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Pulling focus on a jib


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#1 Michael Nelson

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Posted 02 February 2010 - 08:14 PM

We had a shot recently with an HPX-500, Pro 35 and Arri 50mm wide open, mounted on a jib & dolly. The shot was for the camera to start behind a couch, float up and over as people parted and land on a shot of a TV in front of the couch. Because of so many moving elements, I devised a way to track the position of the film plane throughout the shot.

I hung a piece of rope from an iris rod just under the film plane and weighted it with a grip clip so it hung straight and just above the ground. I then put a piece of tape on the ground at the operator's desired starting position and ending position. As the camera/ jib/ dolly moved through the shot, the rope hanging above the ground easily let me know the position of the film plane to all the action and I could easily pull focus.

Pictures:

Here's the rope hanging from the film plane above the ground:
Posted Image

You can see a few of the distance markers on the ground for the shot.
Posted Image
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#2 Tom Mitchell

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Posted 02 February 2010 - 10:29 PM

A cheap and less intrusive method is to invest in a laser pen. And point that downwards. I see both grips and ACs use this method. Good for dollys and steady cam work too.
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#3 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 02:17 AM

Quick thinking on a low budget! I'd also recommend getting a laser pointer for next time, though. You won't need as much rope when you're on the end of a 25' jib. ;)
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#4 Michael Nelson

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 02:46 AM

Great idea with the laser pen. I thought of that as I was posting this thread. It would be nice not to have to wrangle up all of that rope!
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#5 Nolan M Berbano

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 09:56 AM

Hey Mike. I don't know if you remember me but we worked on "Wayward" together. As soon as I saw the jib and dolly setup I said to myself, "That looks familiar..." And is that Logan in the first shot? Tell him I said hi.
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#6 Michael Nelson

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 03:53 PM

Hey Matt, what were you doing on Wayward? I'm trying to put a face to the name. That is Logan, I'll be seeing him for about 2 weeks here at the end of the month so I'll tell him hi for you.
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#7 Nolan M Berbano

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 04:45 PM

Hey Matt, what were you doing on Wayward? I'm trying to put a face to the name. That is Logan, I'll be seeing him for about 2 weeks here at the end of the month so I'll tell him hi for you.

I was the 2nd AC for most of the shoot and I think we only worked together during the motel scenes. You also gave me that piece of rope to tie down my busted spoiler. Much appreciated by the way, I was going to give it back to you but I never saw you for the rest of the shoot days.
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#8 Michael Nelson

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Posted 03 February 2010 - 11:30 PM

Ah yes, now my memory has been jogged. I'm sure we'll run into each other again sometime!
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#9 David Desio

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 10:09 AM

wow Mike, you'd think that you would have put a more flattering pic of me, perhaps one where I'm doing the typical DP pose where I'm looking off into the distance with a smirk of contemplation on my face...
In all seriousness though I must say that the string method was pretty ingenious at the time. Now if we could only figure out how to operate that dolly/jib combo better. Its so cumbersome, too many points of contact. It's good for faster action shots but awkward for smooth flowing shots...
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#10 Michael Nelson

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Posted 04 February 2010 - 05:01 PM

Dave, I think that calls for a steadicam... and Woah, it just so happens that I'm a steadicam operator! How lucky is that? I do have more flattering pictures of you I posted up on my facebook from our most recent shoot.
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#11 David Desio

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 09:33 AM

I was really saying that in jest...I look good in ALL pictures. ;)
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#12 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 05 February 2010 - 03:39 PM

Brilliant

Even with a laser pen you would still need to have it rigged on a string/rope as a pendulum. That way if the camera tilts, the lens is still pointed straight down, rather than moving with the tilt.
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#13 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 05:10 AM

Brilliant

Even with a laser pen you would still need to have it rigged on a string/rope as a pendulum. That way if the camera tilts, the lens is still pointed straight down, rather than moving with the tilt.

Maybe someone can make a hinge like on a Panavision eyepiece extension support so the laser always stays in an upright position...
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#14 Chris Keth

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Posted 06 February 2010 - 12:06 PM

Maybe someone can make a hinge like on a Panavision eyepiece extension support so the laser always stays in an upright position...


I'd just magnet it to the underside of the crown of the head in this case. You still have to be estimating diagonal distance based on that floor distance and the height of the camera and talent so that will be plenty close to the film plane.
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#15 Gregory Irwin

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Posted 08 February 2010 - 11:31 AM

I appreciate all of these responses but having been a focus puller for 30 years, I must say that these solutions really complicate matters. Of course this is just my opinion. Keep it simple. The job is already complicated enough. The more one can wean one's self away from using marks and simply "see" the distance and "feel" the timing of the focus pull, the easier you will find it gets. Of course a good cine tape helps too! :rolleyes: But with all seriousness, the actors will not always be in the same place relative to the camera and the camera will certainly not be that consistent - especially on a jib. Using a laser is a good idea but again, worrying about the diagonal angles and all that will become burdensome. If you choose to use the laser pen, aim it at the ground from the jib arm, put some simple reference marks on the ground and rely on your judgement after that. You will be amazed how fast your confidence will grow. Once you become too reliant on "marks", especially when the camera and/or actors are not on the marks, you can tend to freeze up and won't know where to go with focus.

Best,
Greg
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#16 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 01:07 AM

Thanks for keeping it real Greg. :)

Edited by Satsuki Murashige, 09 February 2010 - 01:08 AM.

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#17 Michael Nelson

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Posted 09 February 2010 - 11:51 PM

I appreciate all of these responses but having been a focus puller for 30 years, I must say that these solutions really complicate matters. Of course this is just my opinion. Keep it simple. The job is already complicated enough. The more one can wean one's self away from using marks and simply "see" the distance and "feel" the timing of the focus pull, the easier you will find it gets. Of course a good cine tape helps too! :rolleyes: But with all seriousness, the actors will not always be in the same place relative to the camera and the camera will certainly not be that consistent - especially on a jib. Using a laser is a good idea but again, worrying about the diagonal angles and all that will become burdensome. If you choose to use the laser pen, aim it at the ground from the jib arm, put some simple reference marks on the ground and rely on your judgement after that. You will be amazed how fast your confidence will grow. Once you become too reliant on "marks", especially when the camera and/or actors are not on the marks, you can tend to freeze up and won't know where to go with focus.

Best,
Greg


Thanks for the advise, Greg! it's great to hear from people like you on this board! I practice the "estimate first, then measure" technique regularly. I hope to get to the point where I can accurately pull focus on a fast lens.
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#18 JD Hartman

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Posted 11 February 2010 - 06:35 PM

To keep the the laser pointer vertical it would have to be mounted on a gimbal. A plumb bob, which is what you created with the weight and string is an easier, simplier solution.
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