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Steve Woronko

Pulling Focus in the Dark

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Was just wondering if you are unable to have a light source near cam or any sort of glow in the dark tape, if anyone had any tips on how to pull focus in near darkness?

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if you only have 2 marks to hit, use your fingers as hard stops on the follow focus wheel. Put one finger on the wheel where each end of the pull is, and you just turn the wheel till your finger hits. What's the situation where you can't have a tiny LED mounted by the wheel?

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I'm still getting experience with pulling focus and the 1st time I've had to do it with that little light. If I had 2 marks I'd have tried that, but it was a dolly shot. It's hard to describe,but we were in a small basement, the lit action was across the basement, maybe 20ft away. We were coming from total darkness where the 1st 2 marks were as we picked up the actor walking in silhouette, if that helps any.

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I can't understand why you can't have a shielded low level led or other light just spoted on your focus wheel or lens markings. If stray light from this isn't illuminating your subject, the camera isn't going to pick it up.

 

I assume you're going to judge the distance by eye rather than marks on the floor?

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This is the 1st time I've been in this situation,since normally I'm a 2nd or Data Manager. We only had 1 monitor and no real room on the dolly. Was a no budget short,no prep or a lot of equipment to choose from. Like I said I'm still learning the ins & outs of pulling focus, so any tips or tricks would be greatly appreciated.

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This has already happened, right, so you're just using that setup to develop better ideas?

Experienced focus pullers can focus by eye, judging the distance to camera and watching their lens markings, as if at the same time. Without that, I would find logical ways to have marks for a known sequence of focal distances.

 

Are you shooting with sound? If not, it may be easier to help cue the sequence (Dir or AD can tell people where to be and what to do during shot) You need a numbered sequence of marks for the actor(s). These could be anything, as long as everyone knows how to read them. For example, would christmas light LEDs be in frame on the floor? Actors hit a colored light as their mark? Or anything in the architecture, room geometry that the actor can use, and the AC1 also see.

 

The visibility on the lens and FF issue. Even a simple maglight will do at a pinch if you don't have a little LED on a snake. If you can use end stops you can use tape stops. These are strips of tape that go from the lens barrel to the rods etc.

 

As long as your lenses are good, each mark is measured and you can work off your lens.

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taping a mini glowstick near the marking disc can be usable in some cases and does not need any power source. same for the actors if the door / ground is not visible. you can get these sticks even in different colors (check out any party store). I usually mark the camera cases and sometimes tripod legs with them when shooting in the dark, makes the gear a bit easier to find and reduces the chance of damages :lol:

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Experienced focus pullers can focus by eye,

If it was too dark to see a mark, I'm guessing Steve was working with a DP who think that WFO is the place to be. Even experienced Focus Pullers don't pull focus by eye at t1.3. They get marks (that they can see) and they fight their corner to make sure they can do their job properly.

 

Laser pointers, LEDs, maglites, whatever you need to be able to see.

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You could use fluorescent poster paint to mark up the dial, and use a "UV" keyring light (see eBay) to light them up. (A lot of lenses are already marked with fluorescent paint).

 

Incidentally, a lot of people fret about whether those "UV LEDs" can harm your eyes.

The answer is "no", mainly because they're not actually UV!

 

For a long time the only UV game in town was basically an ordinary fluorescent tube without phosphor powder, and "black" glass that absorbed most of the visible light.

 

The characteristic "UV" colour fropm those is actually just harmless violet light; you can't actually see the true Ultraviolet!

The so-called "UV" LEDs are really just blue-Violet LEDs: all they produce is the visible wave lengths that a true UV tube produces, they don't produce any actual Ultraviolet!

 

You can get true UV LEDs for about $2 (try www.violed.com.tw but good luck understanding their ordering system :-)

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All of this talk of "glow in the dark" this and that sounds over the top and complicated. Keep it stupid/simple. Put a simple low light source such as a battery operated, goose neck flash light and shield the light spill with a piece of black tape. Aim it at your lens or disk and do your job. These are easily obtainable at hardware and electronic stores.

