What Is A Focus Puller?

A focus puller is someone who works alongside the camera operator on video productions to control the focus of a camera’s lens.  Cine lenses for the types of cameras that are often used on major motion pictures and TV commercials, do not have autofocus lenses.  Instead, the lens is manually focussed during the recording.  The focus puller’s job is to carefully watch the take and adjust the focus smoothly as the subject moves around the scene.  Focus marks are often set with sticky tape, on the floor of the set.  The distance of the camera from those marks is measured by the focus puller so that they know the actor’s distance precisely at those points.  With a precise distance known, a precise focus ca be achieved by rotating a device called a follow focus, which is attached to the lens on the camera.  Sometimes focus pullers will use LCD monitors on the camera to confirm their focus, and sometimes, the really accomplished ones will simply do it visually.  Believe it or not, a good focus puller can look at any object and tell you how far away it is, then set the lens barrel’s focus ring to the exact position to put the lens in focus on that object.  What’s more, they can do this on the fly as actors move throughout a scene. With film budgets being so high these days, there’s little time for getting things wrong, so the job of a focus puller is extremely important.  It’s no good if the actor gives the performance of their life, but the shot of out of focus!  Increased camera resolutions these days have also narrowed the tolerances on what is acceptably in and out of focus.

Additional Reading

  • What Is A Follow Focus?
  • What Is A Cine Lens?
  • What Does Rack Focus Mean?
  • What Is A Cinetape?