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where to place the focus when u have wide angle


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#1 Jim Nelson

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 10:07 PM

Hi,

Can someone please help me out?

When you have a wide angle, does it really matter where you place the focus, since everything is in focus anyway?

And if it does matter, where should you place it?


Thanks
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#2 Chris Keth

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 10:55 PM

Hi,

Can someone please help me out?

When you have a wide angle, does it really matter where you place the focus, since everything is in focus anyway?

And if it does matter, where should you place it?


Thanks


Be careful with that statement. Everything is not necessarily in focus just because you're wide.

If your lenses don't breath noticeably, I'd say keep focus with the action and make totally sure it's perfect. If your lenses breath a lot, you may find that hyperfocal or a split is the place to be.

Remember that ultimately it's the DP's decision, so just ask when you don't know something like that.
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#3 Jim Nelson

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Posted 02 May 2009 - 11:19 PM

But what if you use a wide angle lens and the subject moves and changes distances? I know that you don't have to change the focus as long as he's in the depth of field. So where is the best place to set the focus?

What I mean is: should you set the focus at the beginning of the action or the middle, or in the end?
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 12:24 AM

Common practice is to still follow focus (change focus) with the movement of the subject (if that's what you decide to focus on), even though with the deeper depth of field of the wider-angle wide shot, it may be less critical so you don't have to be as precise unless the subjects gets close to the lens.

If you absolutely can't follow focus for some reason, then you'd use a depth of field chart to determine where to set the focus to hold the nearest and farthest points that you want to appear sharp. But that's assuming you have enough depth of field to hold that distance range, and that depends on a lot of things, particularly what f-stop you are at.

Now if the shot is very wide and wide-angle and the lens breathes a lot when pulling focus (appears to be zooming slightly) then you may decide it is better to leave the focus somewhere because the benefits of following the focus are not as visible as the problem from the breathing.
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#5 Chris Keth

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Posted 03 May 2009 - 08:29 PM

What I mean is: should you set the focus at the beginning of the action or the middle, or in the end?


Yes. ;)

You want the entire action to be in focus, unless you're asked to do otherwise. My post before was about ways you can do that. As David says, most time you pull just the same as any other shot. The real exception to that is if your lenses breath noticeably and pulling focus would be distracting. That is when you might use hyperfocal distance or try to cover it with set focus and enough depth of field.

If you need any clarification on how to do some of these things, like find hyperfocal distance, search this forum and you'll find a dozen or more threads about most every subject that would concern an AC.
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#6 Jamie Metzger

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 03:54 AM

A MV I was on recently, had me on a 6mm (at 2k, or 16mm) at a 5.6 if I'm correct. We were on a 4' jib moving the entire reach back and forth. I checked the DOF charts and I saw that if I focused at 4', I'd have Acceptable focus from 2.5' - infinity. These are rough #'s as I'm trying to remember, but you get the point.
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#7 David Rakoczy

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 06:54 AM

I like to work with ACs who have the attitude that you are either spot on.. or off.. when it comes to focus... and to continually pull focus no matter what the lens... the only exception is (if) we are on a lens that breathes badly and we can indeed set and hold focus for the shot and let it just sit there... that, however, has not (yet) happened because we use good Glass... so we always pull focus... always.
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#8 Tom Jensen

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Posted 04 May 2009 - 09:34 AM

I like to work with ACs who have the attitude that you are either spot on.. or off.. when it comes to focus... and to continually pull focus no matter what the lens... the only exception is (if) we are on a lens that breathes badly and we can indeed set and hold focus for the shot and let it just sit there... that, however, has not (yet) happened because we use good Glass... so we always pull focus... always.


Sharp focus is sharp focus. If it's sharp, it is spot on. It would depend on the shot but there are a lot of time where you lock off a camera and leave it. It doesn't make any sense to pull focus on every shot when there is often no need and it could work to your detriment.
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#9 David Rakoczy

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 05:28 AM

Sharp focus is sharp focus. If it's sharp, it is spot on. It would depend on the shot but there are a lot of time where you lock off a camera and leave it. It doesn't make any sense to pull focus on every shot when there is often no need and it could work to your detriment - Tom Jenson


I don't know any professional Cinematographer who would not fire their AC if the Talent was at 6ft and they saw 4ft on the barrel... and the AC said 'don't worry, it will hold them' :o .. even if it did... are you crazy?.... Maybe that is the way you run your Camera Dept... it certainly isn't the way I run mine... and pulling focus to the detriment.. huh? Other than the example(s) Mr. Mullin, Keth and I gave, there is no logical reason not to have the focus set and adjust with the Subject... unless de-focus or throwing focus more fore or aft of your Subject is what you are after.

