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Focus and Focus Transition


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#1 Jihed Ben Hammadi

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 05:24 AM

Hi,

I'm not really familiar with technical terms of cinematography, i'm just a film lover, who dreams of being a filmmaker, I pay a huge amount of attention to cinematography.

So, my post will be both an expression of my admiration of a specific style of cinematography, and questions to learn.

 

OK, so I'm madly in love with the cinematography of Inglorious Basterds. Robert Richardson did a phenomenal job. I consider the image of that film one of the absolute best ever.

I won't talk in my post about every aspect of it, but I'll just talk about focus.

 

I'm now at work, so forgive me if I can't provide images and videos due to the fact that almost all of the image/video hosting websites are restricted by our system. But I'll try to clarify as much as I can.

 

First, I'm gonna talk about the shape of the focus itself (I hope it's an appropriate term :D), what I mean by shape, is the shape of the blur of anything out of focus. I don't recall the exact shape, amount, or type. But it looks really great. The image looks legendary. That exact type of blur is perfect. My questions are : what's technically responsible of this kind of blur, is it the lenses? The camera type itself? Is it something that can only be done with celluloid cameras?

 

Now to the next point, the focus transition. I mean when you swap the focus objects, what was out of focus becomes in focus, and the other way around. In this film, it seemed like the transition was kind of horizontal (or vertical? I forgot), it was also done quickly, as if someone did it manually at that moment. For example in the first scene when one of the farmer's daughters heard the Nazi vehicles approaching, the focus was on her, and the background was out of focus, then, she stopped what she was doing and now the focus changed, and we see the Nazi vehicles from far. That focus transition moment is what I'm talking about. My questions are again : what's technically responsible of this kind of transition, is it the lenses? The camera type itself? Is it something that can only be done with celluloid cameras?

 

I personally can't afford or even find a 35mm camera, I want to try achieving this kind of focus and its transition. Can I do it with digital (if I afford one, even cheap like DSLR maybe?)?

 

I'm sorry again for the lack of technical terms, i'm still a dreamer and not familiar with them.


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#2 Mark Dunn

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 05:36 AM

You're describing focus pulling, the changing of focus during a shot. It's done manually, or remotely by a real person, and it's a profession in itself, and a very demanding one. The lens barrel is turned, by gears or by hand, from one setting to another during the shot. You can do this on a DSLR yourself. Just get one that shoots video. It is most noticeable at a wide aperture (small f-number). it's not peculiar to film- it's an optical effect.
One example always comes to mind- Sean Young's first close-up in "Blade Runner". The focus puller misses by about half an inch- the cheek is sharp instead of the eye. That's how exacting focus pulling is.
Out-of-focus highlights (sometimes called bokeh) I will let others describe. It depends on lens design so, again, it applies to digital as well.

Edited by Mark Dunn, 05 December 2017 - 05:38 AM.

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#3 Jihed Ben Hammadi

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 05:48 AM

 

You're describing focus pulling, the changing of focus during a shot. It's done manually, or remotely by a real person, and it's a profession in itself, and a very demanding one. The lens barrel is turned, by gears or by hand, from one setting to another during the shot. You can do this on a DSLR yourself. Just get one that shoots video. It is most noticeable at a wide aperture (small f-number). it's not peculiar to film- it's an optical effect.
One example always comes to mind- Sean Young's first close-up in "Blade Runner". The focus puller misses by about half an inch- the cheek is sharp instead of the eye. That's how exacting focus pulling is.
Out-of-focus highlights (sometimes called bokeh) I will let others describe. It depends on lens design so, again, it applies to digital as well.

 

Thanks for the clarifications.

So, in DSLR for example, there's a button responsible for the pulling manually?
 


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#4 Mark Dunn

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 05:55 AM

You can always turn off AF, either on the lens or the body.


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#5 Igor Trajkovski

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 08:19 AM

The aesthetic of the out of focus image part is called bokeh:

Wikipedia - Bokeh

 

One of the key factors defining the look, is the shape of the aperture in the lens.

...

The "legendary" look of the images you like might be from the fact
that Basterds was shot anamorphic.  It has it's specific look, blur, distortion etc...

In this article from RED (Digital Cinema) about anamorphic lenses,
there are sample images of standard and anamorphic bokeh:

RED.COM - Understanding Anamorphic Lenses


Cheers.


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#6 Jihed Ben Hammadi

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 08:22 AM

Thank you guys, really thank you. It's exactly what I was looking for.


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#7 Jihed Ben Hammadi

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 09:22 AM

Sorry for the double post, in imdb's technical specs for the film, they have this for the camera :

 

Arriflex 435, Panavision Primo Anamorphic, G-Series, ATZ, AWZ2 and Cooke Lenses
Panavision Panaflex Millennium, Panavision Primo Anamorphic, G-Series, ATZ, AWZ2 and Cooke Lenses

 

The only difference between those two lines is Arriflex 435/Panavision Panaflex Millennium, the other stuff is identical.

