View Full Version : Director's Finder

03-13-2005, 08:44 PM
I'm considering picking up a Director's Finder from Cavision and am thinking about their VFM-11X model http://www.cavision.com/Finder/Finder1.htm

Can anyone give me some advice? Its mostly for video work rather than film, but most of the stuff I do is in 16:9 at least. :)

Any help would be great.

03-14-2005, 06:35 AM
I may be totally off base with this, and perhaps we can both learn something here, but aren't Finders primarily to help determine what lens to use on a camera? And since most video cameras sport fixed lenses, isn't using a Finder kind of moot?

Still, you can't beat the coolness factor. :thumbsup:


03-14-2005, 06:48 AM
Well, you can choose any focal length between roughly 32mm and 300mm (35mm equivalent) with the DVX so it would indeed be useful.

03-14-2005, 07:56 AM
Good point.


03-15-2005, 01:36 PM
My thinking was that it would be useful for pre-configuring camera placement prior to shooting dates... am I nuts?

03-15-2005, 04:25 PM
Is it going to save enough time to be worth it? If you're doing a special setup or constructing something that requires you to know exactly where to place the camera or the lens then it's useful.

If you're just looking for basic framing you could consider using your DVX, or another, cheaper camera or still cam to just get some idea.

Many times when they're used for feature films is when setting up the shot since it's time consuming to set up the dolly, tracks and a big camera. If you're dealing with small video camera you're probably not gaining much.

03-15-2005, 07:53 PM
Thanks guys.

All really good points.

I think that based on your input I will end up putting it into my "on the list" but not urgently.

I can think of a 4x4 Cavision matte box that may need a good home to come to... if I need to spend some cash so badly... :)

03-15-2005, 11:17 PM
just curious, but how much do these things cost? id love to get one for the coolness factor myself..

03-15-2005, 11:32 PM
The ones from Cavision start at $250.00 and go up from there (made in China). I'm sure though that the really good ones in other brands can go for over a grand.

03-16-2005, 10:27 AM
hey guys

the original intent of a director's finder was to allow the director to preview a scene and pretty much let the dp, cam op and cam crew see what the director was looking at, i.e. how he planned to shoot the scene.

this was because in those days the camera weighed over 100lbs (some rigs still do) and required three people to move it and set it up. the dps and a/cs got a bit pissy when the director went "here. no.. here. no... ", not to mention the ad's and line producers, since moving a camera around without film running through it is basically a waste of time.

also, in those days, there was no video tap or finder monitoring other than the viewfinder of the camera. Only the operator of the camera actually got to see what the camera saw while the take was going down. the finder was there to ensure that the operator and the director and dp saw eye to eye, as it were.

these days it's pretty much a status symbol since cameras are generally smaller and lighter, and finder taps and remote monitors are commonplace, especially on taped productions.

And besides, no directors are allowed to get up on tall ladders and lean way down over tall buildlings with their $600 viewfinders and go "camera here..." without being lynched by their insurance companies. and their crews, of course.

nah, kidding aside, unless you're into controlling perspective and don't know how your lens behaves (which could simply mean that you've not shot enough before), or you're working quickly with actors.... nah, the dvx is small and light enough to use that instead, and besides, other people can then see exactly what you're seeing.

Unless you're shooting for optical effects and need to match perspectives or find equivalent focal lengths to match a CGI program, or unless you have one of those old Mitchell viewfinders that more than one person can peer into at the same time, I'd say that those wonderful pieces of engineering are so much useless status symbol.

Having said all that, you KNOW I have one, just in case :-)

But I prefer the even older fingers-form-a-rectangle-and-say "camera here, I fancy" method...


03-16-2005, 12:13 PM
I know at least two directors who have no clue about lenses, perspective, or any of the technical stuff, and quite frankly, they don't have to have a clue.

Directors are primarily a story tellers. I think for folks like that, a finder is a very useful piece of equipment - allowing them to see what the camera might eventually see.

Erik Olson
03-16-2005, 12:51 PM
Ditto what Chris said - he nailed it!

I've used the Alan Gordon Enterprises Mark V viewfinder (sexy) but that was when I was shooting 16mm and the camera had a fixed reflex viewfinder. It was really hard to get the camera temporarily positioned to consider a shot.

With the rotating viewfinder [on the DVX], exploration of low-shot, high-shot and everywhere in-between framing is much easier than a directors finder will allow comparatively. Those things were developed in the days when parallax viewfinders and Mitchell BNC cameras with enormous magazines were the flavor of the decade.

In my opinion, a director's finder around your neck (unless you're using a camera the size of a fully-configured HD system on a geared head) would be a poseur move.

Invest your money in the next better tripod head, microphone, extra grip equipment (can't ever have enough) or a set of director's chairs - it'll be dollars better spent!



