Anamorphic Lenses on a Short Film
Anamorphic Cinematography Series
As a part of our continuing series on anamorphic cinematography, here are impressions from shooting with anamorphic lenses on a 48 hour short film project. To see excerpts from the project, watch the video below:
Equipment used on this film includes:
- Panasonic GH5 with v2 firmware update
- Zhiyun Crane 2
- 58mm f/2 Helios 44-2
- 85mm f/2 Jupiter 9
- Isco Micro anamorphic kit
- Isco Micro superscope anamorphic kit
- Isco Micro single focus anamorphic kit
- SLR Magic rangefinder
Short film anamorphic lens impressions
A 48 hour film project is intense work. We worked on this project with a total crew of 3 people- including actors. In some ways, this helped as we knew our limitations and were able to turn them into advantages that other larger crews in the project could not use.
Anamorphic filmmaking is always a step up from traditional spherical lenses. Compositions are wider, focus can be more difficult to achieve if not using single focus anamorphic lenses, footage must be tweaked in post, and focal lengths must be recalculated.
Bel0w is a list of what we learned when shooting anamorphic cinematography on short film projects- specifically those on low/no budgets and compressed time frames.
Invest in multiple anamorphic lenses for multiple primes
Anamorphic lenses attach to the front of your prime lenses and transform the spherical image into compressed anamorphic. Zoom lenses aren’t very friendly to anamorphics, and prime lenses work best. So when working with prime lenses, you can certainly change prime lenses by detaching the anamorphic from one lens and moving it to the next.
But if your budget allows, having multiple anamorphic setups ready to go can tremendously speed up shooting. We shot with an Isco Micro with SuperScope on a 50mm prime lens (our wide lens), an Isco Micro Single Focus on a 58mm f/2 lens (our medium lens), and an Isco Micro Single Focus on an 85mm f/2 lens (our long lens).
Make sure your setup can de-squeeze anamorphic images on set
Anamorphic lenses work by compressing the aspect ratio onto the camera sensor by a factor of 2x. This means that you are doubling your field of view, producing beautiful compressed bokeh, and altering your flares. However, this also means that you are looking at a compressed image on your viewfinder, and that can be difficult even for experienced shooters to be able to properly place subjects and get a sense of what the final frame will look like. In post you can easily desqueeze, but how can you do this on set?
The Panasonic GH5 with v2 firmware has an in-camera feature that allows you to properly preview anamorphic lenses. Keep in mind that compatibility with external monitors seem limited and reports vary. Other cameras like Kinefinity, Black Magic Ursa, Magic Lantern Canon also include this functionality.
For best use, invest in an external monitor that will desqueeze anamorphic footage. Monitors like the Small HD line, Black Magic Video Assist 4k, and the Cineroid EVF are all excellent monitors with this functionality that can help you better work quickly on set.
Plan your shot scale ahead of time
Anamorphic lenses can be run and gun, but they are less forgiving than prime lenses for keeping the entire focal length consistent throughout a narrative. If you are dual focusing an anamorphic lens, your close focus may be limited to 3-5 feet. Single focusing anamorphics do not have this issue, and can even be tweaked to achieve macro anamorphic focus.
When planning out a shot list, consider exactly what lens you will need, what focal length to roughly expect, and be ready to go.
Purchase an anamorphic lens with a focus locking mechanism
Run and gun filmmaking punishes the careless operator. It is easy in the hustle and bustle of a shoot to knock something out of focus, and not double check settings and focus. ALWAYS DOUBLE CHECK YOUR FOCUS before shooting- anamorphic lenses or no anamorphic lenses.
For those interested in one of our single focus anamorphic lenses, ask us about including a locking mechanism to your anamorphic lens. Because single focus requires the anamorphic lens to be calibrated to infinity, anything that pushes this out of alingment will skew your focus. With a focus locking mechanism, once you’ve set your infinity, you can simply lock your lens and cross that off the worry list.
If you have found this article interesting and are further interested adding anamorphic to your toolbox as a cinematographer, please visit our anamorphic lens store for demos and examples. We have spent several years collecting, modifying, and testing anamorphic lenses to weed through the junk, make needed modifications, and assemble ready-to-shoot packages.
If you are interested in learning more on working with anamorphic lenses and DSLR, please check out our anamorphic tutorial blog for more anamorphic tips and tutorials!