Sunday, October 3, 2010

Do It Yourself Hand Focus Crank

This is a slick little idea I picked up off the internet on the "Hack a Day" website to make life a little easier when shooting video with dslr cameras -- a Do It Yourself Hand Focus Crank.

Exploiting the slim Depth of Field that dslr's offer with their large sensors, a common technique is to change focus while shooting to draw attention to the subject. Ideally, a full-out system with follow focus, whips, rails, camera cage, etc. etc. are used to adeptly dial in focus with no camera shake. This is nigh impossible when trying to adjust focus by twisting the focus ring directly by hand -- no matter how securely the dslr is anchored to its sturdy tripod -- camera shake inevitably occurs. This camera shake is magnified when using telephoto and macro lenses and this really detracts from the quality of the video itself.

Do It Yourself Hand Focus Crank from David Rilstone on Vimeo.

Follow focus systems are expensive; no getting away from that. Likewise, I priced some commercially-made focus cranks and found that they, too, can run into some heavy cash, especially if you're looking at doing several lenses. This setup I've described on this clip looks a little Rube Goldberg-ish, but it DOES work amazingly well. I'm prepared to forgive a lot aesthetically if something actually helps me get the job done effectively....and CHEAPLY. A hose clamp, small carriage bolt and locking nuts cost less than $5 total -- THAT is cost effective in anyone's books!

This little clip was shot with a Canon 5D Mark 2, a Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L lens, Marshall 7" HDMI monitor (invaluable when self-video'ing), set on a very sturdy Manfrotto 504HD video head and 536 carbon-fibre tripod. Reference audio was done with a Rode Videomic plugged directly into the 5D, with secondary/final sound recorded on a Samson Zoom H4N audio recorder. Final editing was done in Adobe's wonderful CS5 version of Premiere Pro.

Whew! Thanks for watching. Please be sure to visit the website I've noted above -- lots of helpful tips there and I'm glad I stumbled upon it. Any thoughts or suggestions PLEASE add in the Comment section below

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