October 28, 2016

This Talented DP Shows You How to Pull Focus at 1500fps...by Hand

focus pull
This has to be one of the most impressive focus pulls of all time.

Accurately pulling focus is hard enough at 24fps—imagine having to do it for a high-speed video shoot without the aid of expensive gear. Well, cinematographer Matthew Rosen did it for a detergent commercial shot with the Phantom Miro. In this video, he shows you how he pulled it off using nothing more than a length of tape, precise timing, and his cat-like reflexes.

This particular shot was particularly challenging because the ad's director wanted a very shallow depth of field, meaning the margin of error was virtually non-existent. So, Rosen had to carefully find his plane of focus by using a paintbrush as a stand-in for the grains of detergent, then using a piece of masking tape to mark the closest and furthest focus points.

After that, it was a matter of timing his focus pull with the cascading detergent—a shot that only lasted half a second,  mandating a focus pull of a quarter of a second.

With some practice and a little luck, this no-budget, high-speed focus pulling technique could really help you capture some amazing, super slow motion shots.     

Your Comment

11 Comments

Found the commercial the shot is featured in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QKszEj0LUPQ

October 28, 2016 at 1:17PM

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Ryan Williams
Video Production Strategist
74

This is so rad. I will, however, point out that he has like 19 other things you'd need to pull this shot off that I haven't got outside of the 1 thing I have got, tape.

October 28, 2016 at 7:44PM

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Thomas R. Wood
Director
256

I'm sorry but this is a terrible practice. Slamming the lens at it's furthest focus point is a sure way to damage a lens. Watch the video and listen for the "Clink" the lens makes after he makes the pull. What a shame.

October 28, 2016 at 8:29PM

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Mack Calistan
Cinematographer
157

Except that he didn't actually do that. Watch the video again. He focuses the lens to the closest point needed for the shot, and it doesn't seem to be at one of the lens's limits.

Besides, even if he WAS risking damaging the lens, they're probably getting paid enough that it would be a worthwhile risk, so who cares?

October 30, 2016 at 9:09PM

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David West
Filmmaker
971

Great trick. I have similar issues shooting 240fps I'm sure 1500fps what be exponentially more difficult to mitigate. Next time I'll give the tape a rip. Caught this on Reddit a day or two ago. Figured it would end up here.

October 29, 2016 at 5:56PM

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I recently shot a music video that I'm in the process of editing and colouring as we speak. A lot of the shots were of a guy being dragged around by his kidnappers. Which means, a lot of it had to be handheld with the focus puller following along. Now, as I'm editing it, I see that the focus goes in and out. While that adds to the aesthetic of the shot, I wish some moments were in focus. The focus puller did his best considering the talent kick around and struggle about, a bit randomly. So this got me thinking. Sure there's remote follow focus. But it's still controlled by a person. Instead, what if we can put some sort of a sensor on the talent and program the remote follow focus to always keep focus where the sensor is. I don't know if that thing already exists, but if there isn't, it's a business opportunity in waiting.

October 30, 2016 at 3:21AM

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Sahit Anand
Director and Co-Founder of DO. Creative Labs
352

Pretty sure this exists. Think I saw it being used at NAB last year. They had several receivers on different actors and could switch to any of the moving actors with the push of a button. There was even a radar looking screen with each actor shown by a blip on the radar.

October 30, 2016 at 1:55PM

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Wow. That sounds awesome. Any idea what it's called?

October 31, 2016 at 7:51AM

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Sahit Anand
Director and Co-Founder of DO. Creative Labs
352

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVpnTa_g0yw

Probably wouldn't have taken you long to look up

October 31, 2016 at 11:12AM

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Gareth Ng
Cinematographer
715

Thanks. I did try searching for it. Honest.

November 2, 2016 at 9:03AM

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Sahit Anand
Director and Co-Founder of DO. Creative Labs
352

It looks like the whole camera rig shook when he pulled on the tape, and in fact the final shot does shift a bit left and right at around halfway through the focus pull. I would imagine the average viewer would never notice it - I'm sure I wouldn't have either if I hadn't come across this article.

November 4, 2016 at 1:44PM

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