Balance.

Spring and summer have been fun. For the first half of June I was swamped during the pre-production and production for The New Romantics’ pilot episode – which had very long days, but the footage looks really good – followed by a two-week break all the way back home in Brasil. The last time I’d been there was over a year ago, and I really missed the people. Ariana tagged along for the ride and by the time we got back to Vancouver I think we were more tired than when we left.

The trip was just the perfect length, since by the last days we were already looking forward to coming back home and squeezing Finnegan. It was good to step out of my intense selling, filming, editing schedule for this long and it made reevaluate how I spend my time.

I turned my room inside out when we got back – I brought every single piece of gear I had left behind when moving from Brasil to Canada – and was determined to optimize where I’d keep boxes, rig parts, lens pieces and tools. Now things are looking rather organized and I think I know where each item is – or should be. On the next weeks I’ll be putting some effort into shooting more episodes for the YouTube channel and working on the Russian mod-set (Mir 1B, Helios 44-2 and Jupiter 9), with polished glass, amber tinting and oval apertures. The Helios 44-2 tutorial was received so well that I decided to expand the family. I’m also waiting for a lot of 10 Helios 44-2s for modding.

I’m also getting back to the USSR Lens Buyer’s Guide that went on hold before shooting The New Romantics. I have many lenses to talk about, countless pictures to take and choose from and a decent amount of pages to write before the project is completed.

Lastly, this was a little VFX stunt I started early this year and just finished now – rocks modeled and textured by Paul H. Paulino, animation by Fernão Morato, camera handled by Bruno Nicko and outstanding extra performance by Ariana Saadat in the background. My plan is to keep doing these small bits of eye tricks to practice and to have fun. I already have another one in the works!

This is a long post about thinking I was smart when I was stupid. It could’ve had terrible consequences but I was lucky enough to get through without losing money in spite of taking all the wrong steps.

By the end of May, some of you might remember a couple LOMO BAS Squarefronts popped up on eBay. One of the listings was for a complete set, using photos stolen from the web, the seller being a malamutecinema (now erased account). Several people, myself included, reported the listing for several days until it was taken down. On my case, I found an 80mm 35BAS-4-7, from a new seller based in Kazakhstan, sergew001-6. The lens was up for auction and I sent him a message offering to buy it directly if he cancelled the auction, for a considerable amount of money. He told me he was expecting to get a little more than that in the auction and would contact me two hours prior to its end in case the price wasn’t what he expected.

When the time came, he sent me a message and told me to raise the bid on the item so he would cancel the auction. It was the middle of the night here, and I wasn’t thinking straight about how stupid that instruction was, so I did it. He stopped replying and 5 minutes to go, somebody surpassed my bid. Then the timer hit zero and the auction was over. I sent him a bunch of messages about how dishonest that was and yadda yadda. He apologized and said it was his first time on eBay, and a bunch of other things. He said that he cancelled the auction after it was over and sent me a payment request on PayPal. I sent him the money and he went silent.

I spent the entire next day worried about my money. The name on his emails was Sergey Davydov, but PayPal gave me a different name. Let’s just say D., for I’m not interested in being a possible target for anyone. Upon googling his name, I was linked to the WHOIS domain registration page of Malamute Cinema. The domain registration info has been changed after I confronted him about it.

My nerves went on lockdown until the money popped back in my account as a refund. He said it was blocked for 21 days and the original buyer also paid for the lens and he had to honor the eBay deal.

On the same message he mentioned he had a 50mm BAS that he would auction too. Then we moved off eBay’s messages onto gmail. About his name, he clarified that Sergey Davydov was his alias, but his name was indeed D., but also that there were many D.s and he couldn’t be all of them – like the one on Malamute Cinema. I should’ve stepped out of the story here, but getting a set of LOMOs was my lens-goal of 2016, so I kept pushing forward.

Besides mentioning the 50mm, he said he’d be getting some roundfronts, already tweaked and ready to go (PL mount, focus gears, colimated) in about a month’s time. By that time, I was totally into the tale and sent him the money for the 50mm. In my head I thought “you know what, this is a nice guy and this is a good deal, I’ll send the money as ‘friends and family’”.

BREAK: NEVER. EVER. EVER do that. Multiple people told me that when I figured out the scam, and I was very lucky to get my money back.

