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Death of Anamorphic movies


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#1 Milo Sekulovich

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 03:05 AM

Greetings to all of you,

I've read the posts regarding the new Indiana Jones production and
anamorphic lenses.

I cannot state this more succinctly. It's simply astonishing
how in this day and age of 500 ASA stocks, efficient HMI lighting,
and extremely high quality anamorphic lenses that you don't see
more anamorphic movies made.

I've read posts in the past from David Mullen about how his experience
had shown him that in the end it wasn't overly difficult to shoot anamorphic.
Richard Crudo ASC made a similar statement awhile ago in AC magazine,yet
quite a few DP's shy away from the format.

There were simply SO MANY anamorphic movies shot in the 1970's on 5254 and 5247-
100 ASA stocks!! Just to get a 2.8/4 was formidable yet they did it time and time again.

Remember the number of Bond movies shot in anamorphic?

It just sort of makes one feel that there is a 'wimp factor' going on, in which productions
take the easy way out. I mean , if Dave Mullen can shoot an 'independant ', lower budgeted
movie for the Polish brothers in anamorphic, surely bigger films could do it without a problem.

One wonders how many DP's these days,even ASC members have actually had experience shooting anamorphic.

Best regards,
Milo Sekulovich
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#2 M Joel W

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 03:20 AM

I think this has a lot to do with the fact that Super 35 is "sharp enough," and while it may mean more grain due to the smaller negative and possibly a softer print, the lower f-stop you can use with Super 35 means maybe shooting at ISO 250 or 320 instead of 500 and also possibly avoiding shooting wide open, which really negates this issue, too. And the use of soft lights and blown out edge lights (and deep focus with some cinematographers) necessitates brighter lighting, making anamorphic less desirable...

Furthermore, most projection prints are less sharp than a Super 35 negative, and a 2K DI not only reduces grain, but also limits resolution pretty significantly...

Still, I read that Michael Bay was very upset by how soft Super 35 was on Bad Boys 2, so he switched to anamorphic for both The Island and Transformers, both of which look very pretty (from what I've seen). And certainly The Prestige and Memoirs of a Geisha (from the trailer, haven't seen the movie yet) have very pretty anamorphic work... Funny that Spielberg surrounds himself with Bay and Lucas, despite hating both anamorphic and digital. That Munich was a self-conscious 1970s homage in its zooms, grainy yellow look, and aspect ratio and was still Super 35 is a sin, though...

I think the main issue is that Super 35 is "good enough" and since anamorphic all but guarantees more production problems, people just opt for what's simplest and allows for the most freedom and easiest time for focus pullers. (I hear some t1.3 shots on Geisha were horrible to shoot...) I'd be happy with Super 16, though... All I can afford is miniDV and even then it's a stretch. </rant>
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#3 chris dye

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 04:13 AM

Yeah. Halloween was shot with Panavision anamorphic lenses for $300,000 in 3 weeks at a time when the average budget must've been 20 million or so. For a low budget film, Halloween looks great even to this day. I wonder what 'difficulties', if any, they encountered shooting anamorphic on such a low budget, especially for the nighttime scenes?
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#4 Saul Pincus

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Posted 30 June 2007 - 09:28 AM

There were simply SO MANY anamorphic movies shot in the 1970's on 5254 and 5247-
100 ASA stocks!! Just to get a 2.8/4 was formidable yet they did it time and time again.

It just sort of makes one feel that there is a 'wimp factor' going on, in which productions
take the easy way out.


In the 1970s, Super 35 was not an option.

What often gets lost in discussion is that format choices are increasingly governed by distribution needs, not artistic ones. Super 35 and digital intermediate work are artful to the cinematographer, but as tools they're even greater tonics to post-production and distribution folks. Why? Distribution loves Super 35 because they can open the matte and bend the frame to any destination medium they might need. True scope negatives (and Techniscope negatives) are far less flexible to them. Again, in the end, it's all about how many sales a studio can makes, and how easily they can make their versions to complete their sales. And it's not just theatrical, home video, or television markets anymore ? there are many ancillary markets (foreign, web & new media devices, airplane) in many flavours and combinations to consider.

