Over the years I’ve used many different follow focus units. Some better than others, but the majority of them a similar size. I recently got one of the new compact Alphatron Pro-Pull follow focusses to play with. The first and most obvious thing about the Pro-Pull is it’s size. It is very compact. At first I thought this might be an issue as the smaller knob requires more effort to turn than a more conventional larger knob, but in reality it’s not a problem. If you need more torque you can use either a whip or slot in hand grip.
The Mini-Pull has some really cool features. For a start you can reverse the focus direction by swapping the gear drive from one side of the unit to the other. But the one I really like is the adjustable, locking end stops. This makes it really easy to pull focus from one distance to another. You simply set the stops at your near and far focus positions and then turn the focus wheel between the two stops. If you then need to focus beyond the end stops you simply flip up the latching stop pin and you can focus beyond the end stops. Want to return back to the end stops then simply flip the stop pin back down again. Very clever, very simple and very effective.
The focus marking ring is magnetic so if you need to change or replace this it pulls off easily, yet is very secure when in place. The MiniPull is attached using a simple bracket that attaches to a single 15mm rail. This makes it very easy to adjust the MiniPulls position if your changing lenses and going between different sized lenses. This bracket also makes the MiniPull very compact, which for me as a very frequent traveller is a real bonus.
I used the MiniPull extensively on my recent shoot for the short film “Inviolate” to easily execute a large number of focus pulls. I rate it very highly if you need a compact and easy to use follow focus. It’s supplied with everything you need to get going including a nice flexible lens gear ring and the screw driver needed to attach it. Also included as well as the 0.8 pitch gear drive is a drive wheel with a rubber edge that can be used with lenses without a pitch gear.
Just a quick note on a rather obscure subject. I do a lot of 3D work. Buying pairs of PL mount lenses for my F3’s is beyond my budget right now, so I hire in lenses when I need them. However for my own projects I use DSLR lenses, mainly Nikkors and Tokina’s. One thing that i have discovered is that many of the older manual Nikkors have a tendency to shift the image left and right when you focus. This then miss-aligns the rig. The more modern internal focussing lenses are much, much better in this respect with little or no shift at all. The only problem with the more modern IF lenses is that they often don’t have iris rings (so iris is adjusted with a MTF adapter) and the focus control often has a slipping clutch making repeatable focussing a little harder. So neither is perfect. For 3D applications I think the more modern IF lenses are preferable.
Here’s a very exciting new product I was first given a sneak preview of at Cinegear in LA a couple of weeks ago, but now I have had a slightly longer look and a chance to take some pictures at Broadcast Asia. It comes from a new name to the market, Korean based Today 3D, but don’t let that worry you, I know some of the guys behind this and they know what they are doing. In addition many of the products coming out of Korea in recent years have been very good, like the NextoDI range of media backup devices. The device is a full wireless electronic follow focus designed primarily for 3D applications. There will be different models capable of driving up to 8 motors for full stereo focus, zoom, iris, interaxial and convergence control down to an entry level 2D wireless follow focus.
The hand controller is beautifully well built, machined out of a solid block of alloy and it feels reassuringly solid, if just a little heavy in your hand. On the right side there is a nice big, silky smooth focus control that sits nicely in your hand. On the face of the controller there is a slide control that would normally be used for the other functions such as convergence or most commonly interaxial. The unit is full programmable via a small joystick and menu system with a multicolour display giving you information about your focus distance, zoom position and interaxial etc. It runs off rechargeable Canon DSLR batteries which easy enough to get hold of wherever you may be. The final price has yet to be announced but I have been reassured that it will be extremely competitive, probably a lot less than a comparable C-Motion controller. It won’t initially come with motors but it has the industry standard motor interface so can be used with motors from Heden, Preston, M-One etc. It’s a great looking piece of kit that really feels built to last. I’m hoping to get hold of one for a full review and test drive in the near future. There are also some other interesting 3D products coming from Korea including some innovative transparent alignment charts! Watch this space.
Cinematographer and film maker Alister Chapman's Personal Website