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August 2014
Issue: February 1, 2008

REVIEW: BLACKMAGIC DESIGN'S MULTIBRIDGE PRO

By: Tor Rolf Johansen
PRODUCT: Blackmagic Design’s Multibridge Pro

WEBSITE: www.blackmagic-design.com

PRICE: $1,595
- 3Gb/s SDI connections
- HDMI capture and playback in SD and HD
- Full resolution 2K capture and playback

Here’s a great product from Blackmagic Design that literally has something for everyone. Multi-bridge Pro is an external PCI Express capture and playback solution that instantly switches between SD, HD and 2K, in 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 video quality. (Did I miss anybody? Nope.)

Multibridge connects to your Mac or PC host via PCI Express and works just like a capture card…but on amphetamines. All the goods are contained in a compact 1RU external chassis connected to your host via an included PCI Express cable and plug-in board. This unique design allows space for lots of video and audio connections. Wanna talk speed? This 10Gb/s PCI Express has 25 times faster bandwidth than FireWire so editing is super responsive. Sometimes I finish shows before I even start them!

For a very reasonable $1,595, out of the box, the Multibridge Pro supports SDI, HDMI and analog video input and output. Multibridge has many uses, the most common is to connect the built-in PCI Express connection to a host computer for a killer editing and design system. All outputs will play back video…all the time, whether it’s SDI, HDMI, or a variety of analog formats you might recall from your troubled youth. Of course, capturing video from any of these is also encouraged. That’s some serious connectivity options! And because Multibridge Pro includes the quality of 4:4:4 color sampling, you can feel confident you’re maintaining proper chrominance of the image through your entire post process. Not like the 4:1:1 limitations you may have learned to loathe from the 1394 era. Speaking of ancient history, remember HD-DVD? That was like soooo 2007.

TO EDIT OR TO CONVERT?

When you disconnect the PCI Express cable from the host computer you have the ideal solution for converting analog equipment to SDI-based digital systems, as the Multibridge Pro will instantly switch into a bi-directional broadcast video and audio converter. Conversion solutions using Multibridge Pro are way easier to install and much lower cost than the mish-mash of brick converters I’ve had to use in the past. Connecting to older analog decks such as a Beta SP is easy. The bi-directional SDI to analog and analog to SDI connections allow you to connect to and from the deck simultaneously. And with XLR-based pro analog audio, you can connect direct to your analog deck without using multiple converters. For the widest compatibility, SDI, HDMI and analog component connections switch instantly between SD and HD. Multibridge Pro supports eight channels of AES/EBU digital audio on a multi-pin DB-25 connector, as well as two channels of pro balanced analog audio on XLR connectors, and all models include two-channel RCA audio outputs for low-cost HiFi monitoring.

NEW 3 GIGABIT SDI CONNECTIONS

Multibridge Pro includes high-speed 3Gb/s SDI connections. 3Gb/s SDI is the latest version of the SDI video standard that allows 4:4:4 RGB and 2K film connection over a single BNC connection. 3Gb/s SDI runs twice the data rate of normal HD-SDI video, however instantly switches to traditional SD and HD SDI. 3Gb/s SDI allows 4:4:4 RGB workflow or full resolution 2K feature film quality 24fps 2048x1556 capture and playback. 2K via SDI creates some exciting possibilities for feature film workflow, especially in the smaller boutique post houses, a.k.a., my basement.

I am McLoving the full resolution HDMI output on this baby. I use the HDMI output for confidence monitoring to my plasma display for full HD rez at a much lower cost than a dedicated HD broadcast monitor. My preference? Glad you asked: the Panasonic Pro line of plasmas, specifically, the TH-65PF10UK — 65 awesome inches of stunning 1080p resolution. And folks, these aren’t the Panasonic’s you’ll find at Circuit City and Best Buy.

I’m told one might also use the built-in HDMI input for capturing from cameras with HDMI outputs. I haven’t done this, but it sounds like a great idea. The advantage being, unlike FireWire capture, using the HDMI output of consumer cameras means you get the highest quality uncompressed video from the camera, and your video files can use the native compression of your editing software, such as uncompressed, JPEG, DVCPRO HD and ProRes. Unlike FireWire compression, the native compression of your editing software lets you use realtime effects and realtime playback direct to large screen displays and broadcast monitors.

GRAPHICALLY INCLINED

Multibridge Pro is fully compatible with Adobe’s After Effects, Eyeon Fusion and Autodesk Combustion. Multibridge also includes an RGB QuickTime preview output for After Effects and Combustion. And, you can preview on the DeckLink video-out interactively as you work, then play pre-renders using realtime RAM preview. When doing final rendering of your work, processing quality using the Blackmagic codec is full 16-bit, so you always get the best darn looking SDI video there is to be had from here to Sadr City.

Multibridge comes in two models to suit your workflow, or in my case, wallet. The Multibridge Pro ($1,595) described above, and the Multibridge Eclipse ($3,495), which features a two-rack unit for a massive 12 channels of AES/EBU, four channels of balanced audio, HDMI in and out, Dual Link 3Gb/s SDI in and out, and a front panel design with a load of LED status lights and 32 audio level meters.