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Dolly Into An Eyeball

Published : 1st January 2004


Hello everyone, I have an upcoming rental in which the Director/DP wishes to start on a head to toe shot of a person looking at camera, then in one continuous move dolly in to the persons eyeball. Preferably with no lens zoom involved. He plans to do the move in reverse.

The shoot is 35mm (435ES) and the budget is small to moderate. I'm thinking some kind if bore score type lens with changeable mini-primes might do the trick. Optical quality is a major concern, as is the speed if the system. They'd rather not have to light the world to a T8-11 if they can help it.

Any thoughts on how you'd do this or suggestions of favourite lens systems which might work for this would be appreciated.

Thanks,

Bob Donnelly



This was done by Matt Leonetti for the opening shot of Star Trek: Generations. I believe it was well-described in an article in American Cinematographer. If David Mullen isn't too busy on his feature he can probably tell you the issue and many other details.

Mitch Gross
NYC DP



A macro lens with iris compensation will be required. Arri macro 100 or 200 would be appropriate. They adjust the iris internally as you pull focus. It will be tricky for the focus puller. Not impossible but tricky. Bracing the talent so they can't move would have to be a definite. A healthy stop would
be handy too.

Good luck,

Angelo Sartore
1st. AC
Melbourne
AUSTRALIA

ADOPT, ADAPT, INVENT, DESTROY !



>A macro lens with iris compensation will be required. Arri macro 100 or 200 would >be appropriate. ..... Bracing the talent so they can't move would have to be a definite. >A healthy stop would be handy too.

I was focus puller on a spot using 435 and RCU with probes. We started a few mm's from a nail head and dollied back to reveal large side of a fence. Starting a slow ramp at 6fps in close then going backwards (ramping dolly speed ) finally ending at 24fps in the wide shot. The initial slow move made life easier for me.

We did a couple dozen takes and in the end I think the whole shot was only 2 seconds long. So, IMHO, aside from the start and stop, all the stuff in-between didn't really matter. :-P

Dave Luxton
Cinematographer
Edmonton, AB



Hi Bob,

If I were doing this shot, I would likely try to get a hold of the JDC macros. Joe and Lester were showing them off at the PERA "Hands On" expo here in NY, and they were terrific and I'm 99% sure they are self compensating (and they use Leitz glass). The 135mm t2.8 would probably be a nice focal length for this application, they also have 100, 180 and 280mm macros. I don't think you'd want a lens any faster than a
2.8 and a deeper stop would be a very good idea.

http://www.Joedunton.com/ in North Carolina

If you can't get a hold of them easily, I would recommend the Zeiss 100 macro or the beautiful Optex/Leica 60 macro (though probably too wide for the eyeball) which you could sub-rent from Schumacher.

Good Luck!

Anders Uhl
Cinematographer
ICG, New York



If production will pay you could see if you could use the Scorpio Vertigo Tracker ?

It's like motion control without a pickup-sized beast... you'll nail100% of the takes if the talent keeps still

Rory Moles
1st AC London



>We started a few mm's from a nail head and dollied back to reveal large side of a >fence. Starting a slow ramp at 6fps in close then going backwards (ramping dolly >speed ) finally ending at 24fps in the wide shot.

That sounds fine, but the action of the eye then face may appear jittery when transferred at 24 or 25 fps if shot at 6 fps in the initial stages of the shot. Granted shooting at 6 fps at the head of the shot will help for focus & dolly take off. The acceleration from zero to full speed on the focus wheel at the head of the shot will be tough. Full frame eyeball is about 1:1 magnification on 35mm, which is about 1'6" on a 200mm lens, so pulling out from there to full frame person as described is a big deal for the first three feet or so the rest of the dolly shot is comparatively straight forward (or is that backward?)

My 2 bob.

Angelo Sartore
1st. AC
Melbourne
AUSTRALIA

ADOPT, ADAPT, INVENT, DESTROY !