If your lenses don't breath noticeably, I'd say keep focus with the action and make totally sure it's perfect. - Chris Keth


I'll take a Mr. Keth any day! He is 'spot on'!
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#10 Tom Jensen

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 10:04 AM

Wrong. I don't know any professional Cinematographer who would not fire their AC if the Talent was at 6ft and they saw 4ft on the barrel... and the AC said 'don't worry, it will hold them' :o .. are you crazy?.... Maybe that is the way you run your Camera Dept... it certainly isn't the way I run mine... and pulling focus to the detriment.. huh? Other than the example(s) Mr. Mullin, Keth and I gave, I see no logical reason not to have the focus set and move adjust the Subject... unless defocus or throwing focus more fore or aft of your Subject is what you are after.



I'll take a Mr. Keth any day! He is 'spot on'!


When someone says words like "always" or "never" my ears prick up. Like I said it would depend on the shot. If the talent were 6 feet away and the lens were set at 4, I think I would be upset too. But, sometimes the action takes place much further away and there is often more than one point of interest in the shot. Sometimes we shoot action with something other an actor. Have you ever done any helicopter work, crash stunts or crane work? In helicopter work, it is physically impossible to run a tape measure, especially when you are shooting ship to ship or you have 5 helicopters in the frame. Anytime you have a remote focus, you risk have a gear slip or the unit going down. When you have no easy access to the unit, you sometimes want to keep focus changes to a minimum so you have no accidents. I realize now the systems are a little better but accidents happen. Am I crazy? Maybe not for the reasons you might think. Truth is you have no idea how I've run a camera department since we've never worked together or never met as far as I know. You may see no logical reason to set the focus but then you have to look beyond your nose. Feel free to ask any DP that I have worked with about my focusing ability. David spells his name Mullen, by the way.

Edited by Tom Jensen, 05 May 2009 - 10:07 AM.

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#11 Tom Jensen

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 10:26 AM

Thinking about it even more, if the talent was at 6' and the focus was at 4' and the lens were a wide angle lens at a decent stop, I don't see the problem. I don't have a depth of field calculator but say the range was 3.75' to 15' I think I would be OK with it.
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#12 David Rakoczy

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 03:09 PM

Have you ever done any helicopter work, crash stunts or crane work? In helicopter work, it is physically impossible to run a tape measure, especially when you are shooting ship to ship or you have 5 helicopters in the frame. Anytime you have a remote focus, you risk have a gear slip or the unit going down. When you have no easy access to the unit, you sometimes want to keep focus changes to a minimum so you have no accidents. \


Yes I have.. all of the above.. and that was covered in Mr. Mull(e)n's response "If you absolutely can't follow focus for some reason......".

Thinking about it even more, if the talent was at 6' and the focus was at 4' and the lens were a wide angle lens at a decent stop, I don't see the problem. I don't have a depth of field calculator but say the range was 3.75' to 15' I think I would be OK with it.


Wow....
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#13 Tom Jensen

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 03:51 PM

Yes I have.. all of the above.. and that was covered in Mr. Mull(e)n's response "If you absolutely can't follow focus for some reason......".


I wasn't responding to David's post. I agree with David. Especially when he said, "Common practice is to still follow focus (change focus) with the movement of the subject (if that's what you decide to focus on), even though with the deeper depth of field of the wider-angle wide shot, it may be less critical so you don't have to be as precise unless the subjects gets close to the lens." I was responding to you because you said "the only exception" and "always." Now I know some DPs have easily bruised egos and hate being wrong or disagreed with but I will say I have pulled way more focus than you and I will venture to guess that you have little or no focus pulling ability. There's nothing wrong with that and you probably shoot pretty pictures but you aren't the only person with an opinion and/or experience. Pulling focus is an art as much as it is a science. I did it for years. I was the lens tech for 3 years at a local rental house and have rebuilt hundreds of lenses of all brands. I have collimated, shimmed and projected thousands of lenses. So I'm not just talking out of my rear. I'm giving my opinion and if you don't like it, too bad. Being a good focus puller also means that you know what you can and cannot get away with.

