Cinematography Mailing List - CML

Anamorphic Entry


Shooting my first job with anamorphics coming up. I’ve delved quite a bit into the “in's and out's”. I was curious to know if there were any general rules of thumb.

What seems the most obvious now is to light for a meaty stop to maintain my sharpness, but are there any reasons to light for a greater stop then exposure, etc?

I will also be switching to spherical for 10mm, zoom and macro shots...the vendor doesn’t have all the lenses available. I will be using the Panastar which I can switch the VF from ANA to Spherical, and I will have two monitors for the swap over. Any thoughts on close ups and fat faces etc?

Just basically any words of wisdom into the wonderful world of anamorphic, which I've been aching to enter for some time.


Chris Sargent

>I will also be switching to spherical for 10mm, zoom and macro >shots...the vendor doesn’t have all the lenses available

Can't you get them shipped in from LA or elsewhere? Seems pretty silly to be mixing S35 and anamorphic for such a simple thing.

How are you posting the film? This will prevent you from being able to do a conventional film finish, and force you into either optical or DI finishing, and I'm guessing that you might not be able to match things all that easily -- grain and DOF will change pretty radically every time you cut back and forth. Of course, if it's not in the same scene...

Jeff Kreines

Hello Chris,

Not sure what the maximum space allowed for replies is on this site, but whatever it is, it's not enough to cover this topic!

So in very broad headings I would offer the following :

1/. Anamorphics are generally very bad, so you have to be VERY CAREFUL in choosing the ones you are going to use.

2/. Chart tests pretty much always look horrible with all anamorphics, so use them as a starting point, but rely on real world tests (infinity and portraits being the most obvious) to make the next judgement.

3/. Never accept to rent and use a lens without testing it first.

4/. Flare can be a major problem/difference/opportunity with anamorphics. Panning across light bulbs from 5W to 250W against a black background is always amusing: and stopping them on the edge of frame is fun too.

5/. Be aware of the close focus point of the lens…some of the best lenses for close-ups in the 100mm to 150mm range run out of focus just when you want to get that little bit closer.

6/. Size of some lenses (Panavision Primos come to mind) make Steadicam/handheld use impossible.. so then you have to find another type of lens for this, opening up a possible matching problem.

Having said all this, some regard Anamorphic as True Cinema and I would agree with this sentiment for no logical reason. I have just rejected Anamorphic in favour of Super 35 for my current project...but I love Anamorphic - if you want a chat with the man who loves it most, talk to Jo Dunton in the UK (or Wilmington) who supplies a range called 235.

Good luck,

Oliver Stapleton

P.S. The other reason to light to a bigger stop is to keep both actors in a 2 shot in focus...

I assume this anamorphic project is for telecine transfer only, otherwise you wouldn't be mixing spherical shots so casually. If so, some of the problems with anamorphic -- shallower focus, softness on the edges, etc. -- won't be as visible on the small screen.

"Fat faces" from shooting anamorphic, if that's what you meant, is an ancient problem called "anamorphic mumps" as was solved in the early Panavision lenses of the late 1950's. It was only a problem with early CinemaScope, where as you focused closer and closer, the compression ratio changed, not squeezing the in-focus object enough (less than 2X) so that when uncompressed by twice in the theatres during scope projection, the object looked fat. Panavision solved this by making the compression error occur in what's OUT of focus as you focus closer and closer, so the out of focus background gets compressed MORE than 2X, making it look skinny even after it's expanded by twice during projection. But I digress...

Anyway, we all are familiar with the squeezed look of out-of-focus backgrounds in anamorphic. This distortion makes focus racks more obvious because we see the change in compression, so it is a form of breathing similar to what happens when you rack on a zoom lens. The problem looks worse as you shoot at wider apertures because you have less depth of field, and therefore more of the image is out of focus.

As you know, anamorphic has less depth of field. This is not really due to the anamorphic lens, but the fact that the anamorphic element doubles the horizontal view of a lens, so a 40mm anamorphic "sees" the same horizontal information as a 20mm spherical. Therefore it "feels" more like a wider-angle lens compared to a 40mm spherical -- and we compensate by generally using longer focal lengths with anamorphic, and longer focal lengths have less depth of field -- i.e. we may use a 180mm anamorphic for a close-up when we might normally use something like a 100mm or so in

As Oliver said, be aware of the minimum focus of each lens (MOD) -- for example, the 180mm C-Series lens focuses only to 7', while the 180mm E-Series focuses to 4.5'. The 40-200mm Cooke anamorphic focuses down to 2.5', while the 48-550mm Primo anamorphic focuses to 4' 1".

Be aware of how fast each lens is too. I just shot a feature in anamorphic and lit a night exterior to T/2.0, only to be forced to use my 180mm E-Series, which is T/2.8 max (and the zoom was a T/4.5 max.) Most of the C-Series are T/2.8 max and most look better stopped down a little, so you end up lighting to a T/4.0 if you can.

Since these lenses flare a lot more than spherical lenses, you have to be concerned WHERE that blue horizontal flare might appear in the frame, with the idea of avoiding it covering the actors' faces at key moments. All of the lenses flare differently too -- Primo anamorphics, for example, handle being shot at wide apertures quite well with a minimum amount of milkiness from flare, they handle soft sources in the frame well, but they tend to get that blue horizontal flare from bright lights quite easily. From what I've heard, the JDC anamorphics made from the earlier Cooke S3 series tend to flare more easily than the Hawks or Primos (I haven't tested this to know for sure.) On the other hand, the Hawks C-Series tend to have more barrel distortion on the wider lenses (a problem with almost all wide angle anamorphic lenses but in particular, the smaller ones.)

In fact, one DP told me that after renting a set of Hawk C-Series anamorphics, he ended up shooting most of his interior wide shots on his anamorphic zoom because he was shooting in rooms with lots of vertical columns and the barrel distortion was too acute for his tastes. But like I said, all anamorphic lenses tend to suffer from this problem. The new, bigger, heavier Hawk V-Series apparently have less of this problem.

Rear-anamorphic adapted lenses like the zooms or telephotos have different artefacts than front-anamorphic prime lenses. Out-of-focus points of light don't become ovals but can become squares. You don't get the blue horizontal flare either.

If you have any Steadicam shots planned, make sure you have some lenses light and small enough for the Steadicam and have them check it out in prep to make sure they have all the adaptors needed for remote focusing, etc.

Make sure all of your matteboxes clear the lens. The wider-angle anamorphics, from the 50mm down, will tend to cause vignetting problems unless you are careful. Make sure you can pull the mattebox back enough to clear the view of the lens.

Welcome to the wonderful world of anamorphic lenses! They all have personality quirks; it's different than shooting spherical where you can get a set of perfectly matched lenses that all behave the same way. Despite all the hardships, I love the format, mainly because you use a bigger negative than Super-35 cropped to 2.35 : 1. But even the optical distortions can be attractive. When you put on a wide-angle anamorphic lens, maybe partially because of the barrel distortion, it feels like a BIG movie, like the old Cinerama and CinemaScope movies - you sense the edges of the 2.35 frame.

With Super-35, you don't get that distortion because you are extracting the 2.35 image from a larger area.

David Mullen, ASC
Los Angeles

Hands are tied, no money to bring in other lenses. its a commercial so we can play in x-fer.

Many thanks for your time, David.

Thanks though.

Chris Sargent

Copyright © CML. All rights reserved.