Getting Decent Audio Out Of The Blackmagic 4K Production Camera

bmpc audio meters

Last week, Blackmagic announced that their v1.9 firmware update for the 4K Production Camera would include audio meters. This was met with great rejoicing by camera purchasers who have been struggling with the amazingly bad audio functionality of this otherwise exemplary device.

Let me preface what follows by mentioning that I have used a lot of cameras and audio equipment over the last 20 years, and the Blackmagic Production Camera is by far the absolute worst. Not only are the onboard preamps noisier than the worst DSLR – meaning that using anything more than 10% gain will result in audio so full of hiss that is almost totally unusable – but the input tolerance seems to have been calibrated for some kind of alien technology. Every type of signal I fed into it was either clipped or inaudible – and often both!

Armed with the new audio meters, I resolved to test the BMPC’s finicky sound circuits more systematically.

“Media-Proof Kids”

As digital content creators, sometimes we come face to face with Pogo the Possum’s famous observation, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” In a cultural landscape drowning in endless advertisements, hypnotic entertainment, and overwhelming information, are we making the world better or worse?

As a parent, I felt forced to ask myself, “How can I use what I know to help my children defend themselves against manipulative media?”

About a year ago, I started researching this topic. Today, I am very proud to introduce my new eBook, “Media-Proof Kids: A Guide For Parents.”

Quick Tip: Title-Safe/Action-Safe Guides in Premiere Pro

I can never remember how to turn these guides on, so I’m posting this as much for my own benefit as for yours. In the upper-right of the program monitor in Premiere, there’s a fly-out menu that allows you to turn on title-safe/action-safe guides, as well as all the other monitoring options.

title safe premiere

Recent Work: Doctor’s Promo Video

Here’s a simple promo video that I recently finished for a local doctor. All I shot was the on-camera presentation by the doctor. Photos are either provided or from stock.

While I was as pleased as ever by the cinematic quality of the Blackmagic footage, I was disappointed to see quite a bit of moiré in the fabric of the doctor’s shirt. I was able to disguise most of it by masking off the shirt in Colorista II and setting the sharpness filter set to a negative value, but you can still see it if you’re looking for it.

Blackmagic 4K Production Camera – Second Impressions

Here’s a regional commercial for a local bank that I just directed & shot with the Blackmagic 4K Production Camera. The client was looking for the slightly desaturated, shallow depth of field look that is popular in high-end national spots. It was a perfect opportunity to use the BMPC.

A couple of quick notes, now that I’ve been using the BMPC for a few weeks.

“Save Me” Music Video BTS

Note: Frequent visitors to this website will recognize the name Matthew Ward. Matt is a friend of mine from college, who now works on amazing projects in Hollywood. When he isn’t working on VFX for Robert Zemeckis or DP’ing animated features, he directs & shoots music videos for his favorite bands. Case in point is this rockin’ production he created a few weeks ago.

Matt describes his work as “a serious production with limited tools,” and that uncompromising quality shows in all his work. Luckily for us, Matt was generous enough to share an exclusive Behind The Scenes look at the production of this video, just for CrewOfOne readers!

- Alex

Crew of One: Matteus Clement

Most of us work in creative fields because we like being creative, not because we wanted to become accountants or salespeople. Unfortunately, most of us wind up wearing those hats as well. The following is a post by Matteus Clement, an independent video pro located in Vancouver Island, Canada. Matteus has taken an innovative, flat-rate approach to budgeting his videos, and has generously agreed to share his insights, as well as a sample of one of the production agreements he and his small-business clients sign off on.

If you struggle with the “business” side of the photo/video business, you’ll find Matteus’ approach very interesting. Whether you agree or disagree with his approach and his pricing (keep in mind, his prices are in Canadian dollars), it’s terrific food for thought.

Enter Matteus:

I’ve been producing videos ever since I went overseas in 2003 with my Canon Z60 DV tape camcorder. It was only three years ago that I decided to take the plunge into my own business, Mazo Media. Since then, I have learned a lot of new video techniques because of necessity and learned a lot of business practice from mistakes.

I have found that a flat rate quote system works much better than an hourly/daily rate (at least in my region). I believe that most owners/managers find peace of mind in a fixed cost as opposed to a project that can balloon out of control.

How I Made An App

screengrab5 How many times have you heard someone say – or said yourself – “I’ve got a great idea for an app …” A few months ago, I posted an interview with Dean Head, a DP who developed an app for film crews working in China. Ever since then, my own “great ideas for apps” have been nagging at me.

