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Follow Focus, Hi Hats


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#1 Timothy David Orme

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 10:11 AM

Although I'm not a 'first time filmmaker' I've never had to use a follow focus or a hi hat for any of the shoots I've done. I see them on the web when I'm researching equipment, but I've never know what they do.
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#2 Mark Dunn

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 10:28 AM

Follow focus is a rack and pinion device engaging with the lens focus rack so you can pull focus with a knob from the side of the camera.
A hi-hat is a sort of tripod head with hole instead of legs for bolting down for a really low viewpoint. Here's one http://www.ptsys.ru/...ue/cat04152.jpg which is really a baby-legs.

Here's a follow-focus. http://www.jbkcinequ.../RUSKAFF205.jpg
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#3 Timothy David Orme

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 10:46 AM

Follow focus is a rack and pinion device engaging with the lens focus rack so you can pull focus with a knob from the side of the camera.
A hi-hat is a sort of tripod head with hole instead of legs for bolting down for a really low viewpoint. Here's one http://www.ptsys.ru/...ue/cat04152.jpg which is really a baby-legs.

Here's a follow-focus. http://www.jbkcinequ.../RUSKAFF205.jpg


So using a follow focus allows you to pull focus with a knob instead of just using the lens? What's the major benefit of that?
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#4 Paul Wizikowski

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 11:00 AM

So using a follow focus allows you to pull focus with a knob instead of just using the lens? What's the major benefit of that?



For one, its a heck of a lot easier on the AC. You can see all your marks on the wheel at once as opposed to some marks on the lens that could be on the other side and so, out of sight. Also I feel less likly to hinder the Camera Ops movements when I'm ACing with a follow focus as opposed to the lens. Another thing, and it kinda of dove tails off of the last one, its easier to turn a wheel smoothly and consistently (especially for long focus racks) than it is the lens.
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#5 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 11:01 AM

So using a follow focus allows you to pull focus with a knob instead of just using the lens? What's the major benefit of that?


The main reason is to not physically touch the lens while someone is operating, which can impart some motion and shake the camera. Plus it is less awkward compared to twisting your hand over the top of the lens barrel when you really rack focus. But I'm talking about when you have a focus-puller; someone operating handheld and pulling their own focus by may or may not prefer grabbing the barrel instead of the wheel.

You can also make marks of the white disc of the wheel rather than on the barrel for focus points to rack to, but that's a little dangerous sometimes -- I've seen assistants screw up when they do that.
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#6 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 11:05 AM

So using a follow focus allows you to pull focus with a knob instead of just using the lens? What's the major benefit of that?


The follow focus means that the assistant isn't directly putting pressure on the lens, so you don't get vibration during the adjustments.

With some lenses the gearing on follow focus spreads the focus marks out (an advantage on video lenses).

If the camera is rigged high, the assistant can see the focus markings and it's easier for them to to reach the follow focus than the lens to pull focus. You can also get extensions for higher angle shots.
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#7 Paul Wizikowski

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 11:16 AM

You can also get extensions for higher angle shots.


There is also what is called a "Whip" and its a rubber extension with a wheel on the end of it. It excerts even less pressure on the lens. And its flexible so you can use it in cramped spaces to get a better angle on using the wheel.
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#8 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 05:26 PM

You can also make marks of the white disc of the wheel rather than on the barrel for focus points to rack to, but that's a little dangerous sometimes -- I've seen assistants screw up when they do that.


Hmm, maybe I'm misunderstanding - but how do YOUR focus pullers pull focus if they don't mark the wheel?
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#9 Michael Collier

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 05:43 PM

Hmmmmm, a lincoln impersonater and a focus stalker? na, bad joke.

strike that last comment. thank you.
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 06:21 PM

Hmm, maybe I'm misunderstanding - but how do YOUR focus pullers pull focus if they don't mark the wheel?


They mark the lens itself, either with a white pencil or with a pen on a thin strip of tape around the focus barrel.

Trouble with marking the wheel is that sometimes the position shifts if the gearing slips, or you actually go a full rotation on the lens and not realize it -- I've had inexperienced focus-pullers be several feet off of the mark because of this -- they were right on their mark but had rotated the lens once around.