Artistically, it sucks big time. Unless you are a very powerful producer or director (Michael Bay on Transformers), and you're going to champion the use of a format (Christopher Nolan on the Batmans ? scope and IMAX), you more often than not face an uphill battle. Outside this forum, most folks only notice that you've gotten the 2.39 frame, not how beautifully light gets handled by true anamorphic optics. I'm certainly in the true anamorphic camp (when artistically appropriate), but I've worked in post-production and undertstand why things have become the way they are. It's a sad and sobering truth.
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#5 Adam Frisch FSF

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 07:54 AM

I love anamorphic and will defend it forever, but the reality is that it gets more anachronistic for every day:

1. As mentioned, super 35 is "good enough" in the DI-world.
2. Anamorphic doesn't leave any room for racking the image like it does on super-35. I know this is something both directors and post houses have come to love.
3. You can't shoot 3-perf.
4. All lenses below 50mm in anamorphic have terrible barrel distortion. And 50mm isn't that wide a lens, really. I'm sure one could design a rectilienar wide angle
anamorphic, but it's such a small cottage industry I doubt anyone would have the resources to do it. Anamorphic lenses are basically knocked up in a some shop
by joining an anamorphic lement with a spherical lens and connecting them. I doubt if more than 100 lenses are produced a year.
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#6 Max Jacoby

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 08:14 AM

I too agree that it's a shame that not more anamorphic films are produced. I've never been a fan of Super 35, to me it just feels wide, but without any character. There are few Super 35 films that I think look good. Mostly Michael Mann's stuff for one (The Insider and Ali).

I'm always happy to see an anamorphic film projected in the theatre and luckily there are some filmmakers who stick with it (Terrence Malick, Atom Egoyan, PT Anderson come to mind) and their films look invariably sharper and better than most Super 35 films.
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#7 Tim Partridge

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 09:05 AM

Really good post, Saul.

However, I still get the impression that even with free reign, most DPs out there would still prefer super 35 just because the standard light levels of today (and certainly the comfort levels that directors and actors even are use to) are for wide open spherical.

Visual effects is of course the other big factor too in going super35. Along with the DI, today digital manipulation and effects work is in pretty much every movie of every scale. We nolonger live in a time where a small scale Hollywood movie would have only title opticals as the sole post effects in a movie. This is really good article from 1997 in which Mark Stetson talks about getting Luc Besson to shoot super35 for THE FIFTH ELEMENT:
http://www.vfxhq.com...ht97/9707b.html

I am not a fan of Michael Bay's work, I don't even like his images, but I suppose I should be happy that the guy supports anamorphic.
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#8 Paul Bruening

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 10:48 AM

This is a fascinating, "perpetual difference." Obviously, spherical is easier to use. It's more versatile. But, since this is a cinematography site, what are the aesthetic differences? Can you describe what you like and dislike about each lens system from an artistic image standpoint? Go ahead and be subjective. It's what artists live by. Why not DPs?
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#9 Chris Keth

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 02:38 PM

This is a fascinating, "perpetual difference." Obviously, spherical is easier to use. It's more versatile. But, since this is a cinematography site, what are the aesthetic differences? Can you describe what you like and dislike about each lens system from an artistic image standpoint? Go ahead and be subjective. It's what artists live by. Why not DPs?


The problems with the anamorphic image are, in my opinion, what makes it beautiful. The distortions, the flares, and odd bokeh are all beautiful to my eye. The way the image really snaps into focus because of the higher resolution and shallower depth of field is beautiful. The huge feeling the image gives you is beautiful.

I think shooting anamorphic is worth any extra effort and problems.
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#10 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 04:17 PM

As a DP, you can't shoot anamorphic unless you have the backing of the producers and director, because as soon as something goes wrong, they will blame the DP for picking anamorphic. They have to be in support of the decision.

