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Flakse

Out of focus

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Anyone remember any hollywood films where the focus was off / wrong?

 

Does the focus puller or DP get fired when if this happens?

 

Thanks

Flak Se.

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In "Boogie Nights" when Wahlberg is shooting his first film with Julianne Moore, they cut back and forth from 16mm (the movie within the movie) to 35mm, which really highlights how amateur those adult films were (and using the wrong filter most of the time), but there's a couple of shots in that scene where they let the 35mm go really out of focus during a move and it's really annoying, cuz that should've been the 16mm footage instead.

 

Most of the out of focus shots I've seen have been on made-for-TV or direct-to-video movies.

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Punch Drunk Love and The Bourne Supremacy are a couple that come to mind. But it seems it those it may have been a creative choice. There are many many more examples that certainly weren't intended to be soft. Sometimes the focus puller will be fired, sometimes not. It depends on who you're working with and what the situation was when the "softness" occurred.

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The insider.

Yes, the focus puller gets fired faster than you can say hyperfocal circle of confussion.

Also, in some instances, the camera operator will get a bum wrap, though, as far as critical focusing via a view finder, I can't cast the first stone, that's why I only work with one focus puller and always will remain faithful to him.

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I remember quite a bit of soft focus in "Lost in Translation" -from what I heard it was "intentional", for me, it was kind of distracting. Either way, I thought Murray did a good job, in spite of there not being too much plot.

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I've seen lots of out of focus stuff in movies now and then. It happens, but you can't keep a guy around who keeps missing. One thing you have to be sure of as a DP is that you communicate exactly what is to be focused on and when.

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Ive seen some, but in tv series: the OC, CSI. whatever, it is not supposed to happen, but we are humans, we all make mistakes, sometimes it is more deadly than others. Ive made some of my own.

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Does the DP ever get fired if the film is out of focus? He has the greater responsibility of the image.

 

Does anyone know of scenes where the focus is very very (almost impossible) difficult, but still the focus puller manages to do it right?

 

Thanks

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I think that in a lot of cases focus is the responsibility of the DOP as well. Some shots can be really hard to focus, others are easy. As a DOP you should be aware of that and give your first assistant a decent f-stop on difficult stuff. As well you should fight for enough time to do proper measuring, marking and rehearsing. On most productions assistants get rushed a lot.

 

Sometimes it is better to pull some NDs an get more depth of field. A soft focus will not get you better separation from your background.

 

An "out of focus classic" is "breaking the waves" (Lars von Trier/Robby Müller). They had serious technical problems at the beginning of shooting, but some people thought it was a creative decison.

 

I don´t think that a shot that is slightly out of focus can help you tell a story. It is only destracting. If you want to use focus as a creative means, you better put things really out of focus.

 

Regards from germany!

Schuh

DOP

 

(I remember a soft close 2-shot in "Spiderman", that even made it into the trailer.)

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Does anyone know of scenes where the focus is very very (almost impossible) difficult, but still the focus puller manages to do it right?

 

Thanks

On the last feature I did we had some very difficult focus pulls that just about drove my assistant nuts. One example was a shot I did on steadicam hardmounted to a mule with the actor running at full speed chasing us. The actor was about 6 feet away and I was on an 85mm at a F2.0. That gave my assistant about an inch and a half dof. Oh, no rehearsal by the way since we were losing the light. Amazingly, my assistant nailed it on the first take. On the second take we hit a bump and motor jumped off the lens so that take was no good. No third take because there was no more light. It certainly wasn't a good situation for the focus puller, or me either for that matter, but these are the kinds of shots where a good focus puller can really stand out as an extremely important member of the crew. We were happily surprised when the DP saw the dailies and told us the whole first take was good.

I think for the really good pullers it can become a bit of a zen thing, especially with steadicam. They just zone in somehow and nail it. It really blows my mind sometimes. Of course, you couldn't really hold the puller responsible if the shot in the example above was soft. The blame in that instance would fall on the director and/or DP for not getting to the shot before the sun was falling. They got lucky with that one.

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I have been on one shoot in particular where the DOP showed complete disregard for his focuspullers. This was a film that was all dialogue based, so the most important thing was to capture the actors' performance, yet he chose to shoot wide-open most of the time, a lot of it handheld and/or on long lenses with little or no reharsals and improvised movements. The focuspullers did an amazing job considering the circumstances, yet they couldn't get everything sharp at all times.

