Before the Rio Olympics kicked off, we talked about how the Internet of Things would be utilized to improve things like judging some of the events and tracking athletes tracking during the marathon. But even beyond IoT, Brazil’s technology game was strong. Digital coverage of the Olympics set a record with 3.3 billion minutes of total content streamed, with 2.7 billion minutes of that happening live. These numbers mean the 2016 Rio Olympics were likely the most streamed event in history, with more than 100 million people streaming games-related content over two weeks.
That doesn’t happen without some serious timing and synchronization.
The Lifecycle of a Video Signal
Live, televised events typically utilize a number of cameras to capture the action from various angles. This is especially true for sporting events, where different cameras follow the action around a field of play. Cameras capture the images by converting light into electrical signals. Horizontal, vertical, and field synchronization (HVF) information is then added to the signals so the receiver is able to identify the edges of the frame. All of these signals, which are being generated and transmitted simultaneously, need to be synchronized in order to seamlessly switch between sources without buffering.
We’re only scratching the surface, but you can see going from source to final broadcast takes a lot of engineering. And bringing the action from the beaches of Rio to the comfort of your living room requires a lot of components, from switchers that coordinate multiple video sources including cameras and storage devices to distribution amplifiers that beam video signals around the studio and beyond. There are also timing generators and frame synchronizers that synchronize each source, as well as routers that provide a single point for switching signals to and from other studios. As if that’s not complicated enough, many of these components need to support multiple standard and high definition video formats available today.
More than one hundred million people streamed the Olympics online, which means each one had an individual data stream. With proper timing, the broadcast signal is being sent and received like clockwork. When it begins to break down, for example if the router between the broadcast TV studio and the network is overloaded, the timing of the signal delivery is thrown off. If you’re watching a movie, the result can be that the picture freezes for a second or the service will stop to buffer content. This is annoying, but if you’re watching a sporting event that might be decided by seconds, these kinds of delays kill the user experience.
Meeting the Growing Needs of Video Transmission
Think of these timing components as the conductor of an orchestra, but instead of dozens of instruments on a stage, it’s coordinating millions of data streams around the globe between the broadcast video studio and the device you’re streaming to. This is where Silicon Labs comes in.
Our oscillators, jitter attenuators, clock generators and clock buffers are used virtually everywhere video synchronization is needed, including supplying the world’s leading internet equipment suppliers. Content providers, whether it’s a television network or a movie streaming service, rely on networks that can deliver great viewing experiences for their subscribers.
This is where we come in. Our portfolio includes the industry’s most comprehensive timing portfolio. Like the orchestra’s conductor, our timing products set the beat for Internet traffic by coordinating the content exchange between service providers and consumers.
Our crystal oscillators and voltage-controlled crystal oscillators (XO/VCXOs) utilize advanced DSPLL circuitry to provide a low jitter clock at any frequency from 100 kHz to 1.4 GHz. Silicon Labs offers single, dual, quad, and I2C programmable frequency XO/VCXOs, enabling a single device to replace multiple XO/VCXOs. This IC-based approach delivers exceptional reliability, while providing best-in-class jitter performance and supply noise rejection, simplifying the task of generating low-jitter clocks in noisy environments.
In video applications, Silicon Labs jitter attenuators provide Genlock support, enabling effective video synchronization across different studio equipment. Our jitter attenuators generate any combination of output frequencies from any input frequency with industry-leading jitter performance. Based on our 4th-generation DSPLL architecture, these devices simplify clock tree design by replacing multiple clocks and oscillators, minimizing BOM count and complexity.
Silicon Labs’ highly flexible clock generators can be customized to generate any combination of output frequencies from any input frequency. In addition to providing industry-leading frequency flexibility, Silicon Labs’ clocks deliver best-in-class jitter performance, lower power, and smaller size. These flexible devices are designed to replace multiple oscillators and fixed-function clock ICs, enabling multiple components to be replaced with a complete clock-tree-on-a-chip.
Our family of low-jitter clock buffers support any signal format in/out, providing flexible format translation in addition to low jitter, low skew clock distribution. This flexibility reduces BOM complexity by allowing the same device to be used across multiple projects and platforms.
To learn more about our timing and synchronization portfolio, click here.