April 18, 2014

Better Than AutoFocus: Andra Motion Focus Keeps Things Sharp Automatically

Given the ubiquity of today's touch-based apps, it seems fairly logical a forward-thinking manufacturer would devise a way to augment -- but not automate -- the role of First Assistant Camera. Meet Cinema Control Labs' Andra Motion Focus system. Andra puts the heavy lifting and guesswork into the hands of today's technology without taking away the crucial dimension of creative camera control. Check our interview below for more details.

At this point, there are many wireless follow focus systems on the market, with some even in the reach of the no-budget filmmaker. Andra, however, carves out its own space entirely. By offering a very technical set of variables (and many of them, where you need them) for manipulation, it seeks not to unemploy the 1st AC, but empower them. As Sam points out in the video, there may be circumstances in which a camera assistant is essentially asked to do the impossible: maintain critical focus, at a wide open aperture, on a longer lens, perhaps on a large sensor camera, in the moment, and with little time to prep. Maybe even across multiple takes with little blocking to speak of. Probably with a cherry on top.

A good AC is by no means deficient under such conditions. They are, however, overly -- and maybe even unfairly -- taxed. What the Andra seeks to provide is not a fix-it-all for someone sleep-walking through the job, but something that aids the professional in especially tight conditions. Andra's price may very well be justified in circumstances which provide few, if any, second chances (and if any, at great cost). That type of creative aid, I think, is certainly not a harmful thing to the hardworking individuals keeping the story in focus.

Link: Andra Homepage

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Your Comment

17 Comments

That's Amazing!!! Hope the boys in China were taking notes ;-)

April 18, 2014 at 9:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Peter

Or you could support non-knock offs.

April 18, 2014 at 10:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Thom

There are already a number of modern AF systems on the market. Some use sound detection, some a low powered laser. Both need to be mounted on the camera only. With this, an actor would have to wear several of these magnets at once on a multi-camera shoot (and most modern "single camera" productions are in fact multi-camera). That said, this surely works a lot faster than the built-in AF system on something like a GH4 or C 100/300.

April 18, 2014 at 10:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

$12,000 - that's quite a lot...I think for now we are talking proper-budget films only...

April 18, 2014 at 10:50AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I assume this was GH4 with the internal AF system off a remote controlled helicopter. Mostly looks in focus, sans a brief shot of flying over the trees.
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[ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVSBOmPGAqk ]

April 18, 2014 at 10:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Ah, yes ... confirmation ... done by the Chinese folks from TecBus (or Teabus C, whichever is the correct spelling) ... RC's galore .... some tripods too ...
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[ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXFYs2qB1dk ]

April 18, 2014 at 10:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Im just a nerd who likes to follow this tech and does video for fun. But as an engineer I see this being huge for the science industry as well. High speed video would benefit greatly for an automated focus pulling system with this type of accuracy.

April 18, 2014 at 11:27AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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kevin

I'm a union focus puller on television and feature films. This piece of equipment , when applied correctly, can be a powerful tool. I can see it being used in very unique situations.
The one drawback I can see is most actors won't want to wear the sensor. Sure, it's small and lightweight. But I've seen actors refuse to wear wired mics because it "hendered their performance". Asking them to wear one more piece of equipment. Forget about it. If they have worked on enough projects, they know that focus can be pulled without it. Then it become so a question as to who puts it on. Wardrobe? 1st ACs? This stuff sounds silly but on a feature film set, these are real issues.

April 18, 2014 at 12:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brandon

Ha! I had the most awkward experience putting a mic on James Franco a couple years ago for a short interview. I wish someone from wardrobe would have been tasked with that.

April 18, 2014 at 2:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brick

i am new to all this
but what i see the market price these gadgets only for high hollywood like production
why these solutions not come to a poor one man band videographer this could be done at 1000$ with the motor too :/

April 18, 2014 at 5:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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srood

Renting is the best option for anyone.

April 19, 2014 at 5:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I'm all for supporting American companies but I'm also for value. I'm sure another company will create something just as good for half this price or less. I can't be upset at China if they do create a product on par with this for way cheaper because most people will buy what's in their budget. At 12k this out of a lot of peoples range of value.

April 18, 2014 at 9:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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You're right. Professionals can afford gear made my people not earning 12 cents an hour....

April 18, 2014 at 11:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Loo

An average in China is about $3/hr and expected to go up to $10/hr within a decade, negating the current Chinese advantage of reasonable quality inexpensive manual labor. In order to decrease the reliance on that, the mainland companies are heavily investing into the high end robotics. Considering how far China has come, they're under no illusions that they still have a distance to go. Hollywood, however, understands that the country has become the second biggest global film market (~ $3.6 B/Y) already and is seeking all sorts of accommodations from the local authorities.
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As to their quality, RedSharkNews (an English based site) tested Came LED lights and found them perfectly acceptable, if not as robustly built as the higher quality/higher priced products. And nothing is stopping the US companies from setting up shop in the Far East anyway.

April 19, 2014 at 9:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Canadian... in this case.

April 20, 2014 at 12:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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sid

OK. CineTape is California based, I believe. They're using the ultra sound methodology. The lasers are made by the same folks who make the Arricam and that one is like $70,000.
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BTW, I think once this system is released and perfected, it will be in super heavy demand on every "single camera" scripted TV show. And, yes, this will cost some focus pullers their focus pulling jobs ... but it will most likely create a bunch of others as well.

April 20, 2014 at 6:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

This this is never gonna cost any AC's their jobs. Who's in charge of setting up the FF rig, be it a Bartech, Preston, FF-2 or whatever?

Yeah, the AC.

April 23, 2014 at 7:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura