Juicy Audio – Hands on JuicedLink BMC366 for Black Magic Cameras

A while ago, I published an article about the JuicedLink Riggi-Micro RM333 and its use on the Blackmagic cameras.  I used the RM333 since than and really liked it. But it was originaly made for DSLRs. Not that this would be a problem or require much workarounds, but I was more than happy to see, that JuicedLink now (actually at NAB, but now it’s available) came up with something, that is really tailored to the BMC.

jl3Three phantom powered XLR on the “dumb” side.

The BMC366 features the same famous super low noise pre-amp circuits as the other JuicedLink devices.

It has 3 x XLR in that can be switched form 48V phantom power to power saving 12V phantom mode (if your mic supports it). They are moved over to the “dumb” side of the camera, so you don’t have to mount it upside down, like the RM333, to get cables and plugs out of the way.
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Three amplified outputs

The outputs are also moved, from the front to the left side.

There is the usual  unbalanced stereo (amplified mic level),  and two additional balanced (amplified mic level) outputs, that play nice with the balanced inputs of the BMC. To keep the 3.5mm minijacks from accidentally slipping out, the inputs come with a tread, so you can use the same locking jacks as on the Senheiser G3 radio transmitters and receivers.

My rig usually looks like a spaghetti monster with a ton of cables everywhere. Slipping connections is a nightmare, so making those jacks lockable is a big deal IMHO.

IMG_0018

The BMC366 comes with two short 3.5mm jack cables – one end straight, the other end at 90 degree, so all you need is a Sony PC-234S phono to minijack adapter to make it work on the BMC.

Personally (remember I’m paranoid regarding slipping connections) prefer a custom made cable with a locking 3.5 jack at one end and a 90 degree 1/4″ on the other end, to get the plugs out of my face when I have the rig on my shoulder.

Also on the front are the power and battery-low LED, a power switch and the three volume knobs. Thanks God they are analog, not digital like the ones on the Tascam DR-60d – that is a nifty tempting little device for the money – but they make a clicking sound on your recording every time you turn them, and render the whole thing useless for recording on set. I was really close to buy a DR-60d as additional standalone recorder, but that clicking was a deal breaker.

 

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Switch galore

On top of the device is a galore of switches that let you do all sorts of settings.
I’m going out on a limb here, but I would say it’s one of the most flexible pre-amps on the market.

Ground switches:
ENC GND connects/disconnects the enclosure from analog ground to prevent ground loops and hum.
GND Out does the same for the minijack outputs

Input section
A MIC/LINE switch; A GAIN switch for extra loud environments like a heavy metal concert, a switch to flick between 12V and 48V phantom power. You can even switch phantom power off if needed.
Phantom -XX for routing the Phantom power to the corresponding XX XLR input.
L1 PWR and L2 PWR Powers on/off the preamps for the L2 and R XLR inputs, so you can save battery life.

Mixing section
STEREO/MONO: MONO mixes all XLR inputs together, and presents them all to both the right and left outputs. STEREO routes XLR-R to the right output, and XLR-L1 and XLR-L2 to the left output.

Life Saver
R OUT -16dB PAD – engages an approximately 16dB attenuator in the right output channel. It is used in conjunction with the MONO setting (the GREEN switch settings) to achieve Audio Output Bracketing for camera overload protection.

Battery settings
LiPoly/ALK sets the low battery threshold suitable for alkaline or Lithium-Polymer batteries.

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Mounting
The BMC366 has a 1/4-20 tripod mounting hole on the bottom. I use a little Manfrotto ballhead to mount it on the handle of my rig.
The left bottom plate is a bit extended and features several additional mounting points. It’s all very versatile and you can mount the device about everywhere on your camera or rig.

It also comes with some cork-stickers for insulation and a little pin that keeps the BMC366 from turning, when mounted on the camera.

Ground Control
Make sure you read and understand this tutorial about Mounting, Grounding, Ground Loops, and the Ground Switches on the JuicedLink website, to prevent ground loops.
http://www.juicedlink.com/bmc366-user-manual-page-72/chapter/0

Powering the pre-amp
Any 9V battery – LiPoly or ALK – works fine.
How long it lasts, depends on, how much phantom power you need, if your mic(s) need 48V or 12V and if you remember to switch the device of between takes (I usually forget it – that’s why I carry a ton of spare batteries – for all my stuff not only the BMC366)
An other battery saver is the ability to power unused XLR channels down. Let’s say you have only one mic, there is no need to power the other two channels. Makes quite a difference in battery life.

Audio Output Bracketing (an other Live-Saver)
One of the most underrated and overlooked features on the JuicedLink pre-amps is the Output-Bracketing.
In mono mode, it outputs one channel a bit lower (-16dB PAD), so if something really loud happens in front of your mic, that clips your audio, you have a second unclipped channel to save your butt.

Yes, but I can do that in camera – just dial down on of my channels – does the same right?

Not at all. Proper bracketing must be done in the pre-amp. If your audio is already clipping, it doesn’t help to record that clipped audio at a lower gain in camera. Clipped is clipped.

Nice writeup Frank, but how does it sound?
In a nutshell: It sounds excellent.
I tried it against my Wendt field mixer (that is known for even better sound than Sounddevices) and I can`t hear any difference (at least to my ears, and with the linear nearfield monitors I use in my NLE).

Battery live is a bit on the short side – phantom power really sucks on the 9V block. I got about 3 hours (of actually recorded material) out of it when connecting a Rode NTG3 and a Rode lav at the same time. But on the other hand, that was abot a whole day of shooting (with switching of between takes). When I use a powered mic, like the NTG2, a battery will last between 10 and 13 hrs though.

Wouldn’t the Riggy-Micro do the trick for less money?
If you already have a Riggy-Micro – it may be a bit hard to justify the additional purchase of a BMC366 to your wife, since the Riggy-Micro is already a great companion to the BMC. But if you start new, I think the additional features are absolutely worth the extra $$.

More Information:
Make sure you check out all the additional information on the JuicedLink website
BMC366: http://www.juicedlink.com/blackmagic-cinema-camera/bmc366-blackmagic-cinema-camera-preamp-p-64
Detailed User Manual: http://www.juicedlink.com/bmc366-user-manual-page-72/chapter/0

Since the audio implementation of the BMC is still not quite there (hope they got it sorted out with the next firmware though) I recommend you to have a look at this video

2 thoughts on “Juicy Audio – Hands on JuicedLink BMC366 for Black Magic Cameras

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