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medium (15") FullHD monitor for focus puller
  • I was looking for quite some time for a medium size portable monitor with HDMI input and 1920x1080 resolution. I need it for my focus puller to judge focus (using a remote follow focus) on set, especially when doing steady-cam work.

    • The monitor must not be to big, as he will have it right in front of him (some times right on his lap). If the monitor is to big, it would be to bulky and it would be to exhausting for the eyes always looking from side to side.

    • Full HD 1920x1080 is a good thing when judging focus. Using a GH2 with FM2 or Moon, the picture is recorded at a very high level of detail and resolution. Being off focus on the main subject is annoying.

    BUT...most of the monitors are either big (>19") or not full HD. Most of the monitors advertised for cameras/DSLRs are even only 1024x600 (which is 16:9 SD resolution, not HD!). Or they are very expensive.

    Today I stumbled over this monitor:

    Which looks quite good for the task I need it for. The biggest downside is probably the 25W power consumption - I will need a big battery mounted to the backside.

    What do you think? Any better options?

  • 21 Replies sorted by
  • @Psyco

    Ruige makes various pro monitors :-)

    And I really suggest to stay away from cheap crap. It is TN based, and it is really cheapest panels mostly.

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev I had a look at the Ruige monitors, but non of them fits my needs. They are either to small (10") or not even FullHD or only 110/240V powered (and quite heavy).

    You are probably right that the display won't be "top class" but the thing also only costs 122 EUR;-) Do you think it won't be possible to focus correctly with this monitor and why? (All other things like colour, contrast, lighting,... will be viewed on another monitor.)

    I see a lot of laptop display on Ebay that would be perfect (and quite good quality) but I don't know what is needed to connect them to a HDMI source.

  • I am planing to go in a similar direction (for quite a long time already..). My actual plan is to get a M$ Surface Pro (Windows 7) tablet with USB 3 and see if I can get the Blackmagic Shuttle working with it. Add a 100 $ HDMI video transmitter and you have no annoying cables on set. While this is for sure not a cheap way, it would allow the focus puller to roam freely - for example to the shadow, so he can not only judge sharpness but also other aspects of the picture. Last but not least with the right software you can add additional sharpening, false colors and much more helpful things - and, well, as side effect you suddenly own a M$ Surface Pro. Much more useful than a 15" HD Monitor in a Box. ;-)

    edit: I just red Vitaliys reply, its pretty much the same attempt. But I would stay away from normal laptop, and outdoor set with rain, dirt and dust is simply the wrong place for it.

  • @Vitaliy_Kiselev I was thinking about that solution, but then I would have to buy a new laptop as well (my old Macbook has no card slot, no fast CPU/GPU,... ;-).

    @Meierhans Good idea, but its going to be quite expensive.

    As my remote follow focus is Arduino based, both solutions would also give me the possibility to make pre defined/pre programmed focus pulls directly from the laptop. But thats some thing for the future, as I have to finish the remote focus system first.

    Does anybody know how to use one of this laptop displays without a laptop? Is it possible to get a monitor controller board with HDMI input?

  • @Psyco

    It is not problem to get good cheap used or refurbished Windows note.

  • It will still be around 300+ EUR for the notebook and 150 EUR for the HDMI card and then I have to carry around a lot of things I won't need (e.g. the HD and keyboard of the notebook).

    I still don't understand, why nobody is putting those cheap laptop screens in a housing and adding a HDMI->monitor controller?

    Or why the suppliers for camera/DSLR equipment are still using those old low resolution displays - thats just B.S. for HD work.

  • I still don't understand, why nobody is putting those cheap laptop screens in a housing and adding a HDMI-monitor controller?

    Market of large non professional and non stationary monitors really is non existing. This is why. Such monitors are unreleable, both physically and because of their bad panels.

  • Has anybody seen another 15"-17" monitor with

    • HDMI input
    • physical resolution of 1920x1080
    • low voltage (5-24V) input


    Please post a link - as more options are always better;-)

  • As a camera assistant of 8yrs I have to say that using a monitor for focus pulling is a very bad habit and is severely frowned upon by the pros in the business. Good focus pullers use a tape measure, marks and most importantly their eyes and good perception of distance to do their job. A monitor (with zoom into eyes) can be fine to get focus marks at different points within a scene but not when rolling.

