Over at Beetlebox we are excited for the release of Vitis, which is the unification of all of Xilinx’s previous software into a single package. We have been working hard on computer vision using this platform and thought that we could provide some help to others wanting to get started on Xilinx’s development boards. This tutorial will be a multi-part series covering the basics of getting started with computer vision and Vitis and will be covering:

We hope these tutorials will be useful for anyone looking to get into computer vision on FPGAs.

Part 1: Getting XRT and PetaLinux working on Xilinx boards

What is XRT and why do we need it?

XRT acts as the interface between our acceleration kernels on the FPGA fabric and our CPU host and makes interacting between the CPU and the FPGA on our embedded system far simpler than previous methods. Acceleration using Vitis is very similar to how we accelerate using GPUs, in which we develop kernels that then are placed onto the FPGA fabric. XRT is also reliant on Linux so we need to get Linux running on our boards. XRT is not the only method for acceleration and the older methods that were used by Xilinx’s SDK can still be used with Vitis, but XRT presents the easiest method of acceleration. For more information on XRT and other methods please see here.



Our particular setup:

  • Operating System: Ubuntu 18.04.02
  • Development board tested: ZC702, ZCU104

Unfortunately, at the moment getting XRT and Linux working on Xilinx boards isn’t as simple as downloading many files. The files required are simply too large and must be generated using Petalinux. Fortunately, we have been provided with easy methods of generating these files through scripts.

  • Go on to Github and clone the XRT repo. This repo will contain the all the scripts we need:
git clone --branch 2019.2 https://github.com/Xilinx/XRT.git 
  • Create a directory to store our builds in:
Mkdir ~/Petabuilds
Cd ~/Petabuilds
  • To run these scripts, we need to source some commands from Vitis and XRT. If Vitis and XRT have been installed in the default directory this should be:
source /tools/Xilinx/Vitis/2019.2/settings64.sh
source /opt/xilinx/xrt/setup.sh
  • Run the xsa_build script, which will run Vivado and build a platform for our particular board that is compatible with XRT. We will also need to point the script towards the tcl script of the board in the platform section of the repo: 
  • For the ZC702, this is the ZC702_base tcl script:
<xrt_repo_directory>/XRT/src/runtime_src/tools/scripts/xsa_build.sh <xrt_repo_directory>/XRT/src/platform/XRT/src/platform/zc702_base/zc702_base_xsa.tcl
  • For the ZCU104, this is the zcu104_base tcl script:
<xrt_repo_directory>/XRT/src/runtime_src/tools/scripts/xsa_build.sh <xrt_repo_directory>/XRT/src/platform/zcu104_base/zcu104_base_xsa.tcl
  • Check that a folder called xsa_build has been created and that this file contains a .xsa file
  • Now that we have the XSA, we need to use the Petalinux tool to create the Petalinux Boot Image for the board itself. First we need to source Petalinux, which we can do through:
Source /petalinux/2019.2/settings.sh
  • Now we can run the peta_build.sh script that will run through all the Petalinux commands to generate the correct files and copy these files over to the xsa_build folder. The peta_build script also provides a great base for customising future builds:
<xrt_repo_directory>/XRT/src/runtime_src/tools/scripts/peta_build.sh --bsp <bsp> ./xsa_build/<platform name>/<platform name>.xsa
  • The build will take a while to run. Once it has finished, we run Vitis:
  • Once Vitis is launched click “Create Platform Project”
    Provide a name for the new platform project, we will use “platform_1” and click ‘next’
  • Click “Create from hardware specification (XSA)”
  • In the “xsa file” directory navigate towards the .xsa file we generated: “<~/Petabuilds/xsa_build/<platform_name>/<platform_name>.xsa”
    For the operating system select “Linux” and hit finish
  • Now we need to fill in the platform configurations. This differs slightly between MPSoCs and the Zynq-7000 series:
For the Zynq-7000 series the configuration should look like this
For the Zynq MPSoC series, the configuration should look like this
  • Copy the contents of the “src/boot” folder into the “src/qemu” folder.
  • Now hit the build button:
  • We have finished building our custom xrt platform, it is time to build an application on it
  • Go to “File>New>Application Project”
  • Name it “test” and click next
  • Select the custom platform we just built and click next
  • Check Sysroot path is added, if not, add it
  • In “Templates” select “Vector Addition” and hit Finish
  • In “Application Project Settings” set “Active Build Configuration” to “Hardware” and hit build:
  • When finished building, expand the hardware folder in the “Assistant view” and right click SD card image and go to “Open>Open in File Browser”
  • Copy contents of the folder onto the device’s SD card.
  • Make sure the board is in “boot from SD card mode” and turn it on
  • Click “Window>Show View”
  • Search “Terminal”
  • Select “Vitis Serial Terminal” and hit Open
  • Use the “Plus” button on the top right-hand corner of the terminal window to launch “Connect to Serial Port”
  • The COM port used will differ depending on the computer but here are the settings we use:
  • Click OK
  • The board should be booting or just finished booting
  • In the terminal, run:
cd /mnt
  • The terminal should display:
Usage: <xclbin>

We have successfully built a Vitis embedded system from scratch and made it execute code.

Next: How to build “Hello World” and understanding Vitis Development Flow

If you have enjoyed this tutorial but are in current need of talent to build advanced Computer Vision systems on FPGAs, consider joining our ClickCV Early Access programme. ClickCV Early Access provides bespoke service and support for developing advanced Computer Vision systems on FPGAs. We use our own proprietary Computer Vision Library, ClickCV, to provide our clients the cutting edge in low latency, high definition processing. Contact us today to find out how we could build your next-generation system.

About the Author: Andrew Swirski is the founder and managing director of Beetlebox, a Computer Vision Acceleration specialist. The company develops the Computer Vision Acceleration library called ClickCV, which is designed to fully utilise the hardware adaptability and performance of FPGA chips. Beetlebox is currently running an Early Access programme, where the company provides bespoke service and support to develop client’s Computer Vision systems on FPGAs. Before Beetlebox, Andrew Swirski previously worked at Intel (formerly Altera) in FPGA encoding and decoding. He completed a Masters’ in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Imperial College London in 2017.

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