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Stephen Perera

Cinetape - how to use one.....

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So I've seen it attached to both film and digital cameras and I know what it does but HOW is it used....is there anywhere online where someone does like a tutorial of how to use one?

I assume the camera shows a screen with the readout to a focus puller that looks at that screen only? not the scene? or like both......does this person simply try and match the e.g. 4m on the camera to 4m on his handheld device that moves the lens focusing to 4m?

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You've got it right Stephen.  The focus puller views the displayed distance and sets the lens to match, either directly by hand, or by radio focus if they're using one.

And yes, the focus puller is watching the scene, judging the distance, and using the cine tape to confirm or fine tune their estimate.  It takes some practice and experience as the device doesn't show exactly what it is measuring, but it's generally the closest subject or thing directly in front of the camera.

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The Cinetape is meant to be a confidence checker as well as another measuring tool for focus, it works great in some situations and not as well in some others.

Setting it up: When you put the Sensor on the camera, "The horns," you want to set it as close to being on axis with the lens, picture it directly above the lens, positioned over the center of it, as close as possible without anything obstructing its sensor such as a matte-box or french flag.

Once you have the horns positioned, and it's connected to the display/control box, you set the film plane offset. The Cinetape doesn't know where it is positioned in relation to the film plane so you must calibrate it. By pointing the camera at a flat surface; a wall, slate, clipboard etc. you measure out the distance to the object it is pointing at and you adjust the offset until the Cinetape reading matches your measured distance.

The last thing you do is adjust sensitivity, the higher the number the more sensitive it is going to be. Everyone has their own preference but 45-65 is a good place, not too slow that your numbers are behind and not too fast that they become unreadable. 

When to use it: The key to using a Cinetape is knowing when it is and isn't going to work and work accurately. If you attempt to just match the numbers that the Cinetape is displaying you're going to run into focus issues sooner or later. 

You will get the best results from a Cinetape when there are no obstructions or people crossing in the frame. For example a push in/out on one subject or one subject walking up to the camera will probably give you the best readings.

The focus puller should have either measured out marks or made eye marks for the shot and the Cinetape will help you to fill in the blanks. It's helpful in preventing pulling too fast or too slow or if something unexpected happens, The dolly/steadicam/actor might stop short of their end mark or they go past their end mark, you can use the Cinetape's distance to help you adjust it on the fly.

Say you're doing an unrehearsed Steadicam shot on film, it has lots movement from both the camera and the subject and focus cannot be checked through the viewfinder or from the low res video tap image. Most focus pullers should have the ability to judge a distance by eye and this is where a Cinetape is helpful to fill in the blanks and see if you judged the distance right. You think the subject looks about 6' away from the film plane, the Cinetape says 5'9" and there's nothing obstructing, its a safe bet to set focus to 5'9. Towards the end of a take the subject moves behind a column, you think they look about 9' away but the Cinetape is saying 7'. This is when you would ignore the Cinetape and trust your best judgment of the distance. 

The Cinetape has a range of around 20'-30', if you're on a 1000mm lens and the subject is 150' away, the Cinetape is essentially useless.

The Cinetape also cannot read through glass, so if your subject is behind a window, in a car or in a mirror your distance readings will not be accurate as the Cinetape will just read whatever solid is in front of it. 

The Cinetape takes its readings in a cone shape, this means that it has a wide area that it is sampling and it is going to display the distance of any object that is large enough and within its sample area. If your subject is 12' away but they are standing behind an object like a dumpster, the Cinetape is likely going to display the distance to the dumpster instead of your subject. This is why it is best used in conjunction with measured focus marks so you can tell when the Cinetape is reading your subject or if it is reading the wrong object in the frame.

A common limitation with using the Cinetape would be the over the shoulder shot. The hero subject you want in focus is on one side of the frame and the other actor in the scene is closer to the camera on the other. Say the hero subject is 4' away and the closer subject is 2'6" away. As the scene plays out you're likely going to see the Cinetape jump back and forth between the close and the far distance and you need to know to ignore the 2'6 reading. If you were just matching the number to the Cinetape during the shot, you're focus is going to be going in and out. Some assistants will adjust the positioning of the horns on a shot like this to help the Cinetape clear the closer subject and try to only sense the hero subject, results may vary. 

There's lots more to it but I'd say thats the meat of it. 

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Posted (edited)

Hi Stephen,

In regards to the Cinetape there is now a much better tool on the market called the CineRT manufactured by Focus Bug Technologies. The CineRt is a set of tools built into one unit that can do amazing things.

Edited by Timothy Spencer
typo
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On 7/5/2019 at 5:58 PM, Timothy Spencer said:

Hi Stephen,

In regards to the Cinetape there is now a much better tool on the market called the CineRT manufactured by Focus Bug Technologies. The CineRt is a set of tools built into one unit that can do amazing things.

I highly recommend the Cine RT & personally prefer it over the udm and cinetape. Their team at Focusbug is great and super helpful as well.

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1 hour ago, Rasmus Frostell said:

I highly recommend the Cine RT & personally prefer it over the udm and cinetape. Their team at Focusbug is great and super helpful as well.

I second that recommendation! My company owns both the Cine RT and the Cinetape and the Cine RT blows everything else away.  We should also include the Preston Light Ranger in the conversation but I'm not a fan of it.  

G

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On 7/7/2019 at 4:03 PM, Gregory Irwin said:

I second that recommendation! My company owns both the Cine RT and the Cinetape and the Cine RT blows everything else away.  We should also include the Preston Light Ranger in the conversation but I'm not a fan of it.  

G

Hey Gregory. Curious if you'd be willing to elaborate on what drawbacks you've found with the Light Ranger? I currently own a Cinetape, but I'm considering upgrading to either the Light Ranger 2 or Cine RT

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7 hours ago, Luke S Lasley said:

Hey Gregory. Curious if you'd be willing to elaborate on what drawbacks you've found with the Light Ranger? I currently own a Cinetape, but I'm considering upgrading to either the Light Ranger 2 or Cine RT

Hi Luke,

It's a personal decision.  Both systems have their benefits and cost the same.  For me, as a professional focus puller, the Light Ranger reduced my focus pulling instincts to a playing a video game.  Just keep the green bars over the subject.  Besides keeping shots sharp, our main duty is to help tell the story. For me, the LR is too distracting to do that.  The Cine RT is a brilliant tool that takes the Cinetape to a whole new level of performance.  I really like using it and I much prefer it over the LR.  The Cine RT is way more simple to set up and is way less fussy than the LR even though the most obvious difference is the Cine RT does not have auto focus. That's fine by me!  The biggest difference between the CRT and the Cinetape is that it's wireless and does not have a clumsy display to have to find a place for on the camera. The display/control unit is next to you and you can change settings at will - even when you're rolling.  Anyway, the Cine RT works great for me. I hope this helps you with your decision!

G

 

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