 

Having mentioned the disk on the follow focus, I have always believed that using that disk for marks is a big mistake. First: there is at times, way too much sloppy play in the gearing mechanism. That could cause one to be off of the actual lens mark. Second: it causes the focus puller to look at too many different places (ie. the subject, the lens marks and the disk) thus moving one's head too much costing lost reaction time. I believe that by placing your head at the film plane and looking straight down the center line of the lens, one can see the subject and the lens engravings with a simple shift of the eyes. In other words, if you need to make focus marks, make them on the focus ring of the lens with a simple tic mark of a grease pencil or even cut out tape arrows. This is much more efficient. But everyone has their style and way of working. You have to figure out what works for you. Still, keep it stupid/simple.

 

G

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I believe that by placing your head at the film plane and looking straight down the center line of the lens, one can see the subject and the lens engravings with a simple shift of the eyes. In other words, if you need to make focus marks, make them on the focus ring of the lens with a simple tic mark of a grease pencil or even cut out tape arrows.

 

G

You mean you don't have your eyes glued to the 7" onboard monitor??? Next you'll be saying you use a tape measure for distances!

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You mean you don't have your eyes glued to the 7" onboard monitor??? Next you'll be saying you use a tape measure for distances!

 

Ha! Who would ever suggest that????!! :)

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The funny part is that I haven't touched a manual follow focus in years. I live on a Preston FIZ full time. That allows me to position myself, free from the camera and choose my own vantage point. I'm not sure if I'd be any good on a follow focus after all of this time!

 

G

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In the old days the director, the DoP and the focus puller would be clustered around or near the camera (with operator). To better see the performance, the light, focus and the actor's movement from the camera's perspective. The position of the camera (the lens), it's raw physicality, is a governing point in space. To move away from that point is to dilute the chance for direct identification with it. History, inevitable change may force people to do all sorts of things, but not all of it is good. Gregory, don't you miss the days when you were right by the camera, with your hand on the follow focus? You could hear the others breath. Now you are one more increment removed from the the raw, viscereal connection you would otherwise have.

Edited by Gregg MacPherson

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The funny part is that I haven't touched a manual follow focus in years. I live on a Preston FIZ full time. That allows me to position myself, free from the camera and choose my own vantage point. I'm not sure if I'd be any good on a follow focus after all of this time!

 

G

 

I know of a few younger ACs who only use Prestons or the like, and wouldn't know a manual follow focus if you bonked them on the head with one. We recently had to emergency freight a Preston unit to a location because the focus puller refused to work without one!

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Gregory, don't you miss the days when you were right by the camera, with your hand on the follow focus? You could hear the others breath. Now you are one more increment removed from the the raw, viscereal connection you would otherwise have.

Actually, not at all. The jobs that I do are high profile and high stakes. They pay me well to give them the best I can do. If that means working off of the Preston, then so be it. In reality, I'm not far from the camera. I'm still close to it. But since I wear bi-focal glasses, it's much easier for me to face the action and hold the handset in a position where all I need to do is shift my eyes without moving my head. I have no loss of reaction time that I believe I would have if I had to keep turning to look back and forth from the subject to the lens. It's a system that works successfully for me. I don't recommend it for everyone.

 

G

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I know of a few younger ACs who only use Prestons or the like, and wouldn't know a manual follow focus if you bonked them on the head with one. We recently had to emergency freight a Preston unit to a location because the focus puller refused to work without one!

God bless them!

 

Greg

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Thanks for all the replies. I should've described the situation a little better, instead of broad terms. A wireless system would've been ideal if it were in the budget. We were shooting in a small basement, on a dolly. The only illumination was from the computer monitor and small desk light. The glow in the dark ring or pencil would've work, which at the time didn't cross my mind, until after. And I actually prefer being next to the camera and not off under a piece of duvie looking at a monitor, seems kind of seems detached to me.

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