– Part One –

Recently I happened upon a method of creating cinema quality anamorphic footage on DSLRs using old projection lenses. While it is admittedly a bit of a hack, the cost for a legit DSLR anamorphic lens reaches into the tens of thousands of dollars, far outside of what I’m willing to spend to satisfy my curiosity on the subject. Before I go too much into the specifics of the said method, I want to go over a bit of what anamorphics are.

Because the film industry developed almost exclusively on 35mm film, with an aspect ratio of 3×2, the original manner of creating a wider aspect ratio image was letterboxing. While letterboxing is a simple and straightforward solution, it has one major downfall, loss of resolution.

Essentially, this all boils down to a wider image being squeezed into a narrower frame

In the image bellow you can see that letterboxing  wastes a substantial amount of the frame, seen in red. This lost resolution will greatly reduce the clarity of the final projected image. The obvious solution to this loss would be to shoot on a wider format of film, however, due to the widespread use of 35mm cameras and projectors in the early days of cinema, it wasn’t economically feasible to replace all the equipment involved with wider format compatible cameras and projectors. This created the need for anamorphic imaging.

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The word anamorphic is derived from a Greek word meaning formed again. Basically it goes like this: when being captured to film a special lens is used that squeezes an image of a wider aspect ratio onto a film/sensor of a narrower aspect ratio, which is then stretched back to normal when projected through an anamorphic lens.

If you look at the first image bellow, you can see that a 2.4×1 image is being squeezed into a 3×2 frame, while the second image represents the final image once projected back through an anamorphic lens, thus un-squeezing it. All this is to be able to produce the best quality wide screen image on the most economical amount of film/sensor.

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I hope this all makes a little bit of sense. Essentially, this all boils down to a wider image being squeezed into a narrower frame. In part two I’ll share the setup I’ve hacked together and maybe even some samples of my preliminary playings.

Stay tuned…