Zip Focus: First Impressions
With our new Wooden Camera Zip Focus, we aimed to create a lightweight, single-rod follow focus system that would be a perfect companion to any compact or handheld camera setup, be it a DSLR or RED Weapon. To test it out in the field, we teamed up with filmmakers Chris Ray and Martin Fobes, who also work together at DC Shoes in Huntington Beach, California.
Wooden Camera (WC): How did you two meet? How often do you work together?
Martin Fobes: Chris and I met back in 2014 while working on a Red Digital Cinema project series called REDIRECT. Chris was filming my friend Jordan Grace as the main skater in the video. I would just come out and help in any way I could. Growing up as a kid I worshiped the skate videos that Chris Ray was making for Transworld. He opened the doors into the skateboarding world for me.Chris Ray:
We do a large amount of edits at [DC Shoes] and I felt that Martin was solid right away so I hired him at DC. Ever since then, Martin has become one of my closest friends and my first choice on any shoot
Chris Ray and Martin Fobes
WC: What is your camera of choice?
Chris: It always depends on the shoot, but I’ve been on the RED Epic for the last 5 years.
I recently bought a GH5 because it’s a perfect skate camera for trips with how compact it is.
Martin: My camera of choice is the RED Epic-W, but I keep a GH5 on me 24/7 as a backup camera. It’s amazing what these new little cameras can do. The GH5 footage matches up great with RED files.
For a month, Chris and Martin incorporated the Zip Focus into their camera setup for various projects around Los Angeles and San Francisco. We caught up with them to learn about their experience using the new product.
WC: What were your initial thoughts about the Zip Focus?
Martin: My first thought was, “Wow, this thing is so simple and small!”. The fact that you only need one rail for a follow focus is amazing. Makes everything so much quicker and compact.
Chris: It aligns with keeping my kit ready while on the go. I was able to quickly attach it to my railings and get the shots I needed right away.
WC: In what filming situations would you use the Zip Focus the most?
Chris: Martin and I have been doing a lot of lifestyle and commercial shoots. We often shoot with the Sigma Cine Lenses and the Zip Focus helps a ton while pulling focus, especially on those lenses.
Martin: It’s perfect for any shooting situation. In the past I’ve only used follow focuses in controlled studio settings, but with the compact and simple Zip Focus, I’m able to bring it with me everywhere I go.
Martin's Epic-W is the perfect run-and-gun rig.
WC: Before using the Zip Focus, how often did you use a single-rod follow focus? How does the Zip Focus compare?
Martin: I’ve actually never used a single rod follow focus. Before the Zip Focus, I was using a Redrock [Micro] follow focus which used two rails. I couldn’t slide it back far enough to use it with my Leica-R lenses. The new Zip Focus is so slim that you can use it with any lens set.
Chris: We usually used a follow focus when shooting in studio environments because we have more control over time. With the Zip Focus, we’re able to use it more often, like on shoots in Downtown L.A.
WC: Did you use more than one camera and lens with the Zip Focus? Was there one camera and lens setup with the Zip Focus that worked best?
Chris: Martin and I are both operators, so we usually have one of us on the Sigma Cine Zoom 18-35mm T2 and one on the 50-100mm T2. It felt great with our GH5 and Red Epic-W kits.
Martin: This combo is amazing. I couldn’t be happier. The Zip Focus also worked perfectly with my Leica-R’s. I was able to slide it back far enough to align with the gears.
WC: What is your favorite feature of the Zip Focus?
Chris: I’d say how quick and small it was to attach. I don’t like making talent wait on us, so it’s important to have quick camera accessories like the Zip Focus.
Martin: My favorite feature is its small, simple, compact design. This is now a follow focus that I will keep in my bag 24/7.