On May 28th D. confirmed that payment was through and he would ship them on June 5th. I had already talked to Olex (lens technician, in Ukraine) and Viktor (to install PL mounts, in St. Petersburg) and worked the best logistics. D. would ship the lens to Viktor so he could replace the mount, then Viktor would send it to Olex for servicing and fine-tuning. I sent D. a few emails about why June 5th, and not the next day, but again he was dead silent. Then instead of one day worrying, I spent a week.

On June 5th, he replies that the lens has been shipped and sends me the tracking code. He also mentions that the lenses that would be ready in mid-July will be done in the following week. It’s a full set of roundfronts. I make him an offer for three of them (35, 50 and 75), and we agree on the price, to be paid when the lenses reach him.

In the meantime I’m turning my finances upside down to figure out how to send the agreed amount, selling many of my lenses/anamorphics – including my beloved Iscorama 42 – and getting a little bit closer every day. Talking to a few friends, I realized it wouldn’t be smart to send him any extra money before the first lens (50mm BAS) arrived at Viktor’s workshop. Before the deadline, D. sends me an email saying that PayPal’s taxes are too high and asking if I’d be OK with a bank transfer, or Visa Direct Transfer. I used that as an excuse to buy myself some time while I went to the bank and asked about how safe these transfers are, and what kind of information I’d need from him.

June 19th he gave me an ultimatum in a rather annoyed email. The same day Viktor tells me the lens is ready for pick up and that he’ll swing by the post office later to get it. I was able to get myself another day by saying the bank had blocked my transfer and asked for more documents.

On the morning of June 21st I get a notification that the 50mm has been delivered, as well as an email from Viktor with the following images attached.






I don’t need to tell you this is NOT a 50mm BAS as depicted earlier by D.



I immediately posted on Facebook asking for advice and tried to open a claim on PayPal’s website. Since I sent the money as “Friends and Family” the website wouldn’t allow me, so I decided it couldn’t get any worse and called PayPal directly.

While I waited for a person to pick up the phone on the other side I ran all the crap I did wrong. Starting off with the “Friends and Family” thing, then sending such a big amount to an unknown person and lastly, for PayPal’s sake, getting the package shipped to an address other than my own – an address in another continent even! Then a girl named Wendy picked up and asked me what was my problem.

I went on to detailing the transfer, what happened upon delivery and what I wanted to do moving forward. I was lucky to have written in the notes section of payment that the money was regarding the 50mm BAS. Wendy asked then about the difference between both lenses.

- Could you explain me better how these lenses are different, and why you want to reverse the transaction?
- Sure. The lens he charged me for is a rare Russian cinema lens, the one he shipped is a $50 paperweight.
- Oh my god! Let me put his funds on hold.

That’s when my hope started to return. Wendy instructed me to not dispose of the box, gather as much proof as I could that the whole thing wasn’t a mere accident. She put his money on hold and told me he had ten days to reply to the claim or PayPal would return the money to my account. Things were indeed escalating in terms of worrying about money in this whole story. It started with one day, then a week, now another ten days!

I reached out to Viktor and asked him to hold onto the box in case we had to return it. I also provided Olex with all the info I got on D., so he would blacklist him for his other customers and spread the word about it. Then I waited.

On July 2nd PayPal restored my money and I started to organize all the info to write this post.

In the meantime he listed some other lenses on eBay and things didn’t end well for the buyers either. It seems to be a running scam now, for new sellers (zero feedback), from Kazakhstan and LOMO anamorphic glass. It might be a killer deal, but I’m no longer interested unless it’s from a reputable/known seller.

The reason I’m sharing this story is because it’s one of the best ways to avoid more people falling into such schemes. I’ve been buying and selling lenses (and anamorphics) for about five years now and hadn’t had any trouble with sellers or buyers so far. You might not even be buying LOMO anamorphics or anything super expensive, but always make sure you’re dealing with someone trustworthy and that will hold their word to the end.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE!

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network, so if you purchase anything through them, you’re helping me to keep this project going.

