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NAB 2018: V-Nova Talks PERSEUS and Delivery Platforms
V-Nova co-founder and CEO Guido Meardi describes how his company has taken the PERSEUS codec launched three years ago and produced a finished product playable in all browsers and mobile devices, and many STB and OTT platforms.
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At NAB, Jan Ozer met with about a dozen companies with stakes in HEVC and/or AV1. This is another in a series of video interviews he conducted with them.

Jan Ozer: Jan Ozer here at the V-Nova booth at NAB with V-Nova president, founder, and CEO Guido Meardi. It was April 1, 2015 when V-Nova launched the PERSEUS codec, and I've been in the codec business a long time. A codec can be the most wonderful thing in the world. But until it becomes totally usable, until everybody can access it, it's not going to be adopted by a lot of people. What I'm hearing is that's an experience you went through over the last three years. Tell us what you've done to go from the codec to a well-rounded finished product. 

Guido Meardi: When we launched in 2015, I was very careful to make sure that people understood the credibility that we have as a company. People say, "Come on, BS. It cannot be possibly true. Too good to be true." I'm very glad that in 2016 we proved that it was true. Everything that we promised, we did. And it's important because we like credibility and reliability. 

However, the codec was still hard to deploy at scale. You saw it yourself, you saw that it worked. But at the same time it was difficult to use it everywhere, especially for streaming. At the same time, we're on a mission to give more quality to everybody. More with less. We are in dire need for that. AV1 and HEVC—AV1 is actually the response to that need. And we need to help for that. So, we worked a lot, in order to productize all the libraries and all the tools that are necessary to really deploy PERSEUS everywhere on all devices, today in a snap.

Jan Ozer: And in all browsers. What did you have to do to get PERSEUS playing in those browsers without a plugin?

Guido Meardi: I need to thank Colleen Henry of Facebook. Because it's her idea to use WebGL in a clever way because she understood our codec extremely well. Essentially, Web GL is the answer. Essentially our codec, they code in hardware using the combination of a base codec that is already available in terms of hardware acceleration. 

Jan Ozer: So that's H.264.

Guido Meardi: Right now, mostly H.264 or HEVC, but in the future, also AV1 and VP9. You know we are codec-agnostic in that sense. But we use that hardware in a different way, then we use the graphics pipeline, which is dedicated hardware as well. We combine the two so that, essentially, we can compress better and decode in hardware on 100% of devices and 100% of browsers plugin-free.

I'm very glad that here at NAB, we're showing it with the first global channel that deployed from a major broadcaster. We have a news channel that is out to deploy that and it's already on a few million phones and tablets and PCs. It's showing what we promised, because we promised with PERSEUS 2 it would bring full HD 1080p live to below one to two megabits. We're actually doing 1080p at 980Kbps. You saw it yourself, and it works. It's actually quite nice, 720p at 450Kbps and down to 360p, 320Kbps. 

These are numbers, but they actually mean money. They mean more people watching, which means more advertising revenues, more subscription revenues, more quality, more satisfaction, and less cost. You know it's up to 60 percent lower cost per minute in terms of bandwidth. 

Jan Ozer: You know I went to watch your video on Chrome. You're saying it's OpenGL or whatever technology you mentioned. Where does the player or where does the decoder come from?

Guido Meardi: In JavaScript, and we have a host of players. We have integrated with Shaka player, video.JS, or professional players such as THEOplayer. People have a range of options from Open Source—if they want to think we're Open Source--or professional players if they want professional players. Essentially the JavaScript handles the coordination of the hardware blocks in order to make sure they are used properly. What is done in JavaScript is essentially very little. Most of the processing is done in hardware. That's why we can also achieve 1080p60 encoding, even on phones. Actually, it’s as efficient or sometimes even more efficient than just encoding H.264.

Jan Ozer: So, you use a player that has your decoder integrated into it, like Open Telly or some of the other ones you mentioned. Once you have that then it just plays in any browser. 

Guido Meardi: There's also an ultimate fallback, because one of the things that we noticed with this deployment is that we were doing 1080p and the customer at the beginning was like, "Some of our devices are so old that they cannot decode 1080p, not even H.264. So we should now blacklist the top profile for them." And I said, "No, not a problem because PERSEUS has a hierarchical codec. The decoder automatically detects if the device is not powerful enough to do 1080p or UltraHD. It can scale back to a lower resolution and decode or adjust, for instance, the base codec.

