Author: gelk

Interfacing FPD-Link III to a x86-PC via PCI Express

FPD-Link III tp PCIe Interface

A computer with a GPU combined with an FPGA is a powerful tool for high speed video processing. An FPGA can preprocess multiple video streams in realtime and then send the data to the GPU for further processing.

FPD-Link III is a cost-effective solution for high speed video transmission. It has made a name for itself for its widespread use in the automotive industry. The transmission can be done over a simple coaxial cable but includes not just a video data stream, but also a bidirectional configuration channel and a power supply for the camera.

The purpose of this project is to design hardware which makes it possible to take full advantage of the developed FPAG-GPU co design and to combine it with an FPD-Link III interface. The resulting baseboard utilizes PCI Express implemented in an FPGA which allows connecting up to 6 FPD-Link III. The FPGA is embedded in a system-on-chip and could potentially also be used stand-alone. As a further video source option, it also includes two connectors for MIPI CSI cameras. These are designed to be compatible with RaspberryPi cameras.

See our blog xxx for solving the bottleneck between CPU and GPU


In a standard computer, PCI Express (PCIe) offers the possibility for two devices to exchange data on up to 16 high speed data lanes. The CPU is master of the PCIe interface and therefore usually initiates data transfers. This causes overhead and limits the maximum transfer speed for certain applications. The paper FPGA-GPU Codesign from xxx implements solutions to transfer data directly from an FPGA over PCIe to a GPU without the CPU being a bottleneck for the data througput. This approach can be especially useful for applications with high resolution video streams which need to be processed in real time. Live video streams from multiple cameras can be preprocessed in the FPGA and then be transmitted via PCI Express to the GPU for further processing. This thesis is about implementing hardware suitable to take full advantage of this idea.

The goal is to be able to connect multiple cameras to a computer via a PCIe baseboard with an FPGA. The camera interface chosen for this baseboard is FPD-Link III.


FPD-Link III is a cost-effective solution for high speed video transmission. It has gained relevance in automotive applications. Cameras in cars are becoming more common. Nowadays even low cost cars come with a rear camera to assist while parking. FPD-Link III can also be used in different industrial applications, especially for real time use-cases which require high-bandwidth transmissions.

The goal of this project is to develop a Baseboard that makes it possible to connect multiple FPD-Link III cameras to a standard computer with high data rates. The video data from the cameras should be preprocessed in the FPGA and then be forwarded to the computer via PCI Express. Cameras also require to be configured. This configuration will be handled in the FPGA over FPD-Link III.

The Basics of FPD-Link III

Flat panel display link III (FPD-Link III) can be used to receive data from a camera or to send data to a display. The well known standards for high speed video transmission on the consumer market are HDMI, DisplayPort and USB. However, these cables are expensive and better suited for short distances. FPD-Link III can be used with coaxial or a shielded twisted-pair (STP) cables. A 15 m coaxial cable supports data rates up to 6 Gbps and a 10 m long STQ (shielded twisted quad) cable supports up to about 5 Gbps. But FPD-Link III does not only transmit video data. In addition to the video channel, there is also a bidirectional control channel. This is needed for a processor to configure the camera sensor. In case of a display, the control channel can for example be used to send commands from the touchscreen to the processor. The video channel occupies the frequency range between 70MHz and 700MHz whereas the control channel lies between 1MHz and 5MHz.
An additional feature of FPD-Link III is Power over coax which offers the possibility to power the image sensor over the coax cable. This eliminates the need for a further cable for power supply.

FPD-Link III to PCIe Video Pipeline

The architecture shown in below figure allows multiple FPD-Link III to connect multiple cameras via PCIe to a x86-PC. As shown in the below figure, the video is transmitted from a camera sensor to a serializer which sends the video over FPD-Link III in a coaxial cable to the deserializer. The deserializer transmit the data to the FPGA over MIPI CSI-2 D-PHY. In the FPGA, the data can be preprocessed and then be sent over PCIe to the memory on the computer. There will be multiple deserializers on the baseboard so multiple cameras can be connected.

The concept of the Baseboard

The following figure shows a sketch of the concept for the baseboard. The path of the video data is colored in bright green. On the left side there are six coax connectors for the FPD-Link III interface (number of coax connectors is limited to six because of the defined maximum width of a PCIe card). The data goes through the deserializer to the FPGA. From the FPGA the data is transmitted to a computer over PCIe. In addition to the FPD-Link III connectors there are two MIPI CSI-2 D-PHY connectors which are compatable with the RaspberryPi-Camera. This gives the user an additional option for a video source.

