NAB 2019 Reflections: V-Nova CEO Guido Meardi on Power of PERSEUS Pro for At-Home, UHD Contribution

High efficiency, low latency, low cost are the goal

At NAB 2019, V-Nova highlighted how its compression platforms can serve increasing demand for at-home-production and UHD-contribution and -distribution solutions. The company offered several demos featuring its PERSEUS Pro codec for contribution and PERSEUS Plus platform for distribution and also launched a cloud-based SaaS transcoding and delivery platform for enhanced PERSEUS Plus H.264 and native H.264 encoding.

In addition, V-Nova and Xilinx announced the availability of PERSEUS XSA, an easily deployable plug-and-play encoding accelerator for existing live or VOD encoding pipelines and PERSEUS XDE, a native encoding solution running entirely on FPGA.

SVG sat down with V-Nova CEO/co-founder Guido Meardi to discuss the latest developments for PERSEUS Pro and PERSEUS Plus, the UHD at-home-production demo at the company’s booth, how he’s seeing at-home production dramatically change the industry, and how he believes V-Nova can serve the oncoming onslaught of UHD content.

V-Nova’s Guido Meardi: “When you see the benefits of virtualizing one production, you’re going to want to virtualize all of them.”

What is V-Nova demonstrating here at NAB 2019?
I think the biggest news at the show is our demo showing something pretty unprecedented [in relation to] contribution for remote [at-home] production. We are bringing eight UHD camera feeds from London with low latency under a hundred milliseconds over unmanaged public internet, which is very cool. And the encoders being used to do that are one-third the cost per channel [compared with] the cheapest alternative. Not only are you getting the highest possible efficiency, you’re also able to do something that otherwise wouldn’t be possible or feasible.

How much have you seen the trend of at-home production grow in the past year, and what do you see as the primary benefits of this model?
For [at-home] production, most people think of as lower-end [productions]: Tier 2, Tier 3. But, in reality, we are seeing [at-home] production even for Tier 1. More and more people are considering it because it’s a great way to efficiently use resources. This industry has asset utilization close to 30% or 40%. If you start doing a lot more [at-home] production, you can increase the asset utilization. Aside from increasing efficiency, you are also increasing quality because you can use a better crew and have [equipment]. And, by the way, your crew doesn’t necessarily need to be all in one place. You might have the replay [operator] in one place and another [crew member] in a totally different city.

Once you start doing it, it’s difficult to say, “I do remote production only for certain events and not for others.” When you see the benefits of virtualizing one production, you’re going to want to virtualize all of them.

If you couple this trend with a necessity to move toward UHD, that’s where you really start to see the benefits. I need to go to Ultra HD, which will be as much as eight times more [bandwidth], so how am I going to do that in an efficient way? Here, we are showing that there’s already an answer. We are showing that it’s not only possible, but it’s cost-effective and high-quality.

Are you seeing increasing demand for UHD contribution and transmission solutions?
Yes, absolutely. People are realizing that Ultra HD is here to stay. There was debate in the past years, but, this year, I think people realize that they will have to [transition to] UHD and are determining how to do that.

What are the advantages of using V-Nova’s PERSEUS Pro codec for UHD contribution as opposed to HEVC or other next-gen codecs?
PERSEUS Pro uses some of the concepts of JPEG 2000, with totally different structures; it is a hierarchical codec that is more efficient. It is extremely efficient for ultra-high resolutions because it is about four times more-efficient compression versus typical alternatives for UHD and about a hundred times more efficient in processing power. So UHD really brings out more of the benefits of the codec. When it originally came out, we were talking mostly about the benefits for HD, but now UHD has taken it to the next level. We also leverage AI within the codec loop to make it even more efficient, adding an additional 20%-25% of compression gains.

For contribution, [the advantages of PERSEUS Pro are] very simple: lower latency and a much lower cost of equipment, plus additional features, such as frame-by-frame dynamic bitrate control for [at-home] production.

If you have multiple cameras, that allows you to have one [camera feed] be visually lossless and the other a [lower-resolution] proxy. You can choose how to allocate the bitrate, and, with frame accuracy, you can switch and allocate wherever you want the visually lossless feed. This allows you to get to 20X-30X less bandwidth if you have a lot of cameras. This dynamic real-time bandwidth allocation on a frame-by-frame level is not feasible with any other technology.

The cost per channel is three or four times lower. Additional features, on top of compression, give you tens of times in savings in bandwidth, plus the better compression makes for a pretty good package.

And what are the advantages of using PERSEUS Plus for UHD distribution?
For distribution, it’s actually not an alternative to HEVC or AV1, etc., because, on distribution, what we use is not the full codec, PERSEUS Pro. But we use the low-complexity enhancement codec, PERSEUS Plus, which is what now is being standardized as the foundation of the new MPEG-5, Part 2 standard. We’ll work collaboratively in the next few months to finalize that.

In the case of PERSEUS Pro, you can run on top of HEVC, on top of AV1, on top of AVC, on top of VP9, on top of whatever you want. It makes it faster and better quality. And the reason we do that in delivery is that we can piggyback on the ecosystem already in place for the leveraged codec and we can keep the same device compatibility of the leveraged codec.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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