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28 April 2022

NAB 2022 embodies ecosystem acceptance of LCEVC

Few faces at the Las Vegas Convention Center this week better visualized the state of video right now than V-Nova’s CEO Guido Meardi. Unusually relaxed for such a massive event, with an underlying hint of frustration.

The mission for NAB 2022 was simple – reconnect with the ecosystem in preparation for the world being ready for low complexity enhancement video codec (LCEVC) technology. Long gone is the V-Nova branding, swapped for safety as a standard with MPEG-5 LCEVC adorning the stand – a move we think has been key to recent endorsements of the technology.

With LCEVC being officially born just before the pandemic, it has a lot to prove in physical settings. LCEVC’s real-life capabilities are demonstrated by the PresenZ volumetric movie format, and a certain very large social media company tells Faultline at NAB it is impressed by the demo, and is in the process of examining LCEVC’s performance gains, as an avenue to accelerating adoption of next-generation codecs such as AV1, in which there is a vested interest.

Frustration is typical of our conversations with V-Nova, as an underperformer, but that observation is becoming less and less true every time we reconnect. Excuses are made, as always, for not signing enough contracts, but the faith from investors is strong for V-Nova’s business model as it prepares to ramp up for making serious money in the next couple of years. There is a catch 22 of sorts at the company right now, with a fundamental lack of personnel, but the prospect of expanding the team is not seen as a short-term answer to V-Nova’s current problems – no matter how overworked the team might feel.

This is a waiting game now. Technologically, it is proven, and the licensing model has received plenty of positive feedback. But is an inherently wary industry ready? Meardi is demonstrably pleased with the state of the ecosystem, after so long, with chipset makers in particular reacting much better than expected, with less pushback than is typical of the silicon camp.

People seem to have made peace that LCEVC is happening – not as a niche compression enhancement technology but as a mainstream standard.

But we already knew this. What is new is how NAB signaled an acceptance of LCEVC. Former skeptics line the list of some 20 companies committing to product demonstrations using LCEVC, flexing its muscles for both broadcast and OTT readiness. These include AMD/Xilinx, Amlogic, Harmonic, Kynesim, MainConcept, Netint, Nvidia, Oregan Networks, Qencode, Red5 Pro, Resi, SBTVD Forum, SEI Robotics, Simplestream, Southworks, Steinwurf, TheoPlayer, Videon, and Visaic.

At the show, V-Nova (or should we say LCEVC), was demonstrating high density live 2160p60 encoding and set top/TV playback of LCEVC-enhanced H.264 at 14Mbps. For mobile, LCEVC can be decoded on iOS by AV Player and on Android by Exo player applications, with applications employing the existing hardware decode capabilities and LCEVC being applied in software.

It was also showcasing LCEVC decoded on a modified Shaka player, the most used open source player on the planet. As a modified HTML player, there is no need to install binaries on the client device to support LCEVC enhanced playback, we are informed.

The proof, however, will be in the bank balance, as our conversations with V-Nova routinely start with technology before inevitably circling around to the subject of money. Some cash has been made, we are told, but projections are aggressive for LCEVC licensing revenues to ramp up by 2024, primarily driven by the arrival of SBTVD 3.0 in Brazil. In the meantime, V-Nova has just enough revenues to keep the train chugging along, as it chases the elusive unicorn.