BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera menus

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Videoguy16x9

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BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera menus

PostThu May 06, 2021 6:07 pm

One of the things I love about your cameras is lack of auto focus - no, seriously. I come from a long history of film and broadcast cameras and pulling focus is my preferred over hoping a machine algorithm reads my mind and intentions.

There are times when running as a solo shooter with no crew and wanting to pull focus or do a nice reveal that I would like to be able to control lenses with auto focus a bit more than the camera can internally. The Android app allows this wonderfully, but it is cumbersome to have to operate both camera and cell phone at the same time.
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I would like to see an additional focus icon right over the histogram that would bring up a live side menu with four buttons:

Bottom right would end the focus contro and return the camera to normal operating menu.

On the left, the three buttons would control a set near focal point, a set far focal point and a duration.

Long pressing either the near or far button would set a focus point while a short tap would tell the camera to go to that focal point.

Tapping the middle button would bring up a menu with duration of the focus pull, say half second, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 up to maybe 10.

The Android app already allows this, so it is something obviously possible inside the camera, but using a cell phone AND handling the camera, especially handheld is a PITA. The two biggest complaints I hear about BMPCC cameras are no IBIS and no auto focus - giving us a ""focus puller" inside the camera without needing any additional cages or rigging (does anyone even make a cage that will take the 6k Pro with battery grip?) would be fantastic.

The "focus off" button bottom right would turn off the function. For those using cine lenses, no harm, no foul, just a small unused icon bottom left.

For me, when I want the cine camera experience, I reach for my Ursa and rig it out. My BMPCC's may not actually fit in my pocket, but the concept of a small, versatile handheld camera that gives me this kind of quality in a tiny package is simply amazing. The only downfall for such a small light camera is the ergonomics of focusing. Yes, I know how to pull focus, been doing it for thirty years, but this would add another layer of usefulness and ease of operation to these wonderful cameras. Everything we have as filmmakers is a tool, to be used at the right time and in the right circumstance.

I have thought a lot lately about the Sony A7s iii and I realize the ONLY reason is because of the focus... if BMD gave me the option to control the focus pull without having to attach my cell phone to the cage, I doubt I would even be looking at the Sony. I love BRAW, the menu, everything except this... BMD, give us a focus puller inside the camera that does what the external app already does!
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Ellory Yu

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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostThu May 06, 2021 6:52 pm

+1. This would be a lovely addition not only to the Pocket but even on the Ursa Mini Pro G2. Hope BMD will implement it. Just make those buttons less opaque.
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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostThu May 06, 2021 7:34 pm

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Fantastic idea Ellory Yu! Something like this please BMD!
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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostThu May 06, 2021 7:56 pm

Isnt that done in the focus gear itself??? By a... you guessed, follow focus?
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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostThu May 06, 2021 8:40 pm

It is indeed, and I have cages, rail systems and several very nice follow focus setups. On a controlled commercial set, I will still most likely use this rig, but it is not ideal for every situation.

Sometimes I need a run-and-gun solution that does not draw too much attention and does not want a focus puller to tag along, and yes, I know how to pull focus solo, but there is a huge market segment and many use cases where just being able to operate small, fast and on your own is ideal. This does not replace my AC or traditional setups, just gives me a new option.

A few years back, the big argument was film vs video and how video could never replace film. Then auto-focus was the devil and "serious" filmmakers would never use it, and recently gimbals and IBIS... truth is, they are all tools in the tool-belt, useful at the right time and in the right situation. Saying you will only use a follow focus is akin to doing home repair but denying yourself the use of a hammer - the right tool for the right job always makes the end product better, and in the end, no one really cares how you get to the images you produce, only that they tell the story in a compelling and engaging way.

The simple fact is this: any modern tool that BMD does not provide (especially one like that this that is actually already there, just stuck in an off-camera app) will be provided by a competitor. If I have to continually choose between my BMD and say a Sony FX3 with great auto focus, complete with getting intimately familiar with the camera, buying lens sets and support gear, given that a lot of sensors can be color graded to look like other cameras (with a bit of work), it becomes just as easy to go all Sony down the road to get that "missing" feature on the BMD.

I have a good friend who only shoots film in his stills camera - no digital. And while the images are nice, denying yourself (or your customers) any tool in the box will eventually lead to obsolescence. Don't believe me? How many companies still make horse buggies? How many will be making gasoline powered motors in the next decade or two? Electric isn't inherently better, but if it is something clients want and you do not provide it....

By the way, my friend struggles, because while his images are truly very nice, his competition can show you the result immediately, during the shoot and even make changes while you watch. Once that portrait hangs on the wall, no one cares if it was film or digital anymore. only on what was delivered and the experience of that delivery.
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Jeffrey D Mathias

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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostThu May 06, 2021 9:31 pm

Brilliant idea. I also know how to pull focus... but would like to make it simpler, I cannot afford to pay a focus puller, my significant other has no interest even though duped into providing sherpa services at times (believe me I still pay for it), and I appreciate the value of a nice focus pull with certain clips. Another problem with phone and bluetooth can be delay (latency)... maybe it will do it right... or maybe not. Seems a natural in camera function.
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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostFri May 07, 2021 3:42 am

I find myself using the app often when I am on a tripod and looking to rack focus between objects and people, and I even rigged a phone holder up to my BMPCC 4k cage, but it is just awkward and difficult to run solo. Let's hope enough folks like this to convince BlackMagic to give it a try.

