V-Nova’s P+ making preliminary waves a long way from the west

With V-Nova’s Perseus Plus codec (now going by the simplified P+) coming at a premium while various compression technologies can be nabbed royalty free, it was perhaps surprising for a debut deployment to pop up at an unknown pan-African streaming service. Has the UK software outfit finally found its calling – destined to transform the streaming landscape in emerging markets? V-Nova’s SVP Product & Marketing, Fabio Murra, isn’t so sure.

“We expect P+ to be adopted across the board, in Europe, Asia and the US,” was Murra’s initial response to Faultline’s assertions that operators in more developed regions were less likely to embrace the technology, with many impervious to change. Of course, we told Murra he would say that, but the difference to say a year ago is that V-Nova now has the bragging rights of a company fundamental to assisting in the development of the MPEG-5 Part-2 standard, as revealed earlier this year.

So, having just bulked up P+ with low complexity enhancement video coding (LCEVC) – the world’s first implementation of this codec agnostic bi-layer – V-Nova has a major test with an ambitious African venture named MVMO (Movies, Video, Music, Opportunity) – which is sure to draw confusion with the term MVNO.

“MVMO is part of a much bigger initiative in a continent of 1.2 billion people. Yes, distribution is difficult, but this is mostly to mobile devices and we have the technology for the largest possible reach. P+ helps to improve efficiency and with the combination of LCEVC and H.264 this means cost savings as well as greater efficiency,” added Murra.

MVMO will roll out as an ad-supported offering across the continent from December following trials currently underway in Nigeria, supported by CMS and ad insertion capabilities from Simplestream and backed by the Creative Africa Exchange. With so much talk about 5G to the frustration of swathes of subscribers who still struggle for decent 3G coverage, this project is going back to cellular roots, aiming to deliver MVMO content to consumers even on 2G networks at a bitrate of just 100 Kbps – and even full HD at only 1 Mbps.

Fellow UK firm Simplestream has been praised by V-Nova for breaking new ground in the initiation of new streaming services, the company name embodying the desires and goals of our entire industry.

LCEVC allows any existing encoding pipeline, whether running AVC, HEVC, VP9, AV1 and even VVC further down the line, to achieve the same or better quality as a next-generation codec at the same bitrate and at up to 4x lower computational complexity, according to V-Nova. Available as an SDK, as a containerized transcoding microservice, directly from the V-Nova platform in AWS, or pre-integrated into various open source options, P+ becomes the first compression technology on the market to make use of the LCEVC standard, of which Perseus itself continues to play a pivotal role in developing prior to Part 2’s completion next year.

Murra revealed how V-Nova was in an advantageous position enabling it to be first to market with LCEVC. Working closely with MPEG meant V-Nova had access to versions of LCEVC stretching back years and was therefore able to get the standard rolled out quickly. Others in the space are now actively talking about embracing LCEVC, according to Murra.

More recently, V-Nova started working with AI analysis outfit Metaliquid to develop products for content indexing powered by machine learning. Targeted at the broadcast space, the tie-up claims broadcasters often sacrifice resolution during video analysis to make the process cheaper and faster – a sacrifice which V-Nova and Metaliquid claim reduces accuracy when recognizing key features such as faces or optical character recognition of small text.

Combining V-Nova’s Perseus Pro software with Metaliquid’s video analysis suite produced an initial PoC demonstrating a 3.2x performance gain over JPEG and promising further gains during productization. Associated Press is impressed, applying the catalyst project to its multimedia archive – one of the world’s largest – and managing to process more content at a faster pace with “richer” data as a result.

Last summer we ran the headline ‘The V-Nova problem – great product, few customers’ which Murra and his colleagues reveled in. “Hopefully we can change your mind,” he noted, and while MVMO is an exciting prospect for the African content market and its work with MPEG a major milestone, V-Nova still has much left to prove.