Hi, my name is Jack Saunders and I am the Cinematographer at CFF Media. Today, I will be discussing the intricate side of anamorphic filming. This will be a more technical article stemming from the “It's All In The Lens: Anamorphic Vs Spherical” blog post. We will be discussing anamorphic filming on a budget, filming in the field, and editing. Let’s jump right in.
Anamorphic Filming on a Budget
Actual anamorphic lenses can range from $700 - $90,000. These lenses have a focus ring and T-stop ring. With many of these lenses being out of range for most freelance videographers, there is an alternative. CinemaScope is a series of anamorphic lenses that were used in the 1950s-60s to project movies in widescreen in movie theaters. These lenses would sit in front of the original projector lens and change the aspect ratio of the film to make it much wider. Luckily for modern filmmakers, putting these projector lenses in front of a camera lens will make your captured footage anamorphic. They are usually called anamorphic adapters and have their own focus ring. So yes, in order to use one, you will have to double-focus which is not ideal for run-and-gun shooting, but if you have some setup time, you can produce some beautiful image compositions. A cheap projector lens which has produced a lot of nice videos specifically is the “LOMO 35 NAP2-3M 80-140mm 2x anamorphic projector lens”. It sounds like a mouthful, but basically this projector lens creates 2x anamorphic footage. This means that the pixels are 2x taller than they are wide when it is captured. It does this by capturing pixels from the left and right of your subject, squeezing those pixels into a 16:9 or 4:3 image depending on the camera, and ultimately giving you a wider image. When you go to edit this footage, you “de-squeeze” the footage back down to create a much wider image than 16:9 or 4:3 footage. Keep that in mind for the next two sections of this article. These projector lenses are still available to buy on eBay. Most of them are around $100-$200. This is a pretty small price to pay to be able to create anamorphic footage.
Anamorphic Filming in the Field
Here is a setup of a Canon C100 Mark II, an 85mm Rokinon Cine DS lens (taking-lens), and the anamorphic adapter mentioned earlier. An 85mm “taking lens” is recommended to prevent vignetting on the edges of your image since you are essentially filming through another lens. The adapter has its own focus ring which should be focused before your taking-lens which is attached to the camera. It has meter markings on the side to help measure how far away your subject is. After focusing the adapter, focus the taking lens. If you have focused correctly on the adapter, your subject will come into focus nicely. Unfortunately, the closest focus you will be able to achieve with this setup is probably around 20 feet. Remember, this adapter was made to project an image on a cinema screen from far away. The creators didn’t think it would need up-close focusing capabilities. Despite this flaw, the images are fantastic. Some loss of quality is to be expected from how much glass your image is going through though. If your camera has a viewfinder, you will see the footage looks distorted, almost too “tall”. That’s because you “de-squeeze” the footage in post-production. It will not show up correctly on the camera. Some higher end cameras such as RED or Arri have in-camera capabilities to show through the viewfinder what the footage will look like de-squeezed. Canon C100 Mark II has a Super 35 sensor which is 16:9 aspect ratio. This adapter ultimately gives you anamorphic footage that is 3.55:1 which is very wide compared to capturing footage on a full-frame, or 4:3, sensor which will give you a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. The 2.39:1 aspect ratio was the original anamorphic aspect ratio in the 70s. Some filmmakers prefer the look of the 3.55:1 aspect ratio over the 2.39:1. It all depends on the look you want to achieve.
Okay, you’re in the editing room wondering what to do with this weird looking footage you just shot. You will see it doesn’t look like it’s supposed to yet. We will be editing this footage in Adobe Premiere for this walkthrough. After importing into Premiere, right-click on your clips in the “Project” box and scroll down to “Modify > Interpret Footage”. In the “Pixel Aspect Ratio” section, check the “Conform to” box and drop down the selections. Click “Anamorphic 2:1 (2.0)” and click Okay. Now your footage is ready for editing. You can also create a New Sequence that is Anamorphic 2:1 instead of Square Pixels.
Knowing this process can create some beautiful imagery that will really bring up your production value in your next project. This is just a reminder that you don’t need a huge budget to make a nice looking film. Many without a keen eye will not even realize you are shooting anamorphic on a budget. Check out my YouTube video where I show off my budget 2x Anamorphic projector lens set-up and some test shots!