Frame buffers

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This page describes the various frame buffers available in the cameras.



The raw buffer contains the raw image data from the sensor for still photos. It only contains valid raw data during the shooting process. The same address space may be used for other things at other times.

Some cameras have a single raw buffer, while others alternate between two or more. Currently only Digic 6 cameras are known to have more than two raw buffers.


All raw buffers contain bayer data. Two different bayer patterns are used on CHDK cameras.

The first, more common variant is

Red  Green  Green  Blue

The second is

Green  Blue  Red  Green

The total size can usually be found with the string "CRAW BUF SIZE"

The dimensions may be found with the string "CrwAddress %lx, CrwSize H %ld V %ld" (TODO other cameras)

The raw buffer may be either 10 bit or 12 bit, packed little endian, as detailed below.

The ASCII diagrams below show how the bits in memory make up pixels.

  1. Bytes are numbered from left to right
  2. Pixels are numbered from top to bottom
  3. Bits of a given pixel are numbered in the table itself. For the 12 BPP format, the letters A and B stand for 10 and 11

So the first pixel in the ten bit format has it's least significant two bits in the least significant two bits of the first byte, and the most significant 8 bits in the second byte.

See the code of tools/rawconvert.c or core/raw.c for examples of how to read each possible position.


Most pre Digic IV cameras use this format

    0      |1      |2      |3      |4      |5      |6      |7      |8      |9      |
0   10      98765432                                                                
1     987654                3210                                                   
2                   543210      9876                                              
3                         98                76543210                                
4                                   98765432                10                      
5                                                   3210      987654                
6                                                       9876                543210  
7                                                                   76543210      98


Most Digic IV cameras use this format

    0      |1      |2      |3      |4      |5      |
0   3210    BA987654                                
1       BA98                76543210                
2                   BA987654                3210    
3                                   76543210    BA98


The G1 X and some Digic VI cameras have a 14 bit raw buffer:

    0      |1      |2      |3      |4      |5      |6      |7      |8      |9      |A      |B      |C      |D      |
0 543210 DCBA9876
1 DC 3210 BA987654
2 DCBA 10 98765432
3 DCBA98 76543210
4 DCBA9876 543210
5 BA987654DC 3210
6 98765432 DCBA 10
7 76543210 DCBA98


One address can generally be found using the string "CRAW BUF".

For cameras with multiple addresses, the value found via "CRAW BUF" can frequently be used to find a table of all addresses in ROM. Some cameras use different addresses depending on shooting mode. A variable that indexes the current raw buffer most also be found.


TODO: add function etc.

Used for:

Bitmap (or Overlay)Edit


An overlay which is used to display the camera UI.

The overlay is double-buffered. The second buffer directly follows the first. TODO: describe usage


On pre-digic 6 cameras, the bitmap buffer is 8-bit, indexed. The palette varies between models, and in between playback and record modes on some models.

The most common size is 360x240, but 720x240 and other sizes occur. The buffer may not be the same size as the actual display area or the viewport buffer.

Bitmap pixels are not square on some cameras, for example on those with a 720x240 buffer.

The buffer can be bigger than the actual image. If the buffer width is bigger than the image width, each row of pixels is padded to the buffer width. Similarly, if the buffer height is bigger than the image height, the last row is followed by padding to get to the buffer height. The latter is important when you want to get the location of the second bitmap buffer.

On Digic 6 cameras, the bitmap is a YUV buffer with a separate 8 bit opacity (alpha channel) buffer. (TODO specific format)


There are several known bitmap types:

  • 0: no palette info / not implemented
  • 1: 16 x 4 byte AYUV values
  • 2: 16 x 4 byte AYUV (A = 0..3 LUT)
  • 3: 256 x 4 byte AYUV (A = 0..3 LUT)
  • 4: 16 x 4 byte VUYA (A = 0..3 LUT) (like 2, but opposite endian)
  • 5: 256 x 4 byte VUYA (A = 0..3 LUT) (like 3, but opposite endian)

The 8-bit indices in the bitmap buffer are actually two 4-bit indices into the palette. The two colours obtained this way are combined by adding the respective YUV components and averaging the alpha component. Note that U and V are signed bytes here.

Converting the YUV components to RGB is done as described for the viewport buffer.

On some cameras the alpha component is always either 0 or 3. It is not exactly know how this translates to actual alpha values. Using 255 for 3 seems to produce a reasonably decent result.

