Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Follow Focus Units


What are people's favourite follow focus units?

I'm thinking of buying an Arri 15mm follow focus unit but would like people's opinions on what their favourite make is.


Anna Carrington
1st Assistant Camera

It's very expensive, but the Willytec has to be the nicest followfocus unit I've every seen. So versatile and well-designed. Lots of little touches like cone-shaped marking discs for pulling at off angles. Are they still made? I know Birns & Sawyer used to sell them.

Certainly worth checking out.

Mitch Gross

WillyTech was by far the best ... and most versatile ... worked with EVERYTHING ... ARRI even bought them to use with their Scope lenses. Designed by a camera asst. ... Jim Elias. Unfortunately it isn't made anymore ... but good news ... Jim is designing a new version ... I've been testing the new gear box ... but it's been awhile ... not sure if it's going to go forward. The new one would save a bit of money by using standard ARRI follow focus gears. The WillyTech offered a variety of gear sizes and widths ... allowing different speeds.

Most AC's hate the WillyTech the first time they use it ... before they understand how it versatile it is ... and how to make it work. But once they get it ... they love how smooth it is. One must make sure the focus gears are attached tightly ... otherwise there can be some slop.

It's an entire system ... so that for instance, yesterday I could use it with a 535 and Optima lens ... quickly switch to use it on the right side while up in a condor ... then use the hand held bracket and the core gear box to do light weight hand held with an Aaton.

Check with some of the smaller rental houses to see if they want to sell theirs ... I bought the last one ... on sale ... @ Birns & Sawyer ... and number of years ago.

Mako Koiwai

Mako Koiwai wrote :

> WillyTech was by far the best ... and most versatile...

I worked with Jim for a good portion of the time he was developing and prototyping the WillyTech back in mid 90's. It was so much better than any other follow focus out there, and I don't doubt it still is. Clearly his was better designed and he used superior materials all around. The "shoes" were teflon coated and the gearing had zero backlash, yet with little friction.

When Mako mentioned Focus Puller's not liking it at first I laughed, as that does tend to be true. But when you see how modular it is, can even be used light-weight hand-held mode - I'm glad to hear Jim is working on an updated version.

Mark Doering-Powell
LA Based DP

>I'm thinking of buying an Arri 15mm follow focus unit but would like >people's opinions on what their favourite make is.

Favorite for studio work? Hand-held? 16mm Aaton? Long lens? Probe Lens?
Working the Dumb Side? I get a different FF unit for each of these situations. So far, Willi-Tech included, I can't find one unit that works great for every job. That's why I love a well stocked rental house. The Arri FF4 is a great studio and all around rig. The Willi-tech is great with Nikon
lenses and odd lenses like the Probe. The Chrosziel light weight unit is the perfect match with an Aaton LTR or Panasonic VariCam. And God bless Bartech for those out of left field last minute wireless rigs. And then there's Panavision......

Save your money and buy stuff you can't get at the rental house. Leica Disto, Cardellini Head-Lock, etc, etc. Too much to list (unfortunately for my Visa bill)

Rod Williams
Motion Picture First Camera Assistant
Petaluma, California

For about the same price as a good double-sided followfocus you can buy a wireless Bartech Focus Device (BFD) from Bartech Engineering. A simple dogbone with a plate and you stick the transmitter onto the frontrods so that it looks and works like a regular followfocus. If you need to pull it away or flip to the dummy side it's just a tug on Velcro to pull off the transmitter. That's pretty versatile.

Mitch Gross

Can you give a website or contact info for that BFD system please?

Gerard Brigante

Gerard Brigante writes :

>Can you give a website or contact info for that BFD system please?

Dear Gerard:

Please try :


John Sheeren
Camera Operator
1st AC
Houston, Texas

>I was just wondering what people's favourite makes of Follow Focus >units are. I am thinking of buying a 15mm Arri but wondered what other >people like. Thank you.

I am a big fan of the single speed Arri FF. The Mk II. I have found the newer two speed Arri FF to be suseptible to excessive backlash, with too
many components to adjust to get them back to 'factory setup', if there was such a thing. I can always do my own running repairs with the Mk II if I'm on a film, I can quickly tweak it back to perfect. Admittedly, I have been
handed a 2 speed Arri fresh out of the box to be used on a job only to hand it back to the tech to adjust the backlash!

The guys at Panavision know to always put a single speed in my camera kit. The Mk 4 Arris are nice, except for the dampening felt in the handwheel, which can be easily thrown away. Adds another challenge to the focus pulling aspect if the the lens on the camera has a stiff focus barrel.

I used a Willy Tec once, BRILLIANT! So many different configations possible. One of the negatives, too heavy. I wondered why there weren't more of them in Australia, until the rental house told me the cost price! I am not a fan of the Chroziel or Petroff FF. I must admit, I haven't used either for a number of years. I'm assuming they have improved. The Panavision FF which are supplied with Panaflexes are usually pretty tragic, but the single speed is also easy to adjust.

Them there are the remote focus units. I liked the Preston FIZ so much I
ended up buying my own. One of the best investments I ever made. This is my 5th. year of ownership, I have never regretted a moment of it. Combine the Preston motors with Hill bracketry & I have found it to be the best setup for easy configuation for any camera/lens/remote head combo.

My 2 bob's worth...

Angelo Sartore
1st. AC

Yep, I agree with Angelo.... Stay away from Chrosziel they are in my opinion a throw away it doesn’t take long for them to start getting crunchy and yuk to the point where it is easier to pull of the barrel then with it.

Arri FF 4 is nice and when I last checked about twice the price as the Chrosziel and with the FF4 I think from memory you can change the base
from 15mm to 19mm great in Oz as more private owners are starting to set the kits up for 19mm, a much better system in my humble opinion. I also think the FF4 has in the main body of it provision to be mounted on video spaced rods???

But if you would rather have a follow focus than a car go for the Willytec!!!

Stuart Drayton

Dear CMLers,

Thanks for the info on follow focus units and especially information on the wireless Bartech Focus Device. I visited their website and liked what I saw - however they sell with "motor not included" so where do I get a motor from?

Does anybody in the UK have this system which I could come and have a look at before shipping from the states?

Anna Carrington
Camera Assistant


I use this system on my Steadicam. Im using Heden M28VP motors with it, but you can also use the Palomar M1 motor, or the Blue motors from BandPro. Its an excellent system and teh back up from Jim Bartell is excellent.

Stephen Murphy,
Steadicam Owner/Operator,

If you're considering the Bartech it is certainly worth the time to give Jim Bartell a call in person.

A very good guy with excellent customer service. He'll steer you in the right direction for proper cables, mounts, motors and whatnot. He can also put you in touch with some local owners in your area so you can check it out in person.

His number in California is 562-987-9159.

Mitch Gross

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