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  1. #1 Be afraid. Be very afraid 
    Senior Member Tom Gleeson's Avatar
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    I have just finished running a series of tests on a preproduction model of the Sony FX9 and surprisingly the Auto Focus system proved effective, configurable, smart and practical. Itís main technical limitation is it presently only works with Sony E mount lenses. I also understand the new Canon C500 has improved on Canon's already good AF system. IMHO the face detection systems and computational power in these cameras are game changers and are certainly a welcome addition to Full Frame cameras.

    For smaller crews the AF is a gift from heaven and it will allow you to do shots that are incredibly difficult if not impossible to do by hand with low res viewfinders. Just try operating a camera on a gimbal and pull focus at the same time. On bigger jobs a first AC is still critical to run and configure the camera and AF system depending on the shot and there would always be a shot that manual control will be superior. With these AF systems if I said put the camera on a dolly with a 85mm wide open the 1st AC will no longer need to roll their eyes and we are more likely to nail focus on take one. Focus puller or not these new AF systems relieve much of the burden of focus. The Sony FX9 even has a mode for verite shooters that you control and pull focus on the lens to an object as per usual but if it just out of focus or buzzed the camera will nudge the focus to the object automatically. The FX9 will even recognise different faces and you can tell the camera to prioritise focus on one face over another!

    I know there are people out there who wouldnít touch AF with a barge pole but if your selling cameras in the budget range where an experienced Focus Puller is not going to be standing next to the camera on every shot itís going to get hard to compete. I am happy to suggest that even on the biggest budget shoots reliable and accurate AF will have its place. Red needs to be thinking seriously on this issue and not ignore Canon and Sony.

    The Sony and Canon systems are limited to their own lenses and mount types and this makes sense as the lens and camera need to talk to each other but this is a major impediment to many productions. Would it be possible for Red and/or Arri to design a system that could use third party glass? This would require communication from the camera to an external (premapped) lens motor but if a camera could understand what's in and out of focus like Sony and Canon can this might be possible? Sony and Canon are building these focus systems into their sensor designs and they are leveraging their extensive experience in AF in the stills world so it won't be an easy task to catch up. And yes there are systems like ultrasonic range finders that you can use on your camera but its the computational abilities of the new systems that leave that stuff in the dust.
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  2. #2  
    Senior Member James Falco's Avatar
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    Actually I can think of more shots where AF is useless than helpful in production.
    AF as Auto Focus, means the a mechanism is deciding what is the focus. In production the focus is part of the script. What comes or goes out of focus as well as the speed it happens in is all part of the narrative.
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    Puritans will scream that professionals will never use AF, but damn I would love it as an option that I could turn on and off.
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Falco View Post
    Actually I can think of more shots where AF is useless than helpful in production.
    AF as Auto Focus, means the a mechanism is deciding what is the focus. In production the focus is part of the script. What comes or goes out of focus as well as the speed it happens in is all part of the narrative.
    Thank u for shutting this down in one paragraph.

    If only Jarred did something like, I don't know, make a small camera with new sensor that has PDAF or something, and then like, did it again in a year better in a DSMC3 body or something? I don't know but I'm afraid as you said I should be I am very afraid... Now what.

    Also I'm afraid of cameras that detect and log faces!
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Falco View Post
    Actually I can think of more shots where AF is useless than helpful in production.
    AF as Auto Focus, means the a mechanism is deciding what is the focus. In production the focus is part of the script. What comes or goes out of focus as well as the speed it happens in is all part of the narrative.
    I primarily shoot stills, but with my Sony stills I choose the person I want in focus, and the person, eyes, or object is tracked very deliberately and reliably. I can pick where I want to hold the focus. yes, I understand how this AF won't work when you want to throw the focus from one talent to another, but I would argue you would have more times the focus stays on a single subject in a shot. try having a group of people running towards you and you want to focus on the eyes of just one of them- these are the times the focus puller pulls their hair out, but with a touch of the screen the camera will recognise the person, face and even the exact eye you want to hold with focus and track the whole time. You can even have objects passing in the foreground and it won't trick the camera. I am guessing the fx9 is a continuation of this same technology as the Sony A9, a7rIII, a7rIv have had for some time. With photography, if you miss focus you completely miss the shot, probably more critical than cinema imo.

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  6. #6  
    Senior Member Karim D. Ghantous's Avatar
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    It's quite amazing how long it took for AF to be useful for cinema. Even the best DSLRs can't match the A9, simply because the A9 (and here, the FX9) are looking at the actual image off the sensor. You can't do that with AF points above a mirror.

    This won't replace a focus puller, but at the same time, which would you rather do: pull focus yourself, or make use of a sophisticated, mostly reliable AF system? What is progress for, anyway?
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    Senior Member Ryan Sauve's Avatar
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    Buying a full frame Nikon Z6 with AF revolutionized my gimbal and handheld shooting on corporate run and gun shoots. Excited to see how far this tech can be pushed.

    Right tools for the job. I group the anti-AF guys with the anti-8K guys. So much to gain from either with the right job.

    I still think compact lightfield tech is coming and will make AF that's any better than what we have now unnecessary (except for live applications).
    Last edited by Ryan Sauve; 12-04-2019 at 08:29 PM.
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  8. #8  
    Senior Member Tom Gleeson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by James Falco View Post
    Actually I can think of more shots where AF is useless than helpful in production.
    AF as Auto Focus, means the a mechanism is deciding what is the focus......
    James,

    Nobody is suggesting that you let the camera decide what is in focus. The cinematographer decides what is in focus and the AF's job is to keep it in focus. These systems whilst quite smart still need human management to properly configure depending on what you need and I can't imagine a sophisticated production not using manual control for some shots. I can imagine a professional AF setup that would allow a smooth hand off between auto and manual mid shot

    The vast majority of shots I do are for commercial and drama clients and they want to see an actor or talent in focus. AF is quite good at this and if this system can save a couple of good takes every day I am in . AF systems I have seen in the past have been crap but the computational power in modern cameras is changing the landscape and it is a pretty safe bet that these systems will improve at a rapid rate. This is why I believe Red has to have a horse in the race.

    The AF in a camera like the FX9 is in a whole different universe to the puny AF in a Red camera. You really need to see it in action.
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    I took acid 1.5hrs ago
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  10. #10  
    Moderator Phil Holland's Avatar
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    Shockingly Autofocus is a tool and a quickly advancing one for motion these days. It's honestly not needed for much of my work narrative or otherwise, but I 100% see applications where it shows it's advantages.

    No need to have a war against it. It's been around for a long time and getting better ever 3-9 months or so.
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