The Andra Motion Focus is an innovative take on auto-focus for cine lenses built as a traditional lens control system. In the video above (parts 2 and 3 below) myself and Matt Jeppsen of Pro Video Coalition / Fresh DV interview Sam Fisher, the creator of the Andra Motion Focus system. Sam takes the time to walk us through how the system works and dispel some skepticisms both Matt and I had.
Part 2 of the Andra Motion Focus Interview:
Part 3 of the Andra Motion Focus Interview:
If you haven’t heard of the Andra Motion Focus, it’s a wireless focus solution that can track subjects in real time and either pull focus to them automatically or provide instant distance data for focus pullers. It does this by generating a magnetic field via accompanying units alongside sensors placed on talent (much like a wireless mic) that operate within that field. You can also use it in full manual mode where it works similar to a Bartech or a Preston lens control system.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
When the demo videos of the Andra Motion Focus system first arrived in my email inbox, I watched them feeling impressed, but skeptical. While I knew that the focus was being done through the system and not at the hands of a focus puller (in the usual sense, at least), I kept thinking, “What’s the catch?”
Matt and I had talked before this interview and we vocalized that sentiment to each other. So while we were genuinely excited to meet the Andra team and hear about their product, we also wanted to dig deeper to find those use-cases where the system might fall apart and see if practicality, price, or ease-of-use might label the Andra dead-on-arrival.
In my brief article about the Andra Motion Focus system before NAB, I remarked:
Color me skeptical, but I still have a few questions about how the system works:
- What if the mo-cap sensor is mounted on a lapel, but the talent leans forward?
- Does the mo-cap sensor have any issues with interference?
- What is the latency like when using the iPad? Does it require wifi or is it ad-hoc?
- Can you adjust the timing of rack focuses?
- For one-man-band scenarios, how much interaction is required for focusing?
I also wanted confirmation on what lenses would work with it.
Well, the interview gave us a chance to pepper Sam with these questions and I walked away even more impressed. In fact, Andra was one of the few booths I stopped by every single day I was at NAB because I kept wanting more information or to show others how it worked.
And I wasn’t the only one amazed: the product won Film and Digital Times’ Best of NAB awards.
Crucially, Sam was adamant this system was not designed to replace focus pullers, but instead be another tool available to them. The question then is: at what point are the normal capabilities of a focus puller stretched to the point where a shoot necessitates the Andra? Because convincing a production to pony up money for a luxury piece of kit can sometimes be a Sisyphean feat.
Still, if you’re already planning on renting a Preston, the ability to track subjects’ distance in real-time and auto-focus to them could tip the scales favorably for Andra – assuming the scales are balanced on price, reliability, weight, battery-life, etc. Andra certainly has their work cut out to deliver on those aspects of the product that often don’t manifest themselves until you’re halfway through a production.
That’s why I’ve asked Andra to test out a beta unit and when that opportunity comes, I’ll have a more formative opinion. As of now, I’m much more impressed than I was before (even if I look bored in the video – I’m not!), but still reserving a healthy skepticism until I can put it through its paces on set.