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Focusing: Loupes and FollowFocus

When shooting video, it is usually best to focus manually, because errors and focus hunting by autofocus systems are ugly and generally seem pretty obvious.

In order to focus manually, the first thing you need is to see well what the camera is shooting, and if you're not using a videocamera this is not as easy as it should: on a DSLR, in video mode the optical viewfinder is blocked by the mirror, so that light can reach the sensor. If you have to use the LCD screen, it will probably be too small for focusing manually, so it is best to use an LCD louple, for example one of these:

(these seem interesting, but I haven't actually used them: this is just an example)


Apart from seeing what's being recorded, you have to confortably adjust focus, in order to get smoot transitions. One tool that can help you with this (although it doesn't work miracles, and personally I find it less useful than I originally expected) is a followfocus, which, through a simple set of gears, changes the way the focus ring is controlled. These are some options:

(the RedRock Micro is great, but expensive; the other ones seem interesting, but I haven't used them: this is just an example)


Two issues with followfocus:
* cine lenses have in-built standard gears, so the followfocus can control them; stills lenses don't, so you have to use adapter gear rings that are not always cheap or comfortable (one of the best options seems to be these zip gears: 1, 2, 3)
* you have to mount it on the camera; the usual way to do this is to get the camera on rails, and mount the followfocus, mattebox, monitors, batteries, etc., on those rails; but this is an expensive and complex solution, designed for old (gigantic) cameras, not really for the new options (comparatively tiny).

But in general it helps, in the following senses:
* it allows you to change the focus distance (do a focus pull) more fluidly
* it reduces transmission of movement from the hand controling the focus to the camera itself (avoiding camera movement when you pull focus)
* it is always (more or less) in the same spot (if you use lots of different lenses, this helps you control focus by touch, without having to look at the lens itself to see where the focusing ring is)
* if you're on a medium size production, it allows you to have a person working exclusively as a focus puller, while another person controls everything else in the camera





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