You could have a great story, riveting actors, and a capable camera, but if your shots aren't in focus, you've really got a serious problem on your hands. Having an experienced focus puller ensuring that your shots are in focus may be a great advantage during production, but if you're a barebones crew, that responsibility often falls on whomever's behind the camera (probably you). The big obstacle to pulling focus yourself is having to giving up a hand that could be stabilizing your camera, but 24Shots has developed a trigger-controlled follow focus system, the Silencer, that will help you keep your images sharp while keeping both hands on the wheel.
According to its Kickstarter campaign page, the virtually silent Silencer is the first trigger-operated follow focus system. This allows run-and-gun camera operators to pull focus, while supporting their rigs with both hands. The Silencer was built with several pretty cool features: it can be mounted on any handle style or any round object, pressure sensitivity of the trigger allows camera operators to control the speed of focus, and the system's setup flexibility (more on that later).
Check out their Kickstarter campaign video to learn more about the Silencer:
The varying setups, center, side, and floating mount setups, allow the Silencer to be mounted on any rig that you want to use, because each setup utilizes different rails and rail positions. 24Shots offers three Silencer systems: Silencer Lite, Silencer Pro, and Silencer Pro Zoom -- each comes with a rail system and different setups for rig compatibility (the Pro Zoom comes with an extra trigger to control zoom). Each system was designed with different filmmakers and projects in mind -- for instance, the price of the Silencer Lite may appeal to new filmmakers, but its lower level of pressure sensitivity may not offer veterans the control that the Silencer Pro would give them.
Bob of 24Shots discusses the differences between the Lite and Pro systems in the video below:
Now, these follow focus systems are not dirt cheap, but depending on when you buy and which reward package you choose, you might be able to save a little bit of money.
Silencer Lite system:$350 to $550
Silencer Pro system: $850 to $950
Silencer Pro Zoom system: $1,800 to $2,100
The cost of the Lite system seems pretty doable for most no-budget filmmakers -- especially if that cost includes not only a follow focus system, but the added stability its design will afford you. However, the cost of the Pro Zoom, and even the Pro system, may deter some. I suppose it all depends on just how well the Silencer does its job, seeing as we see follow focus systems that get similarly expensive as well.
To help answer that question (without actually testing it), the Silencer Pro was tested and then used to make a short film entitled The Money, which, to better demonstrate the Pro system's capabilities, was shot in a single continues shot. Check it out below:
There are plenty of great follow focus systems that do their job well while still being relatively inexpensive. But, if you're wanting something that will allow you to focus without sacrificing camera stabilization, then the Silencer is now an option for you.
What do you think about the Silencer? Do you think its features are worth the investment? Let us know what you think in the comments below.