FreshDV Film School - The Art of Pulling Focus

Matthew Jeppsen
By Matthew Jeppsen 03.02.10

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Image focus is one if the most critical aspects of film and video production. It can also be one of the hardest to get right. Keeping your images in focus become particularly difficult when shooting with your lens aperture wide open, during fast-moving action, and when shooting video film-style with a 35mm lens adapter or DSLR video camera. On a production set the crew member generally tasked with image focus is the First Assistant Camera position.

Depending on the size of the crew, other tasks for the 1AC may include building and breaking down the camera rig, setting the lens and aperture, keeping lenses clean, slating, and loading/marking film canisters (or digital media as the case may be). It is an important position, and a good AC effectively frees up the DP/Cinematographer to better perform his job.

In this short video tutorial series, we get the skinny from Bob Sanchez, a Chicago-based career 1st A/C with over 30 years of feature filmmaking experience. In Part 1 of our video series with Bob, Kendal Miller interviews him on what exactly it takes to do the job, and the tips and tricks he's learned over the years. Bob explains his unique method of focus pulling with a speed crank, how he approaches measuring and marking a scene, and the tools he uses on a daily basis. In Part 2, Bob details the methods he uses to pull focus, and what tools he carries on each job to facilitate the position of 1AC. Part 3 is devoted to demonstrating Bob's techniques on an example scene. You'll be able to see over Bob's shoulder as he pulls focus for Kendal in a handheld rig setup.

This was a very informative experience for us, and we feel you will agree when you watch it. You can view all 3 video segments in this playlist.

You may also be interested in our ongoing video reviews of popular Follow Focus systems.