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Director's viewfinder


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#1 Adam Paul

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 09:31 PM

What are the advantages of using a director?s viewfinder with a PL mount as opposed to a Mark V? I know the PL one will let you see DOF too, but is that really necessary? It seems to me a Mark V or even something smaller is much faster and practical as you don?t need to change lenses, you can change focal length in a fly and even aspect ratios. It?s also more portable when scouting locations. No need to bring the lenses case. What are the opinions on the matter? What am I missing? Why is a PL mount ?better?
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#2 Dan Goulder

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 09:44 PM

Well, you've mentioned the advantages of using a typical director's viewfinder, in terms of portability and speed. However, that's never going to compare with the view you're going to get looking through the actual shooting lens, which is what a PL mount finder will allow you to do. Something like a Mark V would be considered a necessity, while the PL finder might be considered a luxury, albeit a most desirable one.
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#3 Adam Paul

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 10:10 PM

But what else do you get looking through the actual lense besides being able to see the DOF? It seems it would just slow you down, besides giving you more chances to scratch and damage your lenses.

Edited by Adampaul, 28 May 2006 - 10:11 PM.

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#4 Dan Goulder

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Posted 28 May 2006 - 10:27 PM

But what else do you get looking through the actual lense besides being able to see the DOF?

Exactly what else do you need? A standard director's finder will give you an approximate framing and lens choice, while a PL finder will allow you to see the shot with all the associated characteristics of the chosen lens.

It seems it would just slow you down, besides giving you more chances to scratch and damage your lenses.

What's your hurry? This isn't the Indy 500. Actually, it can speed up the process, by finding the exact spot and focal length before going through the much more timely process of doing a full camera setup on the spot, before realizing that wasn't quite the shot you wanted to get.
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#5 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 03:25 AM

It will of course give you the exact field of view.

And as to carry lenses, change them etc. you've got camera assistants.
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#6 Max Jacoby

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 03:42 AM

Exactly what else do you need? A standard director's finder will give you an approximate framing and lens choice, while a PL finder will allow you to see the shot with all the associated characteristics of the chosen lens.

That's exactely why I like to use a PL mount viefinder. One of the main reasons you chose a lens is because of how it makes the space look, the relationship between the foreground and the background, and with a director's finder you don't have that.
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#7 Adam Paul

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 03:43 AM

I do relialize all those advantages. It just seems more trouble than it's worth. A Mark V gives you enough to plan the shot and it's easier and faster to use. Yeah, this isn't the Indy 500, but time is money and that's true on the set too.

On a side note, what's everybody's favourite PL finder?

Edited by Adampaul, 29 May 2006 - 03:45 AM.

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#8 Richard R. Robbins

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 08:48 AM

Another side note/question...
Anyone know of a Directors Finder for B4 video lenses? Such as digi-primes or HD zooms?
Thanks, Rich Robbins
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#9 james caspar-wolfe

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 11:29 AM

For Rich

You might want to check out www.pstechnik.de
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 01:40 PM

They are just two different tools. A director's finder is more for making a good guess as to the focal length needed to achieve the composition and would be fine for scouting.

A lens finder is more accurate since you are using the real lenses, and would be used for lining up a precise camera position, static or a dolly move, and to see how that specific lens affects the shot.

So it's simply an issue of how precise do you really need to be. For scouting during pre-production, few people are going to have their lens package and camera assistants with them. But on the set when shooting, when lining up a new shot, using the real lenses on a finder will be more accurate. But on most of my movies, I've never had either a lens finder or a director's finder -- I usually make a guess actually.

And on the anamorphic movies using Primo anamorphics, the lenses are too big and heavy to really put on a lens finder -- I tried that once and practically needed the AC to help me hold up the end of the lens! But on my last movie, shot in Super-35 using Primo sphericals, I used a lens finder more often than I had in the past and it helped. For example, since it takes a little time to set-up a lens on the Steadicam and mark-up the Preston, balance the Steadicam, etc. it was a good idea to find the shot with the real lens on a finder so I didn't make a bad guess as to the focal length.
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#11 Daniel Stigler

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 02:08 PM

And as to carry lenses, change them etc. you've got camera assistants.



Personally i hate those viewfinders. It's a pain in the ass to cange lenses on them.
Unfortunately both DoPs i work with on a regular basis love them... <_<
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#12 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 02:29 PM

Well... It's even easier than chaging a lens on a camera since you don't have to open up the matte box etc. And when the director and DP are searching the frame, you just have to follow with the lens case, you usually don't have anything else to do until they found the right lens.

I even like better them to find it out so that they don't want it to be changed on the camera... I dislike much more when you've set a lens on it and have to change it : matte box, follow focus rings etc...
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#13 Max Jacoby

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 03:29 PM

And on the anamorphic movies using Primo anamorphics, the lenses are too big and heavy to really put on a lens finder -- I tried that once and practically needed the AC to help me hold up the end of the lens!

