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Fast Focus Tips for DSLRs, Video Cameras, Smartphones: Video 101

Posted By Guest Post On November 18, 2011 @ 1:25 am In Video Essentials | No Comments

The following lesson was created by Vimeo for its Vimeo Video School [1]. It’s used here with permission. Look for a new lesson each week.

When I was a kid, our family only had one camera. It was a 35mm point-and-shoot with autofocus. Today we have all sorts of cameras, from mobile phones to camcorders to DSLRs to point and shoots… the list goes on! But there’s one thing all these devices have in common: Focus.

Focusing is adjusting the lens of your camera until you can see your subject in maximum detail. Professionals like to use the term “tack sharp” to describe when the subject of an image is in perfect focus. An unintentionally out-of-focus shot can be distracting to the viewer, and can remove your audience from your video or film. However, intentionally leaving areas out-of-focus can also be used as a storytelling device, bringing the audience’s attention to something specific, or obscuring the villain standing behind your main character.

When focusing, the lens element inside your camera moves closer or further from the image sensor depending on which direction you rotate the focus ring. Once the light is properly converging on the image sensor, you will have a focused image.

Shifting focus from a nearby object to a faraway object within the same shot is called “racking focus” and is commonly used to bring the audience’s attention from one subject to another. Professionals and amateurs alike do this by using something called a follow focus, and you can build one yourself [2] to make racking focus much easier! Here’s a quick example of how racking the focus can add a little bit of drama and tell a story, all within one shot:

Most cameras today have autofocus built in, and you might be wondering why we don’t just leave it on all the time. Autofocus can be pretty good at guessing what subject you want in focus, but it may not always get it right. Lots of movement within the frame or moving the camera itself can cause a distracting “pulsing” effect as the autofocus decides what subject should be in focus.

Manual focus is the setting we need to assure all our shots are tack sharp on the subjects we want. Check out the following video showing you how to manually focus on a couple of common camera types:

Here’s the breakdown of how you can manually focus on different camera types:

  • DSLR: Find the MF(manual focus) switch on the lens or front of your camera body, and use the focus or zoom assist button to get the image sharp by turning the focus ring.
  • Camcorder: Set your focus to “M” near the camera lens, and use the focus assist to establish focus. Some cameras don’t have focus assist, so check your user manual first.
  • Point & Shoot: While not exactly manual focus, you can lock your autofocus before taking your shot by pressing the shutter button halfway down, and then pressing the shutter all the way down to start recording.
  • Touchscreen Smartphone: Tap the screen where you want to focus (depending on your phone, this may adjust the exposure too! [3])

One rule of thumb to focus on a video camera is to establish your shot, zoom into your subject as much as possible, focus on your subject, and zoom back out and reestablish your shot. Your subject will remain in focus as long as it’s stationary. You can try this technique with DSLR cameras, however the zoom on some lenses can throw off your focus. Most video-capable DSLRs have a “focus assist” button that will digitally zoom on a subject to help establish focus. Explore your user manual or post in our friendly Cameras and Editing forum [4] if you have trouble focusing with your camera.

Ready for more? Learn how to use motion design [5] or view more lessons at the Vimeo Video School [1].


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URL to article: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/11/fast-focus-tips-for-dslrs-video-cameras-smartphones-video-101/

URLs in this post:

[1] Vimeo Video School: http://vimeo.com/videoschool

[2] build one yourself: http://vimeo.com/videoschool/lesson/41/do-it-yourself-follow-focus

[3] adjust the exposure too!: http://vimeo.com/videoschool/lesson/61/f-stops-and-aperture

[4] Cameras and Editing forum: http://vimeo.com/forum:cameras_and_editing

[5] motion design: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/12/what-is-motion-design-and-how-can-you-use-it-video-101/

[6] Keep it in Focus: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2013/04/keep-it-in-focus-video-101/

[7] Understanding Jump Cuts: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2013/04/understanding-jump-cuts-video-101/

[8] How to Make a Non-Profit Promo: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2013/03/how-to-make-a-non-profit-promo-video-101/

[9] How to Connect Your Computer and TV: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2013/01/how-to-connect-your-computer-and-tv-video-101/

[10] The Many Uses of a Ring Light: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2012/12/video-101-the-many-uses-of-a-ring-light/

[11] How to Make an Infinity Wall: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2012/12/video-101-how-to-make-an-infinity-wall/

[12] How to Make an Animated Title Sequence: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2012/12/how-to-make-an-animated-title-sequence-video-101/

[13] Essential Video Gear for Traveling: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2012/07/essential-video-gear-for-traveling-video-101/

