Introducing the first cteam community managers
Meet Carlos and Fabio and read about their first experience with cPRO on set
In November, we invited cteam members Carlos and Fabio, two focus pullers from Spain to the cmotion HQ in Vienna. Not only were they amongst the first to pre-order cPRO, they were two of the first AC’s to test and work with cPRO on set before its general release. We took this opportunity to talk about their first impression of cPRO, being a part of cmotion’s cteam, and how to best support the international focus puller community. Now, officially appointed as community managers for Spain, Italy and Latin America, Carlos and Fabio will help create content for product walk-through videos, support cmotion at trade shows and events, and take an active lead in content for the new focuspulleratwork.com forum.
Date of birth: May 19th, 1982
Residence: Madrid, Spain
Pulling focus since: 2009
cteam member since: May 2018
Favorite LCS: cPRO & WCU-4
Left / right handed: Right
Favorite camera: Film: Moviecam MKII, Digtal: ARRI Alexa (all)
Favorite Lens: All of them :)
Date of birth: May 11th, 1983
Residence: Madrid, Spain
Pulling focus since: 2011
cteam member since: October 2018
Favorite LCS: nowadays cPRO, before that ARRI WCU-4
Left / right handed: right handed
Favorite camera: Digital ARRI Alexa XT, Film ARRI SR3 HS
Favorite Lens: ARRI Zeiss Master Primes
Welcome Carlos and Fabio! Thanks for taking time to visit us here in Vienna. Before we start asking any questions, please tell us a little something about yourself.
My career has been quite peculiar: after studying at a film school in Barcelona, I had the chance to work on a real set as a camera trainee for a feature film in Turin, Italy. I was there for some weeks and got along pretty well with the DoP and the camera crew. At the end of the movie, the DoP told me: ”I have another feature in a month and we have no focus puller for the B cam, what do you say?” I said: ”I think you are crazy, I’m not ready yet…” And he said: ”Maybe, but I think you can do it. The choice is yours, let me know”. So, I ended up saying yes, basically because I didn’t want to disappoint the DoP. It was hard, but I learned an insane amount of things in those 8 weeks. And, from then on, I worked mainly as a first camera assistant.
My mom worked in TV for more than 15 years creating shows for kids. So, since a very early age, I have been surrounded by cameras. I grew up going to these shows and it was super cool to be there, on the set, around the team, the director and all the camera equipment. It was from this experience that I decided I would work in audio visual. By the time I was 20 years old, I was already working on my first feature film as a video assistant. Since then, I have been working and growing in camera department.
In 2009 I shot my first ¨A camera¨ film as 1st A.C. The focus puller I used to work with, as 2nd A.C. at that time, gave me the opportunity to step. It was a great first experience.
How did you first learn your skills and what did you do to keep getting better?
I think this is a very interesting topic. Normally, I would say that the best way to improve your skills is to practice them on set. But, when you are just starting out, you usually don’t get the opportunity to work on a set often enough. So, when I was starting out, I tried to think of the most important skills for a focus puller and tried to practice them in my everyday life. I started by guessing distances by eye, so that I could improve my awareness and responsiveness. I also started learning as much as I could about cameras. Nowadays, after almost 10 years in the industry, I still believe that working on set is the best way to improve your skills. But, for those who are just starting out, there are now plenty of resources available on the Internet.
Shooting, shooting & shooting!! To me, this job requires craftsmanship. It is a slow process and takes time and a lot of effort to be a good film technician in any role. Being a good focus puller for me is a mix of practice and experience. However, experience is only achieved over time. And, the art of focus pulling is only around 50% of what a 1st assistant camera needs master to be great at his/her job. At the end of the day, we are there to help the DOP to do his/her job. And, keeping the subject in focus is only aspect of this job.
What was the biggest project you have worked on, or you are most proud of?
Unfortunately, I haven't yet worked on a big Hollywood blockbuster. But, I have worked on several productions that I am very proud of. If I have to choose, I would say that there are two features I would like to speak about. The first one is the very first movie I shot as a focus puller. It was directed by Giuliano Montaldo, who is almost a legend in the Italian film industry. The main character was played by Pierfrancesco Favino, who has also worked with Directors such as Ron Howard and Spike Lee. The second production I would like to mention was an international feature that was shot in Istanbul starring Michael Madsen, who is by far one of my favourite actors, with reservoir dogs being one of my all-time favourite movies. You can imagine how I felt working with him.
