How Focus Pullers Can Survive in the Digital Cinema
By Aaron Hewitt
What if we told you that the future of filmmaking came in bits and bytes? It surely does! That’s the reason why some follow focus pullers may find it hard to survive the future of the digital cinematography.
Any experienced focus puller also called First Assistant Camera or 1st AC, won’t hold an opposing view of the fact that DSLRs already outweigh the pros of film camera on the production lines. And the admiration with which they’re released as well as adopted is simply unbelievable.
Are you really concerned about all that obsession? What you’re looking to is receiving a phone call from a producer, grab the gig, make it to the set on time, and there you go – do what you’re good at – pulling focus. It hardly makes a difference what camera you choose to showcase your great talent.
There are three creative ways when adapted, make focus pullers survive in the digital cinema they’re so fond of. Well, these adaptations may seem like taking a walk in the park for you, but don’t you forget each of them will play their respective role in your path leading to a great career.
- Comprehend Digital Procurement and Formats – There are some focus pullers who’re embarking on their journey leading to the world of the digital cinematography at this moment. It makes suddenly so clear that they will undergo the right training. Moreover, they will become proficient when operating a digital camera.
Have you been in this game for quite some time? Then it may not be the case. There are endless digital cameras that experienced a change from the grass root level. This is because these cameras were put into action by productions with a poor budget.
As time passed by, the format was adopted a high number of prominent Hollywood productions. So, it indicates that there are several 1st ACs who have not much experience with digital. Their experience is almost next to none.
“In theory, there’s hardly any change in the job: Laying marks do not change, criticism still seems simple, and pulling focus is not smooth. But you need to comprehend a completely different set of technical information. Generally, you need to grasp the fundamentals of how image sensors operate, which cameras shoot the various file formats and a lot more.”
You always need to be prepared to deal with any problems (arising out of the blue). Maybe you won’t ever consider the idea of crack opening a digital camera to fix it during a shoot, it’s important for you to understand how it functions on the inside.
A focus puller has to be the (go-to) technical person for all things pertaining to the camera.
- Make a Sound Investment in Digital Specific Gear – The most obvious question people ask is what gear they should have in their toolkit. Well, it depends on what kind of a camera a person uses to shoot on.
P.S – The tools that are used for a film camera seem different than the ones being used for a digital camera. Of course, there’s overlap, but you must know that there’s gear which is specific to one format.
Here are some items that focus pullers have in their bags which are stringently used in digital productions:
Audio Cables and Adapters
USB Lens Light
Memory Card Readers (SD and CF)
Well, it’s good to know information that none of the above-listed items are essential on a film set, but they’re good things to have (just in case).
Looking to continue to work in this industry? Then you’ll have to make investments in the types of tools you need that can be used for digital cameras specifically.
- No Need to Work with More Rehearsal Time – Likely to criticize me for this one? Remember that I’m on your side no matter what. Not only do rehearsals play a very important role for focus pullers but they’re also crucial to film crew. When you practice a shot, it not only helps you establish a flow but fix mistakes as well. Not only that, it’ll also help you shorten the time actually spent when shooting.
Ed Colman, an exceptionally talented cinematographer, once said: “When you are told to ‘shoot the rehearsal’ it’s not a rehearsal anymore.” But the undeniable truth (sounding unfortunate) is that rehearsals are becoming a priceless entity.
With digital cameras, both directors and assistant directors feel there’s no harm when it comes to rolling on the rehearsals. Even producers think alike. And when the rehearsals are being rolled on by these experts, they want to record it.
Has the footage been thrown in for being shot? Has the slate been clapped? Well, you’re pretty much taking a plunge straight into Take One regardless of what you call it.
Want to maintain your existence in this industry for long? Then you have to make sure that you pick up everything you need. You should even learn how to deal with the added pressure without rehearsals. However, there will be a constant need for rehearsals for certain shots. And there will be times when you’ll be able to have one.
Don’t forget that there’s always be a desirable need for Focus Pullers or First Assistant Camera, and crew who’s well aware of the technical side of the camera can handle it without hassles.
In the end, it’s you who has to judge how you’ll adapt yourself to the ever-changing industry.
Aaron Hewitt is a professional writer and has extensive knowledge of focus pullers and the type of work they do on a film set. He understands the essential role played by these exceptionally talented people responsible for pulling focus sharply.
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