After the last shootings I’ve been in, I was considering very seriously the purchase of a range finder and I had been reading very interesting things about the cineRT so I decide to contact some fellow ACs that I knew owned the system already. The direct feedbacks where very good so I got in touch with Laird, sale manager of focus bug technologies. To tell you the truth the price point is a bit high compared to other, but the “basic kit” includes much more comparing with the basic kit of other systems such as Cinetape or Arri UDM. And aside of that, I was very curious about this new bug thing, so I decided to go ahead. Despite the different time zone, the communication with focus bug has been swell and in a couple of weeks I had the system in my hands.
Horns: I didn’t measure them, but they look a little bigger than the ones from symilar systems, but it’s a very slight difference. I like very much the laser to see where they are aiming and the fact that the mounting block is on the back, while the power and serial connectors are on the side. It happened to me with the Arri UDM that sometimes I wanted to mount it in a way but I couldn’t because the connector and the mounting hole are on the same side.
High bright display: this is a very good example of what I was saying before about the fact that the basic kit of the cineRT includes more than others. The thing I like the most about it, aside of it’s insane brightness, is that it has an internal battery so no needs for cables to power it. I usually switch it on and off between shots, but I can go on a couple of day with a full charge. Also, the battery has no memory so it doesn’t need to be fully discharged to be charged again.
If I can be picky, a little flaw is that to change the settings (for instance the units) it’s a bit slower than I would like, nevertheless isn’t anything I can’t live with. Size is perfect and the mounting block on the back allows clean configurations.
HAND UNIT: this is the heart of the system and one of the features that made me really take the decision. The fact that you can have in your belt a device that allows you to set limits, change the off set, see the readout of the horns and the bug at the same time and a long etcetera. And on top of that, the hand unit has also a transmitter, so you can walk around the set and take marks without anybody noticing. You can store up to 8 marks and then even connect headphones and have the system whispering the marks as the talent hits them. The focus whisper mode has also the possibility to fine tune by setting whether the target is a person walking or you are on a dolly and so on.
The fact that the hand unit also is a transmitter is a huge improvement to me, since nowadays sometimes to get your marks on crowded set, even the laser tape is sometimes not enough or efficient. And even if you are not going to use the focus whisper mode, the fact that you can store marks on the fly helps me a lot. Once again, if I can be picky, the touch screen is not as responsive as we got used with smartphones, but still works pretty good.
BUG: this is maybe the most innovative part of the kit, and partially the reason I decided to choose the system over other competitors. The built looks solid enough and also pretty light, which is important given that you will want to hide the thing, mostly in the talent clothes. For a good read out, one side of the device has to face the camera, the cleaner the line of sight the better. Nevertheless it works fine enough if you put it in the pouch of a shirt or even of a jacket, even though depending on the fabric, it works good, bad or not at all. I’m trying it nowadays on set with different kind of clothes to build an archive and know when I can use it safely. The most interesting thing about the bug is the “cooperation” with the rest of the system. I mean, it’s not that you put the bug on the talent, push the focus track button and that is that (even because that would take all the fun away). But it can be a huge help in shots where you have to go between very different distance, or where you have to “catch” the talent on the fly. Let me give you an example. The other day I was on set and we had this quite complicated shot: we had a guy in the foreground, like 4 feet away from the camera, and in the back ground there were the two main characters having a chat. The guy in the foreground had a line, then I was supposed to go in the background, get back to the foreground for the last line of the guy and then catch the two characters from the background while approaching the counter until they reached the position of the guy in the foreground. Since the coordination between dialogues and actor was always different, it was hard to know where the two characters would have been at the time of the rack. I placed the bug in the front pouch of the jacket of one of them. When on the foreground I pulled myself, then when I needed to go to the background I pushed the focus track button and left the knob on the mark of the foreground, so when I released the button the focus smoothly got back to the guy and as soon as he was out of frame I pushed again the focus track button and nailed the rack to the approaching characters. As soon as they hit the final mark I got back in control with the knob and took it from there.
Long story short, you have to know your tool and know how squeeze the best of it, as for all other tools we have in our pouches.
Even as a stand-alone rangefinder the system works very well, as good as my experience with other similar systems. They high bright wireless display is a huge help and its brightness is astonishing. Again, the possibility to take marks with the hand unit is also a big thing and if you do like me and buy an Lcube too you will have the read out on the hand unit of your lcs and the possibility to activate focus tracking by assigning a dedicated user button.
I didn’t have issues so far, I just noticed that when the camera stays still at less than 3 feet and a half from the character, sometimes the boom op gets an annoying pulsating sound. The system has a “happy soundguy mode” that improve a little the issue but doesn’t solve it totally. Has a matter of fact, for those shots I was kindly asked from the sound Dept to turn off the finder, which to tell you the truth wasn’t that bad since the camera was still very close to the character. Never had issues when on steadicam, even if the movement ended up really close to the characters.
To sum up: I think the system is technically at the same level or even above similar systems and on top of that offers a lot of very interesting features that can really make the life of the focus puller much easier. Not to mention that both the wireless high bright display and the hand unit (which between other things is also a second and bigger wireless display) come with the kit.
If you want my two cents it worth the money with absolutely no doubt.
Last but not least, I would like to thank Laird @ Focus bug technologies for his service and support, and Oriol Murcia and Bart Van Otterdijk for their invaluable feedback and their help, even if we barely know each other.
I’ll be happy to answer questions from fellow focus pullers, to me the direct contact with my colleagues was crucial.