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June 5, 2021

LCEVC Licensing Offers Different Model to Kickstart 8K Market

In the recent Spring edition of CSI Magazine, editor Goran Nastic looks at creating a superior video experience with better compression. He states that licensing is as essential for codecs, if not more so than the underlying technology! So true – and just as this article posted, we noted that V-Nova has released its licensing terms of the LCEVC codec.

When looking to 8K, the CSI article notes the extra strain 8K can put on networks if not optimally compressed and addresses why, “counterintuitively, greater capacity requires even better compression”. We agree with Nastic when he states that operators will probably not transmit 8K at 80-100Mbps as NHK has been doing over satellite in Japan for the last two years. The experts he spoke to believe that the MPEG standard VVC will dominate 8K codecs. As we’ve already discussed in our recent take on the Faultline 2030 Codec forecast (which incidentally projects total licensing revenues of 30B USD by 2030), China will probably go its own way with local codec AVS3.

Last month, London-based V-Nova announced licensing terms for entertainment video services using the MPEG standard LCEVC. According to Nastic, these are probably the fastest licensing terms to hit the codec market so soon after standardization. V-Nova’s licensing allows for some royalty-free usage to kick-start the market. LCEVC, or to be precise, MPEG-5 Part 2 LCEVC, is designed to enhance video coder-decoder performance, including for H.264/AVC, H.265/HEVC and H.266/VCC. LCEVC specifies how a base stream – decodable by a hardware decoder – and an enhancement stream – suitable for software processing – can be used.

Nastic explains the “enhancing next-gen codecs like VVC with LCEVC makes 8K transmission much more practical because bit-rates are reduced, and less processing power is required in devices to decode the streams.”  It implements a base encode using a native codec and adds a higher resolution encoding of the residuals or differences from the original source. For 8K, that means a 4K base encode using HEVC or AV1 for example, with an enhancement layer with “residual ” information needed to reconstruct the 8K source file at the receiver.

Initial results using a Main Concept HEVC encoder coupled with LEEVC for an 8K source file was presented in last September’s webinar sponsored by Main Concept.  The data below is from 23:15 in the webinar. Note the the 45% bit rate reduction for a VMAF score of 90.

LCEVC can be used to deliver higher video quality in limited bandwidth scenarios, especially when the available bandwidth is low for high-resolution video delivery and encoding or decoding complexity is a challenge.  Another application is immersive VR video that is often packaged in an 8K video container.

The integration license is free and enables device or chipset manufacturers, operating systems, browsers, in-house development and encoder or player vendors to integrate V-Nova LCEVC encoding and decoding libraries.

The usage license is priced on service size, measured by the total number of users. Above a lower free threshold, the cost per user is calculated according to volume, ranging from 12 cents to 1 cent per user, capped at $3.7 million per year.

We also asked industry pundit Thierry Fautier, Past President-Chair at Ultra HD Forum & VP Video Strategy Harmonic,  for his views on how these licensing announcements affect the nascent 8K market. He told us that “LCEVC licensing terms are on the right track. It is a simple scheme where only service providers pay per activated user. Therefore, we will potentially have a large enough installed base of 8K devices to support LCEVC. Furthermore, those will be the most powerful devices in processing power, able to support 4K to 8K up-conversion. The stars are starting to align.” Perhaps so.