Bridge Technologies NAB 2023 Blog Post

The Magic of Las Vegas 

David Copperfield. Sigfried and Roy. Penn and Teller. There’s no doubt, Las Vegas is the home of magic. But you don’t have to spend a fortune at one of the big name shows to be impressed and astounded by a bit of mind-bending magic – we promise you’ll find some directly within the Central Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Centre (Booth C.4939, to be precise…) 

The mechanics of the magic trick

A magic trick is really, at its heart, about making a part of the process invisible, so that our normal understanding of logical links is interrupted. Slight-of-hand takes something that you are sure should be there, but masks it so that it seems like it was never there at all. 

The magic tricks we perform at Bridge kind of operate in reverse. We take what isn’t usually visible to the naked eye – or at least, what isn’t usually comprehensible to the human brain, and render it visible and – most importantly – intuitively understandable. So what magic tricks exactly can we perform at Bridge Technologies?

Making you see what isn’t there

Take for instance what we’re able to do on the VB440 with our HDR viewer. As you probably know, HDR refers to dynamic range. There are two ‘magical’ ways that we make the invisible visible here. Firstly, we’ve created a visual preview of HDR outputs that can be displayed on any browser and monitor – even, or perhaps especially – those which are not specifically HDR compatible. This is achieved by converting the specific coding of the HDR image into the sRGB colour space of the browser, thus effectively ‘mimicking’ a localised preview of what the HDR output will be like for audiences.  We take what would be invisible – the HDR image – and make it visible!  This isn’t just a magic trick we do for entertainment though – the huge benefit is that creatives can engage with HDR-level production, without the need to kit out all of their studios and OB vans with expensive new HDR monitors. Indeed, people can even work from home on their own desktop computer, simply by accessing the VB440’s incredible functionality on a browser. 

The second magic trick we perform relates to helping us see what our eyes can’t see, regardless of monitor. Humans have a relatively high visual dynamic range, but they can’t operate at both ends of the spectrum at the same time. That means if you looked at an HDR image with high saturation at both ends, you wouldn’t really process it very well. But by converting the visual HDR image into an intuitively understandable graphical representation, with adjustable IRE and NITS graticule sensitivity and CIE Chromaticity scope, the user can understand the way the image is composed – and how well it will work for audiences – in a way that they wouldn’t be able to do if they were just using their eyes. 

Making you hear through your eyes

We manage the same with sound. Sound is invisible – until you put it through the VB440! Our LUFS, Gonion and Room Meters – capable of accommodating 7.1 audio mixes and ordering of up to 64 channels in one flow, all make audio intuitive. In fact, they allow you to start hearing with your eyes! Rather cleverly though, we’re also able to give you an extra set of ears (or two), by offering – in a similar way to our HDR preview – a ‘downmix’ of 7.1 audio tracks so that they can be heard over the browser with just a pair of stereo headphones. 

Making huge equipment disappear

A final magic trick worth mentioning (but by no means the last one, the VB440 is packed with so much it’s like when a magician keeps pulling endless bunnies out of their hat…) is the Signal Generator function. This particular magic trick is particularly impressive because it makes huge pieces of studio equipment invisible – just like when Houdini made the elephant disappear. So – whilst on your studio floor, all of your expensive cameras are entirely invisible – almost like they’re not even there, on your network setup and testing apparatus, the signal indicates they all. We’ll tell you the secret to this particular trick; the equipment seems like it’s not there because it isn’t – the signal generator just imitates its presence on the network. Which means you can test all of your connections and network flows without having to unpack a single piece of equipment. 

Actually, in general it’s kind of remarkable how much large equipment seems to disappear when there’s a VB440 around; nobody needs racks of single-function server equipment any more, and the OB van no longer needs walls and walls of dedicated displays, since all of the functionality needed can be accessed through a single browser, even on a tiny iPad. 

Reversing Time (or predicting the future)

It’s not just the VB440 that performs magic tricks, the VB330 has some tricks up its sleeves too. The most recent one is that ability to reverse time with our new SCTE 104/35 recording feature. When ad inserts go wrong, engineers need to know why and how. We already integrated an extensive range of alarms to tell engineers when something happens, but engineers need to be able to actually see what happened before and during the event, not just after. But how can you see what happened before an event, if you don’t know when the event is going to happen!? The VB330 performs this little magic trick using a pre-fill recording buffer to capture all the moments that matter. This allows engineers to build up a living cache of records centered around the trigger points themselves, thus facilitating more in-depth validation, inspection, fault-finding, fault evidence and reporting. 

These are of course just a few of the functions that will be on show at NAB, at Booth C.4939. Indeed, we haven’t even mentioned one of our most important pieces of news – the addition of VB330 functionality directly through the AWS Market Place! (mainly because we couldn’t find an appropriate magical metaphor to shoehorn in…). 

The showmanship that makes it all work 

Of course, a good magic show is not just about the mechanics of the trick being performed, it’s about the showmanship of the performer. And that means a lot to us at Bridge. We want to not just explain how our products work and why they will benefit so many people in the broadcast industry, but really show them. And we intend to show them with our usual amount of Bridge flair! That means we’ll be bringing our Bridge Show with us: a full-scale production that demonstrates just how usable our probes are – capable of delivering a complete, live IP-based show, using browser-based tools that operate with next-to-no-latency, from anywhere in the world – even the floor of Central Hall at NAB!  

We hope you’ll be joining us at NAB for each taping – we’ll be airing an in-depth 4pm Bridge Show every afternoon, where we’ll be joined by some of our favourite industry friends. But if you can’t join us for filming, we hope you’ll follow our Las Vegas-based antics on our Bridge Technologies YouTube channel instead. 

So if you’re a bit sceptical about magicians, come and see how a real magic trick is performed – both mechanics and showmanship together. And unlike at one of the big Las Vegas shows, there’s almost no chance of a tiger biting your arm off (though the engineers can sometimes be a little unpredictable…).