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Old October 6th, 2019, 02:29 PM   #1
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Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

I like it cause in a mastershot, you don't have to rack focus to who you want to look at all the time, and you can choose to look at whoever you wish, just like in a lot of older black and white movies.

I watched an interview with Brian De Palma, and he even said he hates rack focusing in mastershots, which is why he shoots his with a split diopter lens, so you can see more than one character in focus in a master. I won't use a split diopter of course, but would just light and expose for deep focus.

But why do so many filmmakers hate it now it seems?
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Old October 6th, 2019, 02:51 PM   #2
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

A wafer-thin depth of field seems to be fashionable at the moment. Perhaps people think its 'Cinematic' (whatever that means) and that they just have to do it.

Occasionally you see a really great shot with a razor-sharp subject and the background a complete blur but it gets tedious when the effect is over-used, and it is.... A lot.

My question is always: if you don't want us to see the background why didn't you chooses a plain background for your shot - you should be in control.

But my pet hate is watching documentaries shot on hand-held DSLRs with the iris wide open and a depth of field so shallow the operator can't find focus, let alone keep it.

In the future, when we are all using light-field cameras, we'll be able to choose the depth of field in post, or just have everything in focus!
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Old October 6th, 2019, 03:46 PM   #3
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

Oh well it's not so much that I wanting viewers to pay attention to the background, but if I have a few actors all in a shot, and I want them all to be in focus simultaneously, doesn't that background have to be focus, so everyone else can be, when they move around, and are all at different distances?
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Old October 6th, 2019, 03:47 PM   #4
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

It's a fashion, the shallow DOF was associated with shooting 35mm film, when many were shooting with 1/3" cameras. I was assumed that's how you direct attention within the frame, but that's more a stills concept, since the human eye is directed towards movement and whoever is speaking, which is the normal content in a film.

Some of the most cinematic films have deep focus.

Regarding shallow DOF you really need to consider what it implies about the characters and how they relate to each other. However, I suspect many use it because it looks pretty.

Fashions tend to come and go, for a quite a few years zooms were all the rage, now they're more restrained and are buried within camera moves or used with more thought.
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Old October 6th, 2019, 03:56 PM   #5
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

Well I could have shallow DOF if that's what it's in fashion now, but if I shoot a movie with lots of moving master shots, with multiple actors in them and it rack focuses from actor to actor, would an audience find this distracting though?
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Old October 6th, 2019, 06:01 PM   #6
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

Do YOU find it distracting when you watch "real" movies and TV shows? Do you even notice it? Probably not. Chances are the rack happens at the same time that each actor becomes the "focus" of the scene, so your attention and eyes shift to that person, and the rack basically becomes invisible.
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Old October 6th, 2019, 07:17 PM   #7
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

Well the thing is, is that I don't recall seeing movies that do it that much with multiple characters in a master shot. Directors hardly use masters anymore, and back in the older days when they did, the masters were usually in deep focus it seems.

Are there any movies with shallow focus master shots that I can check out?
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Old October 6th, 2019, 11:49 PM   #8
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

Higher end cine prime lenses tend not to breath (the zooming action when pulling the focus) when you pull focus, which may be an issue with stills lenses, for which this isn't an issue in their planned market. Zoom lenses can also breath during focus pulls, anamorphic lenses can have quite noticeable breathing at times.

The thing about masters is that they often don;t get used in the final edit. Masters tend to use shorter focal length lenses and not as tight on the actors, so there's less of a shallow DOF effect.

