10 Things you wish you knew, when starting as a focus puller By Clemens Hönig on 11/12/18, 12:12 PM • 894 views write down 10 things you wish you knew, when you started as a focus puller as a quick inspiration for new focus pullers.
Don't be afraid to ask for marks... If its a tough pull, its a tough pull and you should feel confident setting yourself up for success.
On a lot of commercials, it doesn't have to be perfect. Don't beat yourself up and realise they'll only use maybe 50 frames of any shot... Obviously point it out when you feel it was truly terrible, but rarely will it not be "good enough". This is the hardest thing I have to remind myself...
Rather than investing as much time as possible in becoming a good technician, start with becoming a good person. Good people get hired more consistently than good technicians... We've all been on set with the bad apples and in my opinion, there's no place for those people in camera department!
Find a good 2nd and do everything you can to keep them working and happy - I've trained up two brilliant 2nd ACs who have both left for LA and not keeping them around is one of my biggest regrets.
Build the best relationships you can with your local rental houses and distributors... The number of times I've had extra stuff thrown on a camera order that wasn't allowed in the budget because I had a friend looking out for me. They'll also let you drop off late, or arrive early, or get lunch for you, or let you come in and look at the new toys - which brings me to the next point...
Stay up to date on all the current technologies - we all know the local legendary assistants who just don't work anymore because they refuse to learn the new tech. Whether its going to a rental house on the weekend to stay up to date with new cameras or LCS systems, or hitting up a specialty owner/op and buying them lunch and beer... You NEED to stay up to date! Reading is one thing, but getting hands on is ALWAYS best.
Call your operator and DP before the prep - even if its a small job, its nice to check in and make them aware that their needs matter and you're here for them. Always be there for your DP if she/he needs support, or to vent, or whatever... Don't fight your fellow crew - you're all on the same project.
Shower Caps make great lens/matte box covers when not rolling in dusty locations...
Do your best to keep yourself and your department buttoned up - shit hits the fan and people freak out, but at the end of the day, the things we're working on are rarely life or death and level heads typically prevail.
Once you're established, take all your best tips, quips, practices, old gear, and pass them down to aspiring assistants and do your best to help out the really good ones - especially those who are typically marginalised and under-represented on sets... There are so many shitty people in our industry that whatever we can all do to create a better generation of technicians, we should actively be doing. This means reaching out to local film schools and rental houses to host seminars, grabbing coffee when PAs reach out about camera department, taking the time to explain technical questions on-set when asked... Your time is valuable and we're all very busy, but make time for this because its important.
I realise like none of these are really about focus pulling, but the art of focus pulling really just comes down to doing it, and muscle memory, and intuition. I'm pretty new to it myself and every set is totally different in the approach that theres really no 10 ways to recommend it... That said, it all starts with being a good camera assistant first, which is what I think all the above tips are tailored towards.
Steve Bellen On 2/18/19, 11:32 PM I didn’t actually think I could come up with 10 things. And so I thought about it. 10- “operators” are a necessary evil. 9- As a focus puller, YOU run the show! Don’t be afraid to completely dominate the set and keep all other departments in their place!Especially “production”. Don’t be afraid to rumble with the AD’s! 3- The smart FP recognizes that he/she doesn’t actually run the set. The AD’s do. 4- Also, the smart FP recognizes that he/she doesn’t run the camera department either. The 2nd’s do. 5- When your operator gets out of hand, and they will, politely remind them to “pan, tilt, invoice”. You run the show, not them! Short leash. 6- See number 4 7- Turn down any show using a “red”. 8- Turn down any show with an a$$hole dp. 9- Use a comtek during shooting. In general, when the dialog is off camera, make small adjustments to make sure you’ve dialed in the focus where you want it. Make this a habit. Always look for places during a scene where you can check your focus. It’s rare that the entire scene, from your one angle, will make the show. And if you happen to be near your operator, reach over and smack them during a take. It helps keep their minds from wandering. 10- “You know, you could de-emphasize your nose if you wore something larger. Like ... Wyoming.” Whoops! Wrong movie! The other folks in the camera dept. are professionals. They bring experience and expertise you won’t have. Use them and ask for their opinions and ideas. Create a team atmosphere and you’ll get the best out of everyone. When the going gets tough, take a deep breath, shake it off and smack your operator. Thread starter!
Balance all gimbals with a Clear Filter in the matte box
Use Filter Tags on matte box and body for internal NDs
Always have three power cables, one that lives on the dolly, the cart, and one that is a backup
Always have three dovetails, one 18”, one 12” and one 6”
Always use an anti-reflection filter tray
Get a Pelican. They float in water, easy to clean, waterproof and no zippers to break. Never use bags on set.
Tiffen Natural ND is a Godsend
Find the center of gravity on the camera by placing an iris rod under the dovetail. Build your camera with this in mind for balance. Aim for the film plane.
Top mount all lens motors
Build your longest lens first in prep