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Part 4: Technicalities > Chapter 30 The Zen of Focusing

CHAPTER 30
The Zen of Focusing

On the surface, focusing seems simple enough. During a blocking rehearsal, marks are laid to indicate the places on the set where the actors will be stop-ping and standing during a scene. The first camera assistant measures the distance from the focal plane (on the camera) to each actor's position using a cloth or fiberglass tape. The first makes notes or memorizes the distances that will need to be set when the scene is shot. The director calls “Action,” and using the geared knob attached to the barrel of the lens, the first adjusts the focus as the scene proceeds to whatever distance the actor is from the camera. That's all there is to it!

Well, not so fast. The first thing that can go wrong is that actors often don't hit their marks, or they lean, or they move suddenly. You need to have a really good mental measuring tape in your head. You have to react to errors by actors and to erratic moves and to moves that were never rehearsed. You have to know which of several actors in the scene is most important and make sure you keep the focus on that actor. You have to try to keep several actors in a shot in acceptable focus all the time even though this is impossible according to the laws of physics.


  

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