I feel very lucky because I have had the opportunity to work on projects of all sizes over the years. Big projects are great because of their scale and the amazing equipment we get to work with. On the other hand, smaller projects can be just perfect because everything feels more personal and enjoyable. I love to do different projects and of all sizes including feature films, TV dramas and commercials. I think that to diversify your projects make you more versatile and a better technician.
Which wireless lens control systems have you been working with lately?
I usually work with the ARRI SXU-1 and WCU 4. But, every now and then, I work with Bartech and DJI.
I would say that 70% to 80% of what I do is with ARRI’s WCU-4. However, I am very comfortable with Preston, and especially like the lens mapping and premarked rings. Over the last few years I have worked on some small budget projects where there wasn’t an option to choose a preferred system, so I worked with whatever was provided. For the last year or so, I have been thinking about investing in my own LCS so I could always work with the system that I was used. I think this is crucial in the way we shoot on sets nowadays.
How did you first hear about cmotion and what was your first cmotion product experience?
Unfortunately, cmotion has not been very well known in Spain until recently. My first experience with a cmotion LCS was when I was shooting in the USA with a compact ONE.
I have shot several times with cmotion’s cvolution LCS. It is a very well made and precise system. But, because it is very modular, rental houses didn’t always have the combination available that I liked to work with.
What were your thoughts about cmotion back then?
I very much liked the compact ONE’s ease of use. Even for somebody who had never used the system before (like me), the simplicity of the plug-and-play was great. Also, the ergonomics where good and the ARRI CLM-4 motors were the same I was used to with the ARRI LCS systems.
I remember when cmotion and ARRI released the LBUS protocol and cforce motors. I thought it was great that there was a company dedicated to focus pullers like cmotion introducing innovation for the industry.
YYou where one of the first focus pullers to pre-order cPRO and use the system on a real job. What persuaded you pre-order cPRO at that time and how was your first experience working with the system?
To tell you the truth, I was a little worried the first day of shooting. Although the prep had been good and with no problems, I had never used the system in a real environment. I was not only wondering if I would be able to work fast and effectively without really knowing the system, but how the system would actually perform. A large amount of the production was shot on a Ronin in deserts, caves and open fields. We experience everything from high humidity to wind and cold weather. But, I have to say that everything went very smoothly. The cPRO system delivered a flawless performance and I didn’t miss any features I was previously used to.
I was actually very close to buying a different LCS last April. But, when I saw some of the updates and features cPRO would be offering in a cmotion blog, I just couldn´t believe it! I am very used to lens mapping, pre-marked rings and of course I love the LBUS protocol and cforce motors. So, I wrote to Stephen (sales director) right away to confirm several doubts and immediately had a whole and clear picture of it. So, I got it in the first call. It was the system with everything I wanted at an unbeatable price and they were about to open for pre-orders!
What was your general impression of cPRO? And, what do you like most about it?
So, the general impression was very good: everything from the ergonomics to the feel of the knob and the menu was very satisfactory. In a way, you could tell that cPRO was something that was designed from feedback and input from focus pullers. I liked the organization of the menu and all of the little details, for instance, the possibility to independently control the brightness of every part of the system.
Together with Ceproma, (the official cmotion reseller in Spain), Fabio and I organised a field test so we could check everything we spoke about with Steve, Clemens and Dennis. The cPRO is amazing, zero latency, incredible distance range, fast and intuitive software and of course lens mapping. It has everything we could only dream of months before.
Are there any other hardware features you like?
As silly as it may sound, one of the things I like very much is the presence of the two attaching points for 1/4 screws. Also, the fact that there’s no need to bend the wrist when holding the hand unit is a key point to me.
I love how the handset feels in your hand, it is very ergonomic. And, the monitor bracket keeps the system very well balanced when my monitor is mounted to it. The mounting points and mounting options make it great for different set ups.
What`s your impression of the knob? Have you tried the mechanical hard stops and the “Panic” button? How did you like the torque?
I like the feel of the knob. It is not too hard but at the same time not too loose. Also, the rubber on the side provides the right amount of grip. The fact that the knob is the same size as the ARRI systems which I am used to working with, makes me feel comfortable. But, I am not used to mechanical hard stops yet so have not used these or the “Panic” button.
