The Project Selection Process Pt.1

Selecting a final project in a class can be tough. I know it very frequently is for me. It was particularly bad in my first digital design class here at the UW.

I attended Portland Community College for a little over a year before transferring, and in that time I had the opportunity to take 2 digital design classes. When I transferred though, they transferred for credit, but did not qualify for the first digital design class here, EE271. This is because at PCC they did not really teach us any Verilog, we did almost all our labs using 7400 series chips on breadboards. While here at the UW, they do almost all of the labs for this class in Verilog and implement them on FPGAs. They also do not have a separate Verilog course like I would have had I transferred to Portland State, so I was advised to retake the course in order to learn Verilog, since it would be expected that I would know it going forward.

What this lead to is me taking a course where I understood nearly all the concepts in advance. It allowed me to help my classmates a great deal, but it also gave me a long time to consider my final project.

A few weeks into the course I had an idea of what I wanted to do. I decided I wanted to make a video scalar. It would be able to accept composite video from something like an SNES and then output 1080p video over HDMI. Manipulating video has been something I have been very interested in since about 2011, when I started playing with video encoding on my own. So this project was something I was very interested in doing, and having personal motivation to work on it would be very valuable.

The problems began about a month before the end of the term when I started looking into how I would implement the design. The first stage of the design would be to digitize the signal. I haven't ever used them, but I know the Basys 3 has several XADC ports, and finding the Xilinx user guide on how to use them would be pretty easy. The difficult part would be interpreting, or demodulating, the composite video signal into something I could work with.

So I spent the better part of a weekend researching specifications of the composite video spec and found....almost nothing. There was so little information out there as far as signal specifications that I wasn't confident I would ever be able to move with the project. I decided maybe I could take in digital information over Display Port, at 240p, scale it up to 1080p, and output it over HDMI, but even that was turning out to be out of reach. I had really hoped to get some of my classmates to work with me on this project, and my attempts to recruit anyone were fruitless.

This project idea had seemed to meet a dead end, read on next time to hear about the next idea I considered.