V-Nova’s CEO and co-founder Guido Meardi gave little away during a Faultline Podcast interview cameo just two weeks ago regarding the codec company’s acquisition of Parallaxter – proprietor of the PresenZ volumetric video format that V-Nova has gushed over for two years.
By Tommy Flanagan
Download article here: XR/VR is V-Nova’s modus operandi with PresenZ purchase
While the price of the deal has not been disclosed, it reaffirms that V-Nova is betting big on VR and XR experiences, for anyone who wasn’t already acutely aware of this very public strategy – one further compounded by Meardi’s appearance on a recent expert panel discussion hosted by Faultline.
Parallaxter – named after the parallax trigonometry tool used by astronomers to calculate distances of stars – equips V-Nova with its first legitimate product tailormade for VR and XR experiences.
It is true that V-Nova’s other products – notably its LCEVC MPEG-5 video enhancement standard and VC-6 production codec – can be deployed to lower bitrates required for delivering bandwidth-intensive experiences such as VR gaming, but – with PresenZ – V-Nova can now legitimately call itself a VR/XR company (although we understand V-Nova was already an investor).
PresenZ is a volumetric movie format claiming to be the first accessible technology catering for prerendering of 6DoF images from a standard animation pipeline – promising to render the most complex scenes and highest quality assets in VR.
Production studios are the traditional target for PresenZ, bringing new customer names to V-Nova’s doorstep. However, already the acquisition of Brussels-based PresenZ promises to introduce lifelike six degrees of freedom (6DoF) experiences to consumers.
“Shortly” is the ballpark timeframe given in the announcement – so we expect a tangible consumer use cases based on the fusion of V-Nova-PresenZ technologies (not including the Construct VR demo) before NAB 2024.
In truth, PresenZ was effectively already a product of the V-Nova portfolio.
It was mid-November 2021, almost exactly two years ago, when V-Nova staked a claim for serving up the world’s first 6DoF photorealistic movie delivered in the PresenZ volumetric movie format.
Here, V-Nova and PresenZ pooled resources to turn Construct, a CGI animated movie, into Construct VR, an immersive 6DoF adaptation. This was the first time we had heard of the LCEVC enhancement codec being applied to volumetric video, with the point-cloud compression part of this partnership based on LCEVC as well as SMPTE VC-6 standards developed by V-Nova.
Faultline only had to wait a matter of weeks to see this in action first-hand, immersed into the 8-minute movie via an Oculus Quest 2 headset.
We recall being impressed by the vibrancy and detail of foreground rendered images, although we were critical at the time of grainy background images (Meardi blamed the Quest 2 and said this would be much improved with Quest 3).
Personal recollections aside, the crucial element of this Q4 2021 demo was that V-Nova was showcasing real-time compression of huge data volumes at 72fps.
V-Nova’s point-cloud technology compresses hundreds of gigabytes of data to transform an entire VR movie into a manageable asset ready for distribution, real-time encoding and consumption on all major VR headsets.
V-Nova has previously claimed that rival technologies are way off the mark in terms of performance, and that was prior to the acquisition of Parallaxter and its PresenZ intellectual property.
Playing devil’s advocate, point-cloud compression, specifically MPEG V-PCC which is part of the MPEG-I suite of standards, is not without critics. Others in the volumetric video space argue that point-cloud compression does not integrate well into gaming, forcing start-ups to develop their own proprietary codec stacks, which is effectively what V-Nova has created with LCEVC.
Where rivals will claim to differentiate is offering the combination of capture, playback, and compression. Without owning the whole stack, you end up delivering different volumetric formats which can cause complexities. Even so, we cannot realistically see V-Nova acquiring a production studio – this is where the PresenZ client base comes in.
Still the majority of VR implementations are limited to 3DoF by compression constraints, among other things. When Faultline’s coverage of 6DoF breakthroughs began around the 2017/2018 timeframe, it was seen as a simply unattainable technology that would take years of compression crunching to bring it to reality.
Well, years it has been, and now with technologies like PresenZ, experiences can break free from the shackles of static viewpoints.