The knob feels very nice; I like the size and the feel of it. Plus, the knob friction is perfect for me (personal taste). Hard stops can be great for some focus situations, but I am not very use to it yet. The cPRO is full of small innovations that will make our life easier. You can tell that the product management team from cmotion have been in contact with a lot of focus pullers before releasing this system.
What do you think about the cPRO motor’s speed, response and strength?
I think the cPRO motor is one of the best features of the system. Fast, responsive and with absolutely no latency. I can’t think how it could be improved.
The motor has zero latency, runs super-fast, offers good torque and has an excellent wireless range. A key feature for me is lens mapping with any camera / lens. I have no doubt: this is the best overall motor for me right now.
How was your experience with the cPRO GUI without the aid of a user guide?
As I mentioned before, I think that one of the great features of the cPRO handset is the menu. Although I was a little concerned about not having a user guide at first, I was gratefully surprised when I found out that the menu was really simple and straightforward. I actually never felt the need for a user manual to start using the system or changing settings.
If you dive into the system for a while you will realize that everything is very intuitive. Although I didn´t really need a user guide, it is always nice to have for reference.
Which features that have already been announced are you most looking forward too? And, are there any additional features you would like to see?
The possibility to control camera parameters and playback directly from the handset is definitely a feature I am looking forward too! And, I would like to see the possibility of making digital marks or to speed up focus racks by using just a part of the rotation of the knob for the whole focal range of the lens.
I am looking forward for the future firmware releases with ARRI and Red camera control and connectivity.
We know that you are already part of an active focus community in Spain. cmotion will be launching an international focus puller forum (www.focuspulleratwork.com). How do you think focus pullers can benefit from such communities?
I founded the Spanish AC’s Facebook page because I think that sharing information and experience nowadays is crucial. We all face new situations every day. But, some of thse situation may have already be experienced by fellow member of the community where solutions can help to solve or even prevent some issues from happening. The prospect of having a place where this can happen on a worldwide scale is amazing news. And, I’m pretty sure every person working in a camera department will benefit from such a community.
As a camera assistant, it is a ¨must¨ to be well informed about new equipment releases, technology, etc. I currently find myself spending a lot of time digging on the web to find these resources. However, if www.focuspulleratwork.com helps focus pullers worldwide to get all this info in on place, it will be a great tool. I think we can all contribute to this group to share our experiences and help connect focus pullers worldwide.
In your opinion, what makes a great forum? And, which topics should be open for discussion on www.focuspulleratwork.com?
An issue that I constantly experience on other forums is not the lack of information but how hard it is to find what I am looking for. So, for me, one crucial feature of the new community forum should be a good search engine that enables me to find the info I am looking for as fast as possible. Beside this, I would like to discuss different camera configurations, workflow, and of course LCS setups including hardware and software. Last but not least, it would be great to have a section with “test drives” of new products.
Anything that can help others to be better on set, new technologies, tips and tricks, repairs, and of course some fun/funny stuff!
Beside a variety of threads on the focuspulleratwork.com forum, we will have a thread called “10 things…”. This will be a source of compact information about different subjects. (E.g. 10 things I have learned on set, 10 things I must have in my tool bag, etc.) Could you list 10 things you have either learned on set, things you must have in your tool bag or skills a good focus puller must have or know?
In my experience, I have learned a lot of things from being on set. Here are my top 10:
1. If it’s not absolutely necessary, don’t talk.
2. Try to work without making any noise.
3. Respect everyone`s job. In case you didn’t notice, our industry is all about team work.
4. There are moments when to laugh and when not to: learn to recognize them.
5. Try to be 2 steps ahead of your head of department, and 1ahead of your direct superior.
6. Always, and I mean always, have a B and a C plan.
7. There are a lot of accessories that are not absolutely necessary for a shot: cards and batteries are not “optional”.
8. Opinions are great, but unless you are directly asked, do not give yours on set.
9. Sharpness is not debatable.
10. The best camera assistant is the one that nobody notices: try to be a ninja.
1. Be experienced in all shooting environments.
2. Be helpful and resourceful with others, especially with the DOP.
3. Be great working in a team and leading camera department.
4. Be social and friendly.
5. Be able to anticipate what´s going to happen in a shoot.
6. Be production minded and friendly and always try (if possible) to make their life easier and not harder.
7. Be skilled with your hand and wrist for focus pulling and with your eyes for distance measurement.
8. Be able to understand the job of actors and their needs.
9. Be able to resist the “call of nature” too often.
10. Be water.