On newer cameras the palette is 256x4 integers in AYUV format. The alpha (A) value is from 0 - 3. Converting as follows gives good results when displayed on a Windows PC - 0 --> 128, 1 --> 171, 2 --> 214 and 3 --> 255. One special case is required - the alpha value for palette entry 0 should be set to 0 (completely transparent) for display on a Windows PC. This has been confirmed on the G12, SX30 IS, IXUS 310 HS and SX260 HS. The palette provided by the camera depends on the exact camera model and may vary with user interface scope (e.g. record vs playback vs menu)  Colors defined for use by CHDK can be found in core/gui_draw.h . The colors (AYUV data) in the palette (see also Palette) depend on the exact camera model and context as well, and additionally depends on whether or not CHDK overrides certain colors (CAM_LOAD_CUSTOM_COLORS) and can be retrieved using core/live_view.c : live_view_get_data with flag LV_TFR_PALETTE .

Forcing Firmware Redraw And LockingEdit

To force the firmware to redraw its version of the overlay - for example, after closing the CHDK ALT menu - the firmware has a function typically referred to as RefreshPhysicalScreen. Note that the declaration of RefreshPhysicalScreen in include/lolevel.h gives it a long argument, but for some cameras (DryOS?) this parameter is not used. All calls in the CHDK code supply 1 as argument.

On some cameras (DryOS?) the firmware also provides functions ScreenLock and ScreenUnlock (also ScreenUnLock) to (dis)allow the firmware to draw the overlay. In such cameras these functions are typically needed to avoid having the firmware write over the image drawn by CHDK. The locking mechanism uses a counter (enabled_refresh_physical_screen in CHDK) to keep track of the difference between the number of calls to ScreenLock and ScreenUnlock. Note that ScreenUnlock not decreases the counter, but usually also calls RefreshPhysicalScreen when it reaches 0.

For some firmwares that have this locking mechanism, the ScreenUnlock and RefreshPhysicalScreen functions are actually one and the same. Because of this, just calling RefreshPhysicalScreen to force the firmware to draw its overlay is not safe. It will cause an "unlock" which might result in undesired behaviour later on. Also, it will actually only do the refresh if the lock allows it after unlocking it once (that is, when enabled_refresh_physical_screen is 0). If one wants to just refresh the overlay in these cases, they will have to carefully handle the locking mechanism.

To facilitate the use of locking and refreshing, CHDK uses three functions. With vid_turn_off_updates and vid_turn_on_updates one can respectively call ScreenLock or ScreenUnlock (if available). The function vid_bitmap_refresh provides a wrapper around RefreshPhysicalScreen that takes care of the potential locking difficulties.

Location (TODO)Edit


N.B.: The return values of some functions might not be exactly as described but as needed by the current CHDK code. (TODO: how exactly?)


  • include/platform.h
    • void *vid_get_bitmap_fb(): get base address of the bitmap buffers
    • long vid_get_bitmap_screen_width(): get width of actual image
    • long vid_get_bitmap_screen_height(): get height of actual image
    • long vid_get_bitmap_buffer_width(): get width of buffer
    • long vid_get_bitmap_buffer_height(): get height of buffer
    • void vid_bitmap_refresh(): force redrawing of the overlay by the firmware
    • void vid_turn_off_updates(): block drawing of the overlay by the firmware
    • void vid_turn_on_updates(): allow the firmware to be draw the overlay again


  • CAM_BITMAP_PALETTE: defines which palette the camera uses (defined in include/camera.h, platform/<platform>/platform_camera.h, used in core/gui_draw.h)
  • COLOR_*: palette colours (defined in core/gui_draw.h)

Used for:

  • UI



The viewport buffer is used for the live view from the camera, or images in playback.

There are at least three different viewport buffers. One for playback mode, two for record mode. One of the buffers for record mode is triple-buffered (the other "single-buffered). Unlike the bitmap buffers, the triple-buffered buffers need not follow each other in memory.

TODO: Explain difference between the two record mode buffers. TODO: Fast MD relies on knowing the current buffer, describe...

On many cameras, the dimensions of the viewport vary depending on factors such as shooting mode, digital zoom and TV out status. In record mode, the Event Procedures GetVRAMHPixelsSize and GetVRAMVPixelsSize return the actual dimensions. For width, the value is the number of Y values.

The pixel aspect ratio may also vary between modes.


In pre digic 6 cameras, the viewport buffer pixels are in a format similar to YUV411: Each group of 4 pixels is represented in six bytes. Each pixel is represented by a YUV triplet where the U and V components are shared amongst the group. The order of the bytes is as follows, with Yi the Y component of the ith pixel in the group:

U Y1 V Y2 Y3 Y4

Note that U and V are signed bytes, while the Y components are a unsigned bytes.

