Cinematography Mailing List - CML

16mm Anamorphic


I seem to recall some discussion recently on this website about 16mm anamorphic. Unfortunately at the time I didn't pay too much attention. However I now find myself facing the possibility of shooting a feature in 16mm widescreen. Could someone point me in the direction of suitable websites covering this topic? I'm particularly interested in shooting with a digital pathway in mind rather than an optical. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Leilani Hannah

Assuming you are talking 2.35 widescreen then speak to Joe Dunton cameras in London. I did some research a while ago and they have the only set of lenses specifically built for this job that I could find. I have another contact who is modifying a zoom lens for this purpose and I will forward your email to him.

Tom Gleeson D.O.P.

Sydney Australia

When you say "widescreen", I assume your end goal is a blow-up for 35mm anamorphic (2.40 : 1) projection, not 35mm matted widescreen (1.85 : 1) projection. Otherwise, you'd just shoot in Super-16 with spherical lenses.

The problem is that standard cine anamorphic lenses have the classic 2X compression ever since Cinemascope was first released. Since Full Aperture standard 16mm is .404" x .295" (1.37 : 1), if you use a 2X anamorphic lens, the unsqueezed image will be 2.74 : 1. In 16mm scope projection, it is usually 2.66 : 1 (1.33 : 1 doubled horizontally.)

Since 35mm anamorphic projection is closer to 2.40 : 1, you will be wasting some of the sides of the 16mm frame to crop it down from 2.74 : 1 (unless you blow it up with a matte to preserve the unsqueezed 2.74 negative area's full image onto a 2.40 projected area). So the question is if you are better off just shooting in Super-16 and cropping vertically to 2.40 : 1.

If you do some calculations, you'll see that you'd end up cropping regular 16mm shot with a 2X anamorphic lens from .404" x .295" to something like .353" x .295", which unsqueezed with a 2X anamorphic projector lens would get you close to 2.40 : 1. .353" x .295" is around .104 sq. inches.

If you crop the Super-16 Full Aperture (.493" x .292" / 1.69 : 1) to 2.40 : 1, then you'd only be using a .493" x .206" area of the negative, which is a total area of almost .102 sq. inches.

So there isn't much advantage, negative area-wise, to 16mm with a 2X anamorphic IF you have to end up with a standard 2.40 : 1 35mm scope image. You might as well shoot Super-16 and crop to 2.40 : 1 (or shoot in 2-perf 35mm...).

The ideal scenario would be to shoot in Super-16 with a 1.33X anamorphic lens, which gets you close to 2.40 : 1 in width with the least amount of anamorphic squeezing. But there aren't really any professional anamorphic lenses with this squeeze factor (the closest was Technirama's 1.5X squeeze and Ultra Panavision's 1.25X squeeze.)

There has been some Super-16 films shot with an adapted 1.5X Kowa anamorphic projector lens attachment. Even though that gives you a final unsqueezed image of 2.54 : 1, even cropped down to 2.40 : 1, you end up using a total negative area of .136 sq. inches -- which is more than the other two methods (2X anamorphic 16mm versus cropped Super-16 spherical).

As for blowing this up to 35mm anamorphic, your best bet would be to do it through a digital intermediate to keep the grain down, which also saves you from dealing with converting any non-standard anamorphic squeeze (if you use a 1.5X anamorphic projector lens attachment on the camera) to the standard 2X squeeze.

If you shoot in standard 2X anamorphic in regular 16mm, one advantage is simply that a spherical lens can be used on the optical printer (if you go that route instead of a digital intermediate) to copy it to 35mm, where the image will still contain the standard 2X compression for scope projection. If you decided to shoot in spherical Super-16 and crop to 2.40 : 1, you might have a hard time finding a Super16-to-35mm optical printer with a 2X anamorphic lens. I've heard some people having to blow-up from Super-16 to Super-35, and then crop & blow-up again to anamorphic.

David Mullen Cinematographer / L.A.

I shot with these 18 months ago. They're a beautiful piece of engineering - fast as well(f2.3 if I recall). The results were great and stuff shot on Vision 500 blown up to 35mm (optically 'back then') looked pretty convincing (gritty for sure but the 'lay man' would be hard pressed to spot the origination format). A digital blow up would be classier still if folk on this list are to believed ;-)

Be aware that they carry only a certain range of primes (32mm was the widest then, though they might have expanded the range). Can't remember if they had a zoom - I certainly didn't have one! Make sure they've got a proper eyepiece corrector as well.

Test 'em, fool around with 'em if/when they're in the country (States or UK - they 'Pond Hop' quite regularly). They have some inherent disadvantages to 35mm Anamorphic in terms of working practice but I felt that the results one achieved outweighed these.

However I also got pretty excited about the Aaton 'add on' widget though optically I'd trust Joe Duntons set over a screw-in 'bodge lens' if you're going to print (as opposed to tape only).

My two euros........

Tom Townend


I just saw Cinesite's test reel of the Digital Intermediate process, and it was extremely impressive.

They basically took S16 footage, scanned it at 2k and then output it pixel-per-pixel to 35mm, without any sharpening or grain reduction.

It looked incredible. Granted, the S16 was probably shot on a fairly slow stock.

But since the original post in this thread said that they were shooting with a digital pipeline in mind, then it only makes sense that they should test shooting spherically and doing the digital extraction to anamorphic in a single pass. With grain reduction and sharpening, I'm sure they can achieve impressive results.

This combined with the fact that you have all the control of a da Vinci color corrector in timing the digital Intermediates makes this method look very attractive.

There is no question that s16 Anamorphic lenses would improve image quality in this scenario. The real questions is will they improve it enough to justify the expense and inconvenience?

By the way, according to Cinesite, they are very happy to do multiple tests of their Digital Intermediate process for Lab costs only.

With regard to the Digital intermediate process itself, it didn't look like it would save you much money over current methods of shooting 35mm. The cost savings enters the picture if you are mastering for multiple formats (HD, DVD, Film, digital projection, etc...)

They are also developing a way to do a digital conform off of lab rolls. (They take the EDL of your locked cut and conform it digitally, so your master neg never gets cut - pretty cool.)

Since this process may save you money on your conform as well giving the DoP unprecedented control, the process becomes more and more financially and aesthetically attractive.

Thanks for listening,

-Rachel Dunn DP/VFX

Los Angeles


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