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Operating with a 35mm adapter WITHOUT follow focus?


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#1 Peter Hoare

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 04:36 PM

Hi,

Im new to steadicam work, i have a Flyer and I am doing the workshop in may. I have just got an experience only job on the set of a microbudget film. I have told them simple shots only but they fully understand Im a complete novice and so there is no pressure.

They are shooting with an SGpro 35mm adapter and when I mentioned to the producer that they would need some kind of remote follow focus there was an akward silence. They are not renting one and I dont have one (yet) so I was trying to think of a way of getting simple straight line shots without a remote follow focus. I have come up with several solutions, and Id like to know if you reckon any of them would work....

Idea 1 is to completely flood the set with light and stop the lens down as much as we can, therefore increasing the depth of field. The idea being if we keep the distance between the lens and the talent fairly consistent they wont stray out of the focal area.

Idea 2 is to use the widest lens we have, which is a 28mm and keep the actors a fair distance from the lens, 6-8ft ish. at this distance I am hoping the DOF is wide enough to keep them in focus most of the time.

Idea 3 is the last resort and its a bit of a bodge and would only work for head and shoulder shots. We tie a bit of string to the actor then tie the other end to my steadicam vest (probably put an elastic band in there to give it some bounce) and use that as a guide to keep the distance between the lens and the talent consistent.


Any input?
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#2 Afton Grant

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Posted 29 February 2008 - 05:16 PM

Hi Peter,

All of your options would work, or at least help, I suppose. It's certainly not ideal. If you can speak with the DP and tell him/her of the situation, they might have more pull with the producer. Chances are good they won't be keen on doubling or tripling the light, or sacrificing potential creative camera moves just because production didn't want to rent a proper focus device. If it's more a factor of production hiring a Steadicam op and expecting a focus system to be included when it isn't, that might put the burden more on you to get one. It all depends on the agreement you have with these folks. Generally, a focus system is a standard part of a kit. However, if you've made it completely clear that you do not have one and they still want to use you knowing what that means regarding the shots, at least there will be no surprises on set.

Best of luck,
Afton
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#3 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 04:00 AM

Peter,
If I were you I'd just bite the bullet and rent a focus system. The fact that the folks in production are being cheap doesn't mean that the DP and 1st AC won't think less of you if you show up without any way to pull focus. I would suggest contacting another operator that's close to you and seeing if you can rent their system. As everyone knows, steadicam operators are generally very generous regarding these types of things. Everyone will be happier if you have one, but if you don't you likely will never get a call from that DP again, and you'll never get a recommendation from the 1st. AND, you won't be able to do very creative shots because of the constrictions of not having the proper tools for the job.
So, in my opinion, your choices are:
A: Don't take the job.
B: Bite the bullet and rent a system.
C: Talk to the DP and try to get him to convince production to rent something.
Start with C, go to plan B if needed, and revert to A if all else fails.
Good luck.
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#4 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 01:05 PM

Peter,

Two other possibilities. One, throw the 35mm adapter into the trash and utilize the DOF of those tiny chips....

BUT, the DP won't like that or any of the other "solutions" you came up with so he (or the AC) will come up this "solution" which you will hate:

Attach a focus whip and have the AC pulling off it. This will of course ruin your shots (even though the AC will promise to be very delicate) and make you look bad but it IS what will happen. Brad is right, rent a follow focus for your own good. It IS part of a professional kit and required.

Sorry, I wish I had better news.

Good luck.
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#5 Peter Hoare

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 01:26 PM

Hi,

Thanks for your input.

I know full well that I will need a focus device at some point, but I am very much a novice compared to you lot. The DOP and producer know full well my situation and they hae decided against a focus device. The DOP did say this to me about focusing though:

I have suggested we try the Steadicam without the SG Pro as I have found the
HVX 200 to have a reasonably shallow dof when wide open but then I also
believe we need a reasonable dof otherwise there is a danger that the out of
focus blur and motion blur will combine to create an image that is difficult
to understand. Let me know how you get on with your tests tomorrow.


The only problem I have with that is the adapter will not only affect the DOF, it affects the field of view, grain and the general feel of the video so im not sure how it will mix with the other footage.

Il see what happens...

Thanks.
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#6 Charles Papert

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 02:46 PM

I have successfully mixed footage with and without a Mini35 in the same scene, with a DVX100a. In that instance we were losing the light and I still need a couple of shots, so we pulled the adaptor and gained 2 stops (and another 15 minutes of shooting). It looked fine.

Even wide open on an HVX, you have to be zoomed in pretty noticeably to start to feel a shallow depth of field effect within the likely range of focus of the average Steadicam shot. At the point at which the shot would start to have detectable shallow depth of field, it will also start to become dodgy to guarantee focus on a moving shot unless the subject stays within a fairly tight range of distances from the lens (and no closer than say 5 feet away).

Your concerns about the look of the footage being affected by eliminating the adaptor are noble but frankly those should be the DoP's concerns, and if he is mandating that a follow focus not be used (to save money, presumably) he should be aware of the ramifications.

