Untitled Dairy-Part 3: Pullin’ Focus and Camera Holding

3 09 2005

Allow me a few bits of reflective thoughts on the ‘Untitled’ project. While it was a great experience for me to burn and learn (the best way to learn anything, in my opinion) I have a new found respect for an aspect of shooting that is taken for granted…focus pulling. Watch any film and notice how perfect the focus puller’s executions are. I’m sure all you DV filmmakers know that auto focus on DV cameras can be a be-yotch when shooting moving objects or unevenly lit areas. It tends to focus on the brightest spot, for those of you who went…’whaa?’ With the AG-DVX 100 A, I’ve had to constantly maneuver my left hand back and forth from the iris and focus ring.

How, you ask? You cradle the camera with the palm of your left hand, keep the forefinger on the focus ring and the thumb on the iris wheel. With available lighting, you better know how you to multi-task your digits. Let’s say, the scene involves a character walking in from outdoors into an apartment building, walks down the hallway and enters the apartment, walks through the corridor of the apartment and settles by the brighlty day-lit window. What’s a Haskell Wexler to do? My solution was to manipulate iris settings with the varying lighting throughout that passage. Keeping focus was hard, but practice makes perfect. For those who have pets at home…you get my drift.

Anyway, getting back to my salute to focus pullers…I salute you. You folks deserve a round of applause.

On to other camera related thoughts. I’ve heard a lot about how the eye piece gives a more accurate picture than the LCD screen on a AG-DVX 100 A. Baloney on a rye! For the whole production, my true friend was the LCD monitor. At the end of a shoot day, I’d play the scenes on a television set, and it was very close to the LCD screen. Maybe I didn’t set up the eye piece right, but it always seemed milky bright. Also, don’t let the Zebra thingy fool you. A little bit Zebra on the picture can be good. Again, it’s all a matter of taste. I have no Cinematography background, but I know how I want my pictures to look like.

In the end, what matters is if the image you see on your Panasonic Omnivision with 4 Head FM Radio Stereo TV closely matches the picture in your head. Note: It will never match your vision…but if it’s 70%, you’ve done well.

Regarding camera operation, I’ve mostly shot hand held. Tripod-ed a few shots, but I wanted that documentary look anyway. I’ve done a lot of CU because in times of editing, they will come to your rescue. I’ve chosen a lot of unusual angles, not to show off my ‘vision’, but they’ve helped me with maintaining continuity. Okay, I admit to a few pretentious angle shots, but, hey man, it all worked.

I have to say a word or two about angles. So far, I’ve almost never chosen an angle to say something with it. They’ve always been an instinctive decision. Once I see characters in a scene, the inner Emon’s voice chirps…”Third Man” “Third Man”. You should listen to your inner voice too. Not always will your planned angles and compositions work on the set. The location is where your final decisions should be made. Again, my opinion.

Feel free to post your comments and experiences. It’s free to post here, you know. Don’t be shy. Shyness brought me nothing the first 25 years of my life. The keyboard is mightier than the…sword? What’s the new equivalent? Tap out some of that finely crafted sentences you’ve so longed to share…right here…on this blog.

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