If you’re a filmmaker or photographer, you know how crucial camera focus is. There’s no worse feeling than the autofocus hunting around in spite of your amazing lighting and composition. Or after a shoot when you review your footage only to discover that your best shot is slightly out of focus.
We’ve been there and though autofocus is clutch on a solo run-and-gun shoot, bigger productions usually require a focus puller so the camera operator or DP can focus solely on shot composition and movement.
The microRemote System
Our old microRemote system has been an honorable workhorse. For a little over $2,500 USD, we were able to get a healthy six years of service out of it. But as the years went on and the heavy-use took its toll, we slowly started having some issues.
Minor quirks here and there such as: Having to mount the bulky receiver on our MoVi Pro, the motor constantly slipping off of the focus ring, and the motor getting extremely hot. Worse yet is losing signal and having to spend time trying to get closer or inevitably battling the frequency hogging infrastructure in some buildings.
Then We Bought the Nucleus M
As a Creative Agency, we’re constantly looking for ways to be more efficient. So we shopped around for new solutions and came across the Nucleus M from Tilta. For just $1,200 USD, it’s unmatched.
The two motors it comes with are strong, silent and way more accurate than the microRemote system (which only had one motor for focus, none for aperture). Not only is the handheld wireless focus wheel included, but two wireless handles are also in the package. This comes in handy when mounting to a shoulder rig for instance.
The look and feel of the motors when attached to the rig is amazing, the torque is there but you can’t really feel it at all. With the microRemote system, you can still feel the focus motor turning when operating the camera, that’s not the case here.
You can even set the focal range and create custom markers on the focus wheel for pinpoint precision. That works in the traditional way by using a marker on the ring, or digitally using the programmable options.
Last but not least, the overall build quality is fantastic for the price. We’re a huge fan of the wood finish on the back of the focus wheel and the status lights on the motors themselves; it’s the subtle details that really captivates us.
Turns out that most systems don’t include aperture control (at least not without a big bump in cost). If you do a lot of indoor / outdoor gimbal shooting, this is a must have. The camera op doesn’t have to worry about going from an indoor to an outdoor setting and having the image be too blown out or too dark; it’s all controlled from the focus wheel. The DP or Director can adjust exposure on the fly from Video Village. The future is now!
Another neat detail is the ability to press record on the focus wheel. It works great on our RED Helium Weapon and should work on any camera with a run/stop input.
What Follow Focus System Should You Buy?
So the question you should ask yourself first is, what’s my budget for a follow focus system? For around $1,200 USD you can get this entire package. When compared to other systems like Teradek and Cinegears, and the price we paid for the microRemote system, it’s an absolute steal.
There’s always going to be a comparison between budget-friendly ‘prosumer’ devices like this, and the much higher end systems made by the likes of Arri. But for an equivalent Arri setup, plan on spending 10x or more. There are certainly benefits to a setup like that but unless your production is costing tens of thousands per day, getting 90% of the way there with the Tilta Nucleus M is a good tradeoff for the industry breaking price.
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