Focus Puller

Started Jan 4, 2017 | Discussions
Tequila MockingjayBird
Tequila MockingjayBird Senior Member • Posts: 4,212
Focus Puller

I am not quite intimate into the workings of the film industry so pardon my ignorance in this matter.

I just cam to know that there are deicated focus pullers in making a film. I would have thought the camera operator would be responsible for that. But evidently not.

So why this SoD - Segregation of Duties?

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FrancoD Veteran Member • Posts: 8,369
Re: Focus Puller
1

I would imagine that focus pulling is given to dedicated personnel because it is rather difficult to do so one has to specialise in it to get it right.

It would be almost impossible for the camera operator to correctly focus-pull a shot and pan/tilt/zoom at the same time.

Besides, you can't look through the viewfinder , read the required focus points and adjust the lens at the same time.

Tequila MockingjayBird
OP Tequila MockingjayBird Senior Member • Posts: 4,212
Re: Focus Puller

FrancoD wrote:

I would imagine that focus pulling is given to dedicated personnel because it is rather difficult to do so one has to specialise in it to get it right.

It would be almost impossible for the camera operator to correctly focus-pull a shot and pan/tilt/zoom at the same time.

Besides, you can't look through the viewfinder , read the required focus points and adjust the lens at the same time.

I would think so but the only person who has access to the viewfinder is the camera operator

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FrancoD Veteran Member • Posts: 8,369
Re: Focus Puller

yes, you need to memorise the sequence so you know at what time you need to focus where.

Not something I could do...

Adrian Tung Veteran Member • Posts: 3,360
Re: Focus Puller
1

Tequila MockingjayBird wrote:

I would think so but the only person who has access to the viewfinder is the camera operator

I think his point was that the focus puller needs to read the distance scale on the lens barrel, which is not something many people can do while paying attention to the viewfinder/LCD at the same time.

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Tequila MockingjayBird
OP Tequila MockingjayBird Senior Member • Posts: 4,212
Re: Focus Puller

Adrian Tung wrote:

Tequila MockingjayBird wrote:

I would think so but the only person who has access to the viewfinder is the camera operator

I think his point was that the focus puller needs to read the distance scale on the lens barrel, which is not something many people can do while paying attention to the viewfinder/LCD at the same time.

I would have thought that the handles of the camera were like gear wheels(old) and with electronic buttons(new) using which one can pan and zoom at the same time.

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FrancoD Veteran Member • Posts: 8,369
Re: Focus Puller

This is a type of focus pull device :

you preset the two focus points and, at the right moment and the right speed, you turn the knob from one to the other.

On a static shot I suppose many camera operators could do it but having to pan and do that at the same time could be difficult.

Maybe now can be done via a split screen (video out) but I don't know.

(I was typing as you posted the above)

Pressing buttons could be a problem when an actor misses the mark. doing it manually could overcome that.

Ironfilm Regular Member • Posts: 117
Re: Focus Puller

Tequila MockingjayBird wrote:

I am not quite intimate into the workings of the film industry so pardon my ignorance in this matter.

I just cam to know that there are deicated focus pullers in making a film. I would have thought the camera operator would be responsible for that. But evidently not.

So why this SoD - Segregation of Duties?

Ha! If the fact there is a "focal puller" (which is also known as "1st AC") surprises you then you'll be even more surprised to find out that: there is a 2nd and 3rd AC too! (this will be further duplicated if you've got more than one camera running, for multi camera shoots. Then you'll have 2nd and 3rd units as well....) This is on top of the camera op and DoP which you'd have ranking above the 1st AC.

Add on to that, often you could have a camera trainee / camera dept PA as well.
And these are only but a few of the positions you'd have on a film crew! There is a DIT (digital image technician) as well steadicam / gimbal op, drone op, video assist operator, electricians, gaffer, best boy, lighting techs, grips, and heaps heaps heaps more positions! (and I'm not even mentioning yet the positions which fall outside the control of the Director of Photography! Such as the Make Up Department, or any of the many other departments)

Ironfilm Regular Member • Posts: 117
Re: Focus Puller

FrancoD wrote:

yes, you need to memorise the sequence so you know at what time you need to focus where.

Not something I could do...

Old school guys would pull focus without needing to see a monitor at all, but it is very common now to see the 1st AC using a monitor to help them along for reference.

chkproductions
chkproductions Senior Member • Posts: 1,116
Re: Focus Puller

FrancoD wrote:

This is a type of focus pull device :

If you look at the photo, there is a white ring.  You would block a scene and mark different points in the frame as the talent would move it.  At those points you would make marks (1, 2 ,3, etc.) on the white ring (shown in the above photo) to correspond the talent"s position. During a take, the focus puller matches the focus of the lens at those marks to the blocked position of the talent.  This is most necessary when a talent comes closer to camera position - far to near - as this is where an out of focus shot is most obvious - thus pulling the focus.

Incidentally a colleague of mine who is a shooter/editor and where most of us are now one-man bands rather than replete with crews, just got the new top of the line Canon and couldn't wait to tell me it's auto focus tracking worked extremely well on his last shoot. Thus the need for a focus puller, along with  many other crew positions is headed for the dust bin.

