Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Shift and Tilt and Track

I have a shoot coming up that involves slow track-ins to smallish household objects. The track distance will not be large just adding a forward momentum to the shots. I was considering using Shift and Tilt lenses (35mm) but was advised by Panavision rentals it would be problematic pulling focus on these lenses.

Has anyone been here before ?

Many Thanks

Tom " dreamin" Gleeson DOP

I was considering using Shift and Tilt

lenses (35mm) but was advised by Panavision rentals it would be problematic pulling focus on these lenses. Has anyone been here before ?

I'm not sure why they would say this. Talk to your First AC. I've had many jobs pulling focus with shift and tilt lenses with no problems. The only concern is if you change your starting or end frame after your focus puller gets his marks, those marks will be off and he'll have to get new marks. Still, it's no big deal. Good luck.

Andy Hoehn
First Assistant Camera
Detroit, MI

Hi Tom,

Recently I shot with the Clairmont bellows system using Hasselblad lenses, and the director asked me to take the lens out of the geared mechanism. 10 minutes and trying several different Allen keys later, it came off pretty easily. We had one hand holding the lens, and could move it freely and focus it by eye. Not incredibly precise, but it created the effect that he wanted - in and out of focus, shifting planes, etc. Looked really cool, actually, and operated kind of like a really fancy Lensbaby. If you're having trouble getting things right on the gears (there are 3 or 4 adjustments to consider, and the shift gearing is not very good for precise moves), you could try liberating the lens and having the operator focus by hand.

That said, there is a sort of main follow-focus knob that can move the lens in and out, and this could work for you, but I throw out the other idea in case it's not working for you. I bet it can be operated smoothly with a little practice.

Graham Futerfas
Los Angeles based DP

Depending on how much focus you need and how you set up the tilt and shift, you could set the plane of focus so that the dolly move catches focus at the deep end of the object then carries through the object as you push into it. Combined with a tiny pull by eye (operator) you may have the shot your director wants.

Dan Freene, Sydney DP

I did a shot way back when tracking in on a shampoo bottle from below. It was suspended on an angle from black so the shot would look kind of like the Star Wars titles. We needed to keep the focus on the whole bottle and move in under it for a reveal. I used a track and dolly and gear head and it went great. The thing I found to be important was which Swing and Tilt system we used. The Clairmont was too imprecise in it's controls for a continuously moving shot. I used the Arri system which had a very "repeatable" construction. The P&D system also works very well for this kind of application.

Roberto Schaefer, asc

Obviously motion control would do it.

Once, not being able to afford motion control I used a computer controlled "Marron" rostrum camera (usually used for titles and "Ken Burns" type stuff) for similar shots. Much cheaper. I set up the shots on little sets with the props fixed so it would work with the camera looking down. The tracking-in and focus were computer controlled by the operator. It was a bit of a challenge lighting in the small space available but I didn't need much level , even on 5248, because I could use quite long exposure times.

One shot had a "green screen" which was really a piece of rear projection material over a light box lit by a colour head built into the camera usually used for copying transparencies. I also took the camera of the vertical column and mounted it on a tripod for a couple of shots and used the computer controlled animation table's XY axis movement to move items. The camera could focus down to 1:1.

Paul Hicks

>>I have a shoot coming up that involves slow track-ins to smallish household objects. ...Has anyone >>been here before ?

All of the previous posts have had really good advice. One thing to consider is how closeup you may wish to be and how that may affect your choice and method of moving the camera. Sometimes it is preferable in these types of shots to have the camera on a rail system for smoother tracking or even a motorized rail that can be more precise but not quite motion control. Just a thought...

Good luck.

Jim Sofranko

Here is a helpful hint: when using these lens systems, try using a nodal point head if possible, like a Cartoni Lambda. When set correctly your focal plane remains constant from the object in any tilt or pan. This is very helpful especially when doing macro or just very close focus work. If you use a standard fluid head or gear head (less aggressively so) any tilting action results in a micro-dolly move either closer to or farther from your subject which can be enough to throw your focus measurements off.

Roberto Schaefer, asc

If it gives you any confidence, a while ago I asked an operator and Focus puller to try this and they managed it after a while.

I think getting the feel of it takes some time but its possible, maybe go down to the rental house and have a play.


Daniel Bronks

When doing a moving dolly shot with swing shift lenses, a slight reframe will often put your chosen object into the appropriate sweet spot for correct focus. I find I am able to 'follow focus' by placing my subject a bit to left when closer, a bit to the right when farther away. Obviously this places some limits on your compositions, however I've used the technique to good effect many times.

Andrew Turman
NY this week

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