the skill of a 1960's professional movie photographer

Discussion in 'Amateur Video Production' started by Brian, Jan 1, 2014.

  1. Brian

    Brian Guest

    When watching a TV series made in the early 1960's (for example Bonanza) I
    often wonder how they manage to keep an actor in focus when he walks
    towards the camera until he is close to the camera. In those days they
    didn't have electronic focusing systems like they do these days so either
    the lens had a better focal range or it was the skill of the movie
    photographer to keep adjusting the focus of the camera.
    Brian, Jan 1, 2014
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  2. They used what was called a "focus-puller" (separate from
    the "camera-operator"), whose job it was to move the lens
    focus smoothly, likely between two set marks on the lens
    focusing device. The actor also likely had marks on the
    floor for where to start and stop... WHEW! Things got
    easier! 8^)
    David Ruether, Jan 1, 2014
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  3. Brian

    mkujbida Guest

    The 1st AC (Assistant Camera aka focus puller) is still a mandatory position on any big budget production - and smaller ones that want to "do it right".
    It's definitely a skill that no one masters overnight.
    Here's a link to a great blog post by a camera assistant that goes into a lot more detail about the job, the skills required and some suggestions on how to get better at it.

    mkujbida, Jan 1, 2014
  4. For a given film or frame size (e.g. 35mm full-frame) depth of field,
    which I think is what you meant by "focal range", depends *only* on the
    focal length, aperture, and distance to subject.

    Exception: a very blurry lens. Then you can't tell what's not in focus,
    because *nothing* is really in focus.
    Gene E. Bloch, Jan 1, 2014
    David Ruether, Jan 1, 2014
  6. Thanks for the better information - and the URL (but, heck,
    I'm lucky if I get AF right...!;-). BTW, for one of my photos
    not too long ago it was rather difficult to use a tape-measure
    for setting the distance with - and the subject kept moving
    through the frame while using a 2,000mm-equivalent lens, making
    the jiggling image on the focus screen hard to judge for focus
    (with high magnification set, in an attempt to "nail" the focus
    with a lens without a meaningful infinity-stop, and with a
    less-than-ideal tripod). But, with about twenty tries and some
    work on the best result, the photo of the full moon wasn't
    TOO bad...!;-)
    David Ruether, Jan 1, 2014
  7. Brian

    Brian Guest

    So you had two people moving with the camera, a photographer and a focus
    puller. In those days I don't think there was any way of knowing if the
    actor was in focus so it must require technical skill.
    Brian, Jan 2, 2014
  8. Would you like to buy a used high power laser rangefinder in good
    working condition? :)

    Or you could use astronomical tables to get the geocentric distance to
    the moon at a given moment, and then use geometry to compensate for
    your location on the surface of the earth. The laser would be easier...

    Even advanced amateur astrophotographers have to take great care in
    order to focus accurately on their targets...One useful trick is to
    focus on a fairly bright star, which is easy to see and which is pretty
    much a point when in focus. You can probably safely ignore the
    difference in distance of the moon versus the star :)
    Gene E. Bloch, Jan 2, 2014
  9. Brian

    Brian Guest

    There use to be an infinity setting on camera lens for focusing at distance
    subjects such as the moon but that seems to be missing with electronic
    focusing systems when you can keep rotating the lens and not know when
    infinity has been obtained.
    I recently took a shot of the moon at 135mm zoom range while holding the
    camera in my hand with the lens stabilizer turned on using a shutter speed
    of 1/250 and got good results. Camera technology has come a long way.
    Brian, Jan 2, 2014
  10. Brian

    Brian Guest

    Thanks for the link Mike. I thought there would be less need for a focus
    puller these days with electronics doing a lot of things, but in some
    'behind the scenes' documentary of a TV show I often see someone measuring
    the distance from the camera to the subject with a tape measure.
    Brian, Jan 2, 2014
  11. Actually the infinity stop has been gone a long time, at least in zoom
    lenses. One reason for that is that to some extent in (at least most)
    zooms, the location of the image plane does shift a bit when you change
    the focal length.

    I do wish it was still there...
    Gene E. Bloch, Jan 2, 2014
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