April 22, 2017
Though they seem simple to do, racking focus is an art that requires precision and finesse.
Having a favorite rack focus from a film is something reserved primarily for big cinephiles and filmmakers, perhaps because it requires one to pay attention to the little, but integral things that occur on screen often without much ado. At first glance, focus pulling is as simple as turning a ring to change the focus from one subject to another, but it’s so much more than that, technically, aesthetically, and narratively. In this Fandor video essay, Philip Brubaker not only shows you some of the greatest rack focuses in cinema, but also explains how 1st ACs and other pros do it so beautifully.
Still think focus pulling is simple? Well, in some shooting situations it might be, but for others the task gets much more complicated and challenging. The first thing that comes to mind is how cinematographer Matthew Rosen pulled off an excellent focus pull for a detergent commercial, which was not only shot at 1500 fps with a high-speed Phantom Flex, but was also shot with a very shallow depth of field. Translation: there was zero margin for error.