Tito Ferradans here to help you achieving wider angles – around 30mm! – with 2x anamorphic adapters! It’s common knowledge that you need a taking lens around 85mm to get full frame coverage on 2x scopes. It’s time to conquer another good 20mm off that mark. These instructions were relayed to me by John Barlow, maker of the Rectilux. According to him, this is the widest you can go with no vignetting while getting full frame coverage. It’s a rather cheap and simple procedure, so I recommend it. For this video we’re gonna be adapting an enlarger lens, the El-Nikkor 63mm f/2.8. There’s a f/3.5 version, get the faster one. It’s a tiny lens, super light. In a certain way this mod reminds me of the original Iscorama lens, a 50mm locked to infinity, that’s about as wide as you can go on the Isco. I guarantee it’s a great match for the Rectilux, and I bet it works just as good for other single focus solutions and 2x scopes.

Here’s what you’re gonna need: A 63mm f/2.8 El-Nikkor enlarging lens, M39 to M42 adapter ring, M42 to EF adapter (this was my choice, you can get your own camera mount), M42 extension tubes, thin copper wire, pliers and gorilla tape! It’s also good to have a 40.5-58mm step up ring for the Nikkor’s front thread and then step to whatever size you want! In my case, for the Rectilux, I used a 58-67mm step ring.

First step when you get the El-Nikkor is to remove the M39 extension tube. This is an enlarger lens, meaning it’s always focused to infinity – which is good – but with a flange distance that’s slightly different from the standard. Screw in the M39 to M42 adapter and then the shortest M42 extension tube. Before it’s all in, add a few loops of copper wire there for spacing.




Add the M42 to EF adapter at its back. Mount this contraption on the camera. Infinity will be falling past the sensor, so start unscrewing the lens from the extension tube until infinity is in focus. Now fill the gap with a few loops of the copper wire and make sure it’s tight. This step might require repeating to ensure it’s all good.



To wrap it up and make it a little nicer to look cover the entire thing with gorilla tape – which has the perfect size! The tape is super strong, so the wire-filled gap won’t move, and your lens will end up looking more reliable. Using an exacto knife I cut off the tape that covered the f-stop markings, screwed in the step-up ring and put lens caps on.



Now just attach the El-Nikkor to any 2x stretch scope and go shoot 3.56:1 compositions with 31mm horizontal field of view with no vignetting! This is pretty much the widest you can get for full frame coverage! Subscribe if you liked the tutorial, and check the blog for many others involving diopters, the Helios 44 and various anamorphic adapters. See you soon, Ferradans out.



WATCH THE VIDEO HERE!

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network, so if you purchase anything through them, you’re helping me to keep this project going.

I am selling the lens I used for this tutorial on eBay. It’s in perfect shape, no haze, fungus or scratches and great anamorphic bokeh. I would love to keep it, but I know I would barely use it, so it will be happier on somebody else’s hands.

Hey folks, Tito Ferradans here for another Chop Shop. Playing with the Helios was cool, but as any of you anamorphic users out there know, the true challenge with scopes is getting real wide angle AND close focus at the same time. Working to solve this issue, I got a Pentacon 29mm f/2.8, an inexpensive and fairly common wide angle lens. With the lens in front of me, I cracked it open and inserted an oval aperture in there. This way bokeh turns oval and you get a decent wide angle feeling with anamorphic defocus plus super close focus capabilities (the Pentacon focuses down to 0.25m). Here’s how to do it:

First, get yourself a Pentacon 29mm (auto or electric, it doesn’t matter). They’re particularly cheap in Europe. I haven’t tried the “Made in G.D.R”. version explained in the following link. Even though getting it open is a different process, I believe the aperture should be the same size.

Opening the lens is the hardest part. I followed a guide, but my version was slightly different (PENTACON auto 2.8/29 MULTI COATING), so there was a different way of getting it open. All I needed to do was to remove the label ring, using a lens wrench and then remove the front optical block by simply twisting it out.


That gave me clear access to the aperture, where I dropped one of these aperture disks, especially suited for the Pentacon 29mm’s iris – which is considerably smaller than the Helios 44 version. You can get them cut at any laser cutting shop or order them online at Big Blue Saw – if you go to Big Blue Saw, use this file and it should work seamlessly with their system.

Depending on the material, you’ll probably need to sand the disk down to as close as paper thin as you can. Now, with the front element removed, tape the disk to its back. It’s useful to have markings for its orientation. I also painted my disk black with a sharpie marker. I ended up opening the lens, adjusting and closing it back a number of times!




