One essential tool for long Flying Video Stabilizer (Steadicam) type shots is a Vest system with an iso-elastic arm. The vest helps to take the weight of the camera off the arms and distributes the load over to the body. The flexible spring loaded iso-elastic arm keeps the camera level as the operator runs, jumps, or climbs a flight of stairs.
Varavon sent out a few units of their latest product - the 'Varavon Sling'. The Varavon Sling is a Focus Zoom Lever, and we decided to try them out for one of our shoots. We weren't doing a lot of tracking on this set, and It's not a required piece of gear for everyone, but the guys on set found it useful. It's a similar idea to the DIY Focus Lever using a silicon kitchen jar opener, but the Sling has a firm plastic handle and fairly long adjustable band to fit almost any lens. Beats setting up a rail system, follow focus, and lens gears when trying to knock out something quick. Check out the Varavon Sling via Vifocam.com
Another reason why you're not seeing too many DIY Follow Focus projects anymore, here's another new and cheaper follow focus system listed on the market. Doesn't look pretty but the listing claims it's made of aluminum (mostly anodized black), ABS, and rubber. Comes with a quick release 15mm clamp style mount and universal lens gear.
With the quick release style clamp, It can be mounted on both left and right side of the camera, but the gear on the box is also reversible. It also has both vertical and horizontal height adjustments, overall a decent feature set retailing for only $88 dollars. Obviously it all boils down to how effective the gearbox is in the FF, but you can find more images and information via eBay (Click Here).
Cheap 15mm Quick Release Follow Focus
Keep in mind you'll still need a basic set of 15mm Rails to mount. Your basic set should include two 15mm Rods, a Camera Baseplate (to mount your camera), and a Tripod Mount (to attach the rails to your fluid head) - like this basic set (found here).
Vimeo member LJ Lee shares a review on the Lanparte Follow Focus with A/B hard stops, removable marking disc, and quick release 15mm clamp [Thanks LJ]. Lanparte has various DSLR equipment which all have excellent reviews, but they can be a bit pricey at times. This Follow Focus with manual stops can average about $400 dollars on eBay (Click Here for more information).
If you're looking to do some remote focus pulling, the wireless systems can be a bit 'finicky'. A Wired electronic remote follow focus system works with a long cable so the camera operator can move about, and the puller can control focus with a remote video screen. This particular one (above) uses a basic '3.5mm stereo' cable for the remote tether. Looking back at some of the older videos, this new electronic follow focus has been a work in progress for at least several months. The final version finally has shown up on eBay with what looks like a similar beefy servo as in the Jag35 kit and starts at only $199 (seen here).
The video above has the Servo mounted on the stiff Zoom ring (not focus ring) to showcase it's strength. There are two different versions available. One with a A/B programmable focus points, and one is just a basic electronic follow focus. The speed of the movement can be adjusted on the remote as well. There's a few other videos showing the effectiveness of programmed A/B stops, and a closer look at the Remote (keep in mind that's the older version ff) on the eBay page (click here).
Maybe i'm late to the party, but i'm just finding this information now or maybe there is a newer (cheaper) version out. Proaim is looking to provide the cheapest electronic follow focus on the market. The Proaim e-Focus Electronic Follow Focus is a wired system (not wireless FF) and comes with two motors in case you need to have control over your zoom and focus rings. A 15mm clamp holds a remote in place, is powered by what looks like Sony NP-F style batteries, and presented in it's own travel bag. Obviously there will be some noise involved with any type of Electronic Follow Focus, and it would be interesting to see how accurate the e-Focus FF system is. I'm sure we'll be hearing more about it in the coming months, so keep your eyes open and let me know if there's some reviews online. You can see them online now via eBay (click here).
Proaim e-Focus Electronic DSLR Follow Focus System
Above is a Gini iFocus Follow Focus I use, and have a video review about it (here). One of the shortcomings of this design is that the gear is not reversible, so it could be tricky trying to align it with short lenses, or sometimes you can't get it far enough on short 15mm rods. The marking indicator is also at a fixed position so you have to be able to see this in use. Outside of those small issues, the iFollow Focus is one heavy well crafted solid unit, with almost no backlash.
Recently some images for Gini Rigs on auction show a slightly modified Follow Focus with a shaft (above). This clearly shows that the gear can now be removed from one side and installed on the opposite, making it a reversible Follow Focus. One thing I can't seem to locate though is if there is a change with the marking indicator. Aside from the new shaft poking out the opposite side, it looks almost exactly like my iFocus. So the question is does the shaft design have more / less backlash or maybe it's the same? There doesn't seem to be an official name for this new FF, and he still has the original iFocus available on many bundles. If you're shopping, look carefully when choosing a rig that comes with an FF. If you guys happen to get one of the new ones, would love to see more about the differences.
Anyone got input on the new FilmCity X1 Follow Focus? It's another budget follow focus starting around only $90 bucks. The X1 mounts to standard 15mm rails, includes a lens gear and whip, looks to be reversible, and also looks like the indicator can be adjusted (not sure). Claims to be an all metal build (except for marking disc and knob). What's up with the blue accent colors? eBay has got all the details and other images (click here).
The cheap Speed Crank came in the other day. It's a perfect fit on the Gini iFocus Follow Focus which is pretty standard 12x12, so it would work well on other FFs too. It does have a retro '1980's PacMan Arcade Joystick Red' color, but can easily be coated. The Red knob actually screws off if you wanted to mount something else, like say Dice or a Skull. LOL. The rest of the unit is all black anodized aluminum, not cheap plastic. For the price, i'm not complaining, quite happy actually. You can push or pull the FF with a single finger, and feels like there's a bit more control. I guess it's just more leverage with a longer lever.
If you need to have your hands further from a Follow Focus, there are a number of whips available now too. These whips vary in lengths from short to very long, and are slightly flexible so that you can turn the follow focus from different positions around the camera. Helpful for someone who's managing a shoulder rig alone, or if you have someone pulling focus for you.
Flexible Follow Focus Whip