Truth is that most producers still feel more comfortable if you tell them you are shooting standard 1.85.
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#11 Max Jacoby

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 04:27 PM

I love the three-dimensional look of anamorphic (as opposed to Super 35 which only looks flat), which to do with the fact that these lenses mix the characteristics of two focal lenghts (i.e a 100mm anamorphic lens has the horizontal angle of a 50mm lenes, but the vertical one of a 100mm). Also I love to play with the out-of-focus part of the image which in anamorphic is more painterly, because it is slightly squeezed and more soft than spherical.

As I like to say, Super 35 is for whimps ;)
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#12 Nick Mulder

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 05:47 PM

Regardless of shooting format I hope anamorphic will live on in a projection format - the extra brightness is worth it in terms of perceived clarity and as much as I've tried to appreciate the taller aspects (I'm only shooting super16 currently) I have to say I love 2.39 ...

As for an acquisition format I love the bokeh of anamorphic, there is something a tad synthetic or contrived about spherical bokeh for me personally - very 'look Ma, out of focus!' (think rooftop chats at the end of Boston Legal) - anamorphic bokeh doesn't bother me the same way.

Its safe to say I'd love to work with it.
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#13 Paul Bruening

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 07:06 PM

Hello Max,

Please, explain the dual dimension aspect of anamorphic further. How do we perceive that?
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#14 Patrick Neary

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 07:53 PM

Howdy-

Something I notice with anamorphic is the same kind of smoothness of tonality that you get in stills, jumping from 35mm to medium format.

I can hear our much missed friend John Pytlak jumping in with "Bigger is Better!" :)
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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 08:42 PM

In a weird way, one of the minor reasons for the embrace of Super-35 recently is that it looks grainier, and thus less like digital. Anamorphic photography tends to be finer-grained and more detailed on the big screen. Some filmmakers, in sort of a stand against the future demise of film, are embracing a somewhat rough & grainy style as being "anti-digital".
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#16 Tim O'Connor

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 09:00 PM

I love anamorphic and will defend it forever, but the reality is that it gets more anachronistic for every day:

1. As mentioned, super 35 is "good enough" in the DI-world.
2. Anamorphic doesn't leave any room for racking the image like it does on super-35. I know this is something both directors and post houses have come to love.
3. You can't shoot 3-perf.
4. All lenses below 50mm in anamorphic have terrible barrel distortion. And 50mm isn't that wide a lens, really. I'm sure one could design a rectilienar wide angle
anamorphic, but it's such a small cottage industry I doubt anyone would have the resources to do it. Anamorphic lenses are basically knocked up in a some shop
by joining an anamorphic lement with a spherical lens and connecting them. I doubt if more than 100 lenses are produced a year.


I have never shot with anamorphic lenses. On your number 2. point above, do you mean
racking in the sense of it being easier to rack focus in Super-35 than in anamorphic? If so,
why would that be and why would post houses love that? I can see why people shooting,
especially those doing the focus pulls would. If not, what do you mean? Thanks.
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 09:01 PM

He means vertical reframing, repositioning.
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#18 Nick Mulder

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 09:13 PM

He means vertical reframing, repositioning.

Yeh, who needs expensive shift lenses when you can spend the same money on a 4-perf shoot instead.

I suppose a shift lens is never going to reframe a hair in the gate out of shot though is it :rolleyes:
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#19 boy yniguez

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 10:38 PM

Yeh, who needs expensive shift lenses when you can spend the same money on a 4-perf shoot instead.

I suppose a shift lens is never going to reframe a hair in the gate out of shot though is it :rolleyes:


he means recomposing the shot by using part of the image above or below what was composed for, not racking as in shifting focus perpendicular to the lens axis, which is by the way the least important use of a shift lens!
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#20 boy yniguez

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 10:39 PM

Yeh, who needs expensive shift lenses when you can spend the same money on a 4-perf shoot instead.

I suppose a shift lens is never going to reframe a hair in the gate out of shot though is it :rolleyes:


he means recomposing the shot by using part of the image above or below what was composed for, not racking as in shifting focus perpendicular to the lens axis, which is by the way the least important use of a shift lens!
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