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The TOTEM Poll: Totally Off Topic, Everything Media
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Old August 15th, 2003, 01:38 PM   #1
Capt. Quirk
 
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Charles?

I have noticed in several "Behind the Scenes" commentaries, a measuring tape is used in setting up a shot. What is it's purpose? Thanks.
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Old August 15th, 2003, 02:11 PM   #2
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Well, good Captain, the 1st AC (camera assistant) uses a measuring tape to get his marks so that he can pull focus. Even though a small onboard monitor is commonly used in the film world, AC's don't use them as a focus reference. They rely on their eye and those taped-off marks to give them all the data they need to maintain focus. Sometimes they will measure out concentric circles or a range of distances for a walk and talk and place marks on the ground at stated distances, then the 2nd AC will relay information over a walkie as the actors cross each marker.

Remembering that in 35mm, the depth of field can be as little as one or two inches for a close-up, what a good assistant can do is pretty amazing!
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Old August 15th, 2003, 03:31 PM   #3
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So then, they would do a test, and note where the focus setting is at what marking? Gee... Film is pretty exacting compared to digital, or would you do the same for both?
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Old August 15th, 2003, 06:13 PM   #4
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Hmm...not sure if I got the question Keith, so I'll try to lay out the routine.

During the rehersal, the assistant will pull the tape from the focal plane on the camera to the subject's eyes. If for instance the subject is sitting and the camera is dollying in, they will get a focus mark at "1" and "2" (beginning and end of the dolly move), which they will usually mark on the focus knob (the white plastic disc on the follow focus). Depending on the difficulty of the shot (focal length, f-stop i.e. shallow depth of field) they may take additional readings for inbetween marks. If the actor leans forward during the shot, they will measure that distance and mentally factor that in during the shot. If the subject is moving and the camera is moving, such as a Steadicam shot, they may take a few marks and place reference marks on the floor under the camera but mostly they are judging by eye what the distance is. A really good AC can regularly estimate distances within a few inches.

With a particularly telephoto shot, the AC may choose to take eye focuses by having the 2nd AC go to a particular spot, drop a mark, and then hold a Maglight without the head on next to their eyes. This gives a little specular pinspot of light that is easy to focus on. The assistant will then mark the lens for that given spot.

During the take, the operator is keeping an eye out for focus issues and will discuss them with the assistant after the take. The assistant then makes the appropriate changes for the next take, sometimes taking more marks for difficult parts of the shot. The operator is the only one who can accurately judge critical focus, because the video taps are not sharp enough for anyone who is watching the monitor to judge.

In the case of HD, where there is significantly more depth but focus pulling is still required, the same procedure is followed but it's easy enough to spot focus problems on the monitors back at video village, and the assistant can watch playback as needed.

For DV, because of the massive depth of field, there's so much room for error that most operators can pull their own focus. The exception would be using a Mini 35 adaptor, where all the issues of 35mm come into play and a skilled camera assistant will save the day.
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Old August 15th, 2003, 06:22 PM   #5
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Charles- I have officially decided to leave film in your capable hands, while I also promise to never stray from DV!
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Old August 15th, 2003, 06:28 PM   #6
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Keith, I wouldn't want the AC job. I did it for a short time, a long time ago, and it was too nerve-wracking for me!

Film is beautiful, but the fact that you don't know exactly what you are getting until later makes it a continuous guessing game. Even if the focus and exposure is dead-on, and you've protected the lens from flares, and that flag and c-stand in the background is as out of focus as you hoped it would be; there's still the possibility of negative scratches, flashing (light flares from mishandling), lab issues etc. It's not for the weak at heart. To be honest, if digital can approach the beauty of film, I won't be that sad to see it go.
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Old August 15th, 2003, 06:34 PM   #7
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The biggest difference I see between Digi and Film, is the depth of field, and the way film gives you a smoother gradiation between bright light and shadow. I also like the way a film cam can focus on something, and have everything else blurred.

For the life of me, I really can't see a difference between 32 fps and 24 or 25 fps everybody is trying to imitate. I guess my eyes are just too slow to count those extra few frames.
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Old August 15th, 2003, 06:45 PM   #8
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Well Keith, I think the noticeable difference is between 60i and any of the "film-like" modes such as 30p (frame mode, as in the XL/GL) or 24p. It definitely takes a trained eye to see the difference between 30 and 24 frames, but I'll bet you can see the difference between regular mode and frame mode on your GL...?

For me, that frame rate is the big difference. I just have a hard time "buying" dramatic scenes at 60i, it always makes me think of a soap opera. I've seen decently lit material shot on an XL1 at 60i with the Mini 35, shooting with very shallow depth of field, and it still doesn't look like film (or even that impressive) to me.
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