Jump to content


Photo

Pulling Focus from a dolly and Dolly Grip


  • Please log in to reply
6 replies to this topic

#1 Glynn Albert

Glynn Albert
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 41 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 10 September 2009 - 07:04 AM

Need to learn how to pull focus while on a moving dolly with talent that is freely moving in all axis within the frame. Need practical advise and tips please. Pl lenses / Nikon lenses.
  • 0

#2 David Regan

David Regan
  • Sustaining Members
  • 218 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • New York

Posted 10 September 2009 - 10:50 AM

Need to learn how to pull focus while on a moving dolly with talent that is freely moving in all axis within the frame. Need practical advise and tips please. Pl lenses / Nikon lenses.


Well for starters, Nikon still lenses won't be your best of friends, as they typically have very few focus markings, and the barrel is so small you pulls are miniscule.

But in general pulling from a dolly can be tough even with cine-style lenses. There are a few tricks depending on the type of shot that can help.

1. Laser Pointers. Clip or Velcro a small laser pointer to the side of the dolly, aimed down slightly so it hits a desired spot on the floor (out of frame of course). This can be great for certain types of shots, especially walk and talks, when the camera is dollying back as people walk towards the camera. If you know your distance to the laser, it becomes much easer to guess if people are a few inches off, than if you are trying to guess if they are at 10' or 10' 4" from the actual lens.

2. A very good dolly grip. A dolly grip that hits their marks at the appropriate time is invaluable to you as an assistant. The more off their marks they are the more your have to compensate on the fly.

3. Know your space. When I am waiting around for lighting and such, once the camera has been set, I just measure lots of distances that seem relevant. Use landmarks in the room, table to couch, fridge to sink, door to door, etc...general distances that you can use during the take. I often write these distances on a piece of tape and put it on the mattebox. So if things change I can quickly see, oh we are near the door, and they are by the couch, I know that is 'x' feet.

And in the end just practice. You will develop a feel, and the ability to come closer and closer to judging distances. And remember, always guess a distance before you measure it!

Good luck.
  • 0

#3 Steve McBride

Steve McBride
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 239 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • New York, NY

Posted 10 September 2009 - 03:20 PM

Everything that Dave said is definitely the way to go.

If you're indoors and the floor is tiled, measure to see how long a tile is and use that as a reference. If a tile is 1ft wide and you have your mark you can use that to be able to judge how much you have to compensate for movement.

Look for a topic talking about golf tees, there are a lot of good tips in there for pulling focus outside.

But really, you need to know the location and know how far the camera is from stationary targets at different points in the move.
  • 0

#4 Jonathan Bowerbank

Jonathan Bowerbank
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2815 posts
  • 1st Assistant Camera
  • San Francisco, CA

Posted 10 September 2009 - 03:49 PM

Since it's so tough to pull focus on those SLR lenses, I would highly recommend you speak with the DP & Director about actually getting specific marks for the actors to hit, rather than letting them roam freely throughout the scene. A good actor can hit marks and make it appear just as natural, so that would be your first step.

If it looks like you're gonna have to wing it, get as many references you can to objects in the area that give you good distance references in relation to where the actors will be roaming. Tables, counters, props, etc.

Pay close attention to the rehearsal, and get as many measurements as you can. Place some rough marks throughout the space, basically for your own reference if they're not actually going to hit them. For instance, if an actor crosses the frame 5' in front of you, mark where that is, and if they move in front of or beyond that mark, you can adjust.

For CU's, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to give them a mark. So on the day, take initiative mark them.

1st AC needs to be pretty rogue on the set, but if you're not getting what you need to keep things in focus, you gotta be vocal and communicate with your DP. If the director bitches, just ask him/her whether he/she wants the shot to be in focus or not ;)
  • 0

#5 Michele Peterson

Michele Peterson
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 148 posts
  • Film Loader
  • Burbank, Ca

Posted 13 September 2009 - 02:28 AM

If the dolly grip is not the most experienced, make sure they mark the front tires not the back. Otherwise they'll be swearing they hit their mark and the back wheel will be on the mark, but the front wheel, where your lens is, could be pivoted from that back mark to the left or right.

Even with a good dolly grip, you've got to communicate with each other. Make sure to work out between the DP/Op you and the dolly grip how you want to handle the free roaming. Should the dolly grip follow the actors or stick to his dolly marks when the actor's don't hit their marks? Does he stay at a fixed distance from the actor at all times, no matter where the actor goes? If you don't know if the dolly grip will be compensating for an actor missing marks, you won't know how much to compensate for yourself. You can get the dolly grip to work with you to make your job easier much more than you can an actor.