There are a few older hardwired focus units floating around out there, not as desirable as wireless but will get the job done. You might call a rental house or two to see if they have anything. They should be quite inexpensive compared to the wireless rentals, and maybe everyone will be happy. Or, are any UK ops reading this that have a backup hardwire focus system who can take pity on Peter and help him out??!
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#7 Peter Hoare

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Posted 01 March 2008 - 07:08 PM

Or, are any UK ops reading this that have a backup hardwire focus system who can take pity on Peter and help him out??!


Mm unlikely I think but would be great if someone could :lol:
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#8 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 04:48 AM

Or, are any UK ops reading this that have a backup hardwire focus system who can take pity on Peter and help him out??!


Mm unlikely I think but would be great if someone could :lol:

Not unlikely at all! Very likely I think if you just make a few calls. You might just get something for free or very cheap and show up on the job to an impressed, and very happy, DP. But you'll have to make the effort to contact a few people and be willing to owe someone a favor.
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#9 Robert Starling SOC

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 10:49 AM

They are shooting with an SGpro 35mm adapter and when I mentioned to the producer that they would need some kind of remote follow focus there was an akward silence. They are not renting one and I dont have one (yet) so I was trying to think of a way of getting simple straight line shots without a remote follow focus. I have come up with several solutions, and Id like to know if you reckon any of them would work....


As others have said, most operators will help a fellow operator out with a loaner or cheap rental. I owe Will Arnot the thanks for renting me his Bartech on the first job I did that required remote focus and that job gave me the money to buy my own within the week. I've even had another op personally deliver his transmitter to me on-location when mine died. It's a courtesy among the group that I've tried to return in-favor any time I can.

Back to your situation; you could ask the DP in a very humble fashion " if we don't have the money to shoot it right, where would we get the money to reshoot it if the focus is off? "

The inherent problem is that if the focus is off and the Steadicam scenes are not useable, no one will EVER say "yea, but we didn't give him the follow focus he asked for", all the fingers will point at you. Plus, you won't have anything useable for your demo reel. It's a bit of a risky no-win for you other than you get to operate/practice with some actors.

Overall, it is pretty short-sighted for Production seeing that they are going to all the trouble of using a 35mm adapter etc. etc., You might simply be better off declining if you don't have or can't get the right tools you need. If they really want Steadicam, you declining could educate them to the importance of your needs and show you'd rather turn a job down than do it poorly, or....... they might find someone else.
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#10 Peter Hoare

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 02:21 PM

Im not sure if I could phone up someone I dont know and ask them to lend me something free of charge! I vaguely know Mike Scott, you recon he could help?
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#11 Charles Papert

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 02:45 PM

You can start by explaining your situation and asking if they have such a thing and how much they would want to rent it. Let them offer to lend it to you if they choose to. It's not a great idea to call up someone you don't know and ask for something for free, as you guessed. After all it's not a personal favor you are asking for (i.e. your gear went down and you need a backup), this would be a favor to the production itself!

Given that such an item should really be no more than say $100/day, your production should be able to pony up that to ensure that they have sharp footage, and I would think that the DP would push for that since you would be able to keep the adaptor on the camera and have much more flexibility in your shots. Just because they told you "we don't want to rent anything", coming back to them with a less expensive alternative should make you a hero as it is really a win-win.

Maybe you should post a separate thread asking if there are any UK ops that have a wired unit...?
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#12 Peter Hoare

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 08:27 PM

Hi,

Looks like Russ McElhatton is going to help me out. He has very kindly agreed to fedex one of his follow focus units from LA all the way to England for me to use for this film, and I am very grateful. Just have to get the production to agree to pay for the shipping and hopefully my focus problem will be sorted.

Thanks very much to Russ McElhatton for helping me out.
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#13 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 02 March 2008 - 09:31 PM

Now that is the Steadicam community I know and love....
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#14 Jess Haas SOC

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 01:38 AM

Sounds like you have things sorted out but I just want to give you one more little idea to think about. One nice but seldom used feature of many 35 adapters is the ability to vary the depth of field independent of exposure. One way that this can be done is by using a wider lens on the adapter but zooming in on the video camera in order to change the effective frame size to something like that of 16mm or whatever you chose. This can allow you to get a little more depth of field when you need it. Just remember, TEST TEST TEST!

If you are shooting interiors you will probably want the follow focus even with a 16mm depth of field, but I have gotten away with shooting day exteriors on 16 without one on numerous occasions by keeping the lenses wide and having depth of field charts on hand.

~Jess
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#15 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 03 March 2008 - 01:55 AM

Hi,

Looks like Russ McElhatton is going to help me out. He has very kindly agreed to fedex one of his follow focus units from LA all the way to England for me to use for this film, and I am very grateful. Just have to get the production to agree to pay for the shipping and hopefully my focus problem will be sorted.

Thanks very much to Russ McElhatton for helping me out.

Wow, that's really above and beyond. That's super nice of Russ.
See, you didn't even have to ask! Just shows how nice this community can be.
Good luck on the job Peter!
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