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The programmable video signal processor (VSP) is an important category of processors for multimedia systems. Programmable video processors combine the flexibility of programmability with special architectural features that improve performance on video processing applications. VSPs are typically multiple processors with several processing elements (PEs) and a parallel memory system. This paper focuses on the architectural design of the PE's in a video processor and shows how technology and circuit parameters influence the structure of the datapath and, hence, the overall architecture of a programmable VSP. We emphasize the need to consider technological and circuit-level issues during the design of a system architecture and present a method whereby the conceptual organization of the PEs-the number of PEs, pipelining of the datapath, size of the register file, and number of register ports-can be evaluated in terms of a target set of applications before a detailed design is undertaken. We use motion-estimation and discrete cosine transform as example applications to illustrate how various technology parameters affect the architectural design choices. We show that the design of the register file and the datapath-pipeline depth can drastically affect PE utilization and, therefore, the number of PEs required for different applications. Our results demonstrate that pursuing the fastest cycle time can greatly increase the silicon area which must be devoted to PEs, due to both increased pipeline latency and reduced register file bandwidth.