If you need a dolly grip, let me know.

Edited by Michele Peterson, 13 September 2009 - 02:33 AM.

  • 0

#6 Glynn Albert

Glynn Albert
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 41 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 24 September 2009 - 03:20 AM

Well for starters, Nikon still lenses won't be your best of friends, as they typically have very few focus markings, and the barrel is so small you pulls are miniscule.

But in general pulling from a dolly can be tough even with cine-style lenses. There are a few tricks depending on the type of shot that can help.

1. Laser Pointers. Clip or Velcro a small laser pointer to the side of the dolly, aimed down slightly so it hits a desired spot on the floor (out of frame of course). This can be great for certain types of shots, especially walk and talks, when the camera is dollying back as people walk towards the camera. If you know your distance to the laser, it becomes much easer to guess if people are a few inches off, than if you are trying to guess if they are at 10' or 10' 4" from the actual lens.

2. A very good dolly grip. A dolly grip that hits their marks at the appropriate time is invaluable to you as an assistant. The more off their marks they are the more your have to compensate on the fly.

3. Know your space. When I am waiting around for lighting and such, once the camera has been set, I just measure lots of distances that seem relevant. Use landmarks in the room, table to couch, fridge to sink, door to door, etc...general distances that you can use during the take. I often write these distances on a piece of tape and put it on the mattebox. So if things change I can quickly see, oh we are near the door, and they are by the couch, I know that is 'x' feet.

And in the end just practice. You will develop a feel, and the ability to come closer and closer to judging distances. And remember, always guess a distance before you measure it!

Good luck.


Thank you so many variables, I am working with Arri super speed primes, and the witness marks are on again off again, I thought it was just with the Nikons. at 5' good. 10' great, 25' no good and so on. Do I ask the rental house for a different set?
  • 0

#7 Glynn Albert

Glynn Albert
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 41 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 24 September 2009 - 03:27 AM

Since it's so tough to pull focus on those SLR lenses, I would highly recommend you speak with the DP & Director about actually getting specific marks for the actors to hit, rather than letting them roam freely throughout the scene. A good actor can hit marks and make it appear just as natural, so that would be your first step.

If it looks like you're gonna have to wing it, get as many references you can to objects in the area that give you good distance references in relation to where the actors will be roaming. Tables, counters, props, etc.

Pay close attention to the rehearsal, and get as many measurements as you can. Place some rough marks throughout the space, basically for your own reference if they're not actually going to hit them. For instance, if an actor crosses the frame 5' in front of you, mark where that is, and if they move in front of or beyond that mark, you can adjust.

For CU's, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to give them a mark. So on the day, take initiative mark them.

1st AC needs to be pretty rogue on the set, but if you're not getting what you need to keep things in focus, you gotta be vocal and communicate with your DP. If the director bitches, just ask him/her whether he/she wants the shot to be in focus or not ;)


That question worked. It raised some eyebrows but it worked. So basically my AC needs to know his space and how it's changing. We're shooting EX3/ Letus/PL Super-speeds in small practical locations this week all with dolly shots and mostly inkies and tweenies so our PL lenses are at 1.3 on the dolly. The Director hates to gain up and the Gaffer cant control spill and bounce with bigger lights. I'll go with the 6DB gain so long as no one is complaining about the look of the grain to give the AC the shots at 4/5.6 wouldn't you? What is better shutter off or 6-9DB gain? Does it get worse during grading?

Edited by Glynn Albert, 24 September 2009 - 03:31 AM.

  • 0


Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Broadcast Solutions Inc

FJS International, LLC

Visual Products

Glidecam

Willys Widgets

The Slider

Ritter Battery

Technodolly

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Opal

CineTape

Paralinx LLC

CineLab

rebotnix Technologies

Rig Wheels Passport

Abel Cine

Aerial Filmworks

Tai Audio

Metropolis Post

Wooden Camera

Metropolis Post

CineLab

FJS International, LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

CineTape

Abel Cine

Aerial Filmworks

Paralinx LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Wooden Camera

Opal

Willys Widgets

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Glidecam

The Slider

Tai Audio

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Technodolly

Visual Products

rebotnix Technologies

Ritter Battery