Let’s take minute to focus on the follow focus. A follow focus is a device used for controlling focus when shooting film or video. A focus pull or rack focus is the act of changing focus. You may not particularly need a follow focus when shooting, but they can make your job so much easier. Having a follow focus on your camera will allow you to be more efficient and precise with your focusing.
The Zacuto Z-Focus is the cornerstone of Zacuto’s follow focus system. The Z-Focus is extremely accurate and incredibly affordable compared to most competitors. “It’s a lovely unit, very smooth and it uses a lovely gear system. With the Zacuto Z-Focus you undo the lock at the bottom, slide the follow focus back and forth until you make contact and lock her in to the gear. It is a GREAT system and is flawless.” – Philip Bloom, DoP, Director, Editor.
The Z-Focus is completely gear driven and comes with a magnetic, dry erase, 3D marking disc you can use to set your focus marks. The Z-Focus is the perfect focusing tool for any standard 15mm rod based camera setup with any lens.
The Flippable Reversible Follow Focus
For people working with larger film camera setups, Zacuto also offers the Studio *Flippable* Follow Focus. This follow focus shares all the same features as the Z-Focus and more. The Studio *Fippable* Follow Focus is designed to function on camera rigs using 15mm or 19mm studio style rod spacing. The camera operator or focus puller can also flip the focus wheel to the other side of the camera without detaching the entire focus system from the rods.
The Flippable Reversible Follow Focus was developed for people used to working in the film industry. Cine style film lenses and still lenses turn in opposite directions when focusing. A few years back, people started to use still lenses when shooting video because they were much cheaper than film lenses. Because of this, everything flipped and many focus pullers who had been working in the film industry had to relearn how to pull focus. The Flippable Reversible Follow Focus allows the user to choose which way they want to pull focus. Again, this follow focus shares the same features as the Z-Focus but can easily flip to the other side of the camera. The gear also has the ability to reverse directions.
Left to Right: Sony rig with Follow Focus and Z-Crank & Double Barrel rig including Follow Focus
With any Zacuto Follow Focus, there are many options and accessories for you to choose from. All Zacuto follow focus products can switch between .8, .6 and .5 pitch gears depending on what sort of lenses you are working with. The Zacuto Z-Focus works with any lens. If you lens isn’t geared, like most still lenses, you will need to gear your lenses by using the Zacuto Zipgear. Zipgears are 13.5” strands of plastic that wrap around your lens and engage with your follow focus. They work on any camera, prime or zoom lens. Simply wrap the gear around the lens, cut it to size, press the gear locking housing onto the strand and tighten. Installation takes less than a minute. All Zipgears are a .8 pitch.
Zipgear Universal with Stop
Zipgears are sold individually or in packs of four, also known as our Prime Lens Kit. Both items also come with the option of adding stops. Zipgear stops can be placed anywhere on the Zipgear strand to create a focus stop. Again, the Zipgear Universal with stop includes one Zipgear and one Stop and the Zipgear Prime Lens Kit with Stops includes four Zipgears and four stops.
Zacuto also offers a variety of cranks and whips that you can use with any type of Zacuto follow focus or any other manufacturer’s follow focus. Sometimes a large rack focus can be very difficult to achieve even with a follow focus, but a Z-Crank can help you with that. With a Z-Crank, your hand only has to spin the rod, which in turn spins the follow focus wheel. A unique feature of the Zacuto Z-Crank is that it allows the user to turn the follow focus wheel with spinning knob much like turning the steering wheel of a car.
A whip can be used to pull focus if you need to focus the camera without physically touching follow focus. This tool can also prevent any vibrations or camera operator body shaking from transferring to the camera. A whip also allows you to pull focus without being too close to the camera allowing your camera operator enough space to look into the viewfinder and be comfortable.
Anyone looking to extend their follow focus wheel can do so with the Zacuto Z-Focus Extender. The Z-Focus Extender is a 4.5” long shaft that extends the distance between the focus knob and gear housing on any Zacuto Z-Focus. Moving the focus knob away from the iris rods is often essential for compact rig setups with multiple accessories. The additional distance provides much needed clearance between an EVF and a focus knob. An extended focus knob makes it much easier for the focus puller or camera operator to control the knob and see focus marks. The Z-Focus Extender can also potentially shorten your overall rig length by three inches, moving the rig’s center of gravity closer to your shoulder.
Watch the video below for more information on the Z-Focus Extender: