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Anamorphic films 
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Post Anamorphic films
"Unwindfilms" kindly asked me to shed some light into anamorphic films/movies/images.
Here's the short answer: an image is photographed and later reproduced by treating horizontal information differently from vertical information.

In current technology that would mean that a pixel does not have a square shape but a rectangular shape.

Anamorphic widescreen dates back to 1953 when 20th Century Fox introduced the "CinemaScope" format. Refined versions (most notably Panavision) were still in use until digital projection took over.

The basic idea dates back to 1926 when Henri Chrétien invented a lense which produced an image twice as wide as high. 20th Century Fox, in an effort to compete with television, adapted this principle of a "non spheric lense" to squeeze twice as much horizontal information as vertical information into a 35mm frame, using all available space. The drawbacks were: shooting through much more glass, leading to light loss, lens errors including distortion. That typical "CinemaScope/Panavision" look was used to create a nostalgic flair in "Super 8" (2011).
The first ever movie using this anamorphic technology called "CinemaScope" was "The Robe" (1953).

Up until recently almost all 35mm movies (theatrical prints) came in two formats, with some exceptions which I won't address for the sake of keeping it simple:

1) widescreen: (1: 1,85) the image is cropped up and down and projected with a lens which yields a larger image. The drawback was a lot of wasted image area.

2) Anamorphic widescreen: (1: 2,39) all available space of the 35m print is used and the image is squeezed horizonally by the factor of 2. An anamorphotic lens in front of the projector will do the opposite and "unsqueeze "it, yielding a very wide image of 1:2,39 aspect ratio.

During the 1990s, the "Super 35mm" format had been established and used in movies such as "Se7en" and "Titanic". This is similar (but slightly superior due to a larger image area) to "Techniscope" (the poor man's Cinemascope), the preferred format of Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns during the 1960s. Both formats do not use anamorphic lenses, but widely available spheric lenses. The "squeezing" is done in later stages - to be "un-squeezed" during heatrical projection.

I hope this post is of some help. Now that we are in the digital age, non of this is relevant anymore - anyway, except as information of existing film formats - soon digital will overcome backwards compatibility issues and develope its own widescreen formats.

Mon Dec 17, 2012 12:29 am
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Post Re: Anamorphic films
Thanks a lot for the explanation! I know that you could shed some more light to it and know what is talking about it :-)

I asked because J J Abrams in a interview when questioned about shooting Star Trek 2 in 3D? then he says:

We’re shooting on film, and the reason for that is I wanted to shoot with anamorphic, and you can’t shoot 3D in anamorphic.

and I wonder what benefits would bring even to a 2D format as far as the viewer is concerned. As far I can see from your reply , you can cover more but again you have to go back to wide screen. Anyway, still not clear with benefits besides the nostalgic flair in Super 8 lol. Maybe you can elaborate more :mrgreen:

In this interview J J seems to indicate that the studios will be making the conversion on their own

I did not fight for the 3D. It was something that the studio wanted to do, and I didn’t want to do it. And then, when I saw the first movie converted in sections, I thought that it actually looked really cool. So, I was okay with their doing it, as long as I could shoot the movie the way I wanted to, in anamorphic film, and then let them convert it. So, those who want to see it in 3D, which looked pretty cool, can do it, and those that want to see it in 2D can do that too.

Anyway lately I have been reading that J J refers that he is converting from IMAX (even we know that he did not shoot the whole movie in IMAX film) to 3D and he is having fun in the process lol. I just hope that he is truly as enthusiastic with this as he says and the conversion gives acceptable results ;-)


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Mon Dec 17, 2012 3:53 am
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Post Re: Anamorphic films
Isn't the benefit just a slightly higher image quality since there's less wasted space?

Mon Dec 17, 2012 4:41 am
Post Re: Anamorphic films
Awkward Beard Man wrote:
Isn't the benefit just a slightly higher image quality since there's less wasted space?

That is correct: there is very much wasted space in standard non-anamopric widescreen 35mm (1:1,85). If you shoot 4 perforation high Super 35mm though, you use all the width (since this is a camera-only format and the space on one side reserved for optical sound isn't needed), but you lose on top and bottom, especially for the 1:2,39 prints. That's why three perforation high Super 35 was invented, the waste of space is much less. Anamorphic Panavison (the modern version of Fox' CinemaScope with improved lenses) used all available image area, but it is an older camera AND a projector format (from a time without digital intermediate), so the space reserved for optical soundtrack on the side is still unused for image. Anamorphic has it's typical look (shallow depth-of-field, horizontal-bar lens flare, out of focus areas have the typical distortion artifacts etc.) and it is more difficult to integrate CGI (at least it had been in the past, that's why for example "Titanic" was shot in Super 35. With modern software this should be no problem though.

Thw Wikipedia entries are still the most comprehensible I found (graphics and images can tell more than a thousand words):




Mon Dec 17, 2012 9:18 am
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