In a hassle-free fashion, you can upgrade the qualities, push up the resolutions and the perceived quality, and lower the bitrate. And you serve 100% of devices without fearing that you leave somebody behind. 

Jan Ozer: You've got the browser situation, what does it take to play PERSEUS on mobile? 

Guido Meardi: You can still use HTML5 if you want, or you can use native libraries like Exoplayer. You can use AV Foundation's type interfaces, or you can use professional players like THEOplayer or VisualOn. VisualOn is coming also for HTML5. Essentially, you have the range of options between using native players if you want to tinker with open source, or professional players if you want kind of a unified player experience across devices. 

Jan Ozer: In packaging, is that going to be DASH?

Guido Meardi: For packaging, we are completely neutral. Essentially, PERSEUS creates an MP4 or a TS, totally normal. We put PERSEUS in standard announcement information. As long as you don't strip it, you use the normal packaging. For instance, right now we're deploying Wowza, we're deployed on standard packaging. The deployment we have right now are on HLS, but we can also do DASH for web. We are packaging neutral DRM because it's for all practical purposes at the encapsulation level.  

Jan Ozer: What's the monetization model? How are you making money?

Guido Meardi: So, first of all it doesn't require any enablement royalty. That's the important thing because we know that the big problem is that these guys are becoming important. Right now, manufacturers cannot pay dollars of royalties to enable these devices. Because it's too much versus the price of low-cost mobile devices. That's also why the industry reacted strongly to the fact that we needed royalty-free codecs. PERSEUS is actually already achieving that today without even necessarily changing the hardware. Because all the royalties are already there. All the hardware that is necessary is already there. 

There's only a licensing to use it, which is actually pretty low. It's the licensing that you would pay to use whatever professional software, because if you need to deploy a service to millions of people, of course it's not for free. Either you do it yourself with a group of people and then you pay their salaries, or you need to pay somebody for software. You know what we sell and what we license is reliable, tested software with assistance that allows providers and people to stream quality services.

Jan Ozer: So, does that mean if I'm using THEOplayer I'm going to pay them something, or are you included in that? 

Guido Meardi: Right now, you would pay them and you would pay us, because we are separate; we don't bundle. But the concept is the same and our license would depend on the services. It can be a flat fee or it can be per stream or per user, per year. It depends on the business model of the customers, and on preferences. But, we have a number of models that are not surprising. The other models are any add-on that you have from ad insertion analytics to audio codecs.

Jan Ozer: What does the encoding side look like?

Guido Meardi: The encoding side is very simple, because if you have an FFmpeg-based workflow, very easy. You can still use an FFmpeg with the PERSEUS base codec. If you have a professional encoder, there are already a range of professional encoder solutions that integrated our libraries such as Imagine Communications, RealVideo, Harmonic did with PERSEUS 1. For PERSEUS 2, there are many others that are coming that are about to be announced. So there are a range of options. In general, it's very easy to integrate it. 

We also have cloud-based solutions. We're already integrated within Azure and AWS. We also have FPGA-based solutions for hyperscale operators in the Cloud with F1 instances. We're partnering with Xilinx, as we announced here. We're already also integrated with NGcodec for PERSEUS plus HEVC, PERSEUS plus VP9, H.264, and AV1 coming. 

Jan Ozer: Which partners have you announced that are actually using the codec in distribution at the show?

Guido Meardi: Here at the show, we announced the first American customer, which is very important. So far, we were active in Europe and Asia. So, we're very proud to announce uCast. uCast, aside from being a young company, is backed by Canon, who's very important in the industry. I'm honored that the chairman and CEO immediately saw in PERSEUS something very cool to adopt for his own business.

I like their business a lot because they essentially want to expand the monetization of content owners. They immediately saw how important an impact PERSEUS could have on their business, because we can really expand the audience to improve the qualities and lower the cost. We’re proud of that. 

We also have another couple of announcements coming that we couldn't finalize in time for NAB. But, a major player in Africa and also another one in the U.S. coming soon.  

Jan Ozer: This has been an NAB that was largely dominated by talk of AV1 and HEVC, and it's important to recognize that there are other alternatives out there. PERSEUS is one of the ones that have gotten the most traction.

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