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Army of the Dead - a focus pulling masterclass


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Just watched Army of the Dead on Netflix. How the hell did they keep it all in focus? The depth of field is razor thin the entire time, and the focus is dead on every shot. Even the fast action. Incredible. 

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Watch "Joker" for the actual masterclass. It's done mostly in camera. With movies like Army of the dead, its probably a mix of real practical work and really good VFX artists. Suffice to say, it doesn't hold a candle to the work in Joker because at least we know for fact that work was really done in camera. 

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 I watched it last night and I wouldn’t call the focus dead on every time by a long shot, I’m a focus puller by trade but even my friends that aren’t in film were complaining about how shallow and often out things were. Lots of questionable splits and on the fly corrections as well, something tells me Zack isn’t an easy guy to pull for.

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Not knowing much about focus pulling, isn't it all mapped out ahead with focus test, lens marks, stops and notes? They can reshoot ad nauseum as well.

If it is all single takes, with no tests...then it is impressive. 

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21 minutes ago, Daniel D. Teoli Jr. said:

Not knowing much about focus pulling, isn't it all mapped out ahead with focus test, lens marks, stops and notes? They can reshoot ad nauseum as well.

I mean yes, they rehearse of course. They also have tuns of focus aids these days, so most of the time they know exactly where the focus "should" be, there is no "guessing" like the days of film. Furthermore, actors don't exactly land perfectly every take. Even the best actors I've worked with, would miss their marks enough for focus to be soft on a few takes. Sometimes those takes are the best so they use them. 

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Posted (edited)

Phenomenal work by Zack who shot it too. He shot practically the entire film on his Canon Dream Lens (50mm, 0.95). He said it was much more in focus than he expected. Also, another cool technical tidbit: Tig Notaro was not on set with any of the actors during principal photography. Another actor played the role and they ended up replacing him completely with Notaro who was shot separately against green screen over two weeks after the film was complete.

Seamless. For people "complaining", it's such a different look than what we're used to and absolutely on purpose. 

 

Edited by Manu Delpech
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4 hours ago, Daniel D. Teoli Jr. said:

Not knowing much about focus pulling, isn't it all mapped out ahead with focus test, lens marks, stops and notes? They can reshoot ad nauseum as well.

Hi Daniel, 

That’s not really how it works these days. It’s very rare that you’ll get focus rehearsals and actors hitting their marks these days. Generally, 1st ACs are expected to adjust on the fly and keep everything sharp without marks or rehearsals. That’s the main reason there are so many soft shots these days, even with modern focusing aids and monitors.

You may be able to set floor marks with stand-ins in rehearsal. But once the main actors get in front of the camera, then it’s really up to the director and actors whether they’re allowed to roam freely with the camera chasing them, or if they need to hit a particular mark and eyeline for the shot.

Also note that while the actors are moving around, the camera may also be freely roaming. From a stills photographer’s perspective, imagine shooting street photography with manual focus lenses, but without being able to rack the focus in/out to find your sharps in the viewfinder before releasing the shutter - you just always have to be sharp, all the time, while your eye is in the viewfinder. That’s what it’s like. 

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29 minutes ago, John Holland said:

I think a lot of this was shot with a deeper focus that you think and then in post the backgrounds were de-focused a lot giving the shallow focus look it has.

Thats what I think too. 

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15 hours ago, Manu Delpech said:

Also, another cool technical tidbit: Tig Notaro was not on set with any of the actors during principal photography. Another actor played the role and they ended up replacing him completely with Notaro who was shot separately against green screen over two weeks after the film was complete.

 

Any idea why?

That was the only character I thought actually had much of a character.

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Posted (edited)
34 minutes ago, Phil Rhodes said:

Any idea why?

That was the only character I thought actually had much of a character.

 

https://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2021/05/tig-notaro-zack-snyder-chris-delia-army-of-the-dead

 

"Every time you see Tig Notaro in Zack Snyder’s new zombiepalooza smash-and-grab heist movie Army of the Dead, the character you’re watching was originally played by now scandal-plagued comedian Chris D’Elia. Don’t try to picture it; that was the whole point of removing him.

Snyder answered quickly when I asked him if it was a difficult decision to replace D’Elia after he was accused by multiple women of predatory sexual behavior, sometimes when they were underage. “I think it was a fairly easy one,” the filmmaker said, wincing."

Edited by Miguel Angel
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I though the focus was far too distracting. I watched it with some friends who aren’t too film literate, and they felt self described “whiplash” from it. Also, destroyed Vegas is spectacle, you want to see it. But with everything out of focus, the epic location ceases to feel like a character. Not my cup of tea. 
 

Also, look for the Larry Fong billboard, was a nice shout out. 

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2 hours ago, Tristan Noelle said:

I though the focus was far too distracting. I watched it with some friends who aren’t too film literate, and they felt self described “whiplash” from it. Also, destroyed Vegas is spectacle, you want to see it. But with everything out of focus, the epic location ceases to feel like a character. Not my cup of tea. 
 

Also, look for the Larry Fong billboard, was a nice shout out. 

Yup, my experience to a T.

 

Also if anyone on this thread is interested, the specialty lens rental house Old Fast Glass (@old_fast_glass) is hosting a discussion on their Instagram tomorrow 5/26 at 5:30pst on their new set of rehoused Canon glass that was used on AotD as well as the cinematography of the film, might pick up some fun facts. 

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On 5/24/2021 at 8:48 AM, Tyler Purcell said:

Watch "Joker" for the actual masterclass. It's done mostly in camera. With movies like Army of the dead, its probably a mix of real practical work and really good VFX artists. Suffice to say, it doesn't hold a candle to the work in Joker because at least we know for fact that work was really done in camera. 

I second the JOKER masterclass of camera operating

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