I never thought I would use the time lapse function - I mean I have Fuji, Panasonic and Canon DSLR's that do more resolution and longer run times, but having it right there with nothing else to carry and in the same image look and quality as your video has actually proved useful. Not everyone will use it, but it opens more doors and use cases for these cameras.
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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostFri May 07, 2021 11:39 am

If my comment earlier sounds like an endorsement I would like to retract it.

I realized that the last thing I would want is to be again touching the camera whilst filming, especially poking at it. This is a big reason why I got the Nucleus-M system. Whether using the handle while hand held or the FIZ while on sticks, its focus is smooth. Also I appreciate a good mechanical focus in the lens. And, having rack focus in camera would require an auto focus in the lens unless the camera was being a controller for an external focus system. But having the rack focus as described would be useful. So this whole idea of a rack focus setup might better be addressed by Tilta or another outside of the camera.

Also, there is only so much the chip(s) in camera can do. I have no idea how much more code could be added. For example, I would much rather have longer shutter speeds for time-laps if that could be done.
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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostFri May 07, 2021 2:43 pm

Jeffrey D Mathias wrote:If my comment earlier sounds like an endorsement I would like to retract it.

I realized that the last thing I would want is to be again touching the camera whilst filming, especially poking at it. This is a big reason why I got the Nucleus-M system. Whether using the handle while hand held or the FIZ while on sticks, its focus is smooth. Also I appreciate a good mechanical focus in the lens. And, having rack focus in camera would require an auto focus in the lens unless the camera was being a controller for an external focus system. But having the rack focus as described would be useful. So this whole idea of a rack focus setup might better be addressed by Tilta or another outside of the camera.

Also, there is only so much the chip(s) in camera can do. I have no idea how much more code could be added. For example, I would much rather have longer shutter speeds for time-laps if that could be done.

We all have our own wants and the way we want to operate. If BMD can implement electronic focus control, then I hope they do it. It might not help you but would be for others. I think it is a good idea to have such control. Now, on your request for longer shutter speed for time-laps, start an appropriate thread and ask. It's that simple. Just remember 98% of the request made goes to deft ears so keep expectations low.
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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostSat May 08, 2021 2:07 pm

here is a cheap one.

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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostSat May 08, 2021 6:11 pm

The problem with any outboard gear is more complexity, mounting, etc. I have seen the units like this and been tempted, but in the end... I may be leaving BMD.

I both work at a university and still operate my production company on the side (since 1992, and I worked at ABC News and Sports before that).

Production for me falls into the traditional well planned, blocked and staged, highly controlled environment where cine lenses and focus pulling makes perfect sense and truly is beautifully organic, and at the other end of the spectrum needs to be fast and efficient yet still produce high quality.

Not long ago I did a shoot for a decades long client. Traditionally we brought in a nice cine camera, a crew of three to six people, a massive lighting kit with scrims, 8x8 frames, C-stands, and would disrupt the business for a full day or two. I had recently made the decision to do a radical experiment: instead of a huge crew, I took only my wife and I (my partner in crime since 1992), a Fuji X-T3 and a gimbal and a very small collection of lights and modifiers. I knew the project wasn't a hyper critical one, so I took a chance. I was also prepared to come back and "do it right" if the client didn't like the results.

The shoot was fast and efficient, we got in and out in under three hours, and the marketing team absolutely loved the piece. We were also able to pass along a ton of savings on crew and time.

Ironically, they were looking for a graceful way to end the relationship with us. Turns out they wanted something with more energy, a more youthful feeling, more dynamics and with less time, expense and impact on their business. My Fuji experiment fit everything they were looking for and got us a lot of new offers to work for them. I would have been hard pressed to do the same kind of work on my Ursa Mini or BMPCC 4k's - yes image quality counts, but everything out there these days makes great images in the right hands. Ergonomics, not super resolution, is the next frontier of cameras. I could live without IBIS (the X-T3 has no IBIS and I did most of the filming handheld with a nice 16-55), but focus.... maybe with a mod and promise of good auto focus to come, but that X-T3 with latest firmware had very nice focus control, and being able to touch the screen to rack focus literally saved us a client. What used to be "high end" or specialty is more and more becoming the norm.

An added thing we learned from the shoot - I needed to match earlier Ursa and BMPCC footage, so I demoed CineMatch and easily matched the Fuji F-Log to the BlackMagic footage. And with new cameras coming out with BRAW, if BMD wants to be relevant outside a small circle of specialty producers, they need to incorporate more "modern" ergonomics - it may not have been great, but I have had professional camcorders that could do pretty good auto focus since the early 2000's. Giving us access to a basic rack focus option internally that obviously already exists (since the Android app can do it right now) should not be an overly excessive or difficult request.

