When you’re shooting a scene, it’s always nice to have a wireless follow focus so that you can easily adjust the lens without constantly having to stand right next to the camera. Trying to understand how a wireless follow focus works? Find out in this blog post.
Follow Focus – A Brief Overview
When you need to film something or take a photo, a camera is the most essential thing you’ll need. There are three important things to know about a camera lens: Your lens can be adjusted in 3 different ways (Focus, Iris, Zoom). The Focus will slide your depth of field either near or far. The Iris will adjust the diaphragm located inside the lens which will increase or decrease the size of the aperture which is measured in F-Stops. Finally, the Zoom adjusts the focal length of your lens which has an effect on the size of your depth of field, and also on the field of view of your image.
On a big video shoot, you will usually have a camera operator whose job is to frame the shot, hold composition, and capture the scene. You will also have a First Assistant Camera (1st AC or Focus Puller) to make sure that everything is in focus and the lens settings are correct. The assistant has to be able to make adjustments on the fly. It’s normal to see two people behind the camera where one is pulling the focus while the other is operating the camera. It’s easier to have a team instead of just one person because there’s a lot to control behind the camera and you can’t afford to make mistakes on set.
A standard follow focus is usually mounted directly to the lens using a 15 or 19mm rod system. The follow focus will be controlled through a knob located on the side of the camera where the 1st AC will be positioned.
Wireless Follow Focus
In addition to a standard follow focus, there is also a wireless follow focus, which is more expensive than a standard one. A wireless follow focus is important to have if you’re mounting a camera to things such as a gimbal, drone, jibs, cranes, and Steadicams. A wireless system makes things easier so you can control the lens without having to stand next to the camera. Having the ability to control the lens remotely can really open up your cinematography to more creative opportunities.
PD Movie Remote Air Pro Wireless Follow Focus
The company, PD Movie, offers an affordable and popular line of wireless follow focuses. The PD3 Remote Air Pro comes in three different kits: a single motor, two motor, or three motor kit (1 receiver, 2 standard motors). The kits include a receiver motor, which is basically a receiver that is built into one of the motors. This is different from other systems that require you to mount an additional receiver. Also, the Remote Air Pro comes with a handset that communicates with the motor. Information will go into the receiver and then is transferred to other motors when they are daisy chained together. The power goes into the last motor and then travels and goes all the way back to the receiver motor. Essentially, information is traveling both ways in order for this follow focus to work. The system is easy to use and well-liked because you don’t have to add another receiver and more Lemo cables onto your setup.
With the PD3 Remote Air Pro, you’re able to control all three motors with an iPhone app, which is a first of its kind and is compatible with the Apple iPhone 6, 6s, 6 Plus, 6s Plus, and the iPod touch. The phone connects to the handset via Bluetooth while the handset communicates to the receiver through a wireless signal. To start using the follow focus, you just have to set the motor to the same channel as the handset and then calibrate your system to the lens. To adjust the focus of your lens, you can either touch the app screen or physically turn the wheel on the follow focus. In the app, you can set your A and B stops. In addition, you can create timed zooms (i.e. Set where you want to zoom for 10 seconds). In the app, you can also lock the Focus, Zoom, and Iris, which will turn black in the app and won’t let you make changes to the motors. This comes in handy because it keeps you from accidentally making any changes during a shoot. In the app, you’re also able to change the motor direction to correspond with the wheel’s direction on the follow focus. You won’t always have to use all three channels on the follow focus unless you’re using a high end lens. Because of this, you can minimize each column in the app so that you can focus on looking at only one or two different channels and you can customize the screen in the app so that you’ll only see the channels that you’re interested in. A great feature that PD Movie’s follow focus has is that it allows you to download lens data or save your own custom lens data in the app. The company has a database of lenses in the app that is constantly being updated.
If you’re looking to get a wireless follow focus, then the PD Movie is a great product to get. Also, since it is app based, it’s constantly being improved and you can always get the latest updates. Product Manager, Julio Ramon, demonstrated the PD3 Remote Air Pro wireless follow focus in the following video:
PD Movie also has a wireless follow focus called the PD3-B (Remote Air Mini), which is actually a Bluetooth system. The Remote Air Mini has a Bluetooth receiver motor and uses a different kind of wireless signal. It’s only sold as a single motor and has a power cable. The follow focus can only be used with the iOS app and doesn’t include a handset. It’s more affordable than the PD Movie Remote Air Pro, but it uses the same app. If you want to expand the Remote Air Mini’s functionality, you can always buy two slave motors (A.K.A. standard motors) and it’ll work the same as the Remote Air Pro’s (PD3) system. If you’re on a budget, the PD3-B is a great wireless follow focus that works well.
Want to learn more about Ikan and other production tools we have? Subscribe to the Ikan newsletter.