NEC uses active noise cancellation for quieter zooming into your future memories

Tim Stevens
T. Stevens|02.16.11

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NEC uses active noise cancellation for quieter zooming into your future memories
NEC just injected a little Bose up in some digital cameras, adding what it calls "noise suppression technologies" to Casio's new EX-ZR10 and promising that it will be deployed "throughout the digital camera and video camera markets" soon. The tech is designed to combat the evil intrusion of noise from optical zoom motors, working with a recording of what the zoom motor sounds like inside the camera. The shooter's internal circuitry then subtracts that noise from what's being recorded and, hey presto, silent zoomin'! NEC indicates a camera's microphone still captures other, desirable ambient noise without issue and that this tech allows the use of faster, more powerful motors for faster, more powerful zooming.

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NEC Noise Suppression Technologies Adopted by Digital Cameras

*** For immediate use February 16, 2011

Tokyo, February 16, 2011 - NEC Corporation (NEC; TSE: 6701) announced today the development of technologies for digital cameras in movie mode that suppress the noise produced by motors and other mechanisms used for optical zooming (*1) and that these technologies are featured on system LSI (*2) for the EXILIM EX-ZR10 digital camera by Casio Computer Co., Ltd.

Conventionally, the sound generated by lens drivers for digital cameras in movie mode is recorded as noise by microphones. These new technologies suppress noise through a method that records and saves the core characteristics of sounds created by a camera lens' driving mechanisms, then subtracts this information from signals that are recorded by microphones. Furthermore, these technologies automatically adapt to lens and microphone characteristics among different products, which eliminates the need for customized product adjustment. Moreover, real-time processing is achieved while recording movies as a result of optimizing the number of calculations for noise suppression.

Use of these technologies also makes it possible to preserve ambient environmental sound, while only suppressing the noise generated by a camera's motor. Digital cameras equipped with these technologies can operate motors at a high speed, which achieves smoother zoom operation and creates a user friendly filming experience similar to the use of a dedicated video camera.

These newly developed technologies feature the following:

Effective zoom noise suppression without adjusting for individual microphone characteristics
In addition to existing technologies (*3) that suppress noise from cameras and lenses, these new technologies use microphones to record and process a range of additional noises. Furthermore, automatic noise correction for individual cameras is enabled by comparing reference noise, which is based on statistical analysis of incoming signals, to the noise suppression information saved on a user's camera. As a result, no adjustments are needed for individual microphones during production and shipment, and the suppression of zoom noise is optimized.

Real-time processing while shooting video and a reduced number of operations for noise suppression
As a result of reducing the number of operations to 80MIPS (Note *4, *5), processors are required to perform fewer operations and noise suppression takes place in real-time while shooting video. This specialized software is adopted on system LSI.
In order for conventional digital cameras to minimize noise levels while shooting video, such measures as expensive low noise level motors, motors with limited speed and filters that prevent the passage of strong motor noise frequencies were adopted. This gave rise to a number of problems that include a camera's lack of ability to take fast moving sports footage, and sound distortion due to filters that suppress ambient sound.

NEC's new technologies resolve these problems and have already been adopted by a popular commercial product.

Looking forward, NEC will continue to develop noise suppression technologies and to deploy them throughout the digital camera and video camera markets.
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