[14] Learn Final Cut Pro Keyboard Shortcuts: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2012/04/learn-final-cut-pro-keyboard-shortcuts-video-101/

[15] Get Great Results from Smartphone Video Cameras: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2012/03/get-great-results-from-smartphone-video-cameras-video-101/

[16] Light up Your Videos with a Bounce: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/12/light-up-your-videos-with-a-bounce-video-101/

[17] Color Your World with Gels and Light Diffusors: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/11/color-your-world-with-gels-and-light-diffusors/

[18] Get Some Perspective with POV: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/11/get-some-perspective-with-pov-video-101/

[19] Learn to Create Scary Special Effects: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/10/learn-to-create-scary-special-effects-video-101/

[20] Learn to Use Zoom, Moving Camera, & Moving Zoom: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/10/learn-to-use-zoom-moving-camera-moving-zoom-video-101/

[21] What Is Crop Factor and Why Does it Matter? Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/10/what-is-crop-factor-and-why-does-it-matter-video-101/

[22] Who's Who on the Crew? Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/10/whos-who-on-the-crew-video-101/

[23] Room Tone -- Why You Should Capture the Sound of Silence: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/09/room-tone-why-you-should-capture-the-sound-of-silence/

[24] How to Create Storyboards: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/09/how-to-create-storyboards-video-101/

[25] The Best Tripod Tricks: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/08/the-best-tripod-tricks-video-101/

[26] Varying Your Shot Composition: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/08/varying-your-shot-composition-video-101/

[27] Learn to Create a Tilt-Shift Effect in Your Videos: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/08/learn-to-create-a-tilt-shift-effect-in-your-videos-video-101/

[28] Setting the Pace While Editing: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/08/setting-the-pace-while-editing-video-101/

[29] Nighttime Video Shooting with a DSLR Camera: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/07/nighttime-video-shooting-with-a-dslr-camera-video-101/

[30] Create a Timelapse Video with a DSLR Camera: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/07/create-a-timelapse-video-with-a-dslr-camera-video-101/

[31] Recording Sound for DSLR Cameras: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/07/recording-sound-for-dslr-cameras-video-101/

[32] Shooting Video with a DSLR Camera: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/07/shooting-video-with-a-dslr-camera-video-101/

[33] Choose the Right DSLR Accessories: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/07/choose-the-right-dslr-accessories-video-101/

[34] Choosing a DSLR Lens: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/06/choosing-a-dslr-lens-video-101/

[35] Learn How to Set Up Your DSLR Camera: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/06/learn-how-to-set-up-your-dslr-camera-video-101/

[36] The ABCs of DSLR Cameras: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/05/the-abcs-of-dslr-cameras/

[37] The 180-Degree Rule Explained: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/05/the-180-degree-rule-explained-video-101/

[38] Learn the Difference Between Frame Rate and Shutter Speed: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/05/learn-the-difference-between-frame-rate-and-shutter-speed/

[39] Getting started with Adobe After Effects: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/05/getting-started-with-adobe-after-effects-video-101/

[40] How to Create a Timelapse Movie: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/04/how-to-create-a-timelapse-movie-video-101/

[41] Preparing Your Gear for a Shoot: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/04/preparing-your-gear-for-a-shoot-video-101/

[42] Understanding Framing and Composition: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/04/understanding-framing-and-composition-video-101/

[43] Mastering Three-Point Lighting: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/04/mastering-three-point-lighting-video-101/

[44] How to Color Correct Your Videos: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/03/how-to-color-correct-your-videos/

[45] How to White Balance Your Camera: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/03/how-to-white-balance-your-camera-video-101/

[46] Learn to Hold Your Camera Like a Pro: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/03/learn-to-hold-your-camera-like-a-pro/

[47] The ABCs of Tripods: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/03/the-abcs-of-tripods-video-101/

[48] The Basics of Image Resolution: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/03/the-basics-of-image-resolution-video-101/

[49] Stop Shaky Camera Syndrome: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/02/stop-shaky-camera-syndrome-video-101/

[50] Editing with Windows Live Movie Maker: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/02/editing-with-windows-live-movie-maker-video-101/

[51] Editing with Apple iMovie: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/01/editing-with-apple-imovie-video-101/

[52] The Basics of Video Editing: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/01/the-basics-of-video-editing-video-101/

[53] How to Shoot Your Video: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/01/video-101-how-to-shoot-your-video/

[54] How to Choose a Camera: Video 101: http://www.onlinevideo.net/2011/01/video-101-how-to-choose-a-camera/

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