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Sony HVR-Z1 / HDR-FX1
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Old September 2nd, 2005, 10:05 AM   #1
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Z1 Focus on Steadicam or FigRig

What is the recommended method of keeping focus with a Z1 mounted on a Steadicam or FigRig? Should the Z1 remain in autofocus or should manual focus be set to infinity? If set to infinity, how far back should I stay from the subject?

Thanks,
Dustin
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Old September 2nd, 2005, 10:32 AM   #2
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Tape is cheap, shoot it both ways! :)

But seriously, it's more an issue of focal length and distance from the subject. If you're simply following someone, keep the focal length wide, find you're frame, manually set your focus and then do your best to maintain that same distance between you and the subject as you move. That's how I've done handheld in the past. But I am not a Steadicam Operator.

Experienced Steadicam Operators like our own Charles Papert may have better suggestions.
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Old September 2nd, 2005, 11:48 AM   #3
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And as if on cue...

Fortunately you have a lot of depth of field working for you with 1/3" video, even with the added resolution of HD(V), so for many shots you can set the focus and have plenty of room to play around. Generally I set it at around 6 ft which tends to carry from infinity down to around 3 feet, even more if you are shooting stopped down (such as a day exterior).

If you are working at a medium telephoto, the method that Jon described in which you attempt to keep a fixed distance between you and the subject should work in most instances. For serious telephoto shots, do a rehearsal with autofocus to see if it will work (if the subject is big enough in the frame and there are no foreground elements between you, it just might track well enough to be worth it). If the focus appears to be buzzing around, it's not worth it!

As of now there aren't any cost effective remote follow-focus devices for this class of camera (the ones available for high-end work cost more than the Z1, or several Z1's!) but perhaps there will be in the future.
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Old September 3rd, 2005, 10:16 AM   #4
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Which follow focus is available for Z1 steadicam use? Although I cannot afford it I am curious about it for the future. I think I caught glimpse of a wireless follow focus on a film production.
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Old September 4th, 2005, 04:08 PM   #5
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Dustin, if the Z1 is set up with a geared ring then it will be compatible with any remote focus device. The best of the inexpensive ones is the Bartech (http://www.bartechengineering.com/), at $1850 for a single channel plus motor (anywhere from $600 used to $2500 new). You would need to supply 12v to the receiver from the rig. The most commonly used system is one the most expensive, The FiZ from Preston Cinema (http://www.prestoncinema.com/products_FI%2BZ.html).
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Old September 6th, 2005, 03:00 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dustin Kersnowski
a Z1 mounted on a Steadicam or FigRig?
I've regularly used a Z1 on a FigRig, secret weapon is a BeBob controller.

http://www.bebob.de/international/zoe_dvl_eng.html

First, ensure your Z1's lens is set up right by checking backfocus: with at least 6 meters/yards between camera and focus chart, zoom in to chart and focus on manual - see the 'boil' in the central area. Leave focus alone and zoom out. Does the chart still boil? Middle bit will probablly dissolve into mush, but outer ring should be boiling. If it goes out of focus, get camera serviced. If not, congrats - your lens can perform the next trick.

Leave lens in manual. Zoom into object of interest, press Bebob button to enable 'Push-Autofocus' and wait (not long) for the lens to focus. Release, zoom out to frame shot and record.

Repeat when necessary.

Using the 'Hyperfocal' trick (set to 6 ft - or 1.5 meters) only works when the lens is in its widest setting. It's also the 'video' look where everything is in focus.

I like Depth of Field, which you can get with the 'Push Auto' method and careful use of ND and shutter speed.
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