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Martin Docherty

Slow track focus problem

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I am in need of some expert advice if possible. I have been making films for ten years or so and generally know what I am doing but I definitely do not consider myself a skilled camera operator or DOP.

I have a short coming up that only involves a single, very slow moving tracking shot that is centred on a subject that is mostly static (a girl on a bed, she will perhaps move a little but only side-to-side so she should generally stay within the same focus range). The shot starts very wide and finishes in close-up.

I've been trying to figure out a way to ensure that she stays in focus as the camera moves towards her without having to pull focus constantly as that would obviously require a remarkable level of skill and concentration. Does anyone know of a way that this can alternatively be done?

I have considered alternative shots such as a slow zoom as that would cancel the focus problem but it works much better if we can physically move closer to her.


We will very very probably be shooting on digital, in an ideal world I am looking to rent a Red camera and therefore a wide-angle prime lens as well. As it is a single shot of only around 6 mins I don't estimate any particular workflow problems, I hope!

If anyone can help me with any form of suggestion it would be enormously appreciated.

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It won't matter really, once you get into the close up you'll still need to be pulling focus. Your best bet will be to get a very talented 1AC and the tools they'll need (good lenses, food follow focuses and more than one take) and light it up to a decent stop-- you don't need to go crazy with it, but just to a good stop like a 5.6 or so.

Next would be to figure out how you're going to move the camera, whether by human movement or some machine. If you're using a dolly get a great dolly grip who can very well repeat moves. If you'd going with something mechanical it should be easier to repeat.


It's really not all that difficult for an AC who has some experience. Hell I've have a great 1AC pull on a 180mm lens, hand held, @ a F2.8.. and it was almost all in focus on the first, and only take. It was a throw away added in shot by the director which worked for what he wanted. e

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That's great, thanks very much for the help guys.

I don't think we'll be able to afford a mechanical dolly unfortunately, as it would certainly allow for a steadier movement.

Many thanks

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