As several people begin receiving Blackmagic’s Pocket Cinema cameras, many begin to ask me how to deal with their audio with them. They want to know how to connect their mics, how to monitor, and how to adjust levels. This has been further complicated by the fact that surprisingly, Blackmagic has still not added any audio metering to their cameras via a firmware update.
The Blackmagic Camera’s audio settings screen offers manual adjustment of audio recording levels, but currently, no metering, or even a visual indication of audio clipping.
At least at first glance, this means that the user of a Blackmagic camera who chooses to record audio internally (as opposed to dual system, where audio is recorded independently) must consider using some external device with audio metering. That could mean either:
- Using an external preamp/mixer with a built-in audio meter (for several hundred dollars more than one without them) and then still needing to determine the exact input setting on the camera to calibrate the system.
- Using a video monitor to connect to the Blackmagic Camera’s digital video output (HDMI or SDI, model dependent) with a built-in audio meter.
For those who already own one of those two devices, using it might be fine. However, for those who don’t —especially for those who are purchasing the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera for field interviews— having to spend several hundred dollars for one, or over US$1k for the other just to measure audio levels might seem unjustifiable, especially when even many consumer video cameras include audio meters, AGC, and/or a limiter. (Then again, no consumer camcorder offers video recording to RAW or to ProRes422.) That’s why I asked Blackmagic’s public relations to see whether the company would commit to adding either audio meters, AGC, and/or a limiter via a firmware update. As expected, the response was that they would not commit to adding new features until they are available. So I insisted and asked whether they had any alternative way to set levels without having to spend hundreds of dollars extra for one solution, or over a thousand for another.
An external preamp with VU meters can cost hundreds of dollars more than one without. (Photo courtesy of JuicedLink.)
The surprise response from Blackmagic
The response from Blackmagic public relations department was both surprising and even potentially relieving, although it wasn’t actually a direct response from them. Instead, it was a quote from one of their unnamed happy users of the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, who suggested solving the issue with a good pair of isolating, over-the-ear headphones to adjust levels. Once I read that, this is what I wrote back to Blackmagic public relations:
This brings up a question that Blackmagic should be able to answer (since it doesn't require committing to potential new features that may or may not be added in the future):
- Does the audio signal being monitored via headphones ocurr after the A-to-D (Analog-to-Digital) conversion, and therefore back D-to-A? If so, it would certainly help the operator determine whether clipping is occurring, which is good.
- If that is the case, what is the delay (i.e. in nanoseconds, microseconds, or fractions of seconds) between the input and the monitored output?
If the output is not after the A-to-D and D-to-A, then it wouldn't help. Please let me know!
I knew that the public relations department would have to ask the product manager, and that it might take a few days to get a reply. When a few days went by without an answer, I followed up and got the following response:
“…the delay is approximately 3ms. But there could be different scaling going from A-D and then back to D-A in some circumstances.”
I was surprised not to receive a separate answer to my first and second question. Since they answered the second question but not the first (and given the suggestion of the unnamed happy user of a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera), it may be safe to assume that the answer to the first question is: “yes”. If so, then before your recording begins, you may be able to ask your interviewee to speak continually, increase the input level (either in the camera’s menu, or on your external preamp/mixer) until you hear clipping (i.e. intermittent silence) in your isolating headphones (i.e. Sony’s MDR–7506 or Audio Technica’s BPHS1, with built-in microphone), and then back down a safe margin below the clipping threshold.
The Audio Technica BPHS1 can allow the camera operator’s voice to be recorded on one track, while s/he monitors both tracks, one in each ear. The interviewee’s mic would be connected to the opposite track of the camera.
I will confirm this whenever I get the opportunity to verify it myself, or whenever someone who has had the camera confirms it to me.
Upcoming articles, reviews, and books
Stand by for upcoming articles, reviews, and books. Sign up to my free mailing list by clicking here.
Si deseas suscribirte a mi lista en castellano, visita aquí. Si prefieres, puedes suscribirte a ambas listas (castellano e inglés).
My latest book (paperback + ebook)
My most recent book is available in two languages, and in paperback as well as an ebook. The ebook format is Kindle, but even if you don’t have a Kindle device, you can read Kindle books on many other devices using a free Kindle app. That includes iPad, Android tablets, Mac computers, and Windows computers. Although generally speaking, Kindle books are readable on smartphones like Androids and iPhones, I don’t recommend it for this particular book since it contains both color photos and color comparison charts. The ebook is also DRM-free.
In English, it is currently available in the following Amazon stores, depending upon your region:
- Amazon.com, for the US and other countries in the Americas tthat don’t currently have their own Amazon store
- Amazon.br for Brazil
- Amazon.ca for Canada
- Amazon.de for Germany
- Amazon.es for Spain pero a lo mejor lo preferirás en castellano, a continuación)
- Amazon.fr for France
- Amazon.in for India
- Amazon.it for Italy
- Amazon.co.jp for Japan
- Amazon.com.mx for México
- Amazon.co.uk for the United Kingdom
Or in your favorite bookstore by requesting ISBN–10: 1456310232 or ISBN–13: 978–1456310233.
En castellano, está disponible actualmente en las siguientes tiendas Amazon, según tu región:
- Amazon.com para EE.UU. y todas las Américas donde no existe ninguna tienda particular… o en cualquier parte si simplemente lo prefieres
- Amazon.com.br para Brasil
- Amazon.co.jp para Japón
- Amazon.de para Alemania
- Amazon.es para España
- Amazon.fr (Francia)
- Amazon.in para India
- Amazon.it para Italia
- Amazon.com.mx para México
- Amazon.co.uk para el Reino Unido
o en tu librería preferida al solicitar el ISBN–10: 1492783390 ó el ISBN–13: 978–1492783398.
Allan Tépper’s other books, consulting, articles, seminars & audio programs
Contact Allan Tépper for consulting, or find a full listing of his books, articles and upcoming seminars and webinars at AllanTepper.com. Listen to his TecnoTur program, which is now available both in Castilian (aka “Spanish”) and in English, free of charge. Search for TecnoTur in iTunes or visit TecnoTur.us for more information.
No manufacturer is specifically paying Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC to write this article or the mentioned books. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs.
Copyright and use of this article
The articles contained in the TecnoTur channel in ProVideo Coalition magazine are copyright Allan Tépper/TecnoTur LLC, except where otherwise attributed. Unauthorized use is prohibited without prior approval, except for short quotes which link back to this page, which are encouraged!