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BraveReality

Hearing Follow Focus

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Hey everyone!  

 

Long time lurker, first time poster.  Let me first say that I have been extremely grateful for the wealth of information everyone has posted in these forums, it has been a great place for information.  Unfortunately I am running into a problem that I haven't seen discussed yet.

 

I am still relatively new (compared to 95% of you) and recently am being called on more and more sets with wireless follow focus systems.  I am finding that I am picking up the sound of the follow focus motor when the AC is pulling focus.  The lavs and boom are both picking it up when shooting indoors, but it isn't usually a problem outdoors.  I originally thought that maybe it was a bad follow focus, but since have noticed that it is a persistent problem.

 

The only things I can think of that could be causing this are my gain staging, or maybe quiet actors in enclosed space.  I'd love some community input so I can get rid of the problem, though, it's been driving me nuts.  Thanks in advance for any advice you can offer!

 

Gear being used:

Zoom F8

Lectrosonics Lmb and SMQV tx (typically 23-27 gain)

Lectrosonics Src and 411A (-12 output, have tested up to +5)

Sanken Cos-11 Black and Red dot versions

Sennheiser MKH416 and 50

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How prominent is it?

 

I am surprised at it being picked up on the lavs.

 

Proximity of boom/lavs & talent to camera?

 

Can't help on gain staging with your rig, maybe someone who runs an F8 with similar radios could help on that.

 

If there is NO noise, no traffic, nothing from a street, no bodies in the room, no camera fan, no movement in the scene, then I would expect to hear that high pitched whir a little, but nothing that would cause a problem. And you typically can only get that kind silence shooting on a stage, in a studio, or in a house way out in the middle of nowhere.

 

Could just be having bad luck with noisy follow focuses that haven't been properly maintained or are 'inexpensive'. They are designed to be very quiet given their function and usual proximity to sensitive microphones, and I haven't had one pose a problem on any projects yet. More often it's the camera's cooling fan I'm hearing long before the follow focus.

 

Could always ask them to not pull focus and just move the camera in and out. :-)

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I have heard it now and then in quiet scenes.

Often it is embarrassing enough to the camera dept, so I don't have to whine

and they will use it judiciously and try to go between lines with the follow focus and re-framing.

Good camera people like to see it all working to tell the story, just like we do.

A set where everybody is cooperating is a set I love to be on, and produces memorable results

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You don't notice it once dialogue starts and pretty much any action in the scene covers it up, but it was loud enough that the DIT/assembly editor asked me about it on set one day.

 

The first set that I really noticed it was at a house in rural Texas for a film that only had 4 principal actors.  For a lot of the film there were only 1 or 2 people on screen at a time and the floors were all carpeted so there wasn't much noise from movement.  Maybe I just had a couple of quiet films back to back mixed with some good ol' fashioned paranoia ;)  I'll keep an eye out on follow focus models moving forward!  

 

Nobody has been upset that it's in there, and camera department has been happy to try and be mindful of the motor for me.  Sometimes there's only so much you can do with dolly shots, though. 

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If the DIT or AE is asking you about it, you should remind them that it is not you making the noise. 

 

I see more and more "cheap" camera accessories that are either noisy or cause wireless problems. Not much you can do except let the AD or Director know and put it in your sound notes. 

 

On a side note, those red dot cos11s are designed for loud environments such as screaming, so the amount of additional gain you may be applying during a regular dialogue take will likely bring up the noise floor, but I'm sure you already knew that. 

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Have run into this before, some of the follow focus’ can be maintained/lubricated. I know the Preston’s can. When they get out of adjustment they’ll make a scraping sound as they move. Ask your camera people if whatever model they have can be serviced. Also if the follow focus is from a rental house ask them to have the rental house send out another so they can swap it out. Many shots can be focused by hand. Ask them when you are hearing it, if they could manually focus that particular set up.


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Have run into this before, some of the follow focus’ can be maintained/lubricated. I know the Preston’s can. When they get out of adjustment they’ll make a scraping sound as they move. Ask your camera people if whatever model they have can be serviced. Also if the follow focus is from a rental house ask them to have the rental house send out another so they can swap it out. Many shots can be focused by hand. Ask them when you are hearing it, if they could manually focus that particular set up.


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You don’t make mention of the camera or follow focus system being used,

We had issues with the focus and zoom lense systems on some Arri Alexa’s. The 1st AC sourced some softer gears to replace the hard gears that came stock with the system. It didn’t entirely solve the problem, but made a big difference.

-Scott


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