03-16-2005, 05:03 PM
Ditto xcheck !

The finder is useful in preproduction/location scout mode.
Although it is a film emphasis product. It's a little much calling
directors who use one poseurs.

Check out the dvd's
with behind the scene footage and you'll find
many accomplished directors using them, especially if
they are revising/changing shots on the day.

If Martin Scorsese is a poseur, then they all are.
And if you think he needs an ego boost then...

03-16-2005, 09:13 PM
These little eye pieces are great because they allow us to find the angles much easer than running around with a camera. Yes they are too expensive, but the idea of finding great shots and angles that serve the story are what directors are paid to do beside a few million other tasks. If it helps then it's a useful tool. A small cardboard box type eye piece can be crafted quickly and help also, Spielberg used one on Raiders. If it helps, use it, other wise, move on and get the work completed. That's my 2 cents...

03-17-2005, 12:13 AM
In a land where a dp can't touch a lamp and the gaffer can't touch the plug to make the lamp work, I guess it's okay for a director not to know lenses or camera position and leave that up to the dp.
In a land where a film maker knows what he's doing, as in "independent film maker" then it's a crime.
I guess the person who listened to the symphony could just hire a composer to write down his ideas for him and a performer to perform it, correct?

people, in hollywood the director is the head of the acting depatment, period. came from the days when the silents became the talkies and the actors came from the theater.

i'm not talking about those people. the ones on the dvd's are exactly the ones who wear the finders. they can afford it, that's why the things are so expensive (they weren't always $650 for a finder, you know).

in hollywood, being a director is a performance art - if you pay a guy over a hundred thousand dollars to sit and think and talk, then that guy had better look, dress, talk and act as if he's worth the money.

read your kubrick - he left hollywood because of that, bergman never landed because of the same deal.

yes, a finder is worth the while. the smaller ones (look at hitchcock's one). but if the director's still viewfinding on the set (location scout's another matter, and if the director can't take photos then he's ignorant on the kodak brownie level, and that's a choice - most of us can take a snapshot these days and have the photo turn out) then he's not done his homework and is unprepared to shoot.

and yes, many directors turn up on the set unprepared, and yes, many dps and other key crew people carry that director and make himor her look good, because that's become part of the job.

but again I'm not talking about those people. they're the ones who really need the finders as a status symbol, because they don't have enough knowledge and experience to know that it's not necessary, not all the time.

most professional directors should know about focal lengths, depth of field, rudiments of audio, rudiments of music composition, mixing - that's their job. a lot of them don't know, but then as an Oscar winning writer once told me " if you can write and you can get up a 4 in the morning, you can direct a mediocre film". Get that? a mediocre one. It'll be okay because too many good people are usually working under the director to let the biggest mistakes happen.

But this is not what this thread, or this user group is about, is it? aren't we trying to do something a little better than decide what slacks and shoes to wear, which Rolex and what silk shirt? we've all bought or are going to buy our own cameras. what does that tell us?

it's like, the dp has all this gear, and the lighting department and the art department, and props, costumes, loations... what does the acting department have?

the finder.

I'll say it again - the worth of a hollywood director is determined by which actors say yes to that director. Period.

However, as has been said above, not all directors are film makers. And hardly any of the studio heads are film makers either.

Which is why indies are.

Buy tape, make stories happen.
forget the other stuff, that'll come soon enough if your stories are any good.
then they'll take it all away from you - your camera, your lights, your cobbled-together dolly and grip equipment, and replace it all with shiny new rental stuff that costs more than the entire budget of your first film.

You'll be surrounded by experts who nod sagely and then tell the rest of us about directors who don't know their head from their backsides when it comes to lenses and lighting.

and what will you have left to show for all of this?

your finder?


Erik Olson
03-17-2005, 05:08 AM
:shocked: I'll need another cappuccino to digest that last post!


03-18-2005, 04:08 PM
Perhaps we're talking about two worlds here. The so-called indies and Hollywood mainstream. The myth of indie independence is a topic for another day.

Emotepix said the finder is a status symbol - period. To blythely say that some
of our greatest living directors (not mediocre hacks) shouldn't be using them is

If you mean that independent directors should have a wide
array of knowledge and experience in the various production and post elements,
then I would concur. That's my intent also.

However, there is a reason for specialization. Without
this one would fall prey to "the jack of all trades, master of none" phenomena
which is all to prevalent in the indie world - evidenced by the same amount of
crap films produced in that world as the hollywood one.

The analogy of the symphony is more appropriate if the director is the conductor.
Emote will yell out "Hey, you can't conduct, you're a poseur because you don't know
the varnish they use on the violin !!" Too often I have seen the belief that
intricate, arcane knowledge of technology will make one a good director. It doesn't.
Knowing the general properties of the instruments ? Sure that's self evident.
That's not what we're talking about here.

