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lenses for staying in focus

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#1 Shawn Bossick

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 02:12 PM

Hello all, I am a new Steadicam operator, I own the SCOUT, I have been practicing with my camera on infinity focus, I've had good success & have came up with some good shots, my camera is not the best, I have a Panasonic hmc-150 avchd camera, which comes with a fixed lens that's 53.2mm on the AG-HMC150

A new company I am starting to work with is NEW to the STEADICAM scene, they do mostly MUSIC VIDEO'S for different labels, one up & coming video is a band signed to universal,
these shoots are done in one day, everyone & everything CRAMMED into one day. the director doesn't want to have such a wide lens shot, & tells me if I go in close for a close up I will be out of focus, so here is my question, if I can do this with success on my cheap HMC-150 camera, starting back & moving very close ALL in focus what prime lenses should I look at purchasing to where It's not so wide & I can come in close enough to the talent to obtain a nice closeup WITHOUT a FOCUS PULLER ??? any suggestions ? most of these shoots will be done on the Cannon 5D, & one last thing the director tells me we can get a focus pulling system for the scout & be able to nail these shots with a little practice, well my question is REMEMBER these shoots are done ALL in one day, so HOW MUCH PRACTICE are we talking about here, REMEMBER he is new to the STEADICAM SCENE & so will be the focus puller.

THANKS to all who take the time to advise me on lenses & focus pulling!!!
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#2 Aaron Medick SOC

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 02:50 PM

You need a lot of practice, an AC, and a follow focus system. You can rent them for the shoots or buy a BFD and motor from bartech engineering. you can try to find one used in on this site. You should take the SOA workshop to learn how to use you steadicam correctly.

as far as a lenses that will keep everything in focus you would have to use a 10mm to a 16mm lenses on a 5D, but there will be some wide angle distortion(fisheye) in the image. it's definitely a look that has been used to great effect in music videos. like this one there are explicit lyrics to be forewarned.

good luck,
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#3 Robert Wall

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 08:38 PM

So you want to pull focus with an inexperienced AC on a camera with a huge sensor and doesn't want to use a wide lens. I would say good luck. I'm not sure your director understands how difficult what you are talking about is.

Offhand I would say you've got a few options if you have to stick with that criterea:
1) the director needs to practice like crazy with the bartech or whatever you get, and somehow try to pick up a skillset that takes a LOT of practice to do well
2) use a camera with a lot smaller sensor than a 5D
3) Light everything like crazy (maybe shoot outside) and then stop down like crazy. Note: there's no reason to use the 5D if you do this - just get a camcorder.
4) design every move so you stay the same distance from the subject.

Your hmc has a 1/3" sensor. The difference in DOF between this and a full frame is huge.

Edited by Robert Wall, 03 November 2011 - 08:48 PM.

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#4 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 03 November 2011 - 09:36 PM

While I have been writing this reply I see that Robert has succinctly nailed some of the most important points. But I'll try to elaborate a little bit...

Instead of setting to infinity focus, set to either Hyperfocal distance or pre-adjust your focus to land on the subject in-focus during the most important parts of your shot. Preset your focal length, iris, lighting level, and ISO (and/or gain settings) so that you have enough depth of field to keep your subject in reasonable focus most of the time. Block your shots so that the talent always stays within the acceptable range of distances. Use a DOF calculator or smartphone app.

If what I've said above is not understandable, then you are probably in over your head on this shoot. In that case, you should strongly recommend that production hire a professional First AC to pull focus for you. If the director insists on pulling focus, he/she should take responsibility for the results. And this should all be sorted out in a prep day or practice day.

A common misconception among inexperienced directors is that, because they are trying to get shallow depth of field with their other shots, that Steadicam "must" have shallow depth of field, too. Not true. Deep and shallow DOF is mixed all the time and the audience never knows the difference. The subtle dance of the Steadicam is its own kind of "production value" that can mix with shallow DOF footage, especially in the context of a music video.

Oh, you asked what prime lenses you should buy for the Canon 5D. The answer is "none." You shouldn't be responsible to purchase or even rent lenses. That's production's responsibility. Period.

If it were me...working on a tight budget, inexperienced director, tight schedule, etc. etc....I wouldn't recommend a prime. I'd use a wide angle still camera zoom, like the Canon 17-35mm (I think that's the designation...I've only shot with one a couple of times). Focal length can be quickly changed between shots without remounting lenses and rebalancing. Production goes faster and more smoothly and the director's whims can be quickly accommodated.

But rent, don't buy.

Beyond that, your question can't be answered in the abstract. "It's not so wide" is not specific enough.

You and the director sound like you are both learning. So, both of you should take a day with the camera to work this stuff out before the shoot, on your own time and your own dime.

Two more things:

1. The Scout is a Standard Def system. You'll need to be tethered to an HD monitor so focus can be confirmed, which means a cable puller and you'll need to practice ahead of time to learn to fight the influence of the cable. Another reason for an experienced first AC, by the way....pulling focus on the fly takes lots of practice and experience, whether by eye and tape, or from the monitor.

2. One day music video schedules are not that unusual. It's done all the time here in Nashville. But it definitely requires a well-planned, well-organized, tightly scheduled and tightly-managed production and a strong and capable crew. You don't ever want to be (or even appear to be) the guy who slows things down. Go in prepared!

I hope these ideas get you started. Study and practice and work out as much as you can before shoot day. Be as clear as you can in setting production's expectations. Don't ever promise more than you can deliver. Then, on shoot day, relax, have fun, keep calm, project confidence, enjoy the ride.

I recommend that you post further questions in Steadi-newbies, it's the most appropriate sub-forum. Let us know how it goes. Best of luck and success!
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#5 Shawn Bossick

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Posted 04 November 2011 - 01:27 AM

thanks all to answered, mark if I swap the scout's monitor to a Marshall HD monitor, then is the scout now a HD rig? if not why?

the director stated he did not want such a wide lens to run infinity focus on, I've been a camera man for 8 years, however all my cameras have had fixed lenses on them, like my current camera the Panasonic HMC-150, so my thought was asking you all who are experienced, if there is a way or a lens that maybe would allow me to move around a bit without a focus puller? the titer of a shot I guess the better, the wider shot I guess not as good, yet always in focus

I will be purchasing these lenses and camera's myself

again thank you all!!
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#6 Eric Fletcher S.O.C.

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Posted 04 November 2011 - 06:42 AM

I've been a camera man for 8 years, however all my cameras have had fixed lenses

Wow..... You think in 8 years you would have learned about concepts like depth of field and focus....
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#7 Mark Schlicher

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Posted 04 November 2011 - 07:19 AM

My understanding is that the Scout's video wiring down the post is not HD-capable.

The fixed vs. interchangeable lens has nothing to do with the DOF differences between the HMC150 and the 5D. The chief difference is imager size.

Nor does zoom vs. prime.

Wide vs. tight lens does affect dof, but so does imager size, camera's native sensitivity, ISO setting, light levels on your set, iris setting, and shutter. They interact.

You need to study and master this. There is no shortcut or simple answer.
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