I'm not saying every focus puller I work with doesn't mark the wheel -- some do, some don't. It was one of the better ones I've ever worked with that told me of the dangers of using the disk instead of the barrel for marks.

The trouble with the inexperienced focus pullers is that they rely too much on the wheel marks and never notice the distances written on the lens. Key word is inexperienced.

I don't care what the experienced ones do if it works for them!
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#11 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 10:27 PM

Hmm, maybe I'm misunderstanding - but how do YOUR focus pullers pull focus if they don't mark the wheel?



When I was doing that job (and I don't anymore, thank goodness) I began by marking the follow focus disk, but got out of the habit after awhile. I found that A) it was too much of a pain in the butt to actually make separate disks for each lens and B) I'd rather see the lens markings themselves. Granted, there are times when it does work better to have disk markings, such as for a very long lens shot when you're working with your 2nd who is "calling off" the marks, but in general, it is better to tape out the distances and mark the lens itself or just have a list of marks to work from.

When it comes down to it, the marks are just for reference anyway as you can't rely on the Actors to actually hit their marks. Toss in a missed mark by the Dolly Grip or a Steadicam shot and you can see that a Focus Puller is better off figuring out how to gauge distance by eye than to rely on what his tape and his white Stabilo tell him.

Tough job. Perhaps one of the most underrated and underappreciated on set. I'm glad I'm not doing it anymore. :) Though I do have to pull my own focus now, but I have the benefit of seeing through the lens to do it.
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#12 Hans Engstrom

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Posted 27 July 2006 - 01:41 AM

I allways write down the scales on the rings. I measure it up before production and then tape them so that they wont smear when handled. I trust my scales more than the once on the lens but I also know how much the lensmarkings are off for every lens. Since I put tape on the rings I can put temporary markings that are easy to remove without ruining the scale, but usually I just measure distances to markings and objects and write them down on a piece of tape that I keep on my measuringtape. I check that the scale on the lens and the ring are corresponding before and after every take so that I know if It was good or not. It has been a lot of pulling with wirelessfocus lately so I´m used to not being able to see the lens and doublecheck the scale whenever I have time.
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#13 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 27 July 2006 - 08:24 AM

The only other thing I'd like to add is that it is easier to make marks and use the lens itself when using Panavision lenses. Cookes are way too small most of the time, so using the focus ring makes things a lot easier.

Things are changing though. Just finished working on a Genesis show and the key First pulled off a monitor that was just off to the side. Now HE can see if he's sharp or not and doesn't have to rely on the Operator.
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#14 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 27 July 2006 - 02:09 PM

Things are changing though. Just finished working on a Genesis show and the key First pulled off a monitor that was just off to the side. Now HE can see if he's sharp or not and doesn't have to rely on the Operator.


This is currently my favorite way to work. When I'm working sans monitor I always have a nervous buzz running through me, even if I'm 100% sure I hit my focus marks and the operator gives the OK. Being able to see it myself takes a load off my mind and I move on to the next setup feeling like we really got it.

Of course I see having the monitor as a luxury though. I'd be screwed if I had to utilize it as a constant crutch.
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#15 Daniel Stigler

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 10:42 AM

I trust my scales more than the once on the lens but I also know how much the lensmarkings are off for every lens.


I check the lenses during prep and if one should be off (which rarely happened to me) i ask for another one.
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#16 Lance Boyle

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 09:45 PM

What? You guys don't use autofocus? Jeez, even my little GL2 has THAT!



:lol:

Edited by spiritlanternfilms, 01 August 2006 - 09:45 PM.

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#17 Wilkin Chau

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Posted 02 August 2006 - 11:11 PM

Although I'm not a 'first time filmmaker' I've never had to use a follow focus or a hi hat for any of the shoots I've done. I see them on the web when I'm researching equipment, but I've never know what they do.


Hi hats can be used for really low angle shots or can be mounted on a ladder for high angle shots.
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#18 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 04:09 AM

What? You guys don't use autofocus? Jeez, even my little GL2 has THAT!
:lol:


Great for focusing on walls behind the subject, or focus hunting in shot.
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#19 Lance Boyle

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Posted 03 August 2006 - 09:04 AM

Great for focusing on walls behind the subject, or focus hunting in shot.


No kidding. I hate AF with a passion!
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