The important roles in film aren’t always the most obvious. If you’ve been wondering, “what is a focus puller?”, we’ve got the answer!

If you’ve been keeping up with our Behind the Scenes article series, you will hopefully have learned a fair bit about film crew. So far, we’ve looked at who the best boy is, what a grip does, and what a prop master gets up to.

But, there are plenty more mysterious roles to investigate. Have you ever sat through the entire end credits of a film at the cinema? You’ll know you can be sat there for quite some time. One of the job titles that you might spot rolling up the screen is the focus puller. But, what is a focus puller?

What is a Focus Puller in Film?

The focus puller, also known as the first assistant camera (AC1) is part of the camera crew, if you hadn’t guessed already. Their primary job is to maintain the optical focus of the camera lens on whatever subject is being filmed.

Many agree that this job is one of the most demanding and stressful in the whole film crew. The level of skill and precision required is immense. Focus will shift based on where the subject moves, with timings mapped out meticulously.

The focus has to change perfectly with every single take, so as not to miss that perfect take delivered by an actor. It is incredibly difficult to edit a shift in focus in post-production.

A focus puller must have a keen eye for distance, and also a fantastic feel for rhythm and tempo.

What Does a Focus Puller Do?

On top of performing incredibly detailed, highly skilled camera work, the AC1 has some other responsibilities too.

Of course, different systems and set-ups will result in different responsibilities. But, generally, the AC1 is thought of as the head of the camera crew. This means they act as the link between the Director of Photography (DoP), and the rest of the camera crew.

They’ll handle communication between these two parties, as well as maintaining equipment, keeping track of rentals, and a variety of other tasks.

For a closer look at focus pulling and different types of shots, check out this article from Lens Notes!