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Old August 26th, 2002, 07:31 AM   #1
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Pull Focus... how the??

Hey all,

I am new to this board and thought i would tap on the general knowledge hanging around here and ask some questions regarding pull focus.

I recently picked up a XL1s camera, it is bog stock standard...i got a tripod thrown in (i rock *cheers* *cheers*) uhhhmm.

My favorate effect, and one that i feel could really help in building tension in some short movies i am shoot is a pull focus, alla 'vertigo' style effect.

Is there a way to achieve this with the canon i own, i am ok with a camera but not too great, i believe everyone is always learning and i always will have a lot to know.

Any experience at this from anyone? anyone achieved this shot? anyone an expert on this? Would i need to invest in a different lense, say a manual stop capable lense or similar.

Anyways, thanx in advance
Kermie
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Old August 26th, 2002, 08:08 AM   #2
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Kermie,

If I am interpreting you correctly, you are looking to achieve the effect that is variably known as a "Hitchcock zoom", "Vertigo effect", "Spielberg" (he did it in Jaws) and my favorite, the "Zolly". This is when the actors stay the same size but the background appears to move around them.

The effect is achieved by dollying the camera forward while zooming out, or vice-versa. I have done it many times, in fact I had to do it three times last week on different characters. It is a royal pain to get just right, if the zoom is not timed just right the effect will not work. It requires a lot of takes and patience. There are fabulously expensive ways to do it automatically and precisely, not worth going into here.

I will say that it is virtually impossible to manage smoothly with the stock lens, because the zoom rate has to be truly variable to match the dolly. The stock lens zooms at several fixed rates. A manual zoom fitted with a zoom control capable of having the speed dialed up and down would be able to do it (the Varizoom allows you to work the dial to do this). Still not an easy proposition!

Not trying to be negative here, just pointing out that it is very hard to do on even a big production.

You can roughly simulate the effect by shooting handheld, walking out as you pull back on the zoom, but it will become clear that as soon as you start to get to a longer lens, the image will be so shaky that the effect is diluted.

"Pulling focus" simply refers to the act of keeping the subject in focus.
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Old August 26th, 2002, 08:13 AM   #3
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thats the effect i was after...

Charles thanx for the advice,

So even with a fully manual lense, that i could control with my hand the zooming proccess it would be a very very difficult thing to do, i would imagine focus as well as DOF would need to be controlled at the same time too...

*my head is spinning*

I really just wanted to the close up 'holy shit' kinda expression when a battle is about to break out, as i have found they look great...

It may sound dumb, but a rigged up wheelchair has saved me a lot when i can't get my hands on a true dolly.

Kermie
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Old August 26th, 2002, 01:13 PM   #4
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Focussing pulling is simply changes the focus over time, usually
by another person than the camera operator. It has virtually
nothing to do with the effect described above. So which one
is it?
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Old August 26th, 2002, 01:23 PM   #5
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sorry i got my terms mixed up

I am looking for info on how to achieve that Hitchcock vertigo effect.... background moves whilst the prominent object remains static...


kermie
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Old August 26th, 2002, 02:33 PM   #6
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You might try the dolly fairly slow. It will be easier for the auto focus to keep up and you can concentrate on framing and the zoom. In post, speed up the effect to the desired rate.

Jeff
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Old August 26th, 2002, 02:52 PM   #7
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It's easiest with a small aperture going from long lens to wide (dollying in) than the other way around, this way you can leave the focus at the original setting, if you don't go to extremes, using depth of field.
Used a wheelchair once. Crashed smashingly when the guy pulling me tripped up.
There's a great dolly/zoom/crane shot in E.T. when Hollywood appears this way below the ridge where the character is standing on.
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Old August 26th, 2002, 05:11 PM   #8
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I love this effect when it's properly done too!

Tricky with the stock lens, but with the manual lens you can tape off start/finish zoom/focus points on the lens barrel. Then you can do practice runs to time off how quickly you must move from the start point to the finish point so the rate of the effect is always constant. This way is definitely not a one person job.
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Old August 27th, 2002, 08:00 AM   #9
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Kermie:

some other notes...the slower you do the effect, the more precise it needs to be. A crashing-in version as you described will be probably be more successful.

As Dan mentioned, going from telephoto to wide angle while pushing in will be easier from a focus perspective...and depth of field is not a separate action to perform, it's a function of all of the lens settings and will take care of itself.

