All-real FFT for FPGA

So, there are algorithms out there to perform an FFT on real data, that
save (I think) roughly 2x the calculations of FFTs for complex data.
I did a quick search, but didn't find any that are made specifically for
FPGAs. Was my search too quick, or are there no IP sources to do this?
It would seem like a slam-dunk for Xilinx and Intel/Altera to include
these algorithms in their FFT libraries.
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Tim Wescott 
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Tim Wescott
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It's been a long time, as I remember: The Hartley transform will work. Shuffling the data before and after a half size complex FFT will work. And you can use one of them to check the other.
Reply to
jim.brakefield
I thought I replied to this, but my computer has been crashing a bit so maybe I lost that one.
An FFT is inherently a complex function. Real data can be processed by taking advantage of some of the symmetries in the FFT. I don't recall the details as it has been over a decade since I worked with this, but you can fold half of the real data into the imaginary portion, run a size N/2 FFT and then unfold the results. I believe you have to run a final N sized complex pass on these results to get your final answer. I do recall it saved a *lot* when performing FFTs, nearly 50%.
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Rick C
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rickman
My understanding is that there were some software packages that baked that into the algorithm, for what savings I don't know. I was wondering if it was done for FFTs as well.
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Tim Wescott 
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Tim Wescott
Protip: the synthesizer should trim out the unneeded logic, so you don't need an optimized library macro.
Steve, always helpful
Reply to
Steve Pope
I'm not sure what you mean. When you say "baking" it into the algorithm, it would do pretty much what I described. That *is* the algorithm. I haven't heard of any other optimizations. The savings is in time/size. Essentially it does an N/2 size FFT with an extra pass, so instead of N*log(N) step it takes (N+1)*log(N/2) steps.
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Rick C
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rickman
Opps, I wrote that wrong. The optimized result would be order N/2 * (log(N)+1). Just to be clear (or less clear depending on how you read this), there are actually N/2 butterflies in each pass of the FFT. I didn't show that since the constant 1/2 applies to both the standard FFT and the optimized FFT. The point is the number of butterflies is cut in half on each pass of the FFT for the optimized approach.
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Rick C
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rickman
I don't think the synthesizer is capable of getting the same savings. The optimizations would see the zero imaginary inputs and optimize the first pass of the FFT. All passes would be N/2 butterflies while the optimized approach would use half that many at the expense of an extra pass. This is a big savings that the synthesis tools aren't likely to figure out unless they recognize you are performing an FFT.
Someone refresh my memory. If you do an FFT with zeros in the imaginary part of the inputs, the output has a symmetry that can be used to process two real streams at once. I can't recall how it works exactly, but that symmetry is the basis for separating the results of the two halves of the original sequence before completing the last pass. One portion is pulled out because of the even symmetry and the other portion is pulled out because of the odd symmetry.
I found this page that appears to explain it, but I haven't taken the time to dig into the math. I think I'd have to start all over again, it's just been too long.
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Rick C
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rickman
There's a distinct symmetry to the Fourier transform that you could use at each step of the way instead of doing the whole thing and fixing it up at the end.
I don't know if it would save steps, but it would certainly be easier on someone who just wants to apply an algorithm.
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Tim Wescott 
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Tim Wescott
I could be mistaken, but doesn't the DCT, which is used for video compression, operate only on real data? It seems like you could find a DCT core designed for JPEG.
Reply to
Kevin Neilson
As has been mentioned, there are a number of algorithms that exploit symmetries to prune the computations down near minimal, but I don't know of any canned FPGA libraries that do it. I don't know of any canned FPGA libraries that include a FHT (Fast Hartley Transofrm) either, which would also serve essentially the same purpose.
As Steve suggested, you could just force the imaginary part to static zeroes and let the synthesizer optimizations clean it up, but it probably wouldn't be quite as good as using a well-designed RFFT if one was available.