With shallow DOF you need an extremely good 1st AC to keep things sharp, so given the level of experience of your crew and the tight schedule, I wouldn't go near very shallow DOF. Shooting at f2.8 will be giving them a hard time, never mind wider apertures.
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Old October 7th, 2019, 12:39 AM   #9
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

If was watching the trailer for at new one shot war movie where from what I saw it looks amazing and totally immersive. I never r watch movies any more. Netflix has a small handful for films I can tolerate. I have a big screen, I like to be able to see things, and I don't mind gentle guidance, but so many good movies need the viewer to find the clues, and notice things. The arty directors are not new, and I remember being projectionist of British 'art' films in the 70s, usually shot on 16mm. I hated them, because as a non-art school graduate I didn't have the instruction book for appreciating them. Nothing has changed. Throwing focus from person to person can be a really good directorial move, but it can also be a disaster when it's done ineptly. The director and editor work together on telling the story. Nothing is more important. A real skilled DoP will use the best technique for the movie's individual scenes. Those that pick a technique and pick an equipment list then work out how to shoot with it are stupid. How many of us have seen what we're supposed to shoot, then looked at the equipment to hand and though "oops,bad choice"? Then, because of logistics and budget, we do the best wth it, when we already know results will be compromised. I've never had quite the right equipment, so it's the right technique with what you have. I cannot imagine being able to shoot something with a DSLR with wide open iris, with subjects at different distances and be able to throw focus from person to person accurately without lots of rehearsals, tightly controlled actor blocking and a lot of camera tape on the lense. A real lens, note, not one where the focus ring is uncalibrated and unrepeatable.
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Old October 7th, 2019, 02:36 AM   #10
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

The first thing you'd notice about 16mm of the 70s would be the grain and the lower resolution compared to 35mm films, rather than the shallower depth of field of the latter.
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Old October 7th, 2019, 05:51 AM   #11
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

Apparently (I was always being told) grain = art. I suspect the fads of today were just as common in art films back then. I showed one a week for a year and hated all of them. Then I went to see 2001 at the real cinema, and it had an arty-farty goes on and on sequence in it too! Kubrick must have seen the same movies I did in the studio, and thought he'd include something similar. Now, being old, I quite like that movie!
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Old October 7th, 2019, 07:06 AM   #12
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale View Post
Higher end cine prime lenses tend not to breath (the zooming action when pulling the focus) when you pull focus, which may be an issue with stills lenses, for which this isn't an issue in their planned market. Zoom lenses can also breath during focus pulls, anamorphic lenses can have quite noticeable breathing at times.

The thing about masters is that they often don;t get used in the final edit. Masters tend to use shorter focal length lenses and not as tight on the actors, so there's less of a shallow DOF effect.

With shallow DOF you need an extremely good 1st AC to keep things sharp, so given the level of experience of your crew and the tight schedule, I wouldn't go near very shallow DOF. Shooting at f2.8 will be giving them a hard time, never mind wider apertures.
That's true, do you think that audiences would mind that zooming action when pulling focus on a lower end lens?
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Old October 7th, 2019, 07:09 AM   #13
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

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Originally Posted by Ryan Elder View Post
But why do so many filmmakers hate it now it seems?
Not all do. Director Director Giuseppe Tornatore and DP Fabio Zamarion used great depth of field to great effect in many of the shots in 'The Best Offer" some of which can be seen in the following clip. You really do have to see the whole film though to see where their uses of a deep field of focus both indoors and outdoors really make this film a bit of a visual feast.

Chris Young

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Old October 7th, 2019, 07:45 AM   #14
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

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Originally Posted by Ryan Elder View Post
That's true, do you think that audiences would mind that zooming action when pulling focus on a lower end lens?
It depends how bad it is, most 2/3" zoom lenses breath as do many cine zoom lenses. If it's a hard focus pull from infinity to close they may sense something, but when it's between two object close together it will less. You have to do it on a case by case basis. If the content is strong enough they should be more involved in that than the breathing, as long you don't put a rough focus pull in the middle that doesn't carry with the action.
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Old October 7th, 2019, 12:19 PM   #15
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Re: Why do a lot of filmmakers seem to hate deep focus cinematography?

Oh okay.

But as far as deep DoF goes, even on here i was told on my short film before that the DoF was too deep, as if that was bad, so if i decide to use it how do you make it look good, where people will not see it as unintentional?
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