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Old May 12th, 2010, 03:03 PM   #1
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How To Shoot Sports WITHOUT Autofocus

I just shot two soccer games with 2 EX1s and I used autofocus, which worked nearly flawless. One EX1 was a rental but I had considered renting a PMW 350 due to other events I had to shoot. However, I have noticed that all the $10-20k ENG lenses do not have autofocus. Later this year, we will purchase at least one more camera with interchangeable lens (EX3 or 350) because I need a longer zoom.

Are there 2/3" lenses with both image stabilization and autofocus?

Or how do people shoot sports with cameras & lenses under $40k?
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Old May 12th, 2010, 03:10 PM   #2
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Eh, try and error...? I never use auto focus. Focusing is a skill you can learn and have to learn. It's part of a cameraman's job. Though, following football (soccer) from the side line is a though job.. But who said that good camerawork is easy? ;-)

I think i can say that all the sport games you see on TV is 100 procent focused by hand and eye. Again, it's a skill you have to learn by doin' it.
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Old May 12th, 2010, 03:11 PM   #3
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Oh and by the way, the stock lens of the 350k is good for following, just tried it the other day with biking people in the city...
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Old May 12th, 2010, 03:41 PM   #4
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When I was running remote cameras doing NASCAR, I did the same thing I did 20 years ago doing pro football, HS & college basketball. You use Dof to cover the field as much as you can. This of course depends on where you're set up, what f/stop you're using and where you set you focus point. There is no magic bullet as each setup is so different.
IMO there is no professional type lens that has an auto focus mechanism that's worth talking about much less useing.
BTW, when I was doing football, basketball and other HS, college and Pro sports I used everything from a UWV100, 600 to a JVC X2B to a DSR500, DSR250, JVC5000 and a PD170. NASCAR on the other hand I was using Ikegami boxes with either Fuji or Canon lens depending on which cam I was running and yeah the cam/lens combo could have bought me a few of DSR500s.
It's a matter of figuring out your focus point and seeing how much of the field you can cover with the DoF so you don't have to change focus. Oh yeah, better make sure the backfocus is 100% spot on or the will be a problem. When there are 43 cars going 180+mph, coming down the backstretch straight at you, and you have to go from tight to wide keeping the leader in frame and focus and follow them around the turn there just isn't time to worry about focus. Field sports were just as bad depending on where I was positioned.
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Old May 12th, 2010, 08:15 PM   #5
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One thing that may help is to scan in an arc to see what your coverage radius is. Everything in that arc will be in focus.
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Old May 12th, 2010, 08:35 PM   #6
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A friend used to shoot for NFL Films. He told me one method of practice was to go out and follow birds in flight, trying to keep them in focus as they came closer or flew away.
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Old May 13th, 2010, 03:48 AM   #7
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Yep, or toy trains on a track, a bit more predictable, so good for practice and learn what stuff does when going in focus or out.
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Old May 13th, 2010, 05:10 AM   #8
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2 year old children work well in a pinch. Problem is they never run out of power. Hey did you ever try to keep up with a 2 year old?

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Old May 13th, 2010, 01:55 PM   #9
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a lot of people shoot sports with the iris as closed down as possible, that way DoF doesn't hurt you as much.
so, on the ex line, you would probably be on ND1 and closed off iris, rather than ND2 and an open iris.
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Old May 13th, 2010, 03:53 PM   #10
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Except with a half inch HD camera diffraction is going to make your pictures noticeably soft beyond f8, so f11 and f16 are not really useable. With SD you wouldn't really notice this but in HD it shows. With a 2/3" camera you can get away with f11.

Sometimes a shallower DoF makes focusing easier as it more obvious when you start to drift out and easier to see when your spot on. I shoot motorsports and aviation so often have to deal with objects traveling towards me at hundreds of miles an hour. Focus is a skill that you learn through repeated practice. Eventually you get to the point where you just instinctively know how much to turn the focus ring to stay sharp. It doesn't always go to plan and thats where tools like peaking and image magnification help.
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Old May 13th, 2010, 05:51 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Sims View Post
A friend used to shoot for NFL Films. He told me one method of practice was to go out and follow birds in flight, trying to keep them in focus as they came closer or flew away.
The NFL film guys are amazing. Slow mo of a football straight toward the camera, in focus all the while, and right into the receiver's hands without overshooting the tracking. Just amazing. When I grow up I wanna be just like them!
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Old May 13th, 2010, 11:00 PM   #12
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When I was first starting out shooting sports with a twin-lens reflex camera (yeah, I'm old), I used the "hyperfocal distance" technique to be able to shoot action which has been described earlier in this thread. This would be a good place to start until you get good at follow-focus work. It all comes down to how good your eye/hand coordination is, really. That.....and a TON of practice.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 05:47 AM   #13
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Dean, didn't you know all of that is faked. You know it's done in the same studio they did the first moon landing. Now they use green screen and CG but still.....

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Dave, my goodness, I forgot completely about my TLR. Rollex, great camera but not exactly cut out for sports or fasr action but talk about a great image, WOW. I preety much used only for controlled shooting, portraits, fashion stuff like that. MAn talk about memory lane! ;-)
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Old May 14th, 2010, 08:25 AM   #14
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Michael that is the same advice I was given years ago. Set up a tripod and follow birds at 80-100% zoom. I do it now for fun and it really helps. Also I go to the local hot spot for surfing and zoom right in on the surfers which is fun and great practice. It is a skill that you have to stay on top of to stay sharp. The hardest is when we do fast flyovers in the helicopter as Don points out. "You better have your backfocus nailed."
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Old May 14th, 2010, 10:43 AM   #15
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Most of my work is theatre based, in quite low light, and you just have to practice with focussing - it's not the enemy people seem to moan about? There are always clues if you lose focus. If the subject has gone soft, what's the background like? If that's sharper, then you focus forwards and you'll hit it. If the background is worse, then you focus back, and again you'll hit it.

Even though I detest sport - I often get sport jobs. Cricket and football mostly (Proper football, not the sort of football that isn't played with the feet). I like to work if I can at around f5.5-8 - From the centre line of a football field to the goal is a fair way, fully zoomed in, and depth of field is still sufficient to be worked without too much stress. Cricket is worse because you have to follow the ball, and like baseball, it's difficult to predict where it's going to go - but you can keep it sharp. It just takes practice.

The new Sony 300 series has autofocus, but if I owned one, I'd leave it firmly off. Autofocus cannot tell which components of a scene you want in, or out of focus, so it's always a guess. It only takes something to walk in front of the wanted subject for autofocus to suddenly decide that is the wanted object and swap!

The cameraman is in charge of framing, and in non-studio/OB work exposure too - taking away focus isn't useful.

In small cameras, then maybe it's different. I've got a Panasonic SD9 I use for POV stuff, small enough to be hidden on sets, on vehicles, and not worried about too much. Manual focus on these is so rubbish, that auto is better (well, better of the two choices available). However, I'd not want to use this as my main camera as it is.
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