V-Nova now has â€œmore than twoâ€ commercial deployments with Tier 1 television operators who are using its PERSEUS compression codec on distribution networks for video into set-top boxes. These deployments mean that the new codec is currently being used to deliver traditional broadcast, IPTV and streaming video into set-top boxes in customer homes, thus covering all major distribution types. It is already known (as we recently reported) that Wyplay has integrated PERSEUS into the existing set-top-box platform of one Tier 1 European TV operator that uses its Frog Client middleware and that the two vendors are working on several other implementation projects. We are highlighting these projects only because they are the first to be spoken about publicly (even with this limited detail).
V-Nova is the company that recently came out of a five-year stealth period claiming that PERSEUS completely shifts the bit rate curve and makes it possible to deliver UHD in HD bit rates, HD in SD bit rates and SD in sub-audio bit rates. (See initial report). The company has created a stir in the industry because of the boldness of its claims. Eric Achtmann, V-Novaâ€™s Executive Chairman, says the technology has been received warmly across the television delivery ecosystem and now he has addressed concerns, raised by some commentators and reported here, that any non-standards codec will struggle to gain traction and would deny users the IP (Intellectual Property) transparency they need in order to use a codec with confidence. He points out that company investors carried out IP due diligence and a major, as yet unnamed, IP management company handles the PERSEUS patent pool.
Guido Meardi, CEO at V-Nova, calls the IP issue a Red Herring, partly for technology reasons. â€œBecause of the way the codec is designed, solving as-yet unsolved problems, the patent pool and IP pool associated with PERSEUS is completely separate to legacy codecs. A large component of legacy codec patent pools are associated with features that PERSEUS does not even use, like blocking and de-blocking. We are talking about two completely different technology approaches so there is no overlap.â€
V-Nova has made PERSEUS broadly available as a license, including to existing encoder vendors and for decoding. Meardi contests the view that a codec must be standardized in order to gain wide acceptance and use, and points out that PERSEUS will generally be used as an add-on to existing infrastructure that makes use of many existing standards. â€œWe use MPEG Transport Stream and MPEG encapsulation and all the standard DRMs and we are compatible with everything people are using,â€ he declares.
â€œWe donâ€™t touch lots of the standards. We only touch one very tiny thing, which is the elemental stream and some of the transforms. The standardization worries are misplaced. It works, it is inexpensive, so where is the problem and why is there a need to rubber-stamp PERSEUS with a standardization body?”
V-Nova is emphasizing that it is a software company licensing software, trying to clear up any confusion that, because it announced partnerships with hardware companies like Hitachi Data Systems (and their servers) it is competing in the equipment market. And Achtmann has confirmed that in order for his company to pursue its ambition to create new video markets worldwide using improved compression it needs partners â€œwho do that [compression-related ecosystem solutions] for a living and have support and distribution networks.â€
When V-Nova launched, it talked about 20 partners as part of its ‘open innovation consortiumâ€™ but there are many more who cannot be announced. â€œWe are heading towards a triple-digit figure,” Achtmann reveals.
Meardi makes it clear that while V-Nova has disruptive technology, it is not disrupting the compression ecosystem. Encoder vendors can upgrade existing encoding products to use PERSEUS with a software plug-in and the initial integration work would take a few weeks. After that a Pay TV operator could add the new codec to their existing encoding infrastructure, â€œand sometimes they do not even have to change hardware.â€ The codec can be applied to set-top boxes with an over-the-air update or to CE connected devices with their own software update.
He also emphasizes that in the real world, PERSEUS is not an alternative codec to H.264 or HEVC but will be used with encoders that also have these compression capabilities. So the expectation is that it will be offered to platform operators by encoder vendors who license PERSEUS as an option. Meardi emphasizes that this new codec is not going to create a fork in the road in the current upgrade process, which until now has been a straight and clear route from H.264 to HEVC encoding.
Nobody is going to change their plans for new HEVC encoders or new HEVC set-top boxes because of the availability of PERSEUS, he says. Video providers thinking about UHD deployments, for example, will be looking for HEVC encoders first and would then make a decision whether to use PERSEUS as a plug-in. He expects operators to make the same equipment decisions, with essentially the same CapEx considerations.
â€œIf you want to go from H.264 to HEVC you can use PERSEUS to do more exciting things. We are always more of an add-on and an accelerator rather than something that moves the decision [about whether to upgrade from H.264 to HEVC]. From a theoretical technology point of view, PERSEUS can be used as an alternative to HEVC but it is not an alternative in practice. It is something that will be built on top of whatever you were already using.â€
Achtmann points out that higher performance compression (from any technology) always presents the options to reduce bandwidth costs or increase picture quality or extend the size or reach of a video service offer (or a mixture of the three). But he declares: â€œNone of our customers are using PERSEUS as a way to reduce cost. It is all about introducing additional services. They are actually increasing their use of bandwidth and the number of set-top boxes and renewal rates for set-top boxes because they are investing in new services.
â€œThat is why the industry is reacting well because companies [including people that sell set-top boxes, servers or satellite bandwidth] understand that we are helping the ecosystem. We are shifting the bit rate curve so that people can hit the thresholds and marginal costs that will increase demand for video services.â€
Achtmann says the key benefit of PERSEUS is that it takes video bit rates (at the right quality) below key thresholds that open up new markets. In his view, HEVC on its own will not achieve that, despite its promised performance improvements. His company has therefore focused on achieving key thresholds to make UHD a much more attractive business proposition and extend the reach of live streaming sports (OTT video) and mobile video (including in emerging markets), as key examples.