Pinnacle Imaging Systems is a company that has been focused on High Dynamic Range (HDR) for some time – longer than any other company on the planet, the company claimed in an email exchange. This has resulted in a software product called HDR Express 3 that sells for only $79 and is aimed at the professional still camera market. This allows a user to merge and process multiple exposures of an image to obtain one with high dynamic range – something an individual exposure could not produce. But in 2011, it set out to develop a unique set of IP for still imaging HDR and transfer that knowledge into the embedded video space. Now, it is ready to begin licensing the fruits of this effort, called Ultra HDR, as an IP core to still and video camera makers.
With this IP core, which can be ported to support a number of different sensors types and logic (FPGA, ISP, DSP+SoC, or ASIC), camera makers have a new way to create real time HDR stills and videos for applications where it has not really been possible before, since only high end cinema-grade camera have HDR capabilities today.
Security and surveillance, intelligent traffic and transportation systems, after-market automotive camera systems, wearable camera and vision systems, etc. can all benefit from improved image detail in the deep shadow and bright highlight areas.
For example, compact POV action cameras are notorious for having difficulty in high contrast situations. Pinnacle Imaging’s Ultra HDR technology allows a skier to capture both highlight and shadow detail despite the constant transition from bright white snow to shaded trees. Similarly, embedded HDR capture improves high contrast situations such as a police dash cam that cannot provide sufficient detail of a road-side encounter against oncoming headlights. This same technology allows surveillance cameras to track a suspect from a sun-drenched parking lot into a dim interior. Pinnacle Imaging profiles these Ultra HDR technology applications on: http://www.ultrahdrvideo.com .
As shown in the graphic, the company’s IP core includes three major blocks to merge the multiple exposure frames, perform color space correction and then process the tone mapping needed to create the HDR image. This processing is agnostic about the sensor type whether global or rolling shutter, with or without in-sensor HDR/WDR capability.
Pinnacle Imaging says its patented HDR merge and tone mapping IP cores are modeled on true human vision to ensure preservation of a scene’s true colors throughout the tone mapping process. Ultra HDR provides capture and proprietary adaptive tone mapping of HDR scenes up to 19 EV or 115 dB. It can support capture at 120 fps (merging four exposures per frame), and stream full 1080 HDMI tone mapped video for display at up to 60 fps in real time.
The user can select different capture modes too such as two, three or four exposure brackets, dual conversion gain or any combination thereof. This enables the Ultra HDR technology to adapt to a number of different components, design priorities and BOM requirements.
Pinnacle Imaging Systems’ Ultra HDR technology addresses many of the complexities involved in HDR video capture including:
- Automatic Ghost Removal & Halo Reduction – Compensates for movement between HDR exposures, from minimal camera motion to moving objects between frames
- Adaptive Local Tone Mapping – Automatically optimizes the tone mapping parameters based on the shadow and highlight areas of each individual video frame to ensure a more natural look to the output video
- Automatic White Balance Controls – Automatically calculates proper white balance settings for any scene or lighting condition
- Automatic Exposure Controls – Real time calculation and adjustment of the sensor’s exposure settings based on an automatic or manually selected region of interest to allow accurate exposure throughout a scene
- Shadow Exposure Bias Option – Ability to bias tone mapping with an additional Shadow Tracking option during the Auto Exposure mode for optimal shadow detail and data preservation, a key requirement for surveillance applications
This news supports the notion that HDR is expanding beyond the use in cinema and TV into a range of professional applications and will become the new mainstream dynamic range solution over time.- CC