IMHO this shot is impossible to pull off with a 200mm macro without motion control, the tolerances for focus are just too critical and a focus puller to keep that shot in focus would have to be a magician. It has been previously mentioned on this list that there could be a rig set up that interlocks the focus wheel with the distance of the dolly via some sort of pulley system. I know that a zoom is not desired but I have had success
doing this shot with a 24-290 Zoom with 2x Extender and 1.6 Achromatic diopter. You start the shot off with a zoom and then pull out on the dolly when you're in less critical territory.

My 2 cents

Florian Stadler
D.P., L.A.



Hi Bob

This one sounds a bit like a similar problem that was dealt with some time ago involving a photomatron. I tend to veer towards using a zoom, and in particular the Panavision Macro zoom (its been a while since I used it so forgive me for not getting the figures correct) which I believe went from 50 to 150mm and had an incredible opening of around 3.5. Image quality was perfect. Using a zoom in the beginning of the shot, as Florian suggested, is indeed the safest way to start it, and there is no one who'd spot it as a zoom that close to the subject. The other reason is that you finish on a full figure, if you're doing that on a 200mm you will need a long travel where the focus will never really get easy.

Rodger Simonsz



>This was done by Matt Leonetti for the opening shot of Star Trek: Generations. I >believe it was well-described in an article in American Cinematographer.

First, I'm going to reveal my true inner geek and reveal that I'm a Star Trek fan by correcting you - it was from "Star Trek: First Contact". According to Cinefex #69, it was shot in pieces, the first being a dolly-back from Patrick Stewart's eyeball using a 50mm Macro lens on a VistaVision camera, and then a second dolly back with a 35mm lens. The shots were digitally combined and I believe, for smoother matching, they pasted the head off of the 50mm shot onto Stewart's body from the 35mm shot.

The problem with doing these sorts of shots with prime lenses is that a wide-angle lens is too wide to get a tight shot of an eyeball, but along pull back dolly move with a long lens is rather boring -- plus hard to hold focus. A wide-angle lens gives you a more dynamic speed to the pullback. You'd have to have quite a long dolly track to pull back to a head to toe shot on something like a 200mm lens.

David Mullen
Cinematographer / L.A.



> If production will pay you could see if you could use the Scorpio Vertigo Tracker ?

I second the Scorpio system... It's simply a small module that contains an encoder that plugs into the standard Scorpio remote focus system. You stretch a toothed belt along the dolly track and the encoder rides the belt to feed the dolly's position into the focus unit. You program the unit by moving the dolly along the track bit by bit adjusting focus along the way and marking those focus points into the remote focus's memory. Once programmed, the focus tracks the move anytime the dolly is moved on the track. Zoom can also be programmed in the same manner. I used this unit last week on a shot with a 24-290 zoom starting wide on the lens with the dolly back about 20 feet from a wall. Dolly into 4' (minimum focus for the lens) and zoom in to 290mm to read some small type on a sign on the wall.

This with wide open stop! It took about 1/2 hour to program, and it worked on the first try, and it worked like a charm. We did about 6 takes and all were sharp as a tack. I opted for this approach over motion control (even though I was hired to provide a motion control solution) because of small quarters on an interior location set.

The biggest problem you face in the shot described here is the fact you're shooting a live person... The head will have to be braced so not to move away from the focus point... In that case, if the brace is seen in the shot, motion control would allow you to do a second pass for rig removal.

Don Canfield
Gear+Rose Motion Control
New York
914-421-5019
www.gearandrose.com



Hi Don...

I realised the limitation of the Scorpio system... (which I ran into before)... The length of the belt (what was the length supplied to you ?).

This means that for Bob's eyeball shot to work with this system, he_has_ to use a zoom like you did. My maths isn't great but I worked out that at 4 feet at the long end of the Optimo you'd have an object width of about 3 and 3/4" which is an eye not an eyeball. (It's still half the size of what you would get with the Primo Macro 14.5-50) You may have to use the Century diopter to get an eyeball. If you were to use a macro prime like the 200mm Zeiss self-compensating, you'd have to dolly nearly 100 feet to get full length within 16 x 9 (I think) which is beyond the range of the Scorpio belt.

