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Steven Boone

Super 35mm and "anamorfake"

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Two questions.

1. Has any DP shooting Super 35mm film or on a Super 35mm sensor ever attempted to add anamorphic texture by using the rear element discs and coatings that DIY types like me use to get the distortions, focusing breathing and oily focus falloff? Such an experiment would be the ultimate in "anamorfake."

I can already hear the professionals scolding/scofffing at the idea of defacing expensive cinema lenses for a look they'd just as easily get with fast modern anamoprhics. But I'm just wondering if it's ever been attempted.

2. Does anamorphic printing of 35mm films that were shot spherical (matted 35 or Super 35) introduce any of the image characteristics we associate with films that were captured with true anamorphic lenses. (I vaguely recall an "anamorphic" print of Out of Sight, a spherical 1:85:1 film, for example.)

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I can't answer (1), but printing doesn't introduce any of the anamorphic "faults". Printer lenses can be much better corrected as they have only one job to do at a fixed distance at fixed reproduction ratio. The elliptical flares won't be present either- they're caused by on-set light sources which obviously aren't present in a printer lens, which is looking only at the film.

Edited by Mark Dunn

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You could use spherical lenses that breathe and have barrel distortion, and even fake anamorphic flares with fishing line, but I can't imagine a way to fake the stretched bokeh, which, to me, is the biggest tell of anamorphic lenses.

Edited by Ravi Kiran

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On 8/15/2019 at 5:42 PM, Steven Boone said:

Two questions.

1. Has any DP shooting Super 35mm film or on a Super 35mm sensor ever attempted to add anamorphic texture by using the rear element discs and coatings that DIY types like me use to get the distortions, focusing breathing and oily focus falloff? Such an experiment would be the ultimate in "anamorfake."

I can already hear the professionals scolding/scofffing at the idea of defacing expensive cinema lenses for a look they'd just as easily get with fast modern anamoprhics. But I'm just wondering if it's ever been attempted.

2. Does anamorphic printing of 35mm films that were shot spherical (matted 35 or Super 35) introduce any of the image characteristics we associate with films that were captured with true anamorphic lenses. (I vaguely recall an "anamorphic" print of Out of Sight, a spherical 1:85:1 film, for example.)

1. The breathing will need to be from the lens because there's no way that adding a new aperture (the disc you're speaking of) can change that. However, you will get the oval bokeh from applying the oval disc to the rear element. To get more optical distortions, try using uncoated lenses or cheap optics.

2. If a film was shot spherical, but framed for 2.35:1 theatrical run, then the print will arrive as a 4-perf anamorphic image that was squeezed onto the print and will be de-squeezed at the projector. However, the anamorphic properties you're looking for only happen at image capture because the lens and image are not capturing light but projecting it.

29 minutes ago, Ravi Kiran said:

You could use spherical lenses that breathe and have barrel distortion, and even fake anamorphic flares with fishing line, but I can't imagine a way to fake the stretched bokeh, which, to me, is the biggest tell of anamorphic lenses.

It'll look like this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rKsG5WCGnu4

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It always seemed to me that the oval aperture discs should result in significant exposure variances across the frame.  But I have yet to notice that in any of the footage shot by the youtuber (Tito Ferradans) mentioned above.

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2 hours ago, Ravi Kiran said:

I can't imagine a way to fake the stretched bokeh

As AJ mentioned, using a oval shaped iris or Waterhouse stop will give you stretched bokeh very similar to a true anamorphic lens.

See: https://www.vid-atlantic.com/products/cinemorph-mod

What you won’t get from this cheat is the funky distortion, ‘focus egg’ falloff, change in compression with focus shift, and the classic horizontal flares.

If you stop down a true anamorphic lens, you will see that the horizontal flare is actually a string of individual stretched flares spreading across the front cylinder. When shooting at wider apertures, the flares mush together but the shape is still more complex than what you would get with fishing line or a streak filter.

 

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On 8/16/2019 at 10:42 AM, Steven Boone said:

1. Has any DP shooting Super 35mm film or on a Super 35mm sensor ever attempted to add anamorphic texture by using the rear element discs and coatings that DIY types like me use to get the distortions, focusing breathing and oily focus falloff? Such an experiment would be the ultimate in "anamorfake."

As already mentioned, lens breathing and distortion (in the sense of barrel or pincushion) are not things a filter or coatings can change, it’s part of the lens design. But plenty of other aspects of lenses - contrast behaviour, optical aberrations and out of focus character especially - are tweakable. For professional productions that want the look of anamorphic, they can usually afford to rent anamorphic, but sometimes DPs want a hybrid look.

 

On 8/16/2019 at 10:42 AM, Steven Boone said:

I can already hear the professionals scolding/scofffing at the idea of defacing expensive cinema lenses for a look they'd just as easily get with fast modern anamoprhics. But I'm just wondering if it's ever been attempted.

You’d be surprised how much lens “defacing” goes on these days on many professional productions. I think Panavision began the trend of detuning lenses about 10 years ago, and now they lead the industry in this sort of bespoke lens fiddling. Very frequently there are multiple sets of detuned lenses on high end features and series. There are a huge number of things you can do to a lens to customise aberrations or affect the bokeh, including altering coatings, adjusting element spacings, replacing elements and adding aperture masks, but Panavision keeps a firm lid on the actual processes they have devised. 

Panavision have also recently released an anamorphic flare attachment (AFA) which mimics anamorphic streak flaring much better than fishing line or streak filters, since it uses an actual anamorphic piece of glass (without introducing a squeeze).

 

1 hour ago, Satsuki Murashige said:

As AJ mentioned, using a oval shaped iris or Waterhouse stop will give you stretched bokeh very similar to a true anamorphic lens.

