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Thread: Focus Pulling: Overuse

  1. #1
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    Default Focus Pulling: Overuse

    I have a bit of a "thing" about the excessive use of shallow DoF and pull focus nowadays. It is meant to subtly (I said subtly) direct the viewer's attention to a particular subject or point of interest. Nowadays it seems it is mostly used to darw the viewers attention to the fact that the maker has the equipment to do it and has read that it makes videos look more "film like".

    I was horrified a week or so ago to see in the ITV (UK) series "Downton Abbey" oversuse. A conversation between two people and we're looking sideways on. There's a bit of distance betwen the two. Person A has the focus, the focus shifts to person B who speaks - all done very nicely. But then it comes back again!

    This to me has the same effect as tromboning (zooming in an out). Please don't do it.

    Discuss
    Tim

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    Quote Originally Posted by TimStannard View Post
    ..I was horrified...
    IT does seem to be de rigueur at the moment I must confess.... but horrified?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Andy Lockwood View Post
    IT does seem to be de rigueur at the moment I must confess.... but horrified?
    Yes, horrified by the "back and forth" motion in a production of which the "look" plays such a major part. Especially as I watched the first pull in the shot and thought to myself "Ahhh, that's ahow a focus pull shouldbe, nice and subtle".
    Of course this is partly penis envy on my part as I can't do it!
    Tim

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by TimStannard View Post
    Of course this is partly penis envy on my part as I can't do it!
    I'm sure you can, any camera can do it with the right set up. I agree that there is a great deal of it around in an over used way but I'm also sure it's just a fad that will level it's self out as people who shoot video on their 7Ds etc. will eventually feel they have done enough shallow DoF and either drop doing video all together or start producing proper videos/films. A shallow DoF can look really nice in the right place at the right time.

    It can add production value to a video but just like over saturating the colours it can also be over done. Example the shooting a wine bottle video that was posted here recently. The DoF was so shallow that at times there was hardly anything in focus. It's not an envy thing or snobbery thing for me. I like to see it but used correctly in the right context.

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    I agree 100% with Tim on this one.

    There are always fashions in video and film but this DoF trend is really getting annoying. Every bloody vimeo or youtube video has a blurred background, every young producer on location asks "can you do this 'film look' effect?" and inexperienced talent insists on knowing "which of us is sharp?" If you answer "both of you" a look of disbelief appears, whereas with a 1k dslr, a 200 lens and 720p the true answer would be "neither of you".
    This fashion is so strong that, as a result, people with excellent camcorders are feeling inferior to those with mediocre stills cameras.

  6. #6

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    In real life, we might often redirect our attention between a close and a distant object, once. But I think it is rare to find a condition where a viewer must yo-yo between the two objects. That probably accounts for it's acceptance as a one-off, but not to be used repeatably. For the viewer, there appear to be three stages. Firstly, the realisation that the area of focus is changing, secondly the actual travel whilst the DoF changes (and the anticipation of seeing something else); and lastly the exitement of seeing the final DOF.

    I have seen examples where I found the 'travel' too slow and where the final image was unexciting. I also wonder how much care is taken to regulate the speed of the travel. I doubt that simply moving the dial at a constant rate does not look best.

    Computer games seldom have use any DoF effects. Its hard for a CPU to calculate all the polygons and also handle focusing issues. Hardcore gamers might consider DoF to be a really cool effect.

  7. #7

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    I am young and inexperienced, and I love shallow depth of field. But I also think that it's overused nowadays. I see loads of videos whith that wannabe filmic look, and they're full of those unnecessary traveling DOFs. I also think it looks nice, but most of the time they don't add anything to the story, it's just some kind of show off, and I often feel something like "okay, pretty good shot but you bore me". I think DOF is just another tool which should be used with taste, and if it's used "correctly", it looks great.

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    Can anyone find examples (both professional and amateur) of when it is used for the sake of showing off? And examples of when it used well? This duality of love/hate around Dof really intrigues me.

    What are the best functions for shallow depth of focus? Has anyone seen rather unexpected and creative uses of it?

  9. #9

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    I'm another who is constantly irritated by incessant focus pulls.
    Their best use is normally reserved for coupling with voice overs. i.e. A field of corn, with the back layer of corn in focus and a VO discussing the habitat of field mice. A the 1st mention of these the focus pulls to reveal the said species clinging to an ear of corn right in front of the cam. Probably too elaborate an explanation, but the reveal's timing can add so much to the shot, rather than the 'indies' constant flicking back and forth and finding nothing of interest at either end of the focus pull.
    The FP has to add to any production and not just be there because you can.
    My opinions are just that . . . Mine. It's not personal, but is based on my emotional and professional reaction to requested critique. If you choose to ignore constructive comments, I'll just assume you're a vanity poster and not posting to improve your filming and editing skills.

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    Great example!

    So one 'effective' purpose/use of focus pulling is to show the small point of interest within the bigger picture, or visa versa!

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