The main focus of the project is the deserializer for FPD-Link III, the integration of a SoC FPGA and the PCIe interface. The company Enclustra offers a selection of SoC modules which entail a Xilinx MPSoC (Multiprocessor system-on-chip), SDRAM, flash memory and more. The module can be mounted to the baseboard via connectors. Figure 2.2 shows additional hardware and interfaces which are needed for an operating baseboard. The SoC needs a JTAG interface for programming and debugging. An SD-card slot is added and can be used as the boot device. The boot mode switch can be used to change the source device for the boot process. The SoC can be reset over a button and a status LED gives further information about the state of the SoC. The UART (Universal Asynchronous Receiver Transmitter) is needed for the console output of the processor. An ethernet connector makes it possible to get access to the processor with SSH (Secure Shell).

A power switch makes it possible to choose between an external power supply or the 12V supplied over the PCIe interface from the computer. The external supply is needed when the SoC should be programmed before the computer is booted. The connection to PCIe devices are established while booting in the bios, which means the FPGA should be programmed before the computer turns on. The external supply is also useful when the board consumes more power than the computer can supply.

PCIe can be used in four different lane configurations: 1-, 4-, 8- or 16-lanes. The PCIe switch is used to choose between these options.

FPD-Link III DeSerializer

The deserializer converts the FPD-Link III signal to MIPI CSI-2 which can be connected to the FPGA. Texas Instruments (TI) offers a variety of solutions for FPD-Link III serializers and deserializers. The requirements for choosing a deserializer are the following:

• Input: FPD-Link III LVDS
• Output: MIPI CSI-2
• Able to connect to 2+MP (mega pixel) cameras

TI provides two deserializers which meet the given requirements. These are DS90UB960-Q1 (960) and DS90UB954-Q1 (954).
The 960 and 954 models have the same maximum data rates for FPD-Link III and MIPI CSI-2. However, 954 has more GPIO pins per camera. 954 has 7 GPIOs for 2 cameras and 960 has 8 GPIOs for 4 cameras. GPIO signals are useful to get diagnostics of the deserializer, but they can also be used to connect directly to the camera sensor board. Some cameras need for example an enable signal which can be set by the processor over these GPIOs. For more information about GPIOs see section 3.3.4. The deserializer chosen for this baseboard is the DS90UB954-Q1.
Below picture shows the available serializers and deserializers from TI

Implementation of the Deserializer

The DS90UB954-Q1 deserializer can be used with one or two camera sensors over FPD-Link III. It supports 2MP@60fps and 4MP@40fps cameras. The two input channels RIN0/RIN1 can be enabled and disabled through registers of the deserializer (Register: RX_PORT_CTL, 0x0C). The input channels can be used as single ended (coaxial channel) or as differential (STP). This baseboard uses single ended coaxial connections. This means the RN- port of a channel is connected to ground with a 15nF-capacitor and a 50 ohm resistor. The RN+ port is connected to the conductor inside the coax connector with a 33nF capacitor in series. This capacitor blocks the receiver ports of the deserializer from any DC voltage. This is especially important if power over coax is used.
Power over coax (PoC) makes it possible to use the coaxial cable to supply power to the camera sensor. The output of a power supply is connected to the coaxial connector with a filter in series. This filter is needed to shield the power supply from the AC signal transmitted between deserializer and camera sensor over FPD-Link III.

Typically, the PoC voltage is between 5V and 36V baseboard. Before connecting a camera to the baseboard it must always be checked what PoC voltage is tolerated by the camera board. If needed, the PoC voltage can be cut off from the coax connector design provided from TI

The FPD-Link III PCIe baseboard was successfully designed and produced. Parts of the baseboard are tested and verify that the baseboard as such is functional. The components for the MPSoC are working properly and the baseboard was successfully detected over PCIe. Some tests showed that there is still work to do in the bring-up of the baseboard.

A task that is still open is the debugging of the PCIe to get a working link with lane width of 8 and 16. The link to a PCIe device is established during the boot of the BIOS (basic input/output system) which is demanding to debug.

The RaspberryPi camera can be configured over I2C and it sends data which is recognized by the MIPI receive block in the FPGA. But the data shows that it is not yet sending frames correctly. The camera configurations and the FPGA design need to be revised.

The most important task is setting up the FPD-Link III cameras. This could not be realized in this thesis because of time limitations. This task includes setting the registers of the deserializer correctly and then configuring the serializer and the camera sensor properly over FPD-Link III.


