V-Nova continues to demonstrate progress for its PERSEUS compression codec, which offers dramatic bit rate savings for both contribution and distribution applications. In the two years since it came out of stealth mode, the company has proved itself in live deployments with major platform operators and broadcasters, with validated bit rates of 4Mbps instead of 8Mbps for HD to IPTV set-top boxes, and 300Mbps for visually lossless UHD contribution of live football – bit rates close to one-quarter of what would have been needed with JPEG-2000.
V-Nova has just completed its first acquisition and recently introduced the next-generation of its P.Link contribution solution, which provides greater channel density, ready for multichannel UHD deployments alongside existing HD feeds. Its looks as if satellite operator Thaicom is getting ready to use PERSEUS for distribution applications. The company has been demonstrating broadcasts of premium sports over satellite in UHD using the codec, with Teerayuth Boonchote, acting CTO at Thaicom, talking about “making UHD a reality for subscribers to any of our customers.”
In February, V-Nova acquired Faroudja Enterprises for its video pre-processing and post-processing technologies, which are said to deliver a 35-50% efficiency boost when used with any codec, including MPEG-2, H.264 and HEVC, subject to the usual caveats about the quality of content being compressed. V-Nova will now integrate the Faroudja solutions with PERSEUS as part of an expanded product suite.
The pre-processor and post-processor will not be marketed separately to the PERSEUS codec. V-Nova says a tight integration between the solutions will deliver additional synergies. Given the existing efficiency improvements from the codec alone, the potential for PERSEUS with Faroudja pre- and post-processing is intriguing.
The Faroudja pre- and post- processing does not require any modifications to the codec. The system includes techniques for video enhancement such as multidimensional video processing and the use of a unique support layer in parallel with the conventional compression path.
According to Fabio Murra, SVP Product & Marketing at V-Nova, ‘multi-dimensional video processing’ is a way to describe an approach to coding information independently of the dimensions used to represent it. “These could be space and time – in the case of video – but also volumetric information or the inclusion of alpha channels. In multi-dimensional encoding they are basically treated as one, collectively.
“When encoding a video, the data can be separated into multiple layers – of different resolutions or frequencies for example – and compressed, transported and decoded independently,” Murra explains. “In fact, part could be compressed with a conventional, existing system and the other used as a ‘support’ layer to better represent the source in compatible decoding systems.”
The acquisition comes six months after Eutelsat became a minority shareholder in V-Nova. As part of that deal, Eutelsat was given some exclusive rights for using PERSEUS in distribution applications (there is no exclusivity for the contribution market). This is part of a broad strategy at Eutelsat to encourage the uptake of HD, UHD and eventually other immersive video formats including 360 degree video and VR.
V-Nova can point to some significant deployments for both contribution and distribution applications. Sky Italia uses PERSEUS for studio-to-studio transport in what was the first deployment for PERSEUS in this industry, and the Italian broadcaster Rai used the codec to contribute its UHD channel during the UEFA Euro 2016 football tournament last summer. Eutelsat provided the backhaul, uplink and satellite services between Paris and Italy.
Seven matches were broadcast in UHD by Rai alongside its HD coverage and were made available on the tivùsat platform. The broadcaster had leased a 1Gbps link for the tournament (from Eutelsat) and it was deemed impossible to fit the UHD service into this alongside the HDTV, internal file transfers and other data services needed. Working with Eutelsat and using PERSEUS, Rai contributed the UHD channel at 300Mbps using visually lossless compression with low latency. This was about one-quarter of the bandwidth needed with JPEG-2000, according to the companies involved. The video was full-frame 3840 x 2160 at 50fps.
Murra says there are contribution solutions that use H.264 that could have worked for Rai in terms of their bandwidth capacity, but they relied on temporal compression, which he says would have increased latency. Rai was covering the quarter-finals, semi-finals and final in UHD and did not want any signal delays for this super-premium content, especially as it was being shown on different platforms. This could be an example of a service that would simply not have been viable if it had needed additional infrastructure costs.
Proving that PERSEUS works for the distribution market, where you need to worry about thousands if not millions of decoders, rather than just the handful for contribution, Sky Italia uses PERSEUS to stream its Pay TV bouquet to IPTV set-top boxes. This application uses PERSEUS as a software-only upgrade to Harmonic ViBE VS7000 encoders in the headend (Thomson is now part of Harmonic and Thomson announced its integration with PERSEUS at IBC 2015). No changes were needed to any distribution infrastructure or workflows. The Sky set-top boxes were also upgraded via software.
The Thaicom demonstration of UHD distribution with PERSEUS was conducted in Bangkok this week as part of a workshop on 4K/8K broadcasting and production equipment organised by the Office of The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) and Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC). Teerayuth Boonchote said: “Premium sports remains the most valuable asset for operators worldwide. Yet, very few have been able to offer Ultra HD live sports at practical bit rates, while fans’ demand for it rises. Working with V-Nova enables us to deliver UHD feeds at low bit rates without compromising on quality of experience or latency, making UHD a reality for subscribers to any of our customers.”
Guido Meardi, CEO and Co-Founder at V-Nova, declared: “We are enabling the TV and media industry to tackle one of its main challenges with a simple add-on that runs on off-the-shelf hardware. We are confident this provides the impetus the industry needs to develop new premium live services.”
For the contribution and production market, V-Nova makes PERSEUS compression available with its own P.Link encoder/decoder as one option, as used by Eutelsat and Rai. This week the company introduced its new generation of P.Link, designed to help operators scale from pilot UHD services to multichannel offers, with support for an interchangeable mix of HD and UHD content and the ability to allocate bandwidth across feeds seamlessly and on a frame-by-frame basis, meaning without loss of sync or an increase in latency. This latter capability is courtesy of a Dynamic Multiplexer.
Thus P.Link makes it easy to carry UHD alongside cash-generating HD contribution feeds that are already in place. The new generation P.Link has a smaller form factor and higher density than its predecessor. V-Nova says this solution (including PERSEUS) “allows the highest quality video at a fraction of the traditional bandwidth and up to 70% lower cost per channel.”
The new P.Link is a carrier-grade, software-based 1RU COTS appliance with redundant solid-state drives, hot swappable power supplies and hot swappable fans. A single P. Link can process up to eight HD or two 4K/UHD channels per 1RU frame. No hardware alterations are needed for HD/UHD format change or for reconfiguration as an encoder or decoder.