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Dinis Rodrigues

Help focus pulling on film

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I've been focus pulling for about 4 years now, and even though I've done some 16mm film back in the day (I started focus pulling on 16 film), I've adapted to the usual 35 digital Alexa/Red setups which seems to be the standard in Sweden.

 

The thing is, at least here, with digital, the camera rehearsals disappeared or are recorded, the actors markings disappeared to give room to more improvisation and time saving (no one wants to wait for the 1st AC anymore), 1.3 to 2.0 open iris are now common and often the standard, free moving handheld and steadycam are now also common with disregard to the difficult level to the focus puller, 1/2 to 1 inch depth of field is not a surprise anymore...

 

I don't know how you guys in hollywood, independent or anywhere in the world work nowadays, but floor marks and distance guessing are often worthless when the camera is often moving and 1 inch missguess on a 3-4 feet distance is enough to miss the focus.

 

Of couse one can still pull focus by eye for many of the 16-25mm lenses shots, when the camera doesn't 'poke' the talent in the face, which is not uncommon either, but because of all of that, me and I guess other focus pullers in similar situations, have developed a monitor dependent style of focus pulling. Of course still trying to use markers when relevant and eye-guessing if possible. (I'm not such a good eye-guesser, probably because of not doing much guess work throughout the years)

 

Anyway, soon I will be pulling on a 35mm film project, and I know the dop loves spontaneous handheld, and using 500T probably will call for open iris on interiors, so I'm starting to feel a bit nervous about it.

 

How do you guys think I should approach this situation?

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I think you will have to manage expectations in order not to get screwed. Speak to the DP about your concerns and see what you can work out in terms of getting rehearsals, marks, etc. If the DP won't back you up and push to get what you need from production, then I would start to worry.

 

Push for everything that you think you will need during prep: your own 2nd AC, Cinetape, Preston, sending any lenses back that don't tape out, etc. Better to be a pain to production in prep than to deliver soft shots during production.

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Thanks

I guess Cinetape will make a ton of difference in some situations, I've just tested it once, so I gotta test its limitations better so I don't get too dependent on it. :)

 

I'll try to be a pain in preproduction then, and production, so they don't get the wrong expectations.

 

The Dop refered some movies that seem to have been shot in tough conditions, meaning 35mm handheld with some tighter shots: Argo, Biutiful, Babel, 21 grams, 8 mile, The Tree of Life, The fighter, Call girl, Dancer in the dark, Breaking the waves, Three colours blue...

 

While some of them are a bit questionable, pretty much all the Inarritu/Rodrigo Prieto films seem to fit the description.

 

Any idea how their puller might have manager those tougher shots, or are they less difficult than it looks like, and shot with maybe at least T4?

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I worked on Biutiful.

 

Rodrigo is a marvellous person who understands the complexities of pulling focus wide open so we shot around T4.

So is Alejandro, hence both of them were very supportive and understanding.

 

Although you might think that the movie is very spontanous, everything was very well rehearsed, with the odd shoot in a rush as always happen.

 

It also helps that Arturo, Rodrigo's focus puller is one of the best focus puller I have had the pleasure to work with.. and he didn't use the cinetape at all nor the Preston, just the normal knob and his feelings.

 

I would say that the DP should back you up in terms of focus pulling because he / she should understand how difficult it is.

In complex takes I would send the 2nd AC to see the action in a big monitor, to make sure that you get it right.

 

Have a good day!

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Great info, thanx :)

One question though, about sending the 2nd AC to the big monitor.

I don't have much experience with 35mm cameras, but can they output hd/fullhd video or just sd?

 

We'll be using a Penelope, and this one only takes out composite sd, but are there 35 cameras outputing better signal?

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You're welcome!

 

Sending the 2nd ac to the big monitor is something that started when digital came up and in difficult takes (depending on the focus puller) I go to the monitor (usually the one for Make Up :D) and take a look at it to see if everything is correct or not, it helps a lot.

 

On 35mm would be useful just to check the image in a bigger monitor than the 7", the bigger the better I suppose.

 

There are HD video assists that Arri installed in its cameras a while back, the "Arri HD IV S" I haven't used any ever though.

http://www.arrirental.co.uk/news/view/8/arri-hd-ivs

 

What you need though is a DOP who works with you too and who lets you know if he / she sees that something is out of focus while looking through the viewfinder, that's the best help you will get! :)

 

I am sure you will be fine! :)

 

Have a good day!

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Hi there... THE FIGHTER was shot in 2 perf, 35mm with Master Primes. The typical exposure levels were between a T1.3 and T2. The movie did not employ either actor's marks or rehearsals. 80% was steadicam while the remaining 20% was hand held. Minimal DOF and not knowing what the shot will be till after it happens is challenging to say the least. But hey! The movie looks fantastic! As a focus puller, you just have to grip it and rip it!

 

G

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I wouldn't be able to do so Greg!

You, 1st ACs, are absolutely geniuses! the most difficult job in the camera department on set under my point of view! :)

 

Have a wonderful day!

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I'll try to be a pain in preproduction then, and production, so they don't get the wrong expectations.

 

 

 

Spending money on another prep day/week is far less expensive than re-shooting. This should be the core of your argument.

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Thx for the responses guys.

 

Greg, about The Fighter, how was your camera setup to help handle those exposure levels?

Did you use cinetape and hd monitor to nail specially those most complicated shots on tighter lenses, or was is just milimetrical amazing eye distance-guessing?

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Thx for the responses guys.

 

Greg, about The Fighter, how was your camera setup to help handle those exposure levels?

Did you use cinetape and hd monitor to nail specially those most complicated shots on tighter lenses, or was is just milimetrical amazing eye distance-guessing?

I did have a cinetape on the camera that relayed the display to my Preston handset. That was about it. There were no HD monitors since we were analogue film. It was my exact same camera set up on Interstellar as well. The only difference being we were 4 perf anamorphic and 15 perf 65mm IMAX. We shot that film at a T2 and most of it was handheld, no marks, etc. very challenging indeed.

 

G

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I did have a cinetape on the camera that relayed the display to my Preston handset. That was about it. There were no HD monitors since we were analogue film. It was my exact same camera set up on Interstellar as well. The only difference being we were 4 perf anamorphic and 15 perf 65mm IMAX. We shot that film at a T2 and most of it was handheld, no marks, etc. very challenging indeed.

 

G

Wow, that's just sick :o

 

I didn't even think it was possible in those conditions on 65mm.

 

Do you have to rely big on the cinetape in those situations, or can a person learn to eyeball with such precision not to be off more than an inch on like a 4 feet distance, in those situations where only one actor's eye can be in focus? Like, how does a person pull focus with precision on 65mm?

 

Sorry for the interrogation, I'm looking to get better and it's definitely not every day you get to ask advice from a 65mm focus puller :rolleyes:

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I keep it stupid simple. It's a combination of cinetape, eye and timing. I try not to complicate the complicated.

 

G

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Thanks for great advice, Greg :)

And everyone else.

 

I think I feel ready to try pulling on 35mm handheld film without having a heart attack. :)

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Thanks for great advice, Greg :)

And everyone else.

 

I think I feel ready to try pulling on 35mm handheld film without having a heart attack. :)

Good luck to you!

 

G

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