For video applications in a special environment such as medical imaging, space exploration, and underwater exploration, the video captured by an image sensor is often deteriorated because of low lighting conditions. Therefore, it is necessary to enhance the part of the image that is too dark to distinguish details while maintaining the remaining part with the same brightness. The retinex algorithm is widely used to restore naturalness of a video, especially exhibiting outstanding performance in the enhancement of a dark area. However, it demands large computational complexity because of its intricate structure, such as the Gaussian filter and exponentiation operations, and consequently, it is difficult to process in real time. This article presents a low-cost and high-throughput design of the retinex video enhancement algorithm. The hardware (HW) design is implemented using a field-programmable gate array (FPGA), and it supports a throughput of 60 frames/s for a 1920 × 1080 image with negligible latency. The proposed FPGA design minimizes HW resources while maintaining the quality and the performance by using a small line buffer instead of a frame buffer, by applying the concept of approximate computing for the complex Gaussian filter, and by designing a new and nontrivial exponentiation operation. The proposed design makes it possible to significantly reduce HW resources (up to 79.22% of total resources) compared to existing systems and is compatible with commercialized devices through the standard HDMI/DVI video ports.
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A Low-Cost and High-Throughput FPGA Implementation of the Retinex Algorithm for Real-Time Video Enhancement