All that said, many of the existing FPGA FFT libraries are pretty efficient, so it may be worth just brute-forcing it and see whether it is good enough.
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eric.jacobsen
Opps, forgot the link.
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Rick C
Reply to
rickman
Are you referring to the nature of the FFT on real signals (i.e. data sets that have zeros for the imaginary data)? That would only help with the first pass of butterflies. Once your perform those the imaginary part is not zero anymore.
That's why you get very little optimization by plugging in the zero data and letting the tools work it out.
On the other hand, the vendor's FFT logic generator should support real data inputs. It is a common enough need.
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Rick C
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rickman
Yes, but the imaginary and real parts are still symmetrical around f = 0, so you should neither have to compute nor use them.
Yes, unless the optimizers get _really_ smart.
I agree, but when I looked I didn't see it.
The Xilinx logic generators also seem to only support 2^n vector sizes. I don't know how convoluted things get, but I know that with a general- purpose processor, a prime-value-sized FFT is nearly as fast as a 2^n one. Don't ask me how -- it's just a box with magic inside for me at this point.
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Tim Wescott 
Control systems, embedded software and circuit design 
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Tim Wescott
We are talking two different things. The HDL synthesis optimizers are optimizing *logic*. They don't know diddly about what you are using the logic for.
When I first learned FFTs, I did it by looking at the equations in terms of the twiddle factors each input was multiplied by as it contributed to the final value. It works out to be the same calculation as the DFT. It is taking advantage of the cyclic nature of the twiddle factors to avoid redundant calculations. The same basis provides the various symmetries.
I can't say how prime sized data sets work out. I'm very surprised they even exist. I can't picture how the butterflies would work.
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Rick C
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rickman
Well, yes, but these computers are getting smarter all the time. When you tell Synopsis to synthesize and it says "your fly is unzipped", you'll know that the optimizers are too damned smart.
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Tim Wescott 
Wescott Design Services 
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Tim Wescott
If for example you compute (a * b) and also compute (a * -b), the synthesizer is smart enough to know there are not two full multipliers needed.
I'm very unclear that it would not optimize past the first butterfly. They can also optimize across pipeline stages and also modify the number of bits of state and their logic values within a pipeline register.
But, to know for sure, try running it and see what happens. (And you want to use Synopsis or the equivalent, and probably not Xilinx/Altera native synthesizers...)
If faced with this design I would certainly give it a shot and see if the synthesis is good enough, rather than assuming it isn't and embarking on a major bit of perhaps unneeded design work.
Steve
Reply to
Steve Pope
Am 14.02.17 um 03:39 schrieb Tim Wescott:
:) It is very "convoluted" :))))) Sorry for the pun. Prime-sized FFTs (of long length*) are computed using the Bluestein algorithm. Bluestein rewrites the FFT of any size as a convolution. This convolution is then computed using a padded FFT of longer size...
A typical FFT library first tries to factor the length into prime numbers, and contains optimized FFTs for small prime factors. If that fails, it uses the Bluestein algorithm.
I'm totally ignorant of FPGA, but somehow it goes over my imagination how to express such a "convoluted" thing as gates.
Christian
* there is also the Winograd transform which works for a handful of selected prime numbers, e.g. 11 and 13, but not in the general case
Reply to
Christian Gollwitzer
What other optimizations do you see?
Ok, who will bell the cat? I'm not in the mood for designing and then analyzing FFTs at the moment.
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Rick C
Reply to
rickman
People think sequential code is easier because they started with that and it is now second nature to them. I remember some of the misconceptions students would have because they don't get that the computer is a sequential beast. HDLs are written to support parallel processes as second nature because that is the way hardware works. You describe each piece and it runs 100% of the time. Things only happen when the inputs changes, but the hardware is sitting there waiting for that to happen.
In reality it is *easier* to express most things in HDL I think. But if you only think in sequential logic, then just write your HDL as a process. The code inside a process is purely sequential.
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Rick C
Reply to
rickman

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