After talking to a couple of programmer friends, I quickly realized two things:

1) Nobody had time to help me.

2) I couldn’t afford to hire somebody.

This was disappointing, but not unexpected. In fact, it’s much the way I expect people feel when they look into video production and discover how much it costs to product a quality project.

But, I don’t give up that easily. When I was in high school and college in the mid-to-late ’90s, the internet and 3D graphics were just starting. At that time, I was a computer nerd, cutting my teeth on the GW-BASIC programming language (as a middle-schooler, I tried to program a searchable Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy), and moving on to PASCAL and C+. Once I discovered filmmaking in college, I turned my back on “a life spent in front of a computer in a dark room,” and – aside from learning enough HTML and CSS to do my own websites and eBooks – I abandoned programming.

But, times change. These days, video production puts me in front of a computer a lot more than it puts me on a set or location. To a great extent, the photo/video/web/programming industries have all sort of converged into a nebulous cloud of “creative work.” So, I figured, what the heck, I’ll learn to do apps myself.

FX From Red Giant Are Free (For Now)

I have been a fan of Red Giant’s third-party editing plugins for many years now. I’ve used Looks quite a bit, and Colorista II is by far my favorite color-grading app. Today, Red Giant announced that it is creating its own online community: “Universe.” Membership in Universe if free (for now), and gets you several free plugins. More importantly, Universe members will be able to contribute directly to the release and development of future products!

Here’s the Red Giant promo video.

Here’s the page where you can go to sign up. http://www.redgiant.com/store/universe

Red Giant Universe will quickly become a paid service, and the free beta won’t last long, so – impressive as it is – I’m going to delve in and figure out whether there’s enough on here to justify the not-inconsiderable licensing fees:

- Premium Monthly: $10
- Premium Yearly: $99
- Premium Lifetime: $399

Check it out, and let me know what you think!

Q&A With “Thanks, Dan!” Creators

It is a rare lawyer commercial that makes me want to commit a crime, just so that I can be represented by the lawyer in question. That was exactly the response I had when I saw this spot for Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney Daniel Muessig.

When I first saw the video, it had been updated a few hours previously, and had 400 views. Later that afternoon, it was well over 18,000. Clearly, I was not the only viewer who was impressed!. Curious about the team behind this viral video, I reached out to the man himself, Dan Muessig, Esq., who was kind enough to reply to my nosy questions.

Dan, your promo video had 400 views when I watched it earlier today. Now it’s over 18,000. What kind of response are you getting from people?
Response has been overwhelmingly positive thus far. Some people are mad but you’ll have that.

Your video has a lot of humor, but you’re making a serious point, which is that everyone should have the right to decent legal representation. Kidding aside, what’s your opinion of the current state of the criminal justice system?
The system is completely broken. Its a conveyor belt to prison. In my mind to be effective you have to have your client’s backs to the extent that you are willing to do anything within the law to help them.

Recent Work – Ginny Deerin Campaign Announcement

Benjamin Franklin famously stated that, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Only slightly less certain is the preponderance of political media that is produced for every election cycle. As with too much of our political system, money is the primary factor in determining outcome: candidates backed by wealthy donors or powerful lobbies can pay for high quality production and plenty of TV airtime. Independent candidates struggle to get enough publicity to make potential voters even vaguely aware of their existence.

However, the situation is far from hopeless. On the contrary, social media and low-cost production equipment has made it more feasible than ever for grassroots campaigns to get attention and build up steam. As an example, here is a video I recently did for Ginny Deerin, who is running for Secretary of State for South Carolina.

As you can see, the presentation is very simple, but highly effective. The location was Ginny’s living room. The scene was lit with a Genaray LED light kit. I filmed wide, medium and closeup shots of Ginny delivering her statement on a Canon 5D Mark II. In post, I cut between the different shots to add visual variety, and added photos that she provided. Finally, I added some simple text to the screen to emphasize her key points. Total crew: 2 people (myself and a hair/makeup stylist). Total production time, including editing: less than 7 hours.

The response has been outstanding. One of Ginny’s supporters told her, “If you can get enough people to watch that video, you will win.” Another simply stated, “EXCEPTIONALLY good video!!!!!!”

You don’t need a RED, a full crew, and a giant budget to help a regular person establish themselves as a viable candidate for elected office. If somebody has something powerful to say, keep the production clean and simple, and let them talk.