Gods of Focus: Olga Abramson

Olga Abramson pulling focus with Preston HU3. Photo by Sarah Shatz.

by Olga Abramson 

The motto of the movie Uncut Gems was, “In Howard We Trust.” It referred to Howard Ratner, the inveterate gambler played by Adam Sandler, but could not be more apt when it comes to Howard Preston’s game-changing Light Ranger 2. 

The lack of marks or rehearsals was a given from the start; it’s a part of the Safdie brothers’ directing style. Whether lining up a frenetic running shot or an over-the-shoulder close up, Cinematographer Darius Khondji ASC, AFC would suggest a 150mm lens and the brothers would revel in raising the stakes. Why not a 250mm? Or better yet, a 360mm? 

The question was rhetorical and became a running gag on set. It was a safe bet that the B camera would end up on the 360mm. As the 1st AC on that camera, I knew I had an edge because I had my Light Ranger.

There was a learning curve, but once my mind melded with the LR2, the 16 bar overlay became sheet music, and reading it was second nature. Playing the bars like the keys of a piano, I had the adroitness and intuition to pull focus on impossible shots.

The directors were so impressed by the lack of restraints on the actors’ performance and the camera’s movement that they made sure to give Howard Preston and his invention a crew credit. In Howard We Trust!


Olga Abramson with LR2 on Cartoni Lambda Head. Photo by Sarah Shatz.


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