The first Assistant Camera is responsible for pulling focus. One of their responsibilities is to maintain proper focus throughout the scene. The 1st AC is an extremely vital role on set, and they must be quick and skilled. Focus is based on distance. Some ACs will use a tape measure to measure the distance between the lens and the subject of focus.
Start at the front of the camera body. On the camera body, near the front, there may be a hook or a “Phi” mark that signifies the film/sensor plane on the body of the camera. Once you have found this spot on your camera, extend the tape measure from that hook/symbol, to your subject.
You measure where you want to focus. This may be your subject. This may not be your subject. Measure to the most important part of a subject to be in focus. Note: when shooting human faces, generally the focus should be set to the eyes, not nose or forehead.
Make some reference marks. Find the points in the room that you want to stay in focus, or the plane of axis in which an actor will be standing or moving about the scene. Measure those points and mark them on your lens rings (or follow focus). During rehearsal, fine tune these marks and points and adjust accordingly.
Measuring distances. Getting those marks is the first step towards successfully pulling focus. You can judge focus off of monitors and viewfinders, but it is not as dependable as setting the lens to the precise measurable distance to the subject. Remember! Practice makes better!
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