Tequila MockingjayBird
OP Tequila MockingjayBird Senior Member • Posts: 4,212
Re: Focus Puller

chkproductions wrote:

FrancoD wrote:

This is a type of focus pull device :

If you look at the photo, there is a white ring. You would block a scene and mark different points in the frame as the talent would move it. At those points you would make marks (1, 2 ,3, etc.) on the white ring (shown in the above photo) to correspond the talent"s position. During a take, the focus puller matches the focus of the lens at those marks to the blocked position of the talent. This is most necessary when a talent comes closer to camera position - far to near - as this is where an out of focus shot is most obvious - thus pulling the focus.

Incidentally a colleague of mine who is a shooter/editor and where most of us are now one-man bands rather than replete with crews, just got the new top of the line Canon and couldn't wait to tell me it's auto focus tracking worked extremely well on his last shoot. Thus the need for a focus puller, along with many other crew positions is headed for the dust bin.

I had to chuckle when you used the word "talent". Is that reserved for actors?

Yes. "Focus Puller" just seemed so bizarre knowing how technology works. The closest I know of professional cameras are the TV studio and for big games like the NFL and I don't see focus pullers there with the Sony HD Video cameras that are used at the NFL Game.

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FrancoD Veteran Member • Posts: 8,369
Re: Focus Puller
1

"just got the new top of the line Canon and couldn't wait to tell me it's auto focus tracking worked extremely well on his last shoot."

yes but if you shift the focus from an actor  to  another without panning , you still need to over ride the focus manually.

Boomanbb
Boomanbb Senior Member • Posts: 2,269
Re: Focus Puller

Tequila MockingjayBird wrote:

I am not quite intimate into the workings of the film industry so pardon my ignorance in this matter.

I just cam to know that there are deicated focus pullers in making a film. I would have thought the camera operator would be responsible for that. But evidently not.

So why this SoD - Segregation of Duties?

http://www.npr.org/2014/02/28/283461599/keen-eyes-uncanny-instincts-keep-films-in-sharp-focus

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chkproductions
chkproductions Senior Member • Posts: 1,116
Re: Focus Puller

It was with a single on-camera talent

fmian
fmian Senior Member • Posts: 1,604
Re: Focus Puller
2

FrancoD wrote:

"just got the new top of the line Canon and couldn't wait to tell me it's auto focus tracking worked extremely well on his last shoot."

yes but if you shift the focus from an actor to another without panning , you still need to over ride the focus manually.

+1

Also, autofocus for  video would be heavily dependent on camera + lens combo. Usually it's for all in one units used for news gathering or documentary work, where the shot being focused correctly is secondary to the story itself.

Close to 100% of cinema is shot with manual focus lenses. I don't believe autofocus tech is intuitive enough for the industry to rely on yet.

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FrancoD Veteran Member • Posts: 8,369
Re: Focus Puller

I don't know the particular scene from where the still I posted come from but imagine that the focus shifts from the guy to the girl as the two interact.

Panning or zooming would not work particularly if you want to cut from one to the other multiple times.

Very difficult to make simple stuff like this work.

fmian
fmian Senior Member • Posts: 1,604
Re: Focus Puller

FrancoD wrote:

I don't know the particular scene from where the still I posted come from but imagine that the focus shifts from the guy to the girl as the two interact.

Panning or zooming would not work particularly if you want to cut from one to the other multiple times.

Very difficult to make simple stuff like this work.

I'm pretty sure it's from Take Shelter. I haven't seen the movie, but it's even possible the focus moves from woman in the background to actors face to 8-ball.

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wildpig1234 Forum Member • Posts: 76
Re: Focus Puller

I am still amazed that they can do it without looking through the lens.

For simple production, AF can replace their job, but for larger more complex scenes and cuts, you do need a focus puller.  For example, you can't have AF automatically switch focus from one person to another in a scene with the camera still.  you have to do it manually.

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Tequila MockingjayBird
OP Tequila MockingjayBird Senior Member • Posts: 4,212
Re: Focus Puller

wildpig1234 wrote:

I am still amazed that they can do it without looking through the lens.

For simple production, AF can replace their job, but for larger more complex scenes and cuts, you do need a focus puller. For example, you can't have AF automatically switch focus from one person to another in a scene with the camera still. you have to do it manually.

and that is why I want the playmemories remote app  to be able to do so, esp when the photographer is holding the camera with two hands, and/or a gimbal.

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Michael Fryd
Michael Fryd Veteran Member • Posts: 8,443
Re: Focus Puller

wildpig1234 wrote:

I am still amazed that they can do it without looking through the lens.

Prior to the actual shoot, the camera position and actor's movements are carefully planned and choreographed. The various places the actor will be standing are typically marked with pieces of tape on the floor.

A good actor will be able to hit his marks.

By sticking to the choreography, the same scene can be enacted many times with the camera in different positions. In post production, you can cut between various takes giving the impression of a single take with multiple cameras.

The focus puller can mark the various focus settings that correspond to each mark. There is no need to look through the viewfinder as long as the focus puller can see when the actors hits the various marks, and can corresponding focus the lens.

If the choreography changes from take to take, the various takes may not match up with each other. You don't want the actor standing in one place for the wide shot, another place for the closeup, and a third place when looking over his shoulder.

For simple production, AF can replace their job, but for larger more complex scenes and cuts, you do need a focus puller. For example, you can't have AF automatically switch focus from one person to another in a scene with the camera still. you have to do it manually.

Well, you're either manually focusing, or manually telling auto-focus where to focus.

If the camera has a touch screen, you can change the focus point by touching the rear LCD display. Just tap on an actor and that actor will come into focus.

For unstructured productions (i.e. less predetermined choreography), or for actors that are not good at hitting their marks, the rear screen method may work better than a traditional focus puller.

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