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Ben Prater

Are anamorphic's days numbered?

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This week Luke Neumann put up a video about Anamorphic. Later on, NoFilm picked up the article:

 

http://nofilmschool.com/2013/10/get-started-shooting-anamorphic/

 

I am in a similar boat with a couple commentors: I don't exactly get WHY anamorphic is a useful storytelling tool. Sure, I love the flares, they are cool. The crop is great, I love watching some films at this ratio. However, I can do flares and cropping in post. 

 

The only clear benefit I see with anamorphic is that no sensor information is lost in the pipeline -- the lens does some nifty magic and covers the sensor. Extra data is always good. I'm a software engineer, I get that.

 

However, I feel there are two reasons why anamorphics may not have a lot of life left:

 

1. 4k camera systems are all in the pipeline. We now have a ton of data to work with and even more in the near future. Why fool around with a dual-focus anamorphic lens system -- when you can just shoot in 4k and crop the image in post and still retain HD level quality? 

 

2. Everyone's TV set is 16:9. Everyone's phone is 16:9. Everyone's tablet is 16:9. Anamorphic is from a generation of filmmakers who could show films in theaters that supported this ratio. As a cultural thing, people don't "understand anamorphic", they just want their screens full of pretty images.

 

Andrew, you are the man when it comes to Anamorphic. Luke mentions you in his video. Am I missing something critical in this anamorphic discussion?

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you are not taking into consideration the effect they have on the overall picture in general.  resolution gain is null and void since sensors nowadays dont suffer from any crop.

 

the main thing these lenses impart is the feeling of proper cinema.  shooting anamorphic has always been a more complicated affair, requiring greater technical skills,  more time and effort, production design not to mention 4 perfs instead of 3 adding up film costs by 25%, and budget to afford such requirements.  The look of anamorphic is now etched into the minds of anyone who enjoys proper cinema, done properly.  Take Leon (The Professional) for example.  - if it were shot nowadays by typical film makers they'd have said there are too many scenes in confined spaces, too many close up's, etc.  They'd say the aspect ratio is not justified, and that the resolution gain is null and void.  And this is exactly why we see less and less films made that are of the caliber of Leon.  They go for the quick and easy option.

 

The reason people shoot anamorphic is because it allows them the aesthetic edge over the guys who don't see the difference.  It's not that oval bokeh and horizontal streaks look better than round bokeh and typical lens flare,  - its that the subtle difference is very effective in imparting a feel of true cinema, and the scale of a true cinema budget.  even if you cropped the edges off a 2.35:1 movie and showed it in 16:9 or 1.85/1, the subtle bokeh alone will add the look of a film that cost 25% more money to pay for the skills, and production to enable them to shoot in that way.  Are there any flares in Braveheart?  nope.  its not the flares, its the association the lens character from anamorphic has with real cinematic efforts like Braveheart. 

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There's a lot you're missing, yes.

 

The whole image is different to a normal lens.

 

The flare is the tip of the iceberg... And actually, no you can't do it in post. It will look shit.

 

The aspect ratio is not the main thing either. The way it is achieved is far superior to cropping. You get a wider lens horizontally. With a normal lens, you need to get further away from your actor's head, to allow for the crop of the top and bottom. By coming further out, you lose the intimacy and the depth compression of the shot changes.

 

By having a lens that is wider horizontally, you also get more leeway to track a moving body sideways. If you imagine a close up of a face filling the screen in a 4:3 box from top to bottom, you'd have no room at the edges... no safety margin in your pan when the person moves. With anamorphic your pans are more graceful and considered, and you are not 'chasing' the moving actor around - yet still have a close up from top to bottom. You see what I mean?

 

Then there's the bokeh. We're not just talking oval light points. The whole out of focus parts have a different look. Something much more sublime and cinematic, less obvious. Foreground objects and background objects, anything which isn't directly in focus, you can tell there's anamorphic magic at play there.

 

The resolution gain is very real too.

 

If you take a 1920 x 1080 image and crop it, you end up with something like 1920 x 720.

 

Effectively 720p vertically. Not good.

 

With an anamorphic you maintain 1080p, and can stretch or upscale the horizontal pixel count to 2.5K.

 

And an anamorphic lens is the only way to make use of 1280p on the 5D Mark III with raw video without the dopy 3:2 aspect ratio making it look shit.

 

There's a reason top flight productions still spend $$$ renting anamorphic lenses and a reason the Arri Alexa Studio (with 4:3 mode) exists. That should tell you something about the advantages of real anamorphic shoots.

 

Django Unchained - also anamorphic.

 

As for the "everyone's screens are 16:9" argument... so what? For me the wider aspect ratio has nothing to do with historic cinema screen standards or current TV standards. Cinema is wider, because it's more artistic and more immersive and better looking that way. That's really the crux of the argument. Anamorphic is just BETTER.

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Got to love Luke's response here.