Once all these individual parts are completed, they can to be combined into one single system that collects video streams from multiple cameras and transfers the data to a computer via PCIe.

Direct communication between FPGA and GPU using Frame Based DMA (FDMA)

By Philipp Huber, Hans-Joachim Gelke, Matthias Rosenthal

GPUs with their immense parallelization are best fitted for real-time video and signal processing. However, in a real-time system, the direct high-speed interface to the signal sources, such as cameras or sensors, is often missing. For this task, field programmable gate arrays (FPGA) are ideal for capturing and preprocessing multiple video streams or high speed sensor data in real time.
Besides the partitioning of computational tasks between GPU and FPGA the direct communication between GPU and FPGA is the key challenge in such a design. However, since the Data communication is typically controlled by the CPU, this often becomes the bottleneck of the system

This blog shows a new method for an efficient GPU-FPGA co-design called Frame based DMA (FDMA) which is based on GPUDirect, but without using the CPU for data transfer. This versatile solution can be used for a variety of different applications, where hard real-time capabilities are required.

The Institute of Embedded Systems, an entity of Zurich University of Applied Sciences (ZHAW), developed the FDMA methodology for direct data transfers between the FPGA and the GPU. This IP has been compared with an implementation based on the Xilinx XDMA IP.

GPUDirect DMA in NVIDIA Devices
Nvidia Quadro and Tesla GPUs support GPUDirect RDMA mapping of GPU RAM to the Linux IO-memory address space.
The CPU and other PCIe devices can access the mapped memory directly. Using GPUDirect the FPGA has direct access to the mapped GPU RAM.

Fig. 1: Direct transfer without CPU involvement

XDMA Implementation from Xilinx
This implementation is based on the XDMA IP from Xilinx. With this IP the host can initialize any DMA transfer between the FPGA internal address space and the I/O-memory address space. This allows direct transfers between the FPGA internal address space and the mapped GPU RAM. However, the host has to initialize each data transfer. As a result, an application has to run on the host, which is listening to messages from the devices. This application starts the data transfers if the devices are ready.

Fig. 2: Xilinx XDMA IP based implementation

ZHAW FDMA Implementation
For this concept of direct FPGA-GPU communication, a special DMA-IP was developed at ZHAW InES. This DMA-IP is called Frame based DMA (FDMA) and is designed to work without any host interactions after system setup. This approach uses the AXI to PCIe Bridge IP from Xilinx to translate AXI transactions to PCIe transactions. FDMA supports multiple RX and TX buffers in the GPU. This allows using one buffer for reading or writing and the other buffers for GPU processing. Each GPU buffer has a flag in the GPU RAM. This flag indicates who has access to this buffer and is used for synchronization between the GPU and the FPGA.

Fig. 3: InES frame based DMA implementation

Achieved Data rates of FDMA Implementation
For the following measurements, a Xilinx Kintex 7 FPGA with PCIe Gen2x4 and an Nvidia Quadro P2000 PCIe Gen3x16 have been used.
The data rates with the two implementations have been measured with the Xilinx Kintex-7 FPGA and the Nvidia Quadro P2000. The slowest link between them is PCIe Gen2x4 with a link speed of 16Gbit/s. The Figure 4 shows the average data rate for different transfer sizes. FDMA is faster for small transfers, because the host doesn’t have to initialize every transfer. For larger block sizes the XDMA implementation is faster, because of performance issues in the Xilinx AXI to PCIe Bridge IP.

Fig. 4: Average data rates comparing FDMA with XDMA

Resulting Transaction Jitter FDMA vs. XDMA
For real time data processing a low execution jitter is needed. This execution jitter was measured with both implementations by measuring the transfer rate of 10’000’000 data transfers of 32 bytes. Based on these measurements, the three distributions shown in Figure 5 to 7 have been calculated

Fig. 5: XDMA transfer jitter
Fig. 6: FDMA transfer jitter with FDMA and X11

As these measurements reveal, the XDMA implementation has a huge transaction jitter. This is the case because the Linux host has to initialize every single transfer and Linux is not a real time operating system. The two measurements of the FDMA implementation reveal that there is still a small transaction jitter when the X11 server is running on the same GPU but it disappears nearly completely when disabling the X11 server, as shown in the drawing below.

