I have this crazy idea of mixing Cb and Cr signals (from a YCbCr device outputting 720p video) into a chroma (C) signal, for a side project. Is there a simple drop-in chip solution for each side - both modulation, and demodulation/recovery? I've either only found RF/IF devices (which seem to have a limited span, often not including DC or low frequencies) or digital QAM - neither of which seem to be useful to me, unless I'm missing something. I'm targeting a low cost, low power and hopefully small size system - but would be okay with some ideas on how to go about implementing a discrete QAM modulation system (using op-amps or other ICs as building blocks.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Could you explain what you are trying to accomplish a little clearer? If you are trying to transmit the combined signal over a wire, then you could search for DSL-modems which use QAM at baseband. \$\endgroup\$ – trondd Mar 7 '11 at 14:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @trondd I'm trying to convert YCbCr 720p to a composite video stream for transmission over a radio. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas O Mar 7 '11 at 17:24
  • \$\begingroup\$ So basically you are looking for a solution for sending component video signal over the air? If so then I suggest you update the title of the question to better reflect this. \$\endgroup\$ – trondd Mar 9 '11 at 11:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @trondd, Not just over the air; also over single cables, and for storage on an analog data recorder. I've asked before about transmitting YCbCr, with little success. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas O Mar 9 '11 at 12:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ I started a bounty. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas O Mar 11 '11 at 15:48

Alas, if highly-specialized and integrated chips don't quite meet your specs, it's impossible to upgrade just that one little section of the chip that is the weak link. Some people prefer something "I UNDERSTAND, not a sealed box of unexplained tricks made in the far east using technology I'm unlikely to be able to tweak or repair." (-- Nick Waterman, G7RZQ). You may be one of those people ;-).

As you've already pointed out, a quadrature amplitude modulation transmitter has a section that mixes 2 baseband data signals (traditionally called I and Q) into one modulated signal, and the receiver has a surprisingly similar section that decodes the modulated signal into separate I and Q data signals.

Surely there are ICs that do most or all of the job for me, but searching for "QAM encoder" doesn't give me any ICs. Perhaps there is another name for these ICs?

Historically the 2 devices in a QAM encoder or the 2 devices in a QAM decoder that "multiply 2 signals together" are each often called a "RF/IF mixer", even when it is used in a system that doesn't have a radio antenna, in order to distinguish it from "audio mixer" which acts completely differently. Analog Devices tutoral "MT-080: Mixers and Modulators" lists a bunch of specific ICs such as the AD8345 QAM encoder.

I see that at one of my favorite electronic supply websites, that QAM encoder chip is called a "quadrature modulator". I searched for "quadrature demodulator" and "quadrature modulator" at a few of my favorite electronic supply websites and found list of ICs in stock that, if I understand what you are asking, seem to meet your requirements. Analog AD8345, Linear LT5502, RFMD RF2480SR, RFMD RF2713, etc.

The chips I listed contain 2 of the "RF mixer" devices in one IC. I suppose you could use a pair of chips that each contain only a single "RF mixer" such as a pair of the popular SA612 chips (the same chip is also called the SA602, the NE602, the NE612, etc.). Or perhaps a person could build each "RF mixer" out of discrete transistors -- perhaps in the Gilbert cell configuration.

Mathematicians often call this device a "multiplier" and feed a sine wave into one and a cosine wave into the other, in order to make the math simpler.

Ham radio operators often build IQ decoders that use square waves instead of sine waves, such as the Tayloe decoder, in order to make construction easier.

While I agree that it would be nice if a QAM decoder could decode I and Q signals all the way down to DC, many systems fake it. They appear as if they can produce a constant, solid green color over the entire screen -- apparently a fixed DC level -- while internally they take the I and Q signals and immediately throw away the low-frequency components through AC-Coupled Video Signals and somehow magically restore the "right" DC level at a later stage.

DC restoration, synchronizing the receiver frequency and phase to the transmitter frequency and phase, and restoring amplitude path loss with automatic gain control, are almost always handled in a separate part of the system from the actual modulator and demodulator. As you already know, NTSC and PAL hide extra information in the horizontal retrace and vertical retrace time intervals to make the receiver's job possible/easier. I suppose you could define a special time where the transmitter sets I to +MAX and Q to 0, and other special times with the 8 other combinations of I and Q with +MAX, 0, and -MAX. Then the receiver could use the non-image information it sees at its I and Q outputs at those times to help with frequency synchronization, phase synchronization, automatic gain control, and DC restoration.


This sounds a lot like the PAL and NTSC video formats, which were popular from 1954 until the analog TV switch-off in 2009. Both PAL and NTSC transmit the luminance information AM modulated at one frequency, and the color information QAM modulated at a frequency a fixed offset above it, and the audio information FM modulated at a frequency a fixed offset even higher above it.

I searched for "NTSC decoder" and "NTSC encoder" at a few of my favorite electronic supply websites and found a dozen or so chips in stock that, if I understand what you are asking, seem to meet your requirements. 3 random chips from that list -- I wouldn't be surprised if some other chip on that might be better for your application:

  • Analog Devices AD725ARZ RGB To NTSC/PAL encoder
  • Analog Devices ADV7171KSUZ video encoder 10 bit YCbCr to PAL/NTSC
  • Maxim MAX9526AEI+ Video Decoder NTSC/PAL to 10 bit YCbCr component video
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've considered them too, but I suspect they will be limited to conventional SD video bandwidth and wouldn't cope with 720p or even (as a future upgrade) 1080p... \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas O Mar 11 '11 at 16:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think that part of the confusion here might be that digital QAM modulation is commonly used for TV (especially cable) - QAM64 and QAM256 are common standards used for HDTV - they have nothing to do with YIQ from NTSC (or YUV for PAL) - in modern systems we mpeg encode a video stream (mpeg2, or in some more advanced systems, mpeg4) and then multiplex it into a transport stream, FEC is added and then the result is QAM modulated 6 or 8 bits at a time \$\endgroup\$ – Taniwha Mar 13 '11 at 19:19

Consider a A/D plus a FPGA. Altera has this app note. They may even have an eval board with the A/Ds on board. Since you aren't looking at a particular standard, I fear you will mainly find more highly integrated parts than you are looking for.

  • \$\begingroup\$ That seems like a digital solution, not an analog solution. But FPGAs may be the way forwards. It would just be insanely expensive - high speed ADCs and high speed DACs would be required. \$\endgroup\$ – Thomas O Mar 15 '11 at 17:28
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Thomas O I have a guy in my lab doing research on software defined radios. I think they are the way of the future. the ADCs used right now are very expensive, but as they become used more they will drop in price. It adds a lot of flexibility for firmware changes. Especially nice in cell phones where they can just switch frequencies at will instead of a set few frequencies that can be used on each phone. \$\endgroup\$ – Kellenjb Mar 15 '11 at 22:27

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