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Laser Range Finder?


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#1 Andrew Brinkhaus

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 08:46 PM

Been thinking about getting a laser focus finder for use in measuring focus. I recently was on a feature, where the 1st AC was using a laser finder, as compared to tape. Obviously it's always a good idea to carry a tape, but is this something that is practical for measuring focus? Is it reliable enough to count on, when dealing with the majority of shots that aren't very close, or extremely far away? I found this earlier, could I really rely on this?

http://www.sonin.com/lasertarget.html

Edited by Andrew Brinkhaus, 18 October 2007 - 08:47 PM.

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#2 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 10:30 PM

Depends on how much DOF the DP is giving you on a shoot. If it's pretty broad, then sure. But if you're dealing with incredibly shallow DOF, where say the actor's eyes and nose are in focus but their ear isn't, you can't rightly go pointing it in your actor's eyes to get a good distance reading.

Some people love the laser, but I'm fine sticking to my trusty tape measure :)
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#3 Andrew Brinkhaus

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Posted 18 October 2007 - 10:32 PM

Thanks alot John. Yeah I definitely know what you mean, in not using it when the DOF is very small, but I think it would be great for a good amount of coverage. Always having a tape measure on backup though.
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#4 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 12:44 AM

...but I think it would be great for a good amount of coverage. Always having a tape measure on backup though.


Definitely. They're quite accurate and very useful, but they're just an expense that, FOR MYSELF, just isn't necessary. Although, I'm sure it would impress a few people on set to have one ;)

Let me know what you decide, and I'd like to know what you think after you've used one for a while.
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#5 Andrew Brinkhaus

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Posted 19 October 2007 - 07:44 PM

Sure thing, I'll post some results here after i'ved used it for a while.
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#6 Alex Worster

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 02:09 AM

Laser range finders are a weird thing for me. I use my hard and soft tapes much more often but there are certain situations where the laser range finders are very nice and you really realize it when you don't have one around. For example, if you're in a living room (really any confined space) then the range finder is great for getting marks for stationary objects around the room to help you guess when floor marks are not possible. Also, I use the range finder a lot for handheld/steadicam work because during rehearsals you can take rough distance readings for stationary objects along the way without bothering the operator or more importantly for a starting measurement right before you roll because the starting distance is always different. (Make sure to always take the reading off the actors lower chest/stomach and never anywhere near faces.) So I guess they're nice for special situations or for rough marks so you don't wear your 2nd out (his job his hard enough) but it?s definitely no substitute for the old fashion tape measure. Also, I would only trust a Leica or Hilti (maybe there are other good brands) but those are rather expensive so you should really only get one when you can really afford it and many people do the job just as well with out one.
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#7 Johnathan Holmes

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Posted 20 October 2007 - 03:33 PM

I like the Stanley FatMax TLM-100, which is available at any Home Depot. I find it very helpful to have the option of using the laser. It helps to be able to shoot out to landmarks around a room and get your bearings, particularly with handheld/steadicam work. Accurate to within 1/8". Always take care when using it with actors, of course. Generally I don't like to use it to measure out to actors, only because I find it more time consuming sometimes, and it often distracts people, including the actors themselves. Great for shooting out to an actor for a "through-a-mirror" shot, though. The TLM-100 does generate read errors (255) somewhat often. It also doesn't work very well for day exteriors or very bright interiors. All in all though, it's a good purchase and a good tool to have. I got mine for around $80. Not terribly expensive but very useful.
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#8 Chris Keth

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 07:02 PM

One problem I can foresee there is not being able to see the laser spot in sunlight. How do these devices work in daylight?
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#9 A. Whitehouse

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 09:46 PM

One problem I can foresee there is not being able to see the laser spot in sunlight. How do these devices work in daylight?


I think the laser is only to give an idea of the direction where as the actual detection is done by a sonic finder like radar. I'm not totally sure of this.
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#10 Chris Keth

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 09:55 PM

I think the laser is only to give an idea of the direction where as the actual detection is done by a sonic finder like radar. I'm not totally sure of this.


There are sonic rangefinders that do that, but I'm talking about the laser rangefinders like the leica distos and the hilti. They calculate the time it takes for a laser to get to what you're measuring to and back.
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#11 Mike Panczenko

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 10:03 PM

There are sonic rangefinders that do that, but I'm talking about the laser rangefinders like the leica distos and the hilti. They calculate the time it takes for a laser to get to what you're measuring to and back.