I think you could still get a very arresting shot with the Optimo, and it would be worth doing in reverse so you could guarantee the eye is sharp before you track.

Rory Moles
1st AC London



>I realised the limitation of the Scorpio system... (which I ran into before)... The length >of the belt (what was the length supplied to you

I forgot about the length of the belt. The system I used had about 30', or 10 meters. BUT....

That belt is a relatively standard item. I didn't measure it, but it looked like a 1/5" pitch XL timing belt to me, and you can buy spools of it. If required, changing the pulley on the encoder to match another kind of belt would not be a major task. I have encoded lots of rigs in the past for data capture, and I have found that fiction is very good. Small rollers with rubber surface work remarkably well. They can be either pressed to the track, or to the dolly wheel. If the track is lubricated, then the wheel might be a better choice.

The encoder on the Scorpio appears to be quite simple, an alternate custom encoder could be made to work with an alternate drive system quite cheaply. Or, such an encoder could be rented from many motion control companies quite
cheaply...

Another option is to use an encoder driven motion control lens motor package. This requires more equipment (computers, drivers, etc), and the operator would be more expensive that a Scorpio tech would be, but it would work and work well. It wouldn't be a huge package... equipment would fit on a Mag-liner.

Just some more thoughts...

Don Canfield
Gear+Rose Motion Control
New York
914-421-5019
www.gearandrose.com



>head to toe shot of a person looking at camera, then in one continuous move dolly in >to the persons eyeball.

I did this shot once on 'Merlin' We used a periscope system on an Arri 3. Lens was wide. We started with the rig against Sam Neill's head, almost touching his eye. Even with a wide lens, the first foot was about 270' turn of the focus wheel. Downside is, of course, the minimum stop - around 6.3 or
7 if I remember correctly.

Martin Shepherd
London based 1st AC
http://www.sheph.demon.co.uk



>We started with the rig against Sam Neill's head, almost touching his eye - the >minimum stop - around 6.3 or 7 if I remember correctly.

How did you control exposure?

Brent Reynolds
DP / Producer
Tampa FL



>How did you control exposure?

Exposure was constant throughout. We did, however, have the luxury of a snow covered exterior!

Martin Shepherd
London based 1st AC



Rory Moles wrote:

>I realised the limitation of the Scorpio system... (which I ran into before)... The length >of the belt (what was the length supplied to you?).

You can use a longer belt you just have to source it (McMaster Carr has them) and then deal with the cantry induced error. The other option is replace the belt with a bogey wheel running next to the track.

Eric Fletcher SOC
Steadicam/"A" Camera Operator
Los Angeles, CA USA



>I realised the limitation of the Scorpio system... (which I ran into before)... The length >of the belt (what was the length supplied to you?)

I believe that I have a perfect tool for the job. I have a portable Motion Control system with five axis - pan, tilt, zoom, focus and 18ft dolly. The system is able to make a move in time-lapse or real time cinematography. For more details please contact me of the list or Geoff will banish me for self
promotion.

Sincerely

Ben Butin
Cinematographer
Atlanta



Hello everyone,

Just wanted to say thanks to all the people who offer advice about the "dolly in to the eyeball" shot that a rental client was doing.

Just spoke with the AC and he feels things went very well. The system we ended up going with was the Innovision Probe 2+. The AC said it was such a fast move out (shot was done in reverse) that it wasn't even worth setting marks, and that he just "felt" it (after many rehearsals.) Subject was lit to a T8 (probe is something like a 6.7 in 35mm). They used the 16mm lens.

Bob Donnelly
President, North American Camera, LLC
338 N. Milwaukee Street #307
Milwaukee, WI 53202