices to test a single device adds even more complexity when developing video test applications. Such a system is especially challenging to incorporate into production test environments where the technology can change frequently as a company releases new products that incorporate new technologies.
Using the PXI platform, you can select the modular instruments necessary to perform any analog and digital video measurements. With the additional synchronization and triggering of PXI, you can test any number of analog and digital interfaces. NI VideoMASTER combined with PXI offers a single solution to test analog and digital video.
VideoMASTER takes advantage of PXI architecture and modular instrumentation to help you increase test speeds while decreasing test costs and overall footprint. With a single PXI system, you can generate and acquire both analog and digital video as well as include hardware for audio analysis. Because of this, you can test a range of products including set-top boxes, Blu-ray players, HDTVs, video ICs, and LCD displays.
|Figure 1. PXI-based modular instruments (left) combined with VideoMASTER software create an all-encompassing solution for video test by increasing throughput and lowering the cost of test. The PXI system (right) consists of modular instruments for the generation and acquisition of both analog and digital video with several video interfaces, in other words, component, composite, S-video, HDMI, and DVI.|
NI Video Measurement Suite software is a configuration-based tool you can use to configure tests in just a few minutes or even seconds. NI Video Measurement Suite for acquisition and analysis is available in two form factors. The first is a stand-alone application that you can use to quickly make measurements and validate the testing of video units under test (UUTs). The second is a custom step that is optimized for automated test in NI TestStand. The ability to quickly reconfigure or replace a test sequence step gives you flexibility as you face the challenges of testing newer and faster products in a rapidly changing industry. The software also uses the same configuration steps for both analog and digital video, making transitions between analog and digital tests as simple as a few mouse clicks.
|Figure 2. NI Video Measurement Suite for generation is used to create custom video patterns (middle) in either analog or digital formats, which are then generated on the associated hardware. NI Video Measurement Suite for acquisition is used to acquire analog and digital video (left) and is configured to take user-selected measurements on the video signal (right).|
2. Increasing Throughput – Automation and Configuration-Based Development
Manufacturers are continually trying to meet the needs of a market that demands the latest digital video standards while dealing with the slow throughput of a test system that primarily uses box instruments. They are also sometimes forced to forgo crucial tests to ensure a product gets to market on time, which may lead to higher than expected RMA rates later. These throughput challenges continue to grow as the demand for faster and leaner digital video spreads from HDTV to telematics, teleconferencing, security systems, and other markets.
The configuration-based steps for NI TestStand make NI Video Measurement Suite a powerful solution for automated video test. VideoMASTER can perform measurements that commonly take minutes using box instruments. The ability to switch between analog and digital tests with ease by simply changing the video format in two successive steps provides even more control over an automated application. Figure 3 shows a common set of measurements being performed on a set-top box and the associated test speed of NI Video Measurement Suite.
|Figure 3. In this example, 17 VideoMASTER configuration steps were used to perform 125 analog measurements and 144 digital measurements on a set-top box (left). In all, 269 measurements were taken and compared to expected values and a report was generated all within 5.2 seconds.|
Each of the 17 configuration steps above uses the same user interface but is configured for a different set of measurements on a digital or analog signal. With this code modularity, you can quickly prototype tests for a new set-top box, semiconductor chip, or Blu-ray player that needs to get to market fast.
The engineers at Grass Valley were able to increase their test times by 75 percent by using the PXI platform and configuration-based development of VideoMASTER. Find a link to the full case study at the bottom of the page.
3. Choosing and Expanding Architecture – PXI and Modular Instruments
As was previously discussed, one of the greatest challenges with video test is keeping up with the latest video standards. The hardware used to test video signals today may not be able to meet the demands for the higher resolution, faster refresh rates, and extended colors of tomorrow's digital video. For this reason, you need to develop a test framework that you can easily upgrade for testing new technologies. Too often you are stuck with old box instruments that worked for one application but then were not good enough for the next wave of technology trends.
With the PXI platform, you can upgrade hardware to accommodate your changing test needs. The ability to upgrade to a higher-resolution digitizer or faster digital I/O module helps you be better prepared for new technologies as they become available. Using a modular, high-performance PXI solution, you can overcome even the toughest challenges that analog and digital video test present to the market.