When you’re through putting the oval aperture, close the lens back up and you’re good to go.

For extreme anamorphic goodness, combine this lens with a 1.33x adapter like the Century Optics or Panasonic LA7200 and you get flares, distortion combined with the fake ovals. Who could tell you’re being cheap, if it all looks amazing?

So, how do you like all of these crafting tutorials? Are they being as useful as the reviews, more useful, or completely useless? If you like them, go ahead and subscribe, because there is still more to come. If you don’t like them, well, go ahead an subscribe too, because the reviews won’t stop! Lastly, I’m running out of shirts, so I’m putting together a waitlist. If you want a shirt, send me an email with your size and I’ll keep you posted on a second batch! For checking additional content, tutorials and reviews, go to the Anamorphic on a Budget page!




WATCH THE VIDEO HERE!

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network, so if you purchase anything through them, you’re helping me to keep this project going.

OVERVIEW
Tito Ferradans here, with a baby on the way! Hell no, guys, it’s just a lens! This is my first review for one of the baby anamorphics, the Iscomorphot 8/1.5x. The awkward part is that this name represents two different lenses, the one I’ll be talking about today is the fixed focus version, which works by focusing with your taking lens. As the name states, this is a 1.5x stretch, trademark of Isco optics, super tiny lens, weighting only 60g! Fortunately it has front threads – tiny 30.5mm threads – and it usually comes with two diopters (which are way too strong at +2 and +4). The rear threads are non-standard, but I already made a video on how to mount these on your taking lenses and align it using Rapido Clamps.

This one was originally meant for Super 8 cameras, so the small lens size wasn’t a problem, but when using it on the A7s2, I had to go with the 2.2x crop mode, meaning this is not a lens for full frame cameras and large sensors in general, being a much more suitable alternative for smaller sensors such as MFT. I reckon it probably does wonders on a BMPCC.

PRICE and AVAILABILITY
Not very common online, these little things usually go for $500 to $800 bucks. There seem to be a steady supply (even if one at a time) on eBay Germany.

RESOLUTION
Without diopters, using this adapter is a pain. It’s rather soft until f/5.6 or slower at any focal lengths, so the step up ring for the filter threads was a must so I could use lower powered diopters besides the original +2.5 and +5 that came with it. When that is fixed, the image quality improves considerably. A cheap +0.5 and +1 diopters will do wonders if you’re using this adapter.


Contax Zeiss 35mm f/2.8


Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4


Contax Zeiss 85mm f/1.4

FLARES
Wow, this baby flares. The Iscomorphot has a very pronounced and distinctive orange flare. It’s completely different from what you usually get by using focus through adapters such as the Century Optics. Also, it’s a good change for the Isco lenses because they usually don’t flare!


Contax Zeiss 50mm f/1.4

SENSOR COVERAGE
As a Super 8 adapter, the Iscomorphot doesn’t like big sensors. I shot it on the A7s2 crop mode (2.2x) and it was barely vignette free at 35mm, with glare around the corners when lighting is too strong. 28mm already shows dark edges. That means that if you’re using this lens on full frame, you’re gonna be vignette free from 80mm and up, which is not very friendly. I would stick with a smaller sensor and a wider range of focal lengths.


Contax Zeiss 28mm f/2.8


Contax Zeiss 35mm f/2.8

WORLD TEST
Focus was hard if not close to infinity, so I used diopters for every single shot. When the taking lenses are stopped down to f/5.6 or slower, focus becomes easier, and the flares are very pleasing. Due to the combination of small rear element and full frame lenses, there were losses in light transmission. These were noticeable especially at night, when it didn’t make a difference if the taking lens was at f/1.4 or f/2. Focus was even harder at faster apertures and bokeh was very subtle. Again, the flares were still awesome. This was the first lens I wished I had a small sensor camera, so I could achieve its full potential. I guess I just can’t handle babies in my life right now!

Baby lens, quick review! I guess we’re done for today. Before you go, don’t forget to subscribe to the channel and then head to the blog where I have plenty of other reviews and cool tutorials about anamorphics. If you’re not too late, you might even be able to get one of these awesome cinemascope t-shirts. See you there!

