But let me back up for a second and set the stage. When you leave a completely treated sound studio and venture out into the real world to make videos or movies you are leaving a "safe zone" and heading into a real world filled with background noise, distracting noises and random noises. You try your best to ameliorate as much audible clutter as you can by using the right microphone types, putting up sound absorbing blankets and turning off as many noise making appliances as you possible can. And you lift your headphones off one ear and say, "quiet on the set" whenever you can. That's the nature of location recording.
If you are not only the sound man but also the camera operator, director and all around only crew member then you've got your hands full.
The biggest issues, after the various controllable noises are taken care of, when recording live sound along with video, are the noise floor of your audio gear and the treacherous thing we call, "clipping." Clipping in audio is a lot like blowing the highlights in a photograph. If you record sounds and all of a sudden an actor or subject gets very loud a traditional recorder will clip hard and introduce a lot of distortion into you audio that's very hard to deal with in post. You can use "limiters" to pull back the audio but it's not the most effective solution.
At the other end of the spectrum you might have set your levels for a good level while doing your tests but then, in the heat of an interview, the speaker either moves away from your mic or starts speaking so softly that the signal barely registers on your recorder's meters. If your only job is audio it's pretty straight forward to ride the level controls but if your head is in the "visual" and "content" spaces you'll likely overlook the audio spikes and dark holes that will certainly vex you when you sit down to cut your project together.
Along comes "32 bit float." While nearly every production recorder writes 24 bit audio files the newest generation can write 32 bit files. There's a lot more information and the files are much larger but the wonderful thing is that you don't even need to set levels. You can bring up the quietest passages and you won't get the ever higher noise floor you would with a regular 24 bit file. You can scream at the microphone and as long as your microphone doesn't overload you won't clip the recorded audio. That's so cool. You can let Tom Cruise scream at you and record every tender nuance without distortion. You'll just need to adjust the levels in post.
The first device I heard about that offered this was a Zoom F6 and the reviews on it were pretty good. Some have mentioned that the audio pre-amps aren't particularly good sounding and that may be so but it sometimes feels (analogy) like people talking about a lens not having that Leica look. The F6 was cool in concept and I guess it's serving its purpose for some users but many were hoping that Sound Devices would come out with an affordable version because people really, really like that company's quiet and clean Kashmir pre-amps. And the way they design their limiters. The limiters have a nice roll off instead of an instant clamping modality. But, of course, you won't need to use limiters with 32 bit float. It's kinda built in.
Sound Devices launched an updated model of their original Mix-Pre3 audio recorder and, voila! it features the magical 32 bit float. And the Kashmir pre-amps. And you can use it as a high end audio interface for web casts.
The Mix-Pre3 is set up for professional use and takes three XLR inputs. It will do simultaneous writes on the internal SD card as well as a USB Thumb drive which gives you a back-up of your audio recordings. It can read or write time code and can be powered by double A batteries, an A/C adapter, a power bank via USB-C. Most reviewers are suggesting either the power bank option or an adapter for the battery tray that allows use with Sony NP batteries because the unit does suck down power.
This machine provides the audio equivalent of a digital camera raw files that never runs out of highlights and has no noise in the shadows. I'm putting this on my Amazon wish list for myself. It'll be right there next to that set of Leica cinema lenses. If you buy the five lenses together the package is just a bit shy of $100,000.
The Sound Devices Mix-Pre3-ii is much more affordable at around $800.
But the real story is the 32 bit float. And it is also available on a small, single channel device from a company called, Tentacle. It's a self contained recorder with a supplied lavaliere microphone that's meant to be used in place of a wireless mic set. Just turn on the unit, pop the small box into your subject's pocket, clip the mic onto them and go. You get to set the levels after the fact and it's easier than ever to sync up the audio to your video. That system is a bit less than $400. But you'll need one for each actors or interviewee.
I can't wait to try out the Mix-Pre3ii. Seems just right for a one man video band.
Okay. That's it for today.