Most of the top directors who use finders know the general principles of
composition, lenses etc... but don't find it useful to memorize vast amounts
of tech details. Again , I emphasize, any tool that gets a director closer to his/her vision and spurs the creative mind, is one which I wouldn't have the hubris
to say they shouldn't use.

Location scout - just take photo's. That fits about 1/10 th of what a director
usually does in preproduction phase. Also, no one mentioned the finder being
necessary all the time. If the director feels it's usefullness, go to it. I am
not going to stand back and exclaim, "That Clint Eastwood, what a hack,
look he's using a finder, what a dumb a**".

The hollywood directors value is contingent on a whole host of elements
(too many to mention here) and also depends on whom judges that
value (studio, audience, contemporaries etc...).

Personally, I like to know the nuts and bolts , but not to the point of impeding
the creative process. So for a new indie director, maybe a finder would probably
be an unnecessary item. i won't dispute that. But for many others
I won't call them poseurs or hacks. Whatever gets their vision on the screen.
Whatever gets the job done. S'all good.

Finally I would rather work with a director who had an innate talent with
story and image, and brings great performances out of his/her actors,
than one who knows how every piece of equipment on the set works.
And if I enjoy their work, I won't hold it against them if they use a finder -

As Einstein said - "Imagination is more important than knowledge".

03-18-2005, 07:10 PM
Hey D and G

Actually, I didn't say that the finder is a status symbol, period.

Those great directors you mention are still using cameras that are very big and heavy. And if they are locating angles, etc., and are in the process of calling for jib shots, track shots, CG backgrounds, and anything else that calls for precision visualisation, then the finder is a key tool for doing that. And I said that in my post.

I'm addressing the original question in this post - an independent filmmaker who has a DVX and is wondering should he get a director's viewfinder.

I'm saying that since he's an indie and has the dvx already, that unless he has major actors or sfx people or grips and gaffers to instruct (or producers to impress) that maybe his $600 would be better spent on other things.

And I am saying that the hollywood director is the head of the acting department, period.

Not the film director period, not a greatrest living director, not any of those people. I said the hollywood director, period.

This guy is a hired gun, comes on after casting, leaves before the sound edit, after his director's cut is done. I've DP'd on a dozen of these shows, and also edited and mixed around 60 features and 58 of those were hollywood director's shows.

Never saw hide nor hair of any of them. The 2 who were not hollywood types were there all the way through, guiding, conducting, inspiring, etc. Those are the 2 you are talking about. I'm talking about the 58 who are on to their next job already. Or, at least, schmoozing to try to get their next job.

Those guys do not own cameras, they own Rolexes.

We are not, repeat not, talking about the indie filmmaker with his own camera here.

Let's get back on topic, shall we?

I don't think there's a soul here who doesn't think they can tell stories with pictures. We wouldn't be on this board otherwise.

I'm simply saying that if you do have a dvx, then use that, save your money, you don't have a 100lb panavision millenium setup or a chapman crane setup to worry about, just use the dvx and find your shots that way. If you have the talent, if your story turns out well and your actors shine and people love it, they'll take away your dvx soon enough and give you the platinum Panavision and your $600 viewfinder.

Get to the pictures and away from the glitz is what I'm saying, okay?

Don't forget what we're doing here in the first place.

03-19-2005, 06:27 AM
BTW, Cavision's Finders are not very acurate.

04-23-2005, 12:24 PM
how bad are they ? They seem to be at least affordable.

04-24-2005, 03:17 AM
I use the Kish mini DF available at filmtools. In metallic blue of course. It's much better made and only $300.

As far as the usefullness... well... it's as usefull as you make it. I use it on scouts and when blocking, even though I can often use the camera it's nice to be able to spontaniously find a shot. Then see what the DP does with the camera. I think it's very important to let your DP have some creative input. After all that's why they got the job.

05-13-2005, 06:23 AM

Question: Is a Director's viewfinder necessary in every scenario? I am an aspiring filmmaker. Do I need one? Does the camera you are using become a factor?


05-15-2005, 07:06 AM
I have seen nearly every director I have worked with at one time or another use a finder, from Michael Bey to Rob Reiner to Walter Hill. I have the Mark V and use it when I am scouting locations for second unit. I use it to make my shot lists, makes it easier on the dp. However, that being said, have never used it on any type of video shoot.

05-15-2005, 07:15 AM
But I think only 1 finder actually has 1/3" markings, for the DVX.

vicente velasco
08-09-2005, 12:46 AM
i prefer to scout the locations with a minidv on letterbox

08-09-2005, 08:52 AM
For what it's worth, Cavision also has a model that does support 1/3" video: http://www.cavision.com/Finder/VFR-11M.htm