Vladimir Korshunov and Brian Glentved of BV from Denmark where sending me one of their brand new remote follow focus kits lately. The target group is indie and low budget filmmakers, which means it is very budget friendly. As the saying goes “You get what you pay for” I was curios what I get for 700 bucks.
Inspired by Peter Hoare´s Hocus-Focus, Brian and Vladimir ventured out to build one of the cheapest remote follow focus systems out there, and $700 for a remote FF is actually hard to beat. But is it also price worthy? Well let´s have a look at it. We shot a corporate film for a national tire company last week, so I had a chance to test that unit in the field.
What´s in the box?
The BVFF comes in a flight case with pick`n plug foam, which holds everything save and nice together. In the case is the controller, the motor, 08 standard pitch gear, 5 meter cable, a manual, dry pen and a lanyard. Everything looks and feels good. Industrial quality aluminum housings for motor and controller – way better than I expected at that price point. The components are from quality suppliers like: Hammond, Neutrik and 3M.
The motor attaches to your 15 mm rails with a single clamp. You can swing it in and out to fit your lens with an other joint. The Motor has a mini XLR input. It connects with the provided cable and a regular XLR plug to the controller. The motor is quite large and limited in rotation (240 °), it is pretty strong (15 KG/CM) and turns even large cine glass with ease.
The controller takes 6 AA batteries and features a tapered, illuminated dry wipe marking disc. The disc is replaceable without tools in less than a minute. The focus knob feels good and solid.
I would prefer a bit larger diameter though.
There are 6 buttons and 2 indicator LEDs on the controller. 4 of them are for programmable fixed focus positions. They also double to set one of four speeds. The LED indicates low battery or missing link to the motor. The second LED confirms your settings. At the bottom is the XLR connector. The cable can be extended with a standard 3pin XLR microphone cable.
So how does it work in the field?
I was setting up the Canon 5D in a cage and bolted the BV motor on the rails.
In some situations – depending how your rail system is configured, it can get a bit tight and the levers may be in the way – which is a the same problem with all singe bracket follow focuses. Having a double bracket with a centered knob to tight it down at the bottom would be nice.
You can program 3 different functions.
1. Lens/focus ring range
2. Four different speeds
3. Four different focus marks.
Programming is quite simple and straight forward. The manual covers it all with a easy step-by step instruction. The motor is very precise and hits the programmed focus marks all the time. Same goes for the manual mode.
The batteries lasted all day long – even in that cold environment.
While shooting the BVFF was very reliable and surprising good to work with – especially for the price tag. The only downside is the loud motor. As long as you are in manual mode and you turn it slow it´s fine, but in programmable mode or when you crash focus racking it´s too loud if you have dialog. That was expected cause it´s a servo motor. But it looks like remedy is on the way. Vladimir said they are researching a quieter motor, which would be great. Also there is a wireless version in the making at a $950 price point.
Extreme budget friendly for what you get.
Nice build quality
Works out of the box – you just need batteries
Low battery draw
Extend with any 3 pin XLR microphone cable
3 different cable strengths/diameters available
Single clamp bracket
So would I buy or recommend it?
If you are on a budget and you can live with that somewhat loud motor (as I said, a quieter one seems to be on the way), yes – it´s a great piece of gear for the money.
If we would not have a Hocus Focus already, I would definitive buy one, when they come out with the wireless version.
Also check out the website of BV: http://bvff.dk/