The art of pulling focus is certainly a difficult one. On cinema style lenses — and even on DSLR’s — there is no auto focus option, which means the crisp sharpness of an image is left in the hands of a human. Or is it?
EasyFocus, according to its brochure, is the “very first distance measurement tool that combines an extremely precise gauging reader with a video target allocation display.” In other words, there is a laser measuring device mounted to the camera similar to Panatape. That device is in communication with both a remote focus system on the lens and a touchscreen video display that allows a user to designate where to focus by the click of a mouse or pad of a finger.
But don’t think that EasyFocus is a one trick pony, it actually has five modes of operation:
- Auto-focus Mode: Takes over from traditional tape-pulling methods by measuring the distance to wherever the mouse is clicked. This can be done multiple times with each time the lens focusing to the new selected area “in the shortest possible lapse of time.”
- Ramping Mode: Essentially a way to time a rack focus perfectly, ramping mode lets you predetermine the amount of time the lens will take to focus from one set distance to another.
- Manual Mode: Focus pulling is done manually using the system’s remote focus while it displays distances on the monitor.
- Tracking Mode: The most powerful of the modes, in my opinion, this allows you to simply move the cursor or your finger with a subject and have EasyFocus adjust the focus in tandem, in real time. Whoa. Pretty cool huh?
- Mapping Mode: More for the visual effects guys and gals, mapping mode creates a topographic map of the set and will show little flags with distances to several objects. All that data can then be printed or saved and will certainly come in handy with those using programs like After Effects.
As awesome as EasyFocus sounds, Bauer acknowledges that it’s not for every situation. It caters to complicated crane maneuvers and custom rigging designs and scenarios where there are so many variables to estimate focus distance that it can be overwhelming.
The system will run you a bit more money than your average BarTech, however. The cost for buying the system comes in at a steep 59,000 euros — rentals on the website are offered but without a price. Looks like only the best 1st AC’s are gonna be playing with this toy.
A good focus puller isn’t going to be replaced anytime soon by a machine, after all someone still needs to operate the system who understands depth-of-field and lens optics, but there will be tools to make the job easier as time goes along. Until I move up to movies like Transformers 3, however, looks like I’ll be sticking to my good ol FatMax and soft tape to keep things in focus.