It's been many years since I've done a wheelchair gag (owning a Steadicam tends to take care of that sort of thing) but they'll do the job. The thing with the "zolly" is that any additional movement introduced by shooting handheld will dilute the desired effect somewhat, so keep it as steady as possible! (you may want to find a way to strap a tripod to your wheelchair rather than shoot handheld).


good luck!
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Old August 27th, 2002, 08:31 AM   #10
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steady cam?

These look incredibly interesting... can you elaberate exactly what the apparatus for a steadycam is?

How do they work?

Are they an expensive thing to get?

I would love to work with them... i would think they would be invaluable to achieve great effects (like in "the shining" going down the halls).

kermie
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Old August 27th, 2002, 12:34 PM   #11
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Kermie:

Here's a great overall introduction to the Steadicam and how it works:

http://www.howstuffworks.com/steadicam.htm

I think they are incredibly interesting too! (having spent a significant chunk of the last 17 years wearing one, I guess that's a prerequisite).

Depending on what level of work and weight of camera you are planning to use, they can range from a few hundred (for a handheld version that can accomodate the smallest camcorders and approximate the effect) to over $100,000 for the full-size version with all the bells and whistles (my setup travels in 10 large flight cases...!)

"The Shining" was the genesis of the modern Steadicam era--prior to that it had been used for stunt-type shots like following Sylvester Stallone up the stairs of the Philadelphia Art Museum in "Rocky" and other films, but Kubrick challenged inventor/operator Garrett Brown to achieve a level of sophistication with the machine that even Garrett had not foreseen when he came up with the concept. There was a great article in American Cinematographer in 1980 about the film and how Steadicam was used--I don't think it has been reproduced on the web.

The one thing I can tell you, Kermie, is that regardless of which type of Steadicam-style stabilizer you work with, they all require a lot of practice to achieve great results.
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Old August 27th, 2002, 01:00 PM   #12
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wow they look like a great investment...

I wish this world of camera + more wasn't such an expensive world.

I myself am a stuggling young film maker, working for nothing, and basicly funding everything myself.

Took me a while but i found a used XL1s for sale from a production studio that is closing shop and managed to snap one up for $4000 AUS, which is a great price, considering their rrp is $8999 here :(

When things are said here to be cheap, only a few hundred dollars, you have to double everything here for our dollar, then adjust for shipping/tax and absolutly no support as i am not really walking/driving and barely shipping distance away.

These steady cam jobs, as well as that custom made boom (jib) i saw on some of the pages here, look like an absolutle necessity fo much creative work, especially for creating a visual experience i am really wishing to convey.

I will never forget my favorate scenes from movies, the opening of Jean Luc Godard's "Contempt" with framing of a simple camera on a dolly comming towards your view then turning into and engulfing the frame (we have now entered the land of film).

But the scenes that really take me, and bring me in, from a purely audience standpoint, not from a film graduate perspective is when the camera floats the room in the establishing of the characters shot in "Goodfellas" when it goes through an entire resturant with everybody saying hello to the camera (major gushing) BRILLIANT, but also undoubtebly a steadycam example, or when the camera flies out a window and floats around a house and re-enters through a downstairs first story window in Dario Argento's "Tenebre" , this is the stuff that captured me and this is how i want to capture my audience.

Bah i really went on didn't I.

But anyways, if anyone here has some of this equipment they have upgraded and are now not using, could you give me a yell, or drop me an email, as i simply could never afford to buy it new at all, maybe some of these zoom handles that have been superceded many times and are not in use anymore, some filters that have now been thrown into the 'never going to use again i have better ones bag' or simply anything you may feel may be of real use.

It would be forever appreciated, and when my little company takes off, many Australian (read best) beers of the world will be drunk with these people as i hang out in the states or whereever you are, and i'll try and include everyone on my shoots.

anyways,

kermie
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Old August 27th, 2002, 05:38 PM   #13
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Kermie:

If "The Shining" was the birth of the art of Steadicam, "Goodfellas" was like the coming-of-age (losing it's virginity? I hereby give up on the metaphors). Of course everyone remembers the long shot tracking through the Copa, which was revolutionary and still required viewing for newbie Steadicam operators, but the one you mentioned in the bar was brilliant also. My two favorite moments are when the operator (Larry McConkey, living legend) passes behind the extremely shallow-looking bar (still don't know how he fit back there) and at the end, when the extras crossing the lens take us past the clothes rack into the storeroom.

Haven't seen "Tenebre", have to check that out.

Good luck with your fledgling production company!
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Old August 28th, 2002, 11:47 PM   #14
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I won't suggest that a monopod + weights type setup is nearly as diverse as a large Steadicam setup in any way, but for $30 it's a hell of a bargain for a filmaker on a budget. And it does work really well.
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