I'm not really sure that your statement that every DP you know would fire a guy if he were focused at 4' when the subject is at 6' on a wide angle lens. If it's sharp in dailies, that's all that matters. Not everybody here is a student and I don't appreciate your condescending, rude, disrespectful, arrogant attitude. It might work with your crew but it won't work with me. You've got the wrong guy. I've seen your posts and you do it with others. I can see you have a very high opinion of yourself but it seems a little over inflated. If you have a problem with my posts, ignore me or take it up with the moderators.
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#14 Kar Wai Ng

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 05:13 PM

Thinking about it even more, if the talent was at 6' and the focus was at 4' and the lens were a wide angle lens at a decent stop, I don't see the problem. I don't have a depth of field calculator but say the range was 3.75' to 15' I think I would be OK with it.


In some situations with wide angle I will intentionally bias the focus forward (but still hold the subject in focus with some safety margin) in order to buy a little more background softness; some DPs will ask for this and others will just let me use my judgment.
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#15 John Sprung

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 05:23 PM

A wide lens at its hyperfocal distance and a reasonably deep stop is what makes the Instamatics and disposable cameras possible.




-- J.S.
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#16 David Rakoczy

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 06:28 PM

I wasn't responding to David's post. I agree with David. Especially when he said, "Common practice is to still follow focus (change focus) with the movement of the subject (if that's what you decide to focus on), even though with the deeper depth of field of the wider-angle wide shot, it may be less critical so you don't have to be as precise unless the subjects gets close to the lens


Then we are in agreement.


I was responding to you because you said "the only exception" and "always."



That is correct.. unless you are unable to pull or due to limitations of the Lens, one should 'always' be pulling with the Subject.. do you still dispute that?

Now I know some DPs have easily bruised egos and hate being wrong or disagreed with but I will say I have pulled way more focus than you and I will venture to guess that you have little or no focus pulling ability.



Sounds like you are speaking from personal experience.

There's nothing wrong with that and you probably shoot pretty pictures but you aren't the only person with an opinion and/or experience. Pulling focus is an art as much as it is a science. I did it for years. I was the lens tech for 3 years at a local rental house and have rebuilt hundreds of lenses of all brands. I have collimated, shimmed and projected thousands of lenses. So I'm not just talking out of my rear. I'm giving my opinion and if you don't like it, too bad.


Talk about condescending....

I'm not really sure that your statement that every DP you know would fire a guy if he were focused at 4' when the subject is at 6' on a wide angle lens. If it's sharp in dailies, that's all that matters.



Wrong... being spot on at all times (if possible) is what counts! You can achieve focus by accident... or hit a proper exposure even though you calculated incorrectly.. that doesn't make it right. There is more to our trade than skating through with pretty (happen chance) dailies.

Not everybody here is a student and I don't appreciate your condescending, rude, disrespectful, arrogant attitude. It might work with your crew but it won't work with me. You've got the wrong guy. I've seen your posts and you do it with others. I can see you have a very high opinion of yourself but it seems a little over inflated.




Take your own advice partner.. your initial post in this thread read very laxidasical.. remember there are indeed Students here and reading your posts they will get the wrong impression. I can't believe more 1st's haven't chimed in on this as they pride themselves for being 'spot on' in every situation they have the ability.

If you have a problem with my posts, ignore me or take it up with the moderators.


Likewise....

I will take a Chris Keth or Satsuki any day as I know they will be spot on at all times if at all possible.... and that I appreciate.. that is a great work ethic.. that is the attention to detail that will pay off in so many other areas.

Sharp focus is sharp focus. If it's sharp, it is spot on.


You made an irresponsible statement (whether due to neglect or miscommunication).. just retract it or correct it.. don't get pissy with me for calling you on it.

Tom, on this thread... you may want to go 'back to one'....

Sam, I hope you have learned something...
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#17 Tim Fabrizio

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 10:19 PM

Pull focus. Its your job. It keeps everyone at ease (operator, DP) when they know that the AC is taking it seriously. If I saw the barrel set at 4ft and the action was at 6ft+. I would tell the AD we need another take.
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#18 Tom Jensen

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Posted 05 May 2009 - 11:25 PM

Pull focus. Its your job. It keeps everyone at ease (operator, DP) when they know that the AC is taking it seriously. If I saw the barrel set at 4ft and the action was at 6ft+. I would tell the AD we need another take.