To convert a YUV triplet to an RGB triplet, one can use the following code:

function clip(val):
  if val < 0:
    return 0
  else if val > 255:
    return 255
    return val

R = clip( ((Y << 12)            + 5742 * V + 2048) >> 12 )
G = clip( ((Y << 12) - 1411 * U - 2925 * V + 2048) >> 12 )
B = clip( ((Y << 12) + 7258 * U            + 2048) >> 12 )

N.B.: The constants in the code above differ from the ones in one of the threads below. The code does (seem to) work.

As with the bitmap buffers, viewport buffers might be wider (and higher) than the actual image. Padding is done similarly. The height of a viewport buffer, however, is not really relevant as one doesn't need to look beyond the last row of the actual image.

With newer cameras the actual image might be offset at a different location than (0,0). This means that there can be some padding rows at the start of the buffer as well as some padding bytes at the start of each row.

See also and .

Some information on converting these formats can be found on

Location (TODO)Edit

The string "VRAM Address" can frequently be used to identify one of the record mode addresses (suitable for vid_get_viewport_fb).


Note: CHDK uses dimensions which often differ from the actual pixels dimensions, to allow various functions to work in a standard (usually 360x240) coordinate system. Functions with an _proper suffix return the real dimensions, and are mostly used for the PTP live view system. Pixel dimensions refer to the number of Y values.

include/viewport.h CHDK coordinate system functions

    • long vid_get_viewport_height(); Viewport height in CHDK screen pixels
    • int vid_get_viewport_width(); Viewport width in CHDK screen pixels
    • int vid_get_viewport_xoffset(); X offset of viewport edge relative to the viewport buffer (in CHDK screen pixels)
    • int vid_get_viewport_yoffset(); Y offset of viewport top relative to the viewport buffer (in CHDK screen pixels)
    • int vid_get_viewport_display_xoffset(); X offset of viewport edge relative to LCD screen (in CHDK screen pixels)
    • int vid_get_viewport_display_yoffset(); Y offset of viewport top relative to LCD screen (in CHDK screen pixels)
    • int vid_get_viewport_byte_width(); Physical width of viewport row in bytes
    • int vid_get_viewport_yscale(); Y multiplier for cameras with 480 pixel high viewports (CHDK code assumes 240)
    • int vid_get_viewport_image_offset(); Byte offset from start of viewport memory to first displayed pixel
    • int vid_get_viewport_row_offset(); Difference between physical width of viewport and displayed width (in bytes)

include/viewport.h Real coordinate / PTP live view functions

    • vid_get_viewport_display_xoffset_proper(); X Offset (for variable image size)
    • vid_get_viewport_display_yoffset_proper(); Y Offset (for variable image size)
    • vid_get_viewport_width_proper(); Visible viewport width (for variable image size)
    • vid_get_viewport_height_proper(); Visible viewport height (for variable image size)
    • vid_get_viewport_fullscreen_width(); Width of screen in buffer pixels
    • vid_get_viewport_fullscreen_height(); Height of screen in buffer pixels
    • vid_get_viewport_buffer_width_proper(); Physical viewport buffer width in pixels

Used for:

  • Motion detection
  • Live histogram
  • Zebra
  • Edge overlay
  • PTP live view



The JPEG buffer is a memory area which is the target of the compression process. It's pure JPEG data, the Exif is placed into a separate buffer.


The JPEG buffer (address, size, content) can be caught in the right moment by hooking FileWriteTask. For more information, see

YUV (for JPEG)Edit


On some cameras the RAW buffer is converted to an intermediate YUV (UYVY) buffer before the jpeg process for some image sizes. On digic II cameras, this only seems to be used for jpeg sizes that are not full width (i.e. not Wide or L) Some discussion in



The movie framebuffers are used as uncompressed source for the movie's video frames. In some cases, the live view buffers (see above) have this additional purpose, in other cases separate buffers are created, when needed. In every case encountered so far, these buffers are triple buffered (i.e. there are 3 of them).

These buffers are active, when the current recording mode is one of the movie modes (even when idle). The resolution of the source picture usually does not change when an actual recording process is started. One exception so far is the A410 model, in its 640x480 mode (the idle resolution is halved vertically). The horizontal (source) resolution will change however, depending on whether the TV-out plug is used. With an active TV-out, the source picture width (in pixels) decreases from 720 to 704 (or 352 from 360), on the fly. The state of TV-out doesn't influence the non-shared special buffers (see the DIGIC III example below).


In earlier VxWorks (DIGIC II) cameras, the pixel format of these buffers always seems to be Y411 (the same 3 buffers are used for live view and movie buffer). In an early DryOS r23, DIGIC III camera, lower resolution movie modes work the same way as in the previously mentioned DIGIC II models. In its "high" (i.e. VGA) resolution movie mode, 3 new buffers are created and operated parallel with the live view buffers. The pixel format for these special buffers is UYVY. Additional information can be found here:

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