 

luke-anamorphic-reply-kubrick.jpg

 

Luke Neumann is a top guy and big supporter of my anamorphic efforts... I highly recommend you check out his YouTube channel and watch the anamorphic video which is the subject of the NFS post.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oar3rXa8fXI

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guys,

 

is it fair to say that a desqueezed anamorphic image effectively widens the angle of view of a lens without being distortive in the way that wider lenses typically are?

 

like a 50mm lens still looks like a 50mm lens...but... theres more of it

 

know what im sayin?? im new to this trynna understand whats goin on here

 

how do you describe this phenomenon. you guys must know what i mean

 

edit: yeah im hella confused

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You're "funneling" in more light.

 

Imagine pouring water into a bottle, the water to the left and the right of the opening on top doesn't go in, with a funnel, it does.

 

The curved front element of an anamorphic is channeling light like a funnel would with the water, catching more to the left and right and guiding it in.

 

The effect is that the image is distorted and tall before you deal with it.

 

It was invented originally to fit a widescreen view on a square bit of film, to use as much resolution as you could and achieve a wide result without cropping.

 

In the old days you'd use a similar distortion on the projection lens to unsqueeze the footage. Now you can do it in your software.

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Anamorphic days are over in digital the same way it was in film long ago, but people still use it because it has an obvious strength. Personally i love to have twice shallow depth of field with oval bokeh. Obviously you don't need that always, but when it fits, it fits really great.

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Used hook's lut in resolve, then a little FC after. I directed the color stuff, a buddy directed the zombie shots. I specifically shot mostly close up & intimate with the band to take advantage of that anamorphic space. Lots going on in the de-focused z axis :)

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Used hook's lut in resolve, then a little FC after. I directed the color stuff, a buddy directed the zombie shots. I specifically shot mostly close up & intimate with the band to take advantage of that anamorphic space. Lots going on in the de-focused z axis :)

 

 

Lol.  You shot that color stuff with a 50D.  It's amazing Canon put out a 100% stills camera half a decade ago that shoots awesome video and in 2013 no one can match it at reasonable price point.  If some Canon executive could go back in time and "break" the 50D I bet they would.  I need more horsepower to process raw files.  It's such a chore.  I have some much stuff in my back log right now.  I need to get into shooting more dynamic stuff with my 50D.  What I have shot on tripods is amazing.

 

If I had all the money in the world I would get a much faster computer and start getting into this anamorphic stuff.  Thanks for posting and good job!

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Anamorphic cinema is timeless. It is not going anywhere.

Yep, it will never go anywhere, its here to stay!

Just look at how many films are filmed in anamorphic.

Shit, even Scream 4 & [parts of] Spring Breakers (sorry!! young girls in bikinis filmed by Harmony Korine, no brainer!) was filmed this way!

Killing Me Softly even used them - looked nice, but what a car crash of a narrative construction.

The list really is endless & in the end its an aesthetic preference choice, regardless of the actual quality/worth of the film itself.

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i agree, anamorphics are stupid and useless and flares and crops are all they do.

 

:ph34r:

 

now if only everyone here would agree we could pop the bubble  and might all be able to get a couple of iscoramas and a handful of mollers each :D

 

:P

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"2. Everyone's TV set is 16:9. Everyone's phone is 16:9. Everyone's tablet is 16:9. Anamorphic is from a generation of filmmakers who could show films in theaters that supported this ratio. As a cultural thing, people don't "understand anamorphic", they just want their screens full of pretty images."
 
 
16:9 Aspect is shit.
 
16:9 Aspect is a comprimised aspect ratio, brought into forced popularity years ago by cost of display and transmission technology for TV.
 
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKiIroiCvZ0

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As resolution increases on sensors, the need for anamorphic is somewhat diminished though, no? As long as you can get a good crop, without loss of res.  I

 

That has been my argument each time I try to really grapple with the benefits on this type of lens.

 

Look at the quality of current sensors, including the lowly, tiny 2Mb sensor on the BMPCC that producing amazing images. When we have sensors with 9,000 horizontal pixels, we simply aren't going to reap any additional benefits in terms of image IQ. Why not use the extra sensor for cropping ... or for motion cancellation ... or for stereo imaging ... or for ...

 

16:9 Aspect is shit.
 
16:9 Aspect is a comprimised aspect ratio, brought into forced popularity years ago by cost of display and transmission technology for TV.
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKiIroiCvZ0

 

I'm not arguing the artistic merit of 16:9. I'm simply stating that in a few years, a few billion people are going to have 16:9 ratio movie-screens in their pockets. I'm trying to understand the implications of this for us as filmmakers.

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personally i like the 16x9 ratio for what it was supposed to be... a letterbox/pillarbox compromise that works for delivering tv

 

also, empirically speaking, i think its a nifty rectangle to design in, when its horizontal

 

but as Ben mentioned, for better or for worse, a LOT of phones/tablets/mobile devices have adopted that 16x9 ratio, and I expect that trend to continue

 

what does that mean for us as film makers? idk

 

i watched the dark knight rises on blu ray with a friend of mine the other day and i succeeded in keeping my mouth shut the whole time. when it was over i asked her if she noticed the aspect ratio changing during the film and her response was "no"

 

so theres that too 

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