Pulling focus is part of the AC's job. But just because you are standing there going through the motions doesn't mean you are doing your job. Would you tell the AD that you need another take if you were on a 6mil, 8mil, or even a 10mil shooting outdoors at a 5.6? The AD is going to laugh. Why do we even calculate hyperfocal distance? Why do people use splits? What's the point of calculating depth of field if we aren't going to use these tools? You don't always have to turn the knob for an image to be in focus.

Edited by Tom Jensen, 05 May 2009 - 11:27 PM.

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#19 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 06 May 2009 - 02:55 AM

Hey guys, no need to make this personal! Different strokes for different folks, that's all this is.

I will take a Chris Keth or Satsuki any day as I know they will be spot on at all times if at all possible....

Thanks David, but all I can say for myself is that I try, I don't always succeed. I don't want to create shock waves or anything, but I actually agree more with Tom in this case - what really matters is what the dailies look like. If it's soft there, then by all means fire your focus puller. But I personally feel it's unfair for a DP to fire the AC because he peeked at the lens and saw it was off during a take. I do think it's perfectly legitimate to cover yourself with depth of field for expediency in certain cases - it's a tool and it has its place, but it shouldn't be abused or used a crutch for laziness or incompetence. The lens scales are not always correct either. Especially on lenses with backfocus (or on the Red, where the backfocus is on the camera mount), I don't always trust the focus scales and often trust the monitor more. I'm always paranoid that the back focus is shifting and I double check it as often as I can.

For example, I just got off a three day industrial shoot with an HPX500/6-24mm Digizoom and 1.4x extender. Totally bare bones package, no follow focus, no matte box, etc. The DP comes from an ENG background and wanted responsibility for pulling her own focus a lot of the time. We were moving very fast, no rehearsals, no retakes, grabbing shots. We also had a steadicam flyer rig that we used from time to time. No wireless FF. The DP was operating, but she didn't have much steadicam experience, so I was called on to balance the rig and make it work as best as possible. At times I was asked to pull from the barrel and I did, even though we both knew it was a compromise. A lot of times, we went hyperfocal because that was the better compromise. And sometimes, the DP would unscrew the backfocus ring on the fly and throw it way out to get macro effects (at least she always told me when she was gonna do it)! But I don't take any of this personally - I just see it as the nature of that particular job.

So much of what we're talking about has to do with the expectations of a particular job and the working style of the particular DP. When I work with someone like David R., I try to work in his style. If it makes him more comfortable to see that the lens is always "on", then I'll do my best to live up to that. I'll let him know beforehand that I may need more time, an extra rehearsal, or another take from time to time in order to achieve that. And if I get another job like the one I just got off of, then I'm not going to slow down the whole shoot and wreck their schedule in order to accommodate my need to always be "on" when it doesn't affect the end product at all. Ultimately, what really matters is that the footage looks sharp and the clients (including the DP) are happy. That's all I really care about.
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#20 David Rakoczy

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Posted 06 May 2009 - 07:41 AM

ok.. forget Satsuki.. I'll take Keth! :lol: (just kidding Satsuki).

But I personally feel it's unfair for a DP to fire the AC because he peeked at the lens and saw it was off during a take.


Hey, human error is part of each equation and I am certainly no exemption. Mistakes happen and that is life. Like beginning to roll and thinking 'are we still wide open.. we are supposed to be at a 2.5.... or the barrel left at 4ft because that is where the slate was shot ten minutes earlier.. things do happen and I would have to fire everyone including myself if it were as you quoted, however, if it was due to neglect.. or laziness.. or equally as dangerous.. overconfidence... and that AC shrugged 'don't worry, it will hold'... adios buddy. Or while operating I peek and see the AC is just standing there with his hands at his/her side.. whispering.. 'I know they are moving around a lot.. but don't worry.. it will hold'... um, no that is not acceptable.

Like Mr. Fabrizio said, if you can, do it....

At the same time, I certainly respect Tom's right to run his crews any way he sees fit. Peace Tom.
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