Wireless follow focus allows you to get better, more precise focus and enables you to capture more engaging video than traditional manual methods. If you are a budding cinematographer or simply dipping your toes into video, manually pulling focus on either your cine or photo lenses is a hard skill to master.
Why do you need a wireless follow focus?
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Firstly, let’s address the elephant in the room… You can use autofocus, but even the most advanced systems are not 100% reliable and will sometimes focus on the subject or items you don't want them to. That's why manual focus is still the industry standard today for filmmakers, putting total control in human hands and not in phase detection. In fact, even the top-of-the-line cameras used on Hollywood productions like Arri, Red, and IMAX-certified cameras do not have autofocus at all. So learning how to pull focus manually is your only option if you want to make this a serious career option.
So, what is a follow focus? A follow focus is an ergonomic control mechanism used within all aspects of filmmaking, allowing the camera's operator to “pull” focus by hand more efficiently and precisely. In bigger productions, this is usually the role of one person, the 1st assistant camera (or 1st AC.) However, as technology has progressed, so has our ability to become solo filmmakers, and this is where wireless follow focus systems became a vital piece of equipment.
Ironically, wireless follow focus actually has more wires than the standard, hand-operated one, which has none. However, the benefit is that while you operate a “nonsmart” follow focus with your hand to focus, you are also removing a point of contact from your camera, which will result in shaky footage when doing run-and-gun style shoots where you are doing a lot of handheld work, this is also the case when operating long lens and camera combinations on a video tripod when you want to make sure there is no visible shake, it can and will be very awkward to operate, just think; tapping your head, whilst trying to rub your belly - awkward!
This is where a wireless follow focus becomes vital, the system usually consists of the focus motor itself, geared to 0.8, which is the standard ratio on all cinematography lenses, and can be attached to either a 15mm or 19mm rod, depending on your personal preference or location in which the shoot is being conducted. Then you have the wireless focus wheel, which communicates to the wireless motor, allowing you to pull focus, and in turn tells the motor to pull or push on the focus ring of your lens, resulting in a more secure and hassle-free focus experience.
The best wireless follow focus
Extremely popular with independent filmmakers, the Nucleus-Nano Wireless Focus Control System from Tilta can wirelessly control the focus of most DSLR, mirrorless, or cine-style lenses. These units can connect to each other from 300' away and can be mounted in various ways to suit anyone's shooting style. Making this a great option for any level filmmaker.
This wireless follow focus completely eliminates the need for external D-Tap power and includes a removable battery system for the motor and controller, higher torque motors, more responsive controllers, mounting options, and a smaller motor, which enables a single user to wirelessly control focus for a variety of different shooting scenarios and rig setups.
This compact follow focus system can transmit a wireless signal up to 164' away and is suitable for use with cameras on gimbals, tripods, and other stabilization systems. It features Zoom In/Out functions for motorized lenses and also allows you to record with a single click on the Start/Stop recording button. The handwheel has an integrated jog-dial that incorporates a hotkey function allowing you to instantly access a present feature, a great offering for those wanting a minimalist rig.
The Cinegears Express is designed to work for a variety of workflows and can be applied to focus, zoom, or iris control. With its 302-foot line of sight transmission, it can be used by a focus puller back of the set or within a media village. It also features auto lens calibration and manual lens remapping making this the perfect solution as an all-round workhorse on set.
The Astral wireless follow focus system from Came-tv can wirelessly control focus, iris or zoom of most DSLR, mirrorless, or cine-style lenses. The controller features a built-in marking disk and an OLED display that provides battery level, calibration, travel, and memory information making it very versatile.
The Moza iFocus-M Lens Motor & Wireless Hand Unit Kit is compatible with the Moza Air 2 and AirCross 2 gimbals. The motor attaches to a short 15mm rod that comes with the gimbal. The hand unit can wirelessly control the motor from up to 328' away. The iFocus-M is a lightweight, compact and connects to the Monza gimbals for power via an included CAN bus cable.
What we look for in a Wireless follow focus
A wireless follow focus needs to be able to mount to either a 15mm or 19mm rod system, which are the two industry standards depending on where you live. It needs the controller to be able to provide a good signal at a far way distance to the receiver, so when you have a focus puller helping you on set, they are not in the way of the shot. The receiver also needs to be able to provide ample power so it can turn your cinema lens's focus ring in a quick and smooth manner. In this guide there are a number of wireless follow focus units that can support any budget and offer the standard feature we would look out for, some even go a step further.