Birns & Sawyer Universal Mini Viewfinder at

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Old August 20th, 2005, 09:57 AM   #1
New Boot
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Norway
Posts: 20
Birns & Sawyer Universal Mini Viewfinder

Can someone explain me how the Birns & Sawyer Universal Mini Viewfinder works? Is it to put it in front of the lens or on to the original viewfinder of the sony, canon or other camcorders?

Thank you,

I guess I've found an explonaition of it:

"Look through the finder and compose your scene by adjusting your zoom ratio (accordion style, slides in & out). When you are satisfied, look at the engraved settings (for example 2/3" video, 16, 35, and Anamorphic). The number matched to the format you are using will be the focal length of the lens you will want to use. You can preview the angular or scene coverage you can achieve with the various focal lengths. Choose the lens focal length you wish to test and match up with the film format you are using by adjusting the zoom. "
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Old August 20th, 2005, 11:57 AM   #2
Inner Circle
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
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As you may have guessed, it's a finder used by directors, camera operators, or dp's to preview and frame their shots. You look through it and move around ypur scene while adjusting the magnification until you've picked out the shot composition you like best. Then you place the camera in the same position and install a lens with the same focal length or set the zoom to the same focal length you found gave you the best composition in the viewfinder. Back in the classic studio days, walking around holding a few ounces of finder telescope to find the best camera angle was a lot easier than moving around a 50 to 100 pounds or so of 35mm film camera while looking through its viewfinder.
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Old August 20th, 2005, 12:17 PM   #3
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Los Angeles, CA
Posts: 6,750
Indeed, and I can't help but find it a bit silly to include 1/3" cameras on there, other than to acknowledge they exist (or to use it as a focal length translator, i.e. what focal length for DV matches a 50mm in the 35mm format?)

The portability of DV cameras means that on a scout you can carry one around with you as easily as an optical finder, i.e. a one chip pocket model, and have the bonus of rolling off test footage or digital stills for storyboarding. As far as lining up shots on set, unless you have some sort of custom rig of exorbitant size it's usually easy enough to use the camera itself to find the shot; and given that very few are using prime lenses on DV cameras, you can always slip the zoom a millimeter or two to adjust for framing here and there

As an example, say you are setting up a hood mount for a car. The way it's done in the 35mm world is that you use a finder that allows you to mount the actual lens (the ones listed on this page are not accurate enough), then line up the shot exactly as you want it, and mark the film plane on the hood as well as measure the height to the center of the lens. The grips then build and secure the hood mount to accomodate those measurements, then the camera body is mounted and if everyone's done their job right, the shot is exactly the same as what was set up with the finder. There's an inch or two of adjustment on the cheese plate below the camera, but more than that requires removing the camera, untying the mount and sliding everything over, which wastes a lot of time.

In the DV world, you simply hold the camera itself in position, using it as the finder, and then build your mount. Because everything is such a smaller and lighter scale, you can likely adjust it laterally with the camera still onboard without much difficulty.
Charles Papert
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