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE!

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network, so if you purchase anything through them, you’re helping me to keep this project going.

I am selling the close up I used for this tutorial on eBay. It’s in perfect shape, no scratches or blemishes and perfect shape. I would love to keep it, but I already have plenty diopters, so it will be happier on somebody else’s hands.

Hey there, Tito Ferradans here! Last week we talked about splitting diopters, and it was extreme, so here’s the cheapest – and easiest – way of getting a +0.5 diopter. +0.5 diopters are particularly coveted for their 1-2m focus range, which is the hardest focus range for most anamorphic adapters, so they go for higher prices and aren’t very common. If you wanna know more about diopters, I recommend checking this article on the Anamorphic on a Budget guide, where you’ll find all the math and effects of using diopters.

For this tutorial we’re gonna need an empty 72mm ring, with the retaining ring intact – you can get the spares from last week, like me – or just order a cheap 72mm UV filter. A lens wrench, an exacto knife and, the secret piece, a Tamron 28-200mm Close Up filter. They go on eBay for under $30 and are fairly common, the only problem is that they come in a weird mount without filter threads.

You might’ve guessed this step: Remove the diopter from its retaining ring. These flaps keep it in place, so rip them off using the exacto knife. Take your time and be careful not to score the glass. Now put it on the 72mm ring and screw back the retaining ring. Lastly, celebrate and go out to shoot the medium-to-close-up shots you used to struggle with.




This was more of an insider trick rather than a real tutorial, trying to shine some light into the tricks I learned along the way that don’t necessarily involve buying expensive lenses or tricky DIY stuff. It’s something I believe will benefit most anamorphic users out there. If you found this useful, subscribe now and keep an eye for the following videos, for they should be helpful too. If you got some free time on your hands, head on to the blog and check out the rest of the reviews and posts! Ferradans out.

JULY 13th, 2016 – UPDATE: After posting this tutorial, a friend reached out about a unusual Tamron diopter that, according to him, is only sold in Japan. WHOISJSD confirmed that the Tamron A9F Close Up Filter is indeed 72mm threaded and +0.5 in strength. Here are his tests. The one I use in the video is the A9FB (B for Bayonet). The only problem is that it’s hard (impossible?) to find the A9F on eBay. If you wanna give it a shot, contact WHOISJSD through Instagram or Twitter and see if he can grab one for you! He warns they would go for about $50 though, which isn’t so cheap compared to the mod option. “That said, the quality is excellent. No ghosting, no chromatic aberration. I’m a fan. We did a lot of shots with it on my friend’s Sony and my 1.33x [anamorphic]“, WHOISJSD says. On the bright side, you just need to take it out of the box and shoot.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE!

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network, so if you purchase anything through them, you’re helping me to keep this project going.

Tito Ferradans here for an extremely hardcore tutorial on how to make your own split field diopters. In case you don’t know what split fields are, they are diopters that cover only half the lens. By doing so you can have things in focus on the foreground and background at the same time. I started to obsess about these after watching “The Hateful Eight”, which features a split field shot, and started to hunt them on eBay with no luck. All I could find were small sized ones and I needed at least 72mm to fit my anamorphics. It takes some practice to get used to the technique, so the sooner you get yours done, the sooner you can start practicing.

What are we gonna need here? Diopters (mine are 72mm, but you can get whichever size you like), a few circular polarizers, a black sharpie marker, many clamps, LOTS of sandpaper (or sanding stones), wire, a transformer (mine is 24V, 50W), nichrome wire (thicker than gauge 34, for your own good), a ceramic connector, lens wrench, gloves, mask, protection goggles, pliers, exacto knife, a ruler a bucket of water and a water sprayer.

Electricity is a key part in this tutorial, so play SUPER SAFE. I had a ton of help from my friend Bruno Nicko, who’s starting his own channel with a series of DIY videos (his first project is revamping a dead electric scooter). Many things can go wrong with electricity, so I asked Bruno to explain the details regarding resistance, current, voltage and everything else so you have a rough idea if you’re gonna burn your house down. Always wear protective gear and be extra careful with all the steps in this tutorial.

Let’s get started with an easy step: remove the diopter from its original filter frame. These rings are super cheap and you won’t be using them anymore, so don’t worry if the locking ring breaks in the process.

