Progress, and some new ideas

With altitude, airspeed and heading indicators as well as an RTH arrow and a better attitude indicator, it is starting to look like a proper HUD. I have made the indicators white-green to reduce the effects of limited chroma bandwidth, and the Armed warning is now black on yellow for the same reason.

Pitch ladders, heading, RTH arrow, it’s starting to look good. Pity the Armed warning is covered up, but that will be soon fixed. It’s time to get rid of the rainbow test pattern.

The attitude indicator needs a boresight, and text rendering needs some tidying up – you can see the imperfections if you look closely. Next item to implement will be a battery meter. It will use colour to show battery status, progressing from green to yellow, orange and red as the voltage drops. I will also try to implement a generic “indicator” which can be used to display any kind of parameter. It will have a text label and an optional colour swatch or icon, which can change in response to the parameter. It can be used to show things such as GPS satellite count, temperature, current and so on.

Some time in the future I would also like to have analog gauges as an alternative to HUD-style tapes. You will be able to have the traditional “6-pack” instruments if you want to.

After some discussion with airbanana at RC Groups I am going to make another attempt to generate the overlay by genlocking and pixel switching, instead of using digital decoder and encoder ASICs. If this works it should use less current (at the moment my dev board and MCU draw about 0.5A). There 2 are ways I could do this. One is the method I tried earlier, using an AD724 clocked in sync with the colour subcarrier. Another possibility is the approach used here. Rossum is generating the entire composite signal including the colourburst using the SPI port. To do that he needed to overclock the MCU to a multiple of the colourburst frequency. But the SPI port can be driven by an external clock. I can obtain a clock signal in sync with the colourburst using an MC44144 and a comparator as I did previously, and try using that to drive the SPI. It will be some time before I can try either approach as I will need to fabricate a new board. In the meantime I will continue working on the graphics.

Full Screen

I have finished porting the code over to the new STM32F413 Nucleo board and now have a frame buffer big enough to cover the whole screen. You can see the output here.

Full frame buffer
360 * 288 frame buffer, instruments in white. Notice how much better the text looks.

Word from Analog Devices regarding the chroma transient issue I mentioned earlier, is that this is a result of conversion to a YCrCb 4:2:2 digital format by the decoder. This format compresses the video data significantly, but at the expense of chroma information. Chroma is sacrificed because the human eye is much more sensitive to luma detail than chroma, so the loss is barely noticeable with a scene from ordinary television. However with coloured text and graphics it does become noticeable. From what I have observed, the effect is most noticeable with primary colours (pure red, blue or green). White or black pixels are the least affected and intermediate colours (yellow, magenta), while still affected, look better than primary colours. This makes sense when you consider that white pixels are almost entirely luma in the data stream, while primary colours contain the greatest proportion of chroma information.

For the time being I will have to live with this limitation. I will try to mitigate it by outlining text with black pixels (as most OSDs already do) and making coloured output at least 4 pixels wide (which will be 2 pixels in my half-resolution overlay).

It would make sense to render the altimeter, airspeed and AHI in white, and reserve colour for warning messages and status icons so that is what I am doing now. Ultimately this will be the sort of thing users can set according to their own preferences.

The way to avoid the chroma issue altogether would be to stream data as an RGB 4:4:4 stream which has no compression, or YCrCb 4:4:4. The ADV7341 encoder I am using understands RGB 4:4:4 but the ADV7184 cannot generate it and does not have a wide enough pixel bus.