USB Follow focus for Steadicam usage? at DVinfo.net

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Old January 27th, 2011, 11:12 AM   #1
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USB Follow focus for Steadicam usage?

USB Follow Focus Controller 5D Mark II Team

I was looking at this and thinking that it might actually be of some use for DSLR steadicam for certain types of moves without a focus puller. That is, it has programmable presets and focus points that can be preset and actuated with one button push. I was thinking you could rehearse your movement, set the focus that you want to perform in that movement, set your marks, then go through the move an do the focus pull yourself via the programmed preset. Yes, clumsy compared to having a puller, but if you had no choice and were alone it might work.

What do you think, is that crazy?
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Old January 27th, 2011, 12:26 PM   #2
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Here is another one, don't know if its usable.
Jag35 Electronic Remote Follow Focus system | Jag35.com
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Old January 27th, 2011, 01:47 PM   #3
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Both of those remote FF units are wired which is a no no when it comes to a Steadicam which needs to be isolated & balanced on its gimbal not being tugged at by a focus puller on the end of a wire. The only low-ish cost wireless FF available is the Hocus Focus which starts at $1250.
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Old January 27th, 2011, 01:50 PM   #4
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I understand how steadicams work - I do my best to operate one every day! However a thin USB cable going to the control yoke is not going to make a big difference, especially if there is slack. I'm not asking about a focus puller - I'm asking about one person operation for this particular invention.

Last edited by Robert Wall; January 27th, 2011 at 11:17 PM.
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Old January 28th, 2011, 07:35 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Robert Wall View Post
USB Follow Focus Controller 5D Mark II Team
I'm not asking about a focus puller - I'm asking about one person operation for this particular invention.
Operating seems to take my full attention, so I'm not sure I could worry about focus and do my best work. However, I have heard other people using various types of wired remote focus units on the gimbal handle, and they say it works.

With DSLRs becoming so popular, the focus thing is becoming a big issue.

If you try this USB focus thing, let us know how it works out!
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Old February 1st, 2011, 02:50 PM   #6
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Yes, keep us posted...

Gimbal-mounted focus control could be very useful for pre-setting focus for a particular shot with a DSLR. However, the cable must be very lightweight and very flexible in order for it not to influence balance, especially with a light camera.

I use a Varizoom Rock PZFI for live shows with my HVX200. I have had a custom cable made that is less stiff, and I weigh my Flyer rig down to near-maximum, in order to increase the inertia to fight the influence of the cable.
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Old February 2nd, 2011, 02:28 AM   #7
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pffffttt flexible's overrated.. im currently flying with Multicore coming down off my sled across my gimbal.

haha but seriously.. good luck operating & pulling your own focus.. no thanks.
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Old February 2nd, 2011, 02:54 AM   #8
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The folks that are able to pull their own focus for Steadicam are flying broadcast cameras with 2/3" chips at most, and often using wide lenses. Thus the slop factor is significant--chances are for that most shots, pulling focus means having the lens set within a quadrant of the lens is probably good enough. The 5D has a chip that is nearly 3 times the size of those cameras, thus the depth of field presents a much more serious set of requirements.

What makes pulling focus for Steadicam difficult is that both camera and subject are often moving independently, so the distance between is constantly growing and shrinking. For a fixed distance to be set on a lens controller, both the subject and operator have to nail marks with a precision that is unlikely at best. Compounding this is the fact that 5D delivers a pillar and letterboxed SD image (effictively, sub-SD) when recorder, and when viewed on a Steadicam monitor virtually impossible to detect critical focus.

Naturally one can opt to shoot with a very wide lens and stop way down--but at a certain point, it becomes irrelevant that one is shooting on a DSLR to begin with, as your DOF starts to resemble 2/3, 1/2 or even 1/3 cameras.
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Old February 2nd, 2011, 09:32 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Joe Lawry View Post
pffffttt flexible's overrated.. im currently flying with Multicore coming down off my sled across my gimbal.

haha but seriously.. good luck operating & pulling your own focus.. no thanks.
I gather that it is mainly in the US that multicam guys are responsible for their own focus-pulling. European ops usually get a focus-puller and a wireless ff setup. What about New Zealand, Joe? I'm curious what is the norm down there.
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Old February 3rd, 2011, 01:48 AM   #10
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FYI I did audience Steadicam for the soon-to-be-released "Glee" concert at Radio City last summer on the 1DMKIV--my focus puller working remotely still managed to buzz a significant amount of footage when I was in on the long end of a 24-70 zoom. Not his fault. DSLR's are brutal to manage in on-the-fly situations. It would have been a debacle had I had to pull my own focus.

It's strange--these releases are becoming a serious of closures on my Steadicam career; that will mark my final concert shoot. "The Ward" (out in the UK now, opening in the US in the spring) was my final feature...when my rig sells (hopefully soon!), that's pretty much it.
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Old February 3rd, 2011, 11:37 PM   #11
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I think I must have just explained what I was thinking really poorly. I wasn't ever talking about pulling focus manually; yes, this would be very hard for the best operators. What I'm saying is this thing has the ability to pre-program a focus pull (or actually a couple of pre-programmed pulls) with a single push of a button. My post is wondering if, in certain situations, you could do a pre-rehearsed move and execute a pre-programmed focus pull with this. I'm not talking about keeping a subject in focus as you (or they) move - rather a pull for effect or to shift focus back to a static subject that has gone out of focus because of the camera movement. Even throwing focus completely at the beginning or end of a shot - this allows simple things like that from the operator. As every single response seemed to mostly say "you can't pull focus yourself" I'm thinking the fault was mine in explaining what I was thinking.

However, looking at information coming out about this now from reviews, it doesn't look particularly promising and has a lot of uninteresting restrictions.
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Old February 4th, 2011, 12:15 AM   #12
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And, might I add, that CP moving on from steadicam seems to me like a marker point in modern american cinema; however I am sure that what lies in his future will meet or exceed what lies in his past.
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Old February 4th, 2011, 02:57 AM   #13
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Thank you Robert!

To be able to guarantee a repeatable focus point for Steadicam is to assume that the operator has the skill to land on a dime, over and over again. However, if the subject is non-predictable object like a human or animal, the operator would somehow have to compensate for any variation they present on their mark. I've certainly attempted it over the years--sensing an actor blowing past their mark, so I blow past mine in what I hoped was the correct amount--but to have to rely on that for critical focus is not likely in most situations. I can't really see a typical usage for that sort of technology when it comes to Steadicam, although there are possibly some unusual applications where it might work.
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Old February 4th, 2011, 06:12 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Mark Schlicher View Post
I gather that it is mainly in the US that multicam guys are responsible for their own focus-pulling. European ops usually get a focus-puller and a wireless ff setup. What about New Zealand, Joe? I'm curious what is the norm down there.
99% of the time, the OB operators here stop their 2/3" cameras down and shoot wide. They dont get a focus puller.

The job im on right now is a studio based tv show, and even though we're shooting at 5.6 on the wide end of the lens i've still got a BFD on the rig & the TD on the floor pulling focus from a monitor.

It is a standard def show however.. so all looks soft to me on the green screen im flying with :D
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