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A focus puller or first assistant camera (1st AC) is a member of a
film crew A film crew is a group of people, hired by a , for the purpose of . The crew is distinguished from the , as the cast are understood to be the actors who appear in front of the camera or for characters in the film. The crew is also separate ...
's camera department whose primary responsibility is to maintain the camera lens's optical focus on whatever subject or action is being filmed. "Pulling focus" refers to the act of changing the
lens A lens is a transmissive optical Optics is the branch of physics Physics is the natural science that studies matter, its Elementary particle, fundamental constituents, its Motion (physics), motion and behavior through Spacetime, s ...
's focus distance setting in correspondence to a moving subject's physical distance from the focal plane, or the changing distance between a stationary object and a moving camera. For example, if an actor moves from 8 m to 3 m away from the focal plane within a shot, the focus puller will change the distance setting on the lens during the take in precise relation to the changing position of the actor. Additionally, the focus puller may shift focus from one subject to another within the frame, as dictated by the specific requirements of the
shot Shot may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media *Shot (album), ''Shot'' (album), by The Jesus Lizard *''Shot, Illusion, New God'', an EP by Gruntruck *''Shot Rev 2.0'', a video album by The Sisters of Mercy *Shot (song), "Shot" (song), by The Ra ...
. This process is called "rack focusing".


Focus pulling

An advanced technique, there is often very little room for error, depending on the parameters of a given shot. As such, the role of a focus puller is extremely important within the realm of a film production; a "soft" image will, in most circumstances, be considered unusable, since there is no way to fix such an error in post-production. One must also consider that an actor may not be able to duplicate their best performance in a subsequent take, so the focus puller is expected to perform flawlessly on every take. Because of these factors, some production personnel consider the focus puller to have the most difficult job on set. British
cinematographer A cinematographer or director of photography (sometimes shortened to DP or DOP) is the person responsible for the photographing or recording of a , television production, music video or other live action piece. The cinematographer is the chief of ...

cinematographer
Oliver Stapleton Oliver David Whiteside Stapleton (born 12 April 1948), BSC BSC may refer to: * Bachelor of Science A Bachelor of Science (BS, BSc, SB, or ScB; from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Itali ...
has written: Sharp focus is fundamental to reproducing a realistic, appealing image, and a viewer's attention is automatically drawn to sharper areas. When done correctly, good pulling goes mostly unnoticed by the audience.


Methodology

Once a camera position or overall "shot" is established by the director of photography and camera operator, the 1st AC begins to measure the various distances between the actors' marks and the focal plane of the camera. These distances are recorded in a series of grease pencil or pen marks on the focus barrel of the lens; similar marks may be placed on the marking disc or ring of any follow focus device being used. Traditionally, the focus puller used only their marks and their own well-developed sense of distance estimation to achieve good results. Over the last decade, the increased use of digital cameras, higher-resolution video taps and on-camera monitors have provided focus pullers with additional tools to help maintain proper focus. A high-definition monitor can be particularly useful when a fast-paced production simply does not allow time for the focus puller to set and check all marks that may be needed, or if no rehearsal will be provided. The 1st AC may take surveying measurements of the general environment in order to have a good idea of the distances between reference points, such as patterns on the floor or walls, furniture, and whatever else might be around. These reference measurements can be used to quickly establish rough distances between the camera and the subject in chaotic shooting circumstances. The 1st AC reports to the
director of photography A cinematographer or director of photography (sometimes shortened to DP or DOP) is the person responsible for the photographing or recording of a film A film, also called a movie, motion picture or moving picture, is a work of used to ...
, works alongside the
camera operator A camera operator, or depending on the context cameraman or camerawoman, is a professional operator of a film camera A movie camera, film camera or cine-camera is a type of photographic camera which takes a rapid sequence of photographs on an ...

camera operator
, and oversees the 2nd assistant camera (also known as the "clapper loader") and any other members of the camera department.


References

* {{film crew Cinematography Filmmaking occupations