Handling a Shallow Depth of Field

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Tue, 09/30/2014 - 14:56 -- Nick Dager

Photo of Dustin Miller courtesy of Waywest Lighting & CameraOn a recent tabletop shoot for Sizzler Restaurants, first assistant camera Dustin Miller found himself really putting the remote focus system he was using through its paces.  “We had very shallow depth of field on the Sizzler spot, I mean half an inch, because we were on very long lenses at a very close critical distance,” said Miller. “We were panning out, panning up, rolling around on a dolly and an arm to get different food items.” 

He was shooting with a Chrosziel MagNum remote focus system. The two-channel wireless MagNum lens control system provides for ergonomic and precise adjustment of lens focus and iris settings.

A key characteristic Miller relied upon for that Sizzler commercial was the MagNum system’s responsiveness. “I didn’t have to worry about lag time, going from one focus point to the next, and holding focus.”

The MagNum controller unit provides hard stops that can be set, but Miller said the nature of the Sizzler shoot ruled out using them. “The camera was moving all around, and the marks weren’t staying very consistent.” He relied on focus marks he made on focus disks. “I was able to set the marks and had an approximate distance, this item is about this far away, this side of it is about this close, and went off that instead.”

One time-saver Miller found with the system is that he could assign a focus disk for each lens, “As you change lenses you’ve got each disk programmed to calibrate to that lens. It locks right into the marks that you made earlier, so you don’t have to re-mark the disk like you do on a lot of other wireless lens control units. It’s nice not to have to slow them down by another minute or two to get marks on my hand unit.”

The performance of a remote focus system when operating wirelessly can sometimes be a challenge. On the Sizzler shoot, Miller was able to stay close to the camera package so the MagNum’s wireless link was not tested. But an earlier project with the Magnum gave the wireless system a much bigger connectivity challenge. The MagNum passed with flying colors.

“We were at the top of a skyscraper, moving from the top floor to a rooftop helicopter pad. The shot called for the DP, Greg Kendrick and I, to walk into a concrete stairwell. The range held the whole time, and we still hit record start and stop, and where we could roll focus and iris both. In our tests, it took a lot of concrete and a lot of barriers before we lost signal.”

Miller praised the MagNum system’s intuitive nature.  “You can just pick it up and figure it out in a couple of minutes, rather than spend a lot of time trying to learn a new system. It’s just pretty intuitive to be able to use it without taking a bunch of training. I picked it up and learned it in a few minutes.”

Chrosziel’s MagNum provides wireless lens control for focus, iris and camera record start/stop. It is also compatible for wired analogue zoom demands. The MagNum is available in a one channel focus-only model, a two-channel focus and iris control model, and a one-channel model that’s expandable and upgradable to two channels. It is available in the United Stated from Schneider Optics. For more information contact R.ayers@schneideroptics.com

Photo of Dustin Miller courtesy of Waywest Lighting & Camera.