Fig. 7: FDMA transfer jitter when X11 Server is disabled

Both implementations, FDMA and XDMA make use of the direct transfers between the FPGA and the GPU and therefore reduce the load on the CPU. The FDMA developed at Institute of Embedded Systems does not need any host interaction after setup and such transfer jitter is extremely low. This makes the FDMA implementation perfect for time critical streaming-applications.

For further information please contact or

Multi-Channel I2S-Audio to MIPI-Camera Serial Interface (CSI) Converter FPGA-IP

The NVIDA Tegra™ Processors TX1/TX2 with their powerful GPUs are ideal for use in professional audio mixing consoles or audio video equipment. However, if multiple audio channels are required,  the TX1/TX2 is limited to I2S audio inputs. Utilizing the MIPI® Camera Serial Interface (CSI-2) and the InES I2S to CSI-2 converter IP, enables  streaming of up to 256 digital audio channels into the TX1/TX2.

Institute of embeddeded Systems (InES) developed an FPGA-IP which converts the  I2S audio to  up to four CSI-lanes for feeding audio into mobile processors like the NVIDA Tegra™ TX1/TX2.

A Linux driver, which links the received CSI signals to the Tegra™ TX1/TX2 processor buses, is also available. Hence, audio can be processed on the TX1/TX2 GPU or the internal audio blocks.

I2S sources could be audio codecs, SDI or HDMI chips. The CSI-2 protocoll engine can be configured  to generate CSI-2 data packets for one or four CSI lanes, depending on the required bandwidth. The CSI clock and data physical interfaces support differential (high speed) and low power CSI-2 signals.

The IP is written in VHDL and tested with Intel Cyclone-IV FPGAs. It is also possible to be synthesized into Xilinx or Lattice FPGAs.

For more information contact Hans-Joachim Gelke (

Block Diagramm of I2S to CSI IP

Redundant 4k Video Streaming via Several LTE Connections

The InES HPMM research group presents a concept for a mobile and redundant 4K video streaming over LTE networks. It combines powerful 4K video capturing and processing capabilities of dedicated accelerators with the modularity and flexibility of an embedded high performance SoC. The Nvidia TX2 Module is the ideal platform for this purpose.
Since the TX2 supports efficient HEVC encoding, one stream in 4k quality 1), or several streams in HD-quality 2) can be transmitted over one LTE connection 3).  Several LTE channels can be combined together for redundant transmission via different LTE networks.
A video input mixer on the NVIDIA-TX2 GPU allows scaling, overlay and side by side mixing of video sources.
HDMI is fed directly into the TX2 video path via a HDMI to CSI converter.

1) Main profile, up to 1 x 2160p60

2) 4x 1080p60 or 8x 1080P30

3) min. 5 Mbps are required for 2160p30

Low Latency, Highly Reliable Wireless Video Transmission to iPad

Institute of Embedded Systems, a research institute of Zurich University of Applied Sciences generated a reference design for a low latency, highly reliable wireless video transmission from a battery operated camera to an iPad or iPhone. The design is suitable for everything that requires a robust low latency video link such as vehicle remote control, industrial applications, automotive applications and others. Since the transmission is Wi-Fi based, no extra hardware to receive the video stream on an iPad or iPhone is required.
The camera module consists of an Intel SoC-FPGA with integrated single core ARM-A9 with flexible interface to various types of cameras and SDIO interface to the Wi-Fi module. Optional LCD interfaces or an SD-card slot allow monitoring and recording of the video at the camera module.


The low latency video compression algorithm is nearly lossless and always transmits full frames. While the compression is implemented in the FPGA fabric, control is accomplished by a Linux operating system in the ARM-A9.
Error correction avoids pixel and frame drops even if Wi-Fi transmission is problematic, like in busy areas or in difficult topography. The Wi-Fi standard includes automatic retransmission of lost packets. However, there still remains a chance that packets are lost. To increase reliability even further, we add redundant packets. This slightly increases the bandwidth however does not add significant latency.
To receive the video stream, it is enough to install a viewer app, no extra hardware is required. Video decompression and error correction are solely handled in the GPU and the CPU of the iPad.
The FPGA IP requires only 2.9k logic cells, which is 18% of a 15k logic cell Intel Cyclone-V SoC.
The transmitter IP controls an 802.11n Wi-Fi module like the Texas Instruments WL1835MOD, however other TI modules are supported as well.
The measured glass to glass latency can be as low as 65 ms (2 video frames at 30 fps). However, dependent on the selected compression rate and the Wi-Fi channel quality, the latency might be higher.
For more information, contact