 

At one point the director, who was not aware of these technical challenges, started complaining that some of the shots went out of focus every know and again. But the DOP just blamed the assistants and kept on shooting like he had.

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Guest Daniel J. Ashley-Smith
I have been on one shoot in particular where the DOP showed complete disregard for his focuspullers. This was a film that was all dialogue based, so the most important thing was to capture the actors' performance, yet he chose to shoot wide-open most of the time, a lot of it handheld and/or on long lenses with little or no reharsals and improvised movements. The focuspullers did an amazing job considering the circumstances, yet they couldn't get everything sharp at all times.

 

At one point the director, who was not aware of these technical challenges, started complaining that some of the shots went out of focus every know and again. But the DOP just blamed the assistants and kept on shooting like he had.

What happened in the end? Did the director realise it was the DP's fault? (Sorry to ask, but this just seems like an interesting story)

 

I have complete respect for focus pullers, mainly because it's a job I just know I could never do. I sometimes mess about looking through my 35mm stills camera just moving around the house focusing on things e.t.c., bloody hard, I always end up going too far and then having to pull the focus back e.t.c. I have NO idea how they do it, a lot of skill.

Edited by Daniel J. Ashley-Smith

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Of course mistakes can sometimes become organic and become happy accidents.

One of my favorites is in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The two men are walking back to the house, they have been drinking, there is a CU dollying back on each character and when George Segal falls, the camera keeps dollying back, but the focus never catches him; yet I feel like the soft focus makes him feel even more vulnerable... I don't think that could ever be planned for.

 

Just sharing thoughts.

 

-felipe.

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At one point the director, who was not aware of these technical challenges, started complaining that some of the shots went out of focus every know and again. But the DOP just blamed the assistants and kept on shooting like he had.

I've been in that situation before. It's a real bummer when you see someone that is performing above and beyond what should be expected, thrown under the bus. Uncool.

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One example was a shot I did on steadicam hardmounted to a mule with the actor running at full speed chasing us.

 

Well I'm impressed regardless ! Did Garrett Brown personally train this mule (and if so, where ? Fairmount Park ?)

 

When I was a focus puller on commercials (mostlly tabletop, very short distances on complex moves) I learned quickly not to involve the DP too much in all this - I would even initiate my own confirmation of focus checks if I was unsure.

 

I tried to be an efficient transparent focussing machine B)

 

-Sam

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Well I'm impressed regardless !  Did Garrett Brown personally train this mule (and if so, where ? Fairmount Park ?)

 

-Sam

I know you're kidding, but you did make me realize that some people may not know that a mule is an ATV. Although there have been many steadicam shots actually done off of horses, I have never done one.

If anyone was going to train a mule for steadicam Garrett would be the guy!

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People running behind a tracking vehicle can be difficult to focus on an open lens. But sometimes you can still look at the monitor and see how tight the shot is and guess how far away the actor is.

 

Shooting a close up on a swing is one of the worst things to focus. The movement is not linear. The girl on the swing slows down while coming close to the camera. This is when you have to rack focus faster because of the lens design. The opposite happens on the way back. And it keeps repeating. A good opportunity to add more light to get a decent f-stop.

 

schuh

DOP

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some people may not know that a mule is an ATV. 

In the olden days, a mule was a big electric motor and a gearbox that would drive a horizontal capstan. It was used to raise heavy loads on a block and falls.

 

 

 

-- J.S.

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I know for a fact that the B camera unit on Gladiator got fired - Ridley can apparently be quite tough on his crew at times.

 

It's a thankless job - they're always on the longer lenses shooting beside the A camera and it's not easy keeping a charging horse in battle in focus on a 400mm. And even though the operator might not have done a bad job, he normally goes when the focus puller gets replaced. It's just the way it works.

 

It's probably the toughest job there is on the cam dept., and carries most of the employment hazards :(

Edited by AdamFrisch

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Guest robtags

Adding to the list of movies with out of focus shots:

 

I thought I noticed one or two shots in 'Ong Bak' that were really soft, during the scene where the bad guys are chasing the main guy down an alley. Not really a Hollywood movie but it still had a pretty wide release.

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