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MotionDSP's vReveal and Nvidia's CUDA


GPGPU gets another chance to shine
— 12:53 PM on March 25, 2009

We already know Nvidia graphics processors can do more than play games. Thanks to Nvidia's CUDA architecture, GeForces can be used for tasks ranging from game physics acceleration to video transcoding. Today, we're going to look at another item in the CUDA bag of tricks: video enhancement.

Chances are you may not have heard of MotionDSP: it's a Silicon Valley start-up that's made a business out of improving video quality for security firms and government agencies thanks to its Ikena software suite. You know those CSI moments in movies and TV shows when a video is being analyzed, and with the touch of a button, the image can be zoomed and enhanced to reveal the identity of the bad guy? That's the kind of software MotionDSP produces.

MotionDSP made its first foray into consumer products with FixMyMovie.com. That tool brought some of the firm's video enhancement algorithms to mainstream consumers, who are used to working with low-quality video shot with devices like mobile phones. FixMyMovie is no more, however, and in its place MotionDSP has launched vReveal. Like FixMyMovie before it, vReveal is designed to bring the power of enterprise-grade video enhancement software down to consumers—but with a twist.

Consumer apps need to support consumer hardware, and to that end, MotionDSP went to great lengths to refine its algorithms as much as possible for mainstream configurations. Then it went one step further by partnering with Nvidia to build in CUDA support, with the intent to vault vReveal performance to new levels. The pairing seems like a natural fit, since it should theoretically mimic the performance advantages of other GPGPU apps like Badaboom's video transcoder.

vReveal's features
vReveal is not a video editor. It doesn't compete with iMovie, Adobe Premiere Elements, or even Windows Movie Maker. Instead, vReveal is a video enhancer, offering features not found in traditional video editors. The program's interface is fairly straightforward, and you'll feel right at home if you've ever used Google's Picasa.

So, what makes vReveal special? Here's a breakdown of its different features:

  • Clean — Removes visual artifacts induced by low-quality image sensors. Noise from dim filming conditions can be cleaned up, too, as can macroblocking caused by compression algorithms.
  • 2x Resolution — This is the big one. MotionDSP claims vReveal is the only consumer app with "super-resolution" capabilities, which is basically a fancy marketing term for advanced resizing algorithms. Other programs use various interpolation methods, but vReveal relies on adjacent video frames to enhance the image. By comparing the contents of previous and following frames, 2x Resolution is able to enlarge a video more accurately and fill in the new pixels.
  • Sharpen — It does exactly what you'd expect: sharpen object edges and reduce video blur.
  • Auto Contrast Once again, the name is pretty self-explanatory. This feature will automatically improve washed-out or overly dark content.
  • Stabilize By cropping a bit of the image on all sides, the software produces a more stable final picture. This feature is similar to image stabilization options in cameras and other video software.
  • Fill light Brightens up the foreground of a video in the event of an underexposed subject.
  • CUDA support — Accelerates many enhancement effects, offloading work from the CPU onto compatible GPUs to improve performance. Currently, the software lacks support for SLI multi-GPU configs and G80-powered video cards (like the GeForce 8800 GTX, GTS 320, GTS 640, and Ultra). Support for those hardware configs may make it in down the line, though.
  • Batch modification vReveal can modify and export a series of video files in order to save time.
  • YouTube uploading Exports videos directly to YouTube.
  • Broad file format suppport — With the appropriate DirectShow codecs installed, vReveal should import just about any video under the sun, including 3GP, MP4, and MOV.

As a mainstream application, vReveal does have some limitations. After all, MotionDSP wouldn't want to cannibalize Ikena sales. You can import video with any resolution you want, but vReveal only lets you apply enhancements to videos with a vertical resolution of 576 lines. The 2x Resolution feature is effectively limited to clips with resolutions of 352x288 and below, which is fine for most camera phones that shoot at 320x240. vReveal's "super-resolution" algorithm also uses fewer frames than Ikena's, further limiting the extent to which you can blow up images.