Quick Guide to Follow Focus Systems
Use a follow focus during filming for precise and smooth focus transition while the camera is rolling. Commonly used with film and broadcast cameras, this lens attachment makes racking or pulling focus easier. Like other pro video lens attachments and adapters, it mounts on camera lenses via the focus ring.
What's Follow Focus?
Follow focus allows camera operators fine-tuned control of focus rings. Although most professional cameras have autofocus capability, it can be inconsistent when following the action on set. While you can directly turn the lens rings, this is often cumbersome and sometimes impossible with rigged cameras. Follow focus makes focus control convenient whether you’re using a DSLR or a cinema camera.
Why Use a Follow Focus System?
Adjusting a lens ring by hand is more difficult as it forces you to position your hand perpendicular to the camera body. It’s also difficult to rotate cine lenses smoothly beyond 360 degrees by hand. With follow focus systems, your hand lies parallel to the camera, and it’s easier to turn the lens ring beyond one complete rotation. Another reason to go with a focus controller is to avoid bumping the camera when turning the lens ring. Slight bumps introduce vibration and produce shaky footage. This effect is more pronounced with lighter cameras.
How Follow Focus Systems Work
A follow focus system has a wheel that connects to a knob on one end and a gear ring on the other. The gear ring wraps tightly around a camera lens and locks around its teeth. While cine lenses have such teeth on their rings, DSLR lenses lack them. However, you can find suitable camera accessories that make DSLR and mirrorless cameras compatible. These are cine-style professional video follow focus lens gear rings for interchangeable lenses.
Turning the knob moves the wheel, which spins the gear ring and then the ring on the camera lens. A white disc placed between the wheel and the knob remains stationary. Its purpose is to mark down preset distances that the operator needs to rack for each scene.
Follow Focus Rigs
This setup provides a framework for mounting a focus controller onto cameras. For example, there are shoulder rigs with integrated motorized control systems. This camera gear has control switches in the handle where an operator can easily reach them. Some rigs have zoom and focus controls driven by two motorized wheels that attach to lenses. These independently adjust zoom and focus during filming.
Improve the production value of your videos by using a controller to keep subjects in sharp focus at all times. Visit B&H Photo and Video to find a wide selection of follow focus systems for DSLR, mirrorless, and cinema cameras.