A few weeks ago, I was absolutely committed to getting a pair of BMPCC 6k Pro's... now I am looking at having my run-n-gun camera be a Sony A7S iii or Fuji X-T4... and before you mention how inexpensive the BMD cameras are (and they are truly a wonderful bargain for the price), the few thousand dollars difference between a Sony A7S iii/FX3/FX6 or Canon C70 (or humble but capable X-T4) is a whole less "expensive" than the tens of thousands of dollars we would have lost if we had not adopted more modern techniques and conveniences on cameras. I love my BMD gear, but it will be staying home more and more if this is where my clients want us to be.
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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostSat May 08, 2021 7:12 pm

The day AF is good enough to know when in the scene is emotionally the right time to shift the focus, how long that shift should take and if it should bounce to a third person is the day I’ll consider using AF.

Every job is different.

Ever workflow is different.

I’ve been seeing posts about dinosaurs (I guess that’s me) being left behind because AF is coming. I mean it’s literally been decades now that it’s been coming...Decades of being told I’m a dinosaur for not getting on board with AF....

My current focus pullers have image based, even face tracking enable focus systems and nine times out of ten they don’t use them. Because they just don’t feel as good as a human making those choices.
https://cmotion.eu/page/cvision

Also, that’s not for everyone. Not everyone is doing narrative drama either so my opinion doesn’t matter a hoot in the rarefied air of native drama work.

I think what will change first before we see AF on an Alexa is computational based post focus pulls (after the shoot focus pulls) before any in camera system is good enough for narrative drama story telling. Any seen what a simple app like Focos can do with focus ?

https://apps.apple.com/us/app/focos/id1274938524

Wedding videos. Fine. Event videos. Fine. Real estate videos, fine.

Narrative story telling ? No. Not yet, and the technology has some major issues to overcome. Human beings pretending and projecting emotions. Pretty hard to “read” an interpret those. At best you can maybe trigger a focus event, and maybe it’s good enough to go the right direction, not hunt and distract.

It just depends on what’s important to you.

If AF is important to your process, then BMD is not the camera platform you should choose. I don’t think that will change anytime soon.

They haven’t even tried much to make it better since the first iteration. Maybe they will make a giant leap, but that’s a awful lot of energy and resource to expend by a very small development team that already have their hands full.



JB

*EDIT

By the way, the recent 12K footage I shot that was used to launch the BMD footage...a Covid friendly crew of three. Myself a focus puller and a gaffer. All the lights, a location based shoot, tracking shots, remote head work. I have no problem scaling to a small crew either.

And personally, the idea of superimposing big buttons for triggering focus over my framing of the image doens’t really work for me either.
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Videoguy16x9

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Re: BlackMagic! Please add focus control to the in-camera m

PostSat May 08, 2021 7:50 pm

Good answer and true John - and I certainly wouldn't use auto focus for everything (and even on the shoot with the little Fuji, I did a lot of shots with focus locked off or controlled by touch), and as much as I know auto focus is a long way from being a good focus puller, being able to set start and stops and rack when I want and at the speed I want, without crew and in a huge hurry, I also remember when a motorized follow focus was the devil and "real" cinematographers would never use such demonic gear.... and these days, motorized follow focuses (and gimbals, also once the devil's toys and not ready for prime time) do a wonderful job.

I never thought I would use the time lapse in the BMPCC's either, not nearly as hi-res or good as my more dedicated gear, but out in the middle of nowhere, with just the BMPCC 4k and a tripod, there was this sunset over the mountains and the clouds rolling in.... I probably use it less than 1% of the time, but it's there if I need it.

I also work with small crews of three to six, but I am not always going to have a crew of even three with me. Like many, I do a lot of solo projects, often passion projects with no budget or very low budget. I love my BM cams on rails, with matte boxes, follow focus, 4x4 filters.... but that isn't always the right formula. I am not saying BM cameras are not great for many situations, but do think the more versatile they can be, and the more markets they can appeal to, the better for all of us and for their future. My Ursa Mini 4.6k is an absolute tank, but the pockets.... awesome image, but they don't always feel so sturdy.

As far as 12k.... amazing technology, but not really useful to me. On a 72 inch screen, the recommended viewing distance is 6.35 feet. and to actually "see" just 8k resolution, you need to be 1.72 feet from the screen. My peripheral vision simply doesn't work that well. At the roughly nine feet I sit from my home 72 incher, I am perceiving much closer to 2k than I am 4k let alone 8k or 12k. I get the thought of re-framing or stabilizing, but I work hard to get the composition and framing I want in-camera (as I am sure you do), so I really just don't feel the push to 12k other than being able to tell folks I have 12k. Given the choice, I would take something like the variable electronic ND in the FX6 with a solid 6k performer, BRAW and BlackMagic Gen 5 color.... but that's just me and that camera doesn't yet exist.
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