I had the same issue with the Hawks V-Series, they are quite heavy. The shorter focal lenghts are okay, you just have to use your other hand to support them with the barrel, but with the longer lenses I needed someone to help me with the lens. Still it was worth the effort, you don't want to tell the grips who have laid a track that the lens doesn't look good and can they please move the track back a bit so that you can put a longer lens on...


I even like better them to find it out so that they don't want it to be changed on the camera... I dislike much more when you've set a lens on it and have to change it : matte box, follow focus rings etc...

I once worked for a German Dop who just couldn't make up his mind! 35, no 50, no 35 after all. Swapping the lenses was okay, but he'd constantly change the camera position as well, to the left, to the right, up, down. Not much fun when you are working on uneven, rocky terrain. If he had used a finder he wouldn't have worn out his camera crew so much.
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#14 Adam Paul

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 03:33 PM

I guess it will probably come down to the production budget. For an independent shot, where the Director, DP, camera operator and AC is the same person, I'm sure a Lens finder will get in the way and the whole thing will go much faster with a Mark V type of finder. For location scout I think the Mark V would be better too. It's seems just in rare occasions you would REALLY need a Lens finder.

I once worked for a German Dop who just couldn't make up his mind! 35, no 50, no 35 after all. Swapping the lenses was okay, but he'd constantly change the camera position as well, to the left, to the right, up, down. Not much fun when you are working on uneven, rocky terrain. If he had used a finder he wouldn't have worn out his camera crew so much.


For this situation for example, a Mark V would have sufficed.
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#15 Max Jacoby

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 05:41 PM

Why are you so intend on proving that a PL mount finder is not a useful, everyday tool?

Some people do not use a viewfinder at all to set up a shot, some use a director's finder and some like to use a lens finder all the time. Stanley Kubrick fell into the later category for instance. I have worked with plenty of other people who do as well. Personally I like to use a lens finder too.

Different people have different ways of working and there is absolutely no point in making an absolute statment as to which way is better. They do whatever works for them.
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#16 Michael Nash

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 05:59 PM

I never use a finder as a DP; I find that my first guess for a focal length is usually pretty darned close.

BUT, you can't always communicate that precise frame to everyone else (or vice versa). Sometimes a director may say "wide" or "medium," but when they show you the shot through a viewfinder it's different from your definition. It also helps to be able to look at the director using the viewfinder, and see where they go with it. It gives you insight to their thinking and also shows you where to physically put the camera.
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#17 Laurent Andrieux

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 05:59 PM

I think the problem is not would a Mark V suffice or not...

A finder - wether a lens or view finder - helps a lot for setting up a shot especially when either the DoP or the Director or both need something (because of the situation Max describes, that being the exact situation I was thinking of).

But you may have a surprise when trying to precisely set something up with a viewfinder... The lens finder only will give you the exact frame
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#18 Adam Paul

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Posted 29 May 2006 - 06:40 PM

Why are you so intend on proving that a PL mount finder is not a useful, everyday tool?


No, no, that's not my point or my intention. I'm just pointing out when a PL finder can actually slow things down or be "too much". I don?t mean to fight your opinion. Not at all. I appreciate your (and everybody?s) contribution to the thread. When I asked what were the advantages of a PL finder over a Mark V type, I was truly curious. My idea of a Lens finder was always that as it?s bigger, heavier and needs to change lenses, it would be harder to work with, and I didn?t know why many preferred this type of finder. I truly didn?t know, reason I asked. Many situations that I haven?t imaged were suggested and it?s all very interesting. I can see that if you were working on a decent sized production with a decent sized crew, a Lens finder would actually be better. But as an independent filmmaker/student, I think in a small production, IF this person could afford a Lens finder (rent or otherwise), it would most likely get on the way. Specially if the DP/Director would be the one changing the lenses and specially for location scout. Do you think a lens finder would be advisable in this context? Of course, I know, different budgets different tools. But what?s your (and everybody?s) opinion?
The idea was just to discuss it. I?m not really trying to prove anything, just discussing the different possibilities and situations. Sorry if I came across otherwise and thanks for participating.

Edited by Adampaul, 29 May 2006 - 06:42 PM.

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#19 Max Jacoby

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Posted 30 May 2006 - 03:15 AM

Specially if the DP/Director would be the one changing the lenses and specially for location scout. Do you think a lens finder would be advisable in this context?

I know directors and Dops who have gone on locationscouts with lens finders. Some only take a small selection of lenses. On 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' I remember them taking a set of Superspeeds (which we carried in case we needed an extra stop compared to the Cooke S4s that we normally used). The Superspeeds are quite small lenses and very handy, even on a finder.
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#20 Adam Paul

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Posted 30 May 2006 - 03:55 AM

I know directors and Dops who have gone on locationscouts with lens finders. Some only take a small selection of lenses. On 'Girl with a Pearl Earring' I remember them taking a set of Superspeeds (which we carried in case we needed an extra stop compared to the Cooke S4s that we normally used). The Superspeeds are quite small lenses and very handy, even on a finder.


Thanks Audiris. And for set use, if the DP/Director are the same person and would be the one changing the lenses? That was more the aim of my question. What's your opinion?
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