What's an Anamorphic lens?

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Konvas 2M with Anamorphic Lens
Konvas 2m with 35/2.5 anamorphic prime lens and desqueezer
In pre-production, a Producer and Director may sit down with the Director of Photography and come to an agreement that a given motion picture may better serve the story if it were shot in a screen ratio that's extremely wide. Since there are two different widescreen ratios that are projected in most national movie theaters, a widescreen ratio of 2.35:1 (sometimes called "Ultra-Widescreen", "Panavision" or "Panavision Widescreen", "Anamorphic Widescreen", "CinemaScope", or just "Scope") may be chosen over the taller 1.85:1 widescreen ratio.

It used to be that 2.35:1 ratios were, for the most part, reserved for the bigger epic-style movies, but with better lens designs and filmstock, as well as the advent of HDTV (and it's 1.78:1 ratio), filmmakers have found the wider 2.35:1 screens give viewers an added incentive to visit the theater. So, reserving the 2.35:1 aspect ratio for the big Hollywood epics no longer seems to be the case, and 2.35:1 ratios have even found their way onto action films, horror films, and more.

There are several different ways to capture/attain a widescreen 2.35:1 image when the final result is a 2.35:1 widescreen projection: shooting with anamorphic lenses, shooting and cropping Super-35/Academy frame/3-perf, or shooting 2-perf (also called techniscope). All have their positive and negative reasons for being used.

Konvas 2M with Anamorphic Lens
Ian Dudley's Konvas 2M with Anamorphic Lens
First, let's visit the anamorphic lens route. Anamorphic lenses used on the front of a motion picture camera warp the light in such a way so that the negative captures a compressed image to a frame size of 18.7mm x 22mm. Because of the way the light is affected, it gives the image a compressed appearance: everything in the image looks extremely skinny, making it look as if the image was squeezed together when looking at a processed negative (or a positive print) with the naked eye. This is similar to a fun house mirror, except it is done with glass. The light (or image) coming through an Anamorphic lens is compressed width-wise twice as much as light/image without an anamorphic lens, and is recorded to the negative in this way. Later, in post, the only way to view the image so that it would look "normal" would be to use a desqueezer or deanamorphic viewer, or to project the image with another anamorphic lens. Note that the height will remain "normal" with Anamorphic lenses, only the width is ever affected. The positive aspect of shooting with Anamorphic lenses is that a positive print can be struck from a negative without the need for a digital intermediate - this will save a lot of money, as digital intermediates are quite costly. The negative side of shooting with anamorphic lenses is that the cost of the lenses are much higher, the anamorphic lenses tend to eat more light than standard lenses (due to the extra glass and the way the glass compresses the light), anamorphic lenses sometimes tend to have softer and/or darker corners, a different gate needs to be installed in the camera when using anamorphic lenses, and the cinematographer needs a special viewfinder with a built-in desqueezer to be able to view the image correctly while shooting.

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