    I knew one guy who had trained his eyes to the point where he could look at any object between 18" and 25' and tell how far away it was within 1" of accuracy. Serious camera Jedi skills!

    Call me a snob, but I wouldn't be impressed if my 1st AC needed a monitor to pull focus, never mind a giant 15"+ monitor.

  • @mythmaker When pulling focus with SLR lenses with lens markings in the wrong place and a 90 degree throw, I'll take any assistance I can get. Monitor every time, until I can afford lovely cine-lenses,...i.e. likely never.

  • I think a good focus puller needs to have both sets of skills for different situations.

  • @mythmaker Have you ever tried to get accurate focus with a focus-by-wire (photo) lens or while using a steadycam?

    The main goal for my setup is to work with a steadycam AND also do the job when on a normal tripod. And as @itimjim said, I can't afford lenses where focus is 100% repeatable.

    15" is not big when having 1920x1080 pixels. I have the smallHD 10" monitor and its perfect on the steadycam for aiming and frameing, but getting perfect focus on a screen that scales (1280x720) is a nightmare. I have had it several times that the picture looked good on set, but in post on a bigger screen I could see that I was off focus by a small amount. Granted, it gets better with experience but until then everything that helps is a good thing. Its my hobby not my job ;-)

  • @mythmaker , in the television business it's not that uncommon to use a monitor. . Since we either go live on air or live on tape there is no room or time for a focus puller. And shots always end up different than expected, due to timing or other things. So while the focus puller does write down what's going to happen he can't know for sure.. off course that's with 2/3th inch HD camera's.. not bigger "film" sized sensors

    Offcourse, they use a wireless video and a wireless focus pulling method :)

  • A 15" monitor for pulling is huge! Is the puller Mr Magoo? @mythmaker - I agree, but if you must use one, don't use one so large that the illumination from it could contaminate the lighting!

  • Thanks @rockroadpix for making me feel like I'm completely out of my mind with my original comment.

    @FW200 - agreed, it's more common in the TV world but then in the TV world you usually don't have a 1st AC, the camera op does zooming focusing etc. himself.

    @psyco I have tried getting focus in many, many different situations on many, many different cameras from consumer grade video cams, to DSLRS, to studio pedestal cameras through pretty much every high-end cinema camera. As far as focusing with the camera on a steadicam your 1st AC is obviously focusing via a remote, correct? They should be walking beside the operator, helping them and keeping an eye on the camera etc. not tucked away in a corner with a giant monitor around their neck. Maybe give them a 27" monitor to lug around as well as that remote focus unit, get them to walk backwards and use the spill from the monitor as your fill light! LOL

    Seriously though, why make an already difficult and high-stress job even more difficult? The 1st AC job is super tough, especially with so many DPs insisting on shooting everything wide open and with as few lights as possible. As a former 1st AC I recommend you think about doing things in a way that makes it easier for your crew to achieve the look you want, not harder. Too hard for the focus puller to pull focus? Either invest in the proper gear instead of finding shortcuts that create more problems or turn on a light or two and increase your depth f field. Give yourself and your crew a fighting chance.

  • I actually have been sittin under a black tent for some days two years ago, staring at a 24" Full HD while operating a high quality remote FF. It worked like a charm, much better than blindly trying to hit your exact marks while walking with the dolly. For slow moves you could even forget about marks and... well.. just focus. It was in no way stressful, sure I was jumping in and out the tent when DP needed filters, batteries or anything.. the usual madness. However, the only reason holding me back repeating this experience itm is that quality remote FF (speak: repeatable) are either DIY or very expensive.

  • How about using a less-than-1080p monitor in 1:1 pixel mapping zoom mode?

  • @balazar 1:1 pixel mapping is ok, but if you have to change focus from one object to another and both are on different sides of the frame you are in trouble.

    The ideas is to have everything visible on screen in its native resolution but in a small form factor.

  • @mythmaker - I'm assuming a tone of sarcasm there. My experience is on a film set where the focus puller is next to the dolly/cam. Meierhans' recent usage of a large monitor is one for larger productions. I did not work on tv where they may use larger monitors. I worked A LOT on tabletop shoots back in the day (when they did tabletop) and contamination was a huge issue, even with the little red ""rolling" light. I also worked on beauty spots where contamination is nicht so gut. As a shooter and how it applies to meierhans, I would prefer my guy being right next to me so that feedback can happen, sometimes instantaneously during a shot.