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Glossary of Terms


Term Definition


An Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) interface standard capable of transferring data at a rate of 400Mbit per second.


An IEEE interface standard capable of transferring data at a rate of 800Mbit per second.

Absolute Values

Real-world values, such as milliseconds (ms), decibels (dB) or percent (%). Using the absolute values is easier and more efficient than applying complex conversion formulas to integer values.

Analog-to-Digital Converter

Often abbreviated as ADC or A/D converted, it is a device that converts a voltage to a digital number.


Application Programming Interface. Essentially a library of software functions.

Asynchronous Transmission

The transfer of image data from the camera to the PC that is regulated by an external signal, such as a trigger. Asynchronous transfers do not guarantee when data will be transferred. However, they do guarantee that data will arrive as sent. Asynchronous transfers may be used when data integrity is a higher priority than speed. An example might be an image data transfer to a printer, where speed is less critical than getting the image pixels correct. Asynchronous transfers are initiated from a single node, designated the ‘requestor’, to or from the address space of another node, designated the ‘responder’. Asynchronous requests are packet-based. The requestor node generates a request packet that the 1394 bus sends to the responder node. The responder node is responsible for handling the request packet and creating a response packet that is sent back to the requestor node to complete a single transfer. There are three types of 1394 asynchronous transfers: Read, Write and Lock.


Bytes per packet. An image is broken into multiple packets of data, which are then streamed isochronously to the host system. Each packet is made up of multiple bytes of data.

Brightness (%)

This is essentially the level of black in an image. A high brightness will result in a low amount of black in the image. In the absence of noise, the minimum pixel value in an image acquired with a brightness setting of 1% should be 1% of the A/D converter’s minimum value.

Config ROM

Configuration read-only memory. A section of memory dedicated to describing low-level device characteristics such as Model and Vendor ID, IEEE-1394 version compliance, base address quadlet offsets, etc.

Color Processing

Also known as ‘interpolation,’ an algorithm for converting raw Bayer-tiled image data into full color images. Depending on camera model, this process takes place either on-camera or on the PC. For more information, refer to Knowledge Base Article 33.


Abbreviation for the IIDC 1394-based Digital Camera (DCAM) Specification, which is the standard used for building FireWire-based cameras.

Dynamic Range

The difference between the maximum and minimum amounts of light that a sensor can measure. This is bounded on the upper end by the maximum charge that any pixel can contain (sensor full well depth) and at the lower end by the small charge that every sensor spontaneously generates (read noise).

Exposure (EV)

This is the average intensity of the image. It will use other available (non-manually adjustable) controls to adjust the image.


Programming that is inserted into programmable read-only memory, thus becoming a permanent part of a computing device. Firmware is created and tested like software and can be loaded onto the camera.


Encompasses partial or custom image video formats and modes, such as region of interest of pixel binned modes. Format_7 modes and frame rates are defined by the camera manufacturer, as opposed to the DCAM specification.


Frames Per Second.

Frame Rate

Often defined in terms of number of frames per second (FPS) or frequency (Hz). This is the speed at which the camera is streaming images to the host system. It basically defines the interval between consecutive image transfers.

Gain (dB)

The amount of amplification that is applied to a pixel by the A/D converter. An increase in gain can result in a brighter image and an increase in noise.


Gamma defines the function between incoming light level and output picture level. Gamma can also be useful in emphasizing details in the darkest and/or brightest regions of the image.


General Purpose Input/Output.

Grabbing Images

A commonly-used phrase to refer to the process of enabling isochronous transfers on a camera, which allows image data to be streamed from the camera to the host system.


Hertz. A unit of frequency; one Hertz has a periodic interval of one second. Often used interchangeably with FPS as a measure of frame rate.

Isochronous Transmission

The transfer of image data from the camera to the PC in a continual stream that is regulated by an internal clock. Isochronous transfers on the 1394 bus guarantee timely delivery of data. Specifically, isochronous transfers are scheduled by the bus so that they occur once every 125µs. Each 125µs timeslot on the bus is called a frame. Isochronous transfers, unlike asynchronous transfers, do not guarantee the integrity of data through a transfer. No response packet is sent for an isochronous transfer. Isochronous transfers are useful for situations that require a constant data rate but not necessarily data integrity. Examples include video or audio data transfers. Isochronous transfers on the 1394 bus do not target a specific node. Isochronous transfers are broadcast transfers which use channel numbers to determine destination.

Lookup Table

A matrix of gamma functions for each color value of the current pixel encoding format.


An addressable device attached to a bus. Although multiple nodes may be present within the same physical enclosure (module), each has its own bus interface and address space and may be reset independently of the others.

Node ID

A 16-bit number that uniquely differentiates a node from all other nodes within a group of interconnected buses. Although the structure of the node ID is bus-dependent, it usually consists of a bus ID portion and a local ID portion. The most significant bits of the node ID are the same for all nodes on the same bus; this is the bus ID. The least-significant bits of the node ID are unique for each node on the same bus; this is called the local ID. The local ID may be assigned as a consequence of bus initialization.

One Push

For use when a control is in manual adjust mode, One Push sets a parameter to an auto-adjusted value, then returns the control to manual adjust mode.


Physical layer. Each 1394 PHY provides the interface to the 1394 bus and performs key functions in the communications process, such as bus configuration, speed signaling and detecting transfer speed, 1394 bus control arbitration, and others.


A mechanism to horizontally move the current portion of the sensor that is being imaged. In stereo and spherical cameras, Pan controls which individual sensors transmit images.

Pixel Clock

The rate at which the sensor outputs voltage signals in each pixel from the optical input.

Pixel Format

The encoding scheme by which color or greyscale images are produced from raw image data.


A 4 byte (32-bit) value.

Quadlet Offset

The number of quadlets separating a base address and the desired CSR address. For example, if the base address is 0xFFFFF0F00000 and the value of the quadlet offset is 0x100, then the actual address offset is 0x400 and the actual adress 0xFFFFF0F00400.


A term used to describe quadlet-aligned addresses that may be read or written by bus transactions.


This is how far a color is from a gray image of the same intensity. For example, red is highly saturated, whereas a pale pink is not.


Software Development Kit


This works by filtering the image to reduce blurred edges.


A mechanism to control the length of time the sensor is exposed to light from the image field for each frame. In milliseconds (ms), it is the amount of time that the shutter stays open, also known as the exposure or integration time. The shutter time defines the start and end point of when light falls on the imaging sensor. At the end of the exposure period, all charges are simultaneously transferred to light-shielded areas of the sensor. The charges are then shifted out of the light shielded areas of the sensor and read out.

Signal-to-Noise Ratio (dB)

The difference between the ideal signal that you expect and the real-world signal that you actually see is usually called noise. The relationship between signal and noise is called the signal-to-nose ratio (SNR). SNR is calculated using the general methodology outlined in Knowledge Base Article 142.


1280x1024 pixel resolution


A mechanism to vertically move the current portion of the sensor that is being imaged.


A signal to which the acquisition of images by the camera is synchronized. Triggers can be from an outside electrical source (external) or software-generated (internal).


1600x1200 pixel resolution


640x480 pixel resolution

White Balance

A method to enable white areas of an image to appear correctly by modifying the gain of red and blue channels relative to the green channel. White balance can be used to accommodate differing lighting conditions.


1024x768 pixel resolution


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