See: https://www.vid-atlantic.com/products/cinemorph-mod

Those cinemorph filters are about the least convincing methods of introducing anamorphic bokeh, from my observations. Because they only mount at the front or rear of a lens, the oval highlights are often soft edged, cropped or cats eye shaped, vignetting can occur, and a loss of a stop or more of light is common. They often don’t work with wider focal lengths either.

A better method is to replace the iris with an oval aperture, which maintains the correct position of the stop and thus accurately simulates both the bokeh shape and depth of field duality that proper anamorphics have. The results from this method can be pretty good.

There are online DIY guides that show people simply popping an oval aperture on top of the iris, but be aware that there is often very little room between iris and glass elements and you risk altering element spacings (because the rear group won’t screw all the way back in) or interfering in the iris operation. However if it clears, this method does allow you to use the iris and once stopped down a bit the lens will function as normal again. 

None of the footage shared by DIY “ anamorfake” you-tubers looks very good though, so I’m a bit sceptical about how well their methods work. The thickness, reflectivity and position of the oval stop are all factors affecting the final image quality (not to mention potential element spacing errors). 

To get the most out of such a mod, I think it’s best to replace the iris entirely (a reversible procedure). The oval aperture should be laser cut from very thin, matte black material and positioned at exactly the same position as the iris was, and be quite well centred. The oval should be the same height as the wide open iris aperture and half the width, which locks the lens aperture at half a stop under the original maximum lens speed. A variable ND then needs to be used to control exposure. 

I modified some Zeiss Contax lenses for Sydney-based cinematographer Robbie Fatt (who sometimes posts here) and thought he used them to excellent effect in some of his work:

 

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Thanks for sharing Dom, Robbie's footage looks great! Love those Zeiss Contax primes.

I have been using my Contax set with my re-housed Iscorama and have noticed a similar lens character. I'm surprised how much of the taking lens character is retained when used with the anamorphic adapter. There is a limitation with how wide of a focal length you can use, so a wide spherical lens with an oval iris could be a good solution.

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On 8/16/2019 at 10:30 PM, Ravi Kiran said:

You could use spherical lenses that breathe and have barrel distortion, and even fake anamorphic flares with fishing line, but I can't imagine a way to fake the stretched bokeh, which, to me, is the biggest tell of anamorphic lenses.

It's easy to get stretched bokeh. I put a disc behind the rear element.

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I appreciate the knowledge everyone is sharing but a few myths are being perpetuated in the process.

-Breathing: I've observed focus breathing when using a black oval disc on the back of a simple SLR lens (say a Nikon 50mm or an old Russian prime) that wasn't present when focusing the lens without it.

-Bad anamorfake: A lot of people testing anamorphic mods on YouTube are not finding their lenses' sweet spots, not keeping to a cinematic shutter speed/angle, not composing carefully, etc. That accounts for why some stuff looks bad, but as shown above, there is some amazing footage out there from cheap modded lenses. 

-Bokeh: As I mentioned above, stretched bokeh is easily attained with a mod on the rear element. There's another dirt cheap (and beautiful) way to get the bokeh, breathing and other anamorphic characteristics but I won't share it just yet. You won't believe me until you see the images.

But back to the original questions. (How to get the anamorphic look is a settled matter for me down here in DIY land.)

What I was curious about was how some popular mainstream films appear to have been shot with, if not anamorphic lenses, at least some character-rich vintage glass--but actually used character-deficient spherical lenses like Master Primes. I'm thinking of films like THE RUNAWAYS, a Super 16 film blown up to anamorphic 35 that looks like it was shot on old Super Speeds or somesuch but actually used Master Primes.

No colorist in the world could have layered in the texture in that film's images (could they?). Which is why I wondered if some "character" was introduced somewhere in the blowup process...? The bokeh on that film remains round but the feathery texture and rolloff scream not-Master-Primes.

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5 hours ago, Steven Boone said:

 

What I was curious about was how some popular mainstream films appear to have been shot with, if not anamorphic lenses, at least some character-rich vintage glass--but actually used character-deficient spherical lenses like Master Primes. I'm thinking of films like THE RUNAWAYS, a Super 16 film blown up to anamorphic 35 that looks like it was shot on old Super Speeds or somesuch but actually used Master Primes.

No colorist in the world could have layered in the texture in that film's images (could they?). Which is why I wondered if some "character" was introduced somewhere in the blowup process...? The bokeh on that film remains round but the feathery texture and rolloff scream not-Master-Primes.

The blowup process itself would have been enough to soften the look of Master Primes. A s16 to 35mm blowup is a 4x enlargement. That’s a considerable increase in grain. No wonder you’re seeing additional texture.

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6 hours ago, Steven Boone said:

I appreciate the knowledge everyone is sharing but a few myths are being perpetuated in the process.

-Breathing: I've observed focus breathing when using a black oval disc on the back of a simple SLR lens (say a Nikon 50mm or an old Russian prime) that wasn't present when focusing the lens without it.

Adding a mask to the rear of a lens will not introduce breathing. Breathing is a change in image magnification (like a small zoom) when focus is racked. You might be mistaking the vertical stretching of out-of-focus points of light for breathing, but that's a different thing. 

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5 hours ago, Dom Jaeger said:

Adding a mask to the rear of a lens will not introduce breathing. Breathing is a change in image magnification (like a small zoom) when focus is racked. You might be mistaking the vertical stretching of out-of-focus points of light for breathing, but that's a different thing. 

You just taught me something. Yes, what you describe is what I see: as I rack focus, the background appears to stretch. Magnification change, no. Can we have a cool name for the stretching? 🙂

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