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Focal Distance/Length viewer


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Hi y'all

 

One thing I've been wanting ever since I started working with reality shows and TV is an invention I don't think exists; A small focal Distance/Length (don't know what the proper word is..) viewer. It would be mounted on top of the camera like a little cube, that shows (in numbers) the focal distance or zoom amount to the persons surrounding the camera. Why? Mounting a monitor on the camera wouldn't be applicable in most productions and having it in the bag would require some sort of wireless transmission and reception.. We don't need no more of that... 

 

Anyway.. It would be a good thing since that way I can sort of know what kind of framing the camera has without actually seeing the image itself. 

 

So why on earth am I posting this on a Location Mixer board!? Just hoping some genius would see this and create it. See it as a free idea gift or whatever. Or maybe you've seen something similar in action? And also to spark a discussion on video monitoring in reality type situations, or as a boom operator in documentary style feature films where the camera might be zooming all of a sudden.... have fun. Or not.

 

 

 

 

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I have often thought this would be a great product, but the more likely functional solution would be a lightweight wireless monitor clipped on your bag.

In my experience, the "dance" between audio and camera(s) is part of what mixing for docs so gratifying to me. Eventually, you just know how much headroom you have to work with, and experienced shooters will know when it's important for you to get the boom in tighter.

That said, the dp of the show I'm on currently has started using a tiny wireless hdmi monitoring system with canon c300s, and I'm curious about what the leightweight monitor options might be.

E.

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Thats a hard one that I've struggled with as well, Olle.

When I'm on reality based, or ENG-ish type gigs, Ive been asked to generally run all wires, but for narrative work...theres the rub.

Will your cube fill in for what my observation is: that camera (and production in general) is just reluctant to maintain their half of the dialogue I need to ride frame ? Your cube seems to already be in operation, as many times when I ask for frame, I get impatiently told the focal length...which does NOT tell me the frameline.

Is that the impetus for your cube ?

Their wide can be giving a haircut, and their long lens can still leave a lot of headroom...I want more dialogue.

(will your cube talk to me, I could go for that...lol)

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Really what got me thinking about it in the first place was this dp I worked with once.. He never told me his shots and he would just change the framing sporadically and it was always totally unpredictable. In reality type situations it would be great to know if you can get in just a little tighter for example. If you're on the right side of the cam, sometimes there's a little monitor. You glance at it and go about your booming business, you have a somewhat clue of the framing and the action in it. Next time you glance up on the monitor and it's blocked by something, but the cube tells you It's zoomed in, you know you can go tighter. It's really just a little visual aid for you and it might help you sometimes. Like the battery check button on SD mixers that I constantly press. It doesn't really tell me anything I can really use, until it tells me the battery's getting low. That way I can plan on getting batteries and when to change etc.

The real caveat I see is getting the metadata out of the lens... Like the J11 or other canon ENG style lenses.. I know it's there though customers there's the zoom amount counter in the viewfinder.. Well well..

I'd love just having it there for real quick shoots where the framing changes rapidly and you haven't really learned the DPs ways yet.

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And I forgot to mention, I learned booming partly by reading up on lenses and focal length. I can ask a DP on a commercial shoot what lens they're using and I'll know roughly where the frame line would be, looking at how the camera is tilted or panned. It's worked for me and DPs appreciate it. So for example in a reality style shoot I primarily just look at the lens position and then imagine what focal length the lens is at. If its a prime lens then it's easy. If the prime lenses are anamorphic though it gets more complicated.. Zoom lenses are tricky as hell. Without the cube, I need to sort of learn where the operators fingers were at on the zoom dial in fully zoomed out and in... I'd love a Zoom lens also with the focal length printed on the lens itself clearly.. But yeah. That's where I thought the little cube might come in handy

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In the Jurassic Days Of Film Documentaries camera people used zoom lenses that were zoomed via a metal stick or lever that screwed into a hole on the side of the lens.  We often put a piece of red or white tape on the end of it, and one learned from the position of that stick whether the shooter was wide or tight or in between.  It worked really well, no power needed.  Zooms don't generally have those "sticks" any more, but I do often look over and try to see where the zoom is in its travel by its markings.  The most extreme version of this I've ever seen was Albert Maysles' zoom, which had very large white stick-on numbers on it so both he (via an ingenious attachment of jointed mechanics mirrors) and everyone else could see where he was size wise.  I think the OP's request actually could be met on some of the higher tech modern upscale cameras, since they can record and transmit lens data.  But a simple mechanical solution would be favorite, for me.

 

philp

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I started out in the 16mm film doco days so I am used to asking what lens is being used and translating that into frame size; video zoom lenses - it's the wide end that is most crucial so knowing what the wide end is most important.

I have used a video split system on long form doco series where I was booming a lot of the scenes and found it helpful; my close working relationship with the DP was even more important. I knew that he would understand that if I was "pushing" the edge on his frame that I needed to and he would adjust his frame to allow for my mic placement.

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On my current job the Camera dept. are using a wireless follow focus which utilises an item that looks like a small set of binoculars mounted on top of the camera that gives a digital readout on a box mounted on the side of camera, think it might be called ' Cine tape'.

It sends out some form of supersonic pulse and relays the focal distance back to the readout box so 1st AC can double check his focal length with a quick glance.

Not sure if this is part of the follow focus package or a stand alone piece of kit but agree it would be handy on reality and doc type work. On these type of jobs I try and glance at lens and guestimate where on the lens DP might be or catch his eye and hope for the 'pinch' gesture to signify a tight shot or suchlike.

Regards

Trev

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On my current job the Camera dept. are using a wireless follow focus which utilises an item that looks like a small set of binoculars mounted on top of the camera that gives a digital readout on a box mounted on the side of camera, think it might be called ' Cine tape'.

It sends out some form of supersonic pulse and relays the focal distance back to the readout box so 1st AC can double check his focal length with a quick glance.

Not sure if this is part of the follow focus package or a stand alone piece of kit but agree it would be handy on reality and doc type work. On these type of jobs I try and glance at lens and guestimate where on the lens DP might be or catch his eye and hope for the 'pinch' gesture to signify a tight shot or suchlike.

Regards

Trev

The cine tape is a separate piece from the follow focus. It provides no information about frame or lens, it simply measure the distance to an object in front of camera. Handy device for a focus puller.

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