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Watch: Cinematography Video Essay About 'The Art of the Focus Pull'

by
May 1, 2017
Source: YouTube

The Art of the Focus Pull

"One of the great artists of the film is the focus puller." Time for a lesson in filmmaking. As the introduction for this video explains, "moviegoers see focus racks all the time" but "they probably don’t even notice most of them." This video essay, created by Philip Brubaker for Fandor, titled simply The Art of the Focus Pull examines the cinematography technique of "focus pulling" - or changing the focus in the middle of a shot. There's different ways to achieve this, and the video covers a few of them, and shows plenty of examples. It also counts down three of the best focus pull shots in films, and each one of them is most certainly striking.

Original video description on YouTube: "Moviegoers see focus racks all the time. They probably don’t even notice most of them. That’s the idea. If you’re not looking for them, they can be hard to spot. But some rack focusing is so well done, so artful and occasionally dazzling, that it deserves to be singled out. This video essay collects these fantastic focal feats and educates on how they are done." This video essay was created and edited by Philip Brubaker (follow him @lens_itself) for Fandor. The full list of films, clips, and music used in the video can be found in the end credits. Great work, Philip. Now who wants to go make a movie?

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  • Nice. I'll sleep less dumb today. Thanks for sharing.
    • Bo
      Less dumb, eh?...you surely jest as focus racking is as common as the cold and you no doubt knew this and were aware of it in your intensely 'focused' (pun intended) viewing of films, tarek. Right? I remember your sharing of interests in lens, so you probably know that a wide lens will allow foreground and background to stay in focus. Like the Tarantino shot with Bruce Willis in close up and the guy stumbling up the alley behind him still in deep focus. I doubt that 'split-lens' thingy was used in that shot and a wide lens was employed. I could be wrong. What do you think?
      • LeoForPrez
        you have that backwards and it has more to do with f-stops
        • Bo
          I don't have it backwards and yes, you are correct that it also has a lot to do with f-stops. Correct lens, wide, and correct f-stops. Thanks for you informative contribution.
          • LeoForPrez
            You do have it backwards...the focal length on a zoom lens is more conducive to this effect than a wide angle lens.
      • DAVIDPD
        I also dig using telephotos in photography and just destroying the background in creamy blandness.
      • Hey Bo. I am an eternal learner. The day I say that I know, I know that I know nothing. ;D
        • Bo
          Hear, hear...and wise...lol...
  • grimjob
    Very interesting, never knew the term for it. Someone help me with this one: What is the term for the shot that slowly zooms in on a character, usually when shocked or terrified, but the background seems to push farther away from the foreground, quickly? I love those shots, very effective.
    • Robert Harmon
      Vertigo zoom.
      • grimjob
        Thank you.
      • AKA Dolly Zoom.
  • DAVIDPD
    This technique was really taken to the extreme when DSLR format became a real medium for novice film makers. I still love a good amateur focus pull, but yeah when you see a real pro do it, it is sexy as can be.

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