I don't fully understand, is it two types of cameras and the other data is just lenses type?


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#8 Mark Dunn

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 10:23 AM

Yes.

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#9 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 10:25 AM

They used the quiet Panaflex Millennium for shots with sound being recorded (to a separate recorder) and the louder ARRI 435 for MOS shots (usually for higher frame rates for slow-motion) with Panavision anamorphic lenses (Primo and G-Series anamorphic) plus a few shots must have needed to use regular spherical lenses (like the movie within the movie).

 

Yes, you can manually focus a lens on a DSLR, just set the camera and lens to manual focus.

 

But the effect where the background going out of focus gets vertically stretched, skinnier, and out of focus round lights become vertical ovals, is an artifact of using anamorphic lenses.


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#10 Jihed Ben Hammadi

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 11:09 AM

They used the quiet Panaflex Millennium for shots with sound being recorded (to a separate recorder) and the louder ARRI 435 for MOS shots (usually for higher frame rates for slow-motion) with Panavision anamorphic lenses (Primo and G-Series anamorphic) plus a few shots must have needed to use regular spherical lenses (like the movie within the movie).

 

Yes, you can manually focus a lens on a DSLR, just set the camera and lens to manual focus.

 

But the effect where the background going out of focus gets vertically stretched, skinnier, and out of focus round lights become vertical ovals, is an artifact of using anamorphic lenses.

Thank you, all is clear now.
I'm really in love of that style of cinematography.
I have the Bluray version of the film and I literally keep playing it from time to time just for the sake if the image. The opening scene alone in the farmer's house is a visual masterpiece in a small place.
I also have The Hateful Eight on bluray and the ultra wide screen is glorious. The film looks great, but not as much as Inglorious Basterds.

I guess I need to also have Django Unchained to keep enjoying the cinematography.
 


Edited by Jihed Ben Hammadi, 05 December 2017 - 11:10 AM.

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#11 Mark Dunn

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 11:55 AM

May I recommend John Alcott's three and a half films for Stanley Kubrick.

Edited by Mark Dunn, 05 December 2017 - 11:57 AM.

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#12 Giacomo Girolamo

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 12:18 PM

Well, a couple of things about focus.

First of all, the blur effect in the background is call "bokeh" (I put the term so you can find more information about that). What is important to know is that the focus area (call it depth of field) change with the lens, the distance and (more important and easy to control and understand) the aperture of the lens. If you have a lens with a great aperture (a smaller number F) you can have more things out of focus.

 

59032-focusing-distance-dof-focus-distan

 

But the "shape" of the bokeh change if you just close a little de aperture, because the camera diaphragm have some blades (5, 7, or more) and that makes a pentagonal (if has 5) shape of bokeh.

You can see what I mean in this gif.
https://en.wikipedia...s_Diaphragm.gif

 

If you are a photographer, you need to know how to play with this effect so you can make different pictures and effects.

Now, in cinematography, there's someone independent of the camera operator who's call the focus puller, and his job is just that, makes the shifts in the focus (you need to think that the camera maybe is moving fast, and you need to be precise).

 

 

About your interest in cinematography, I really recommend that you learn how a camera works. Even if you are not interest in photography, buy a DLSR camera, the most cheap ones (canon 700d for example, the entry level camera in canon) and start learning about how a camera works. The lens in photography are not that precise so they are difficult to use in cinema if you are moving the camera a lot, but for a learning experience they are great. In canon, you have a lens kit which is a 18-55mm (but because the 700d is not full frame, in fact is a 29-88mm, don't worry about that now). The lens are good (for learning) but the problem is that the f number is not so low (about 4.5 - 5.6 depend on the focal length). You can still do some nice bokeh with that lens, but maybe if you want experiment with that effect, you need buy a new lens. You can find some really nice, cheap lens for a couple of bucks, for example, a Youngnuo 35mm (about 56mm in that canon not full frame), which you can have a f 2.0 and have a really nice bokeh effect. Also, around 50mm is a nice focal length to start filming and experiment.

 

 

Cinematography, and even photography, have a LOTS of different things to learn, so start small and don't be overwhelm about all the information. Buy a good but simple and cheap DLSR and start to experiment all the different aspect you can play, and if you are curious and willing to learn, in a couple of days o weeks, you'll be doing greats pictures, and in a couple of month you'll learn a lot of different aspect of filmmaking. Plus, with a DLSR you can start to filming shorts clips, moments or even a short film if you want to. And is going to be a great experience to learn not only about cameras, but also about lighting, and other important aspect of cinematography.

