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Focus pulling


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#1 Allyn Laing

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Posted 17 September 2006 - 06:33 PM

Hello,

I am wondering if there are any good techniques to get excellent and better at focus pulling, apart from the obvious one of being on set next to a camera all the time. I am in a situation where I am not able to use a camera and lenses(due to not enough hands and people).

Any tips and pointers would be of great assistance

Allyn
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#2 cruz

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Posted 18 September 2006 - 03:40 PM

you should first of all start with reading forum archives, and secondly try to guesstimate distance from different objects around you and check your guesses with metering tape. Another good advice I heard is got to know your own sizes, knowing the distance from your head to index finger with outstretched hand can save you some time on set. If you are still growing you should check the distances every three months :) cheers
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#3 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 05:21 PM

Also, try practicing turning dials as much as possible. Any dial will do - ovens, combination locks and old-fashoined car radios are a great "real world" source for dials. You'd be surprised how many rookie AC's get benched during their first feature for wrist fatigue.

Seriously though, besides having an awareness of distance and getting on-set practice, its always important to understand the goal or meaning of the pull in regards to the action and the script. Sometimes just dialing in on the actor speaking isn't what the DP/Dir is looking for. Focus and DoF is a great visual tool, so (as strange as this sounds) be aware of focus and pulls in the films you watch and see when/how it changes (Is it fast or slow? Seamless or obvious? What are they intending the viewer to be aware of?).

On the other hand, you could always bring a camera w/ follow focus to a shooting range and practice quick focus pulls on the paper target...
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#4 Allyn Laing

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Posted 20 September 2006 - 06:14 PM

Seriously though, besides having an awareness of distance and getting on-set practice, its always important to understand the goal or meaning of the pull in regards to the action and the script. Sometimes just dialing in on the actor speaking isn't what the DP/Dir is looking for. Focus and DoF is a great visual tool, so (as strange as this sounds) be aware of focus and pulls in the films you watch and see when/how it changes (Is it fast or slow? Seamless or obvious? What are they intending the viewer to be aware of?).


Can you recommend any dynamite films that have good story with follow focus? thankyou for the above information - we have a 4 short films in the up and coming weeks back to back, which will equate to a feature and we certainly don't want wrist fatigue!

Al.
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#5 Rory Hanrahan

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Posted 21 September 2006 - 10:53 AM

Can you recommend any dynamite films that have good story with follow focus?


Thats a damn fine question actually, and despite my post earlier (I was really just saying to be aware of this in ANY movie) I don't have a short-list in my head of movies with great pulls. To be honest with you, while it is important its not something I mentally file under "great cinematography notes"...

While it may not be exactly what we're talking about here, try looking at some cinema verite films from the 60's, like the work of the Maysles Bros (Gimme Shelter, Salesman) or Frederick Wiseman (Titicut Follies). Its not news that I'm enamored with these films, as I've made mention of them in several posts, but the camera work (including focus, which is almost psychically spot-on) is outstanding. As for newer or fiction films... maybe Hard Candy, which came out recently. Its shot in a very music video style, I suppose, and all of the close ups are in extremely shallow DoF. I'm sure the puller had a hell of a time on that one.
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#6 Daniel Stigler

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Posted 22 September 2006 - 07:03 AM

Can you recommend any dynamite films that have good story with follow focus?



Heimat (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087400/) has the most perfectly done focus choreographies i've ever seen. Pretty often that means that you don't see anything.

Edited by Daniel Stigler, 22 September 2006 - 07:04 AM.

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#7 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 23 September 2006 - 11:03 AM

Check out the opening dolly shot of "Good Night, and Good Luck." I was practically salivating when I first saw it.

If you really wanna play hardball, check out Fritz Hershey's book "Optics and Focus for the Camera Assistant." Learn about lenses as much as you can. The more you learn about what physically happens to affect depth of field, the more you can work with it instead of having it work against you.

Another good resource is Doug Hart's book....the section about focus pulling is not as complex as Fritz's book but it talks about what your most common scenarios are going to be and gives some very good advice as far as marking actors, making chalk marks on the floor when you're working off a dolly, things like that.
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#8 Matias Nicolas

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Posted 24 September 2006 - 04:37 PM

What technnics you can recomend, when you are pulling focus on a shot , using a crane?
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#9 Annie Wengenroth

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Posted 27 September 2006 - 04:33 AM

Ask for a wireless lens control system. :P

Find as many non-moving, obvious landmarks as you can and have your 2nd GIVE you as many marks as he/she can. If it's a really crazy long move, see if they can walk it with you out of the shot with a headset and call out distances as you go through. Be sure to communicate really well with the people operating the crane. It sounds obvious but with shots like this, their job is just as critical as yours and even if you and the actors both hit your marks, if the move is bad, it's a moot point. You should not only be paying attention to the actors' positions, but also to timing. Count in your head if it helps. I haven't pulled focus on much crane work yet but that's my 2 cents just from general experience.
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#10 Rich Steel

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Posted 30 September 2006 - 04:29 AM

Have the balls to tell your DOP you want more light cause your sick of shooting at 1.3........

Of course I'm only joking.
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#11 Luke Allein

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Posted 23 October 2006 - 03:07 AM

Check out the opening dolly shot of "Good Night, and Good Luck." I was practically salivating when I first saw it.


That's hilarious that you mention that, man. I was there for that shot, my cousin was the 1st AC on that picture, it was one of the first film sets I ever got to hang out on and really watch the camera. Even George Clooney was impressed and I know when that issue of "American Cinematographer" came out, he was really commended for his expert focus pulling. (John Connor is his name, one of the best in the biz)

"Good Night and Good Luck" has some serious pulling in it, I'd definitely cite that film. (Robert Elswit is a goddamn genius, he may be my favorite DP of all time)
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