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Sigma Designs

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Sigma Designs, Inc. has emerged as a technological leader in the advanced interactive multimedia market place, providing both chip sets and board level products for OEM and system integrators. Sigma Designs was founded in 1982 and has its headquarters in Fremont, California.

Sigma Designs introduced the REALmagic card in 1993, the world's first affordable MPEG (Moving Picture Experts Group) playback card for the PC. It provided the capability of playing back full-screen, full-motion digital video and CD-quality stereo audio from a standard CD-ROM drive. With its hardware MPEG acceleration, it achieved a smooth 30 fps (frames per second) playback rate at full-screen resolutions, surpassing all software video playback solutions at that time, such as AVI, QuickTime, Indeo and software MPEG.

Being a pioneer in the emerging MPEG market place meant that Sigma Designs had to develop new and innovative technologies. As MPEG gain acceptance, Sigma Designs began offering its technologies in the form of chip sets. These chip sets allow manufacturers to build complete MPEG playback solutions that are 100% compatible with Open MPEG (OM-1) and REALmagic API, giving them immediate access to hundreds of software titles Sigma Designs had nurtured.

Sigma Designs offers chip sets for complete MPEG playback solutions for both desktop and notebook computers, and has began offering advanced video graphics accelerators that provide higher performance under Windows at a lower cost. Sigma Designs also continues to offer a family of REALmagic MPEG playback cards for the corporate and home market, as well as a wide selection of MPEG software titles.

Sigma Designs acquired Active Design, a developer of advanced 2D/3D acceleration chips, in 1996.


EM7000 ISA MPEG card

REALmagic Chip Sets

The REALmagic PRO chip set features the breakthrough REAL Overlay(tm) technology provided by the EM9000 chip, which virtually eliminates all compatibility problems with graphics controllers since it does not require the use of the VGA feature connector. REALmagic PRO is capable of supporting video playback at up to 1600x1200 resolution in 24-bit (16.8 million) colors. It also support vertical refresh rates of up to 85 Hz. It also features both horizontal and vertical interpolation to provide exceptionally clean and smooth display quality, even when the MPEG video is scaled to full-screen.

The REALmagic PC-MPEG Set incorporates all the features of the REALmagic PRO chip set, plus Sigma's own integrated MPEG video and audio decoder (the EM8000). This high level of integration allows OEM manufacturers to build an MPEG playback add-on card at a very low cost.

The REALmagic Explorer chip set is a leading edge product that takes advantage of the new Zoomed Video (ZV) Port technology for notebook computers. This technology gives notebook computers the ability to display full-screen, full-motion video by allowing direct access to the video memory of the graphic controller via the PCMCIA slot. With the REALmagic Explorer chip set, a full-featured MPEG playback solution can fit on a standard Type II PCMCIA PC Card, giving notebook computers an unprecedented video playback capability.

The REALmagic64/GX is a low cost, yet high performance 2D graphic accelerator chip. The REALmagic 64/GX not only provides higher performance at a lower cost, it also incorporates advanced video filtering features to provide excellent display quality for motion video playback. Horizontal and vertical interpolation smoothes out rough edges to provide a clean and sharp video image during video playback, no matter which playback method the user uses. It is designed to be pin-compatible with the popular S3(r) Trio64V+ chip. This allows the REALmagic 64/GX to serve as a drop-in replacement for manufacturers who are looking to upgrade their existing designs.

REALmagic Board Products

Introduced in the fall of 1993, REALmagic add-on cards were the first low cost MPEG multimedia playback controllers for the PC. Sigma Designs offers two MPEG playback cards targeted toward the two major market segments: the home market and the corporate market. We also revolutionized the MPEG encoder market by offering the first full-function MPEG encoder for under $5,000. The REALmagic Maxima is a low cost MPEG playback card designed for today's multimedia capable home PCs. Its REAL Overlay technology makes it compatible with virtually all VGA graphic cards available on the market, and its easy installation makes it an attractive MPEG playback solution for novice users. The REALmagic Ultra has all the features of REALmagic Maxima, plus Windows PCM sound (WAV files) playback capability and TV signal output. These capabilities makes the REALmagic Ultra the ideal choice for corporate computer-based training applications, kiosks and multimedia presentations. The REALmagic Producer is a full-function MPEG encoder. It was the first hardware MPEG encoder priced below $5,000.

REALmagic EM8000

The EM8000 and PC-MPEG Chipset are the latest developments in a new company strategy to expand Sigma's presence in the marketplace by adding MPEG chipsets designed for computer and add-on card manufacturers to other MPEG products the company manufactures for vertical applications and multimedia developers. Sigma's first entry in the chipset marketplace was the REALmagic Pro Chipset, introduced in late 1995. Its second was the REALmagic Explorer chipset, the first chipset to permit the delivery of MPEG digital video to notebook computers through PCMCIA cards using the new Zoomed Video (ZV) port standard. The Explorer chipset is being incorporated in a new MPEG PC Card designed for use with the new Toshiba Tecra 720CDT multimedia notebook computer.