 

 

Good luck and be free of ask everything you want,

 

bye

 

 

Ps. Later I read that you ask about anamorphic lens. Don't worry about that now. They are lens only for cinema that have a special look. You can figure it out because the lights (the flare of a flashlight for example) looks like a horizontal line of light or because the lights in the bokeh have a egg shape (stretch vertical) and not round. But trust me, you are not going to use it now, so know they exist and try to identify in movies, but leave it for later in your cinematographer process.

 

The anamorphic flare:

1443007963278_ananamorphiceffectbokehfil

 

The anamorphic bokeh:

anamorphicbokeh1.jpg


Edited by Giacomo Girolamo, 05 December 2017 - 12:32 PM.

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#13 Giacomo Girolamo

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 12:38 PM

Sorry for the double post but I can't edit the last one again.

 

Jihed, check a photography page call it 500xp, in which a lot of pictures have this bokeh effect. You can even search (bokeh or whatever you are interest about) and find examples of pictures that later you try to replicate. The great about the page is that you can see the camera parameters when they take the picture, so you can see what lens they use, and what f-stop, shutter speed, etc. the choose for that specific picture. A great way to learn more about photography, which is essential to know about cinematography.

 

 

Bye


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#14 Jihed Ben Hammadi

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 12:51 PM

 

May I recommend John Alcott's three and a half films for Stanley Kubrick.

 

Which ones exactly? Because in imdb I saw only The Shining, Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, and he wasn't listed as DoP.


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#15 Mark Dunn

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 12:53 PM

Well he should have been!
The English term is lighting cameraman.
The half is where he took over from Geoffrey Unsworth on 2001 when it ran over schedule.

Edited by Mark Dunn, 05 December 2017 - 12:54 PM.

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#16 Jihed Ben Hammadi

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 01:00 PM

Thank you Giacomo for all the effort and dedication in your valuable replies, much appreciated.
All these info increased my motivation level to buy a DSLR and start doing something, I really need to start with anything instead of just daydreaming.

Damn, what I learned today by just posting this thread is a treasure for me, thanks to all of you guys !!!


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#17 Giacomo Girolamo

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Posted 05 December 2017 - 01:18 PM

Thank you Giacomo for all the effort and dedication in your valuable replies, much appreciated.
All these info increased my motivation level to buy a DSLR and start doing something, I really need to start with anything instead of just daydreaming.

Damn, what I learned today by just posting this thread is a treasure for me, thanks to all of you guys !!!

 

You're welcome. If you want to know, I never like to take pictures. My mom has a really good analog camera but I just never interest in that. But than I start to be interesting in cinematography and I realize that I need to understand how a camera works. So I start to read and watch everything I can about cameras, and photography and cinematography, but there's a point in which you can learn the theory but you really need experimenting by yourself. Luckily, know you can buy a entry level DLSR which films in a really good quality (if you think the price you are paying) and is a really valuable tool in the learning process.

 

If you have time, I really recommend a youtube channel named "Filmmaker IQ", which have kinda longs video (for youtube, about 15 minute, half hour) but in which explain in a really good and clear way all the aspect about filmmaking. The creator has a lot of videos, about focus, about lens, about film, and a lot of videos about history of cinema. I really recommend it for you, if you want to learn or if you find some term that you don't get (for example why a 35mm lens in a full frame sensor is 35mm but "transform" in a 55mm in a asp-c sensor, which is call "crop factor"). Is a great tool for learning. I'm at work too and I can't enter in youtube, so sorry if I don't put the link. Just search filmmaker IQ in youtube and you'll find it.

 

Bye!


Edited by Giacomo Girolamo, 05 December 2017 - 01:29 PM.

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#18 Jihed Ben Hammadi

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Posted 06 December 2017 - 07:17 AM

OK my friend, I'll subscribe to this channel. Thank you very much.


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#19 Jihed Ben Hammadi

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 09:37 AM

I just found a breakdown of the first chapter of the film. Damn, the amount of perfection and attention to the little of details amazes me.

http://mattscottvisu...ouriousbasterds

I really want to achieve this look someday.


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#20 Giacomo Girolamo

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Posted 07 December 2017 - 11:02 AM

I just found a breakdown of the first chapter of the film. Damn, the amount of perfection and attention to the little of details amazes me.

http://mattscottvisu...ouriousbasterds

I really want to achieve this look someday.

 

What a great review and tons of information Jihed, thanks for sharing!

 

About your cinematography journey, just relax, learn and when you have the possibility and have access, take a dslr and start shooting. You're going to make a LOTS of mistakes, which is great, because is the best way to learn about something. My grand mother used to say (this going to be difficult in english) "Who's don't do anything, never be wrong". Have fun and be wrong a lot in the process!

 

 

Thanks again for sharing, good bye


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