The Hilti's have also have a little viewfinder with a red dot on it that you can look through, to see where your laser is aimed even though it might to too bright outside to actually see it. Very helpful.
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#12 Chris Keth

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Posted 22 October 2007 - 10:25 PM

Sounds like they thought it out well. Shame they're so expensive.
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#13 Alex Worster

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 12:37 AM

The Leica Disto A5 also has an optical sight) so you know what you're hitting in daylight. However, it is also around as expensive as the hilti PD32 (the one with the sight), bummer.
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#14 Dan Salzmann

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 05:31 AM

Until you are so busy that a laser finder is indispensable you can probably rent or borrow one from another AC.
I've only seen them used with steadicam moves.
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#15 A. Whitehouse

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 08:32 AM

I saw a great piece of equipment that you guys might be familiar with from C-motion at a demo earlier this year. It was a remote Focus/Lens adjustment/camera controller and laser range finder which could be hooked directly into the focus pulling function of the unit. It had an ability to offset the distance in relation to your position and everything. They were even working on have remote monitors at the top of the unit for the assistant. Oh the luxury, but for 60K I guess you get what you pay for. It seems like a pretty good investment for the right person or career AC since many of the functions could be upgraded at a software level for newer cameras as they hit the market. Do many ACs own Remote focus units?
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#16 Hal Smith

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 12:41 PM

I like the Stanley FatMax TLM-100, which is available at any Home Depot.............The TLM-100 does generate read errors (255) somewhat often.

The TLM-100 is very unforgiving of movement while it's taking a measurement. I've found that if I rest mine against something solid while shooting a measurement I don't get as many Error 255's.
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#17 Chris Keth

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 01:11 PM

I saw a great piece of equipment that you guys might be familiar with from C-motion at a demo earlier this year. It was a remote Focus/Lens adjustment/camera controller and laser range finder which could be hooked directly into the focus pulling function of the unit. It had an ability to offset the distance in relation to your position and everything. They were even working on have remote monitors at the top of the unit for the assistant. Oh the luxury, but for 60K I guess you get what you pay for. It seems like a pretty good investment for the right person or career AC since many of the functions could be upgraded at a software level for newer cameras as they hit the market. Do many ACs own Remote focus units?


I don't know any that own a remote FF. Many steadicam ops own a remote FF, though, since it's pretty much required kit for them. They might as well make the rental cash rather than a rental house.

I don't see how the device you describe would be that useful. Wouldn't it put a laser on whatever you're measuring? You can't do that during a shot... I really doubt that a person pulling focus will be replaced any time soon.
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#18 A. Whitehouse

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 07:10 PM

I don't know any that own a remote FF. Many steadicam ops own a remote FF, though, since it's pretty much required kit for them. They might as well make the rental cash rather than a rental house.

I don't see how the device you describe would be that useful. Wouldn't it put a laser on whatever you're measuring? You can't do that during a shot... I really doubt that a person pulling focus will be replaced any time soon.


It was sonic and had a viewfinder aswell. Not to be contrary but it was one of the most useful bits of kit Ive seen for awhile. Why wouldn't you want a remote camera controller/remote focus/remote monitor? Better than trying to continually reach around an operator. Expensive piece of kit granted, but its the concorde of remote focus.

cmotion.jpg

Look them up on google, I was certainly impressed.
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#19 Chris Keth

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Posted 23 October 2007 - 11:15 PM

It was sonic and had a viewfinder aswell. Not to be contrary but it was one of the most useful bits of kit Ive seen for awhile. Why wouldn't you want a remote camera controller/remote focus/remote monitor? Better than trying to continually reach around an operator. Expensive piece of kit granted, but its the concorde of remote focus.

cmotion.jpg

Look them up on google, I was certainly impressed.


What I got from your post was that it was an attempt at auto focus for a film camera. That is what I think is a bad idea. Tools to keep stuff in focus are never bad. Plus it's cool looking!
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#20 A. Whitehouse

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Posted 24 October 2007 - 07:23 AM

What I got from your post was that it was an attempt at auto focus for a film camera. That is what I think is a bad idea. Tools to keep stuff in focus are never bad. Plus it's cool looking!


No worries, yeah I think I worded it awkwardly initially. Its an awesome looking piece of gear, that screen isn't the remote monitor, I'm not sure they've released it yet. Its quite heavy but I'd put up with it just to be the coolest focus puller on the block. Any possible feature I could think of when talking to the rep they'd implemented or were planning too. Quite impressed.
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