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Focus Pullling/1st AC Courses?


Val Williams
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Hi All,

 

I was just wondering if anyone knew of any Focus Pulling courses, whereby you could improve your focussing skills and come out as a natural Focus Puller. Something which helps you in getting "sharps" rather than the other 1st AC duties such as building the camera, etc.

 

I am aware of the GBCT /Skillset course in London and the Rockport, Maine workshops but I am looking for something but beneficial for would-be Focus Pullers or Clapper Loaders moving up in terms of focussing. Thanks in advance.

 

 

Karl

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Well, I'm not aware of any courses that concentrate on focus pulling. Honestly, it's something you can learn as you go. How are you at estimating distance? It's really not a difficult thing to do in theory so any practice you would get in a classroom would pale in comparison to a real set.

 

Why don't you try getting some 2nd AC jobs and see what you can learn from a good first? Then when confidence allows find a few 1st AC jobs. I know from experience that you get better at focus fast when you're hearing "it was soft" a lot on set and people are getting restless.

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That's a good game to play with other cam crew when you're waiting on light or whatever, too. Make sure you do some distance estimation from a "near camera" kind of position but also from out sort of perpendicular to the span in question. That is usually the easiest and best way (for me, at least) to pull for steadicam and is a real skill of value.

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Posted in another thread by Matt Jeppsen. I found it interesting and informative. Definitely worth watching.

 

http://www.freshdv.com/2007/10/follow-focu...al-roundup.html

 

Yeah, worth the watch. I didn't get much out of it, though.

 

The biggest part about focus pulling is helping yourself. Give yourself good marks. Ask for that extra rehearsal if you need it. Nobody's going to fault you if you nail those takes and can move on.

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Yeah, like you said Chris, their isn't a ton to get out of it, but for someone just learning, their are several little tricks he throws out there. Great place to start.

 

In the videos, watch the third part a few times. Pay attention to how/where he lays marks and the back and forth betwen him and the operator. There are important lessons there.

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I hadn't done too much focus pulling before watching this video, so I thought it was quite good for a beginner to watch. It definitely sold me on using a speed crank, which I used on my next gig, and I loved it :)

 

I have yet to try the speed crank. I'm fond of pulling with a whip much of the time. It has that flexibility that lets me twist my hand up a bit for those really long pulls. Plus I like the little bit of load you have to give the whip before it moves. I feel it helps me feather pulls better and be really smooth.

Edited by Chris Keth
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I have yet to try the speed crank. I'm fond of pulling with a whip much of the time. It has that flexibility that lets me twist my hand up a bit for those really long pulls. Plus I like the little bit of load you have to give the whip before it moves. I feel it helps me feather pulls better and be really smooth.

 

Yeah, but even then you can slap the crank onto the whip. For me it's easier than doing a dance around the ring with my fingers trying to follow focus, for those really long and gradual racks especially. I think in that video he even has the crank on the whip.

 

I've been considering getting my own speed crank attachment, just because it seems on many occasions a camera package doesn't include one.

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Yeah, the speed crank is a great tool to have with you. It not only helps make long pulls easier, but it allows you some play off the follow focus, like a whip does. So instead of transferring the motion straight through the focus wheel, into the lens, you can use less pressure to spin the crank, and not worry so much about affecting the image on those long pulls. Also, it's pretty much the only way to pull a 1 1/2 -2 barrel rotation pull, and still be able to use it! :P

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While we're on the topic of speed cranks. Does anyone know where I can get one at a reasonable price and soon?

 

I'm on a low budget BBC doc on a buyout basis at the moment and will probably need to bring as many of my own tools as possible to make my life a bit easier.

 

Thanks!

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Karl-

There are no focus pulling classes, and, one of the pieces of advice from one of the other reply's was good. " go get a few 2nd A.C. jobs and learn what you can from someone who's already doing the job." There is a reason why you might think about staying at each position along the way as you travel through your career ,When you get to Director of Photography ( big assumption on my part ) you will know when the "guys" are yanking your chain and you wont ask them to do unreasonable things in a small time frame.

As for now, here are some tricks, ins-n-outs of focus pulling:

 

1) Always measure to an inanimate object or the mark, not the actor, the human body is always in motion ... by the time you get back to camera there gone

and your measurement is no good.

 

2) never use your arm span, inside 6' focus becomes more critical and that way is really not good for anything except to stretch. ( very ineffective )

 

3) Check-out the geography of the room you are shooting in, look for repeating patterns on the floor , become familiar with construction Pillars, wall seams, etc.

and see what scales they've built in the set or room for you. they exist in all rooms. on one t.v. show, the art director painted a repeating 1' pattern on the

floor of our main sets, It was the easiest year on a series I've ever had.

 

4) Relax and breathe, you can't pull a 200 mm 12' close-up @ wide open with your butt puckered up. you gotta relax.

 

5) Trial by fire, jump out and do it, no career has ever ended when someone is new and with the right people to encourage instead of dropping

the hammer. Self imposed stress caused by a missed take is hard enough without thinking that the grips are gonna be looking for you in the

parking lot at wrap .. worst case is, a case of beer is on you ... we all pay

 

Good luck I hope some of these tricks work for you, after a while you just see the distances without running the tape out when your guess matches the

tape measure, you in the ballpark, don't be cocky always run the tape ( to double check and the producers like to see it, makes them think your working or something.)

 

Dave Negrin

1st A.C.

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