Now, the electrical rig. Connect the transformer to the wires and the wires to the ceramic box (this thing is meant to resist great heat and contain electricity). Now make your nichrome loop – my wire was too thin (gauge 34) so we had to make it thicker, since the heat was melting it right off the bat. Connect the loop to the ceramic box too. The nichrome wire works as a resistance and heats up as electricity passes through. I highly recommend using an extension with its own fuse instead of connecting this contraption directly to a wall outlet.


Step away from this for a second, fill your spray bottle with water and put it in the fridge.

With your diopter, ruler and exacto knife, head outside. It’s time to score the edges of the diopter to hold the wire in place. Use a piece of cloth as a base so the glass doesn’t get scratched and there’s some tolerance for the pressure you’re applying. Don’t put too much pressure or you’ll break the lens, but if you do it too lightly you won’t carve the line you need. WEAR MASK, GLOVES AND GOGGLES for this. Glass dust is a mean thing.

Back to the wiring, rig up everything to hold the lens in place. Don’t hold it with your hands for cutting: the wire goes over 800°C and the glass heats up as well, so you don’t wanna hold that. We used a bunch of clamps to hold the ceramic box and another two (attached to a tripod as a flexible arm) to hold the lens in place. The two popsicle sticks make sure the clamp isn’t scratching the glass. The sticks also handle the heat. Fit the nichrome wire on both sides of the lens using the cuts in the glass. The wire should run right through the middle of the diopter. We used the convex side so the lens itself helps in keeping the wire stretched. You want it to be as stretched as possible, applying some counter-pressure to the glass.

This is the hard part, it’s also when magic happens right before your eyes. Turn on the transformer and wait for the wire to heat up, give it a good minute. Turn it off, spray the glass with cold water. Heat it up again, spray it with cold water. It takes time. My transformer was at the very edge of dying while we did this. You’ll be motivated to continue since you’re able to see the cracks forming through the glass. The center is the thickest part, and it’s a pain, but eventually it’ll give in. As a reference, the entire process took about four hours for me, but we were still figuring things out along the way.


This will get you two halves of a circle and an edge that tries to cut you just by looking at it. Once more with your mask, gloves and goggles, head outside. Grab the sandpaper and the bucket of water. Using a coarse sandpaper (or sanding sponge, in my case), submerge the glass and sand the edge away. Don’t do it flat, always sand the glass at an angle to smooth it out. This step takes a reasonable amount of time. When the edge is straight, switch to a thinner grade sandpaper for finishing it up. Now you have a friendly edge that won’t chop your fingers off, the problem is that the white of it will introduce a terrible glow across the frame. Using the black sharpie marker, paint it the best you can. Since you sanded it down, the ink will stick for good.



The last step is to get the glass and mount it onto the circular polarizer ring, so you can rotate it as you please once you put it in front of your lens. On the bright side, each set of diopters gives you TWO sets of split fields so you can keep the leftovers as backup gear.

Last minute advice, if you’re thinking of trying a different method than the wire, I did that for my first diopter. I tried the flaming thread method, then a glass cutter, both failed. We ended up hammering a ruler to the line down the middle of the glass. It cracked unevenly, of course, and I had to sand down 1/8th of an inch on the good half of the diopter. It doesn’t look like much but it took me three and a half hours to dust it and the resulting split still could use some more polishing to get straighter.

As mentioned before, I had tons of help from Bruno Nicko for this tutorial, so you should definitely check out his channel for more extreme DIY projects. Let me know if you got the guts to try this out and how the process goes! I’ll get back to work here because Vancouver is sunny for a change and I gotta shoot as much as I can to keep you all busy! Subscribe to the channel and check my blog for more tutorials and anamorphic stuff! See you soon.

In case you wanna see some more split field in Hollywood, here’s a supercut! Music is a bit off, but the technique is well represented and you can see which ones are split diopters and which ones are done in post!

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE!

All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network, so if you purchase anything through them, you’re helping me to keep this project going.

My first camera was a Canon XSi, later on I stepped up to the 7D and not long after that I had a Canon 5D3 and a T2i as B-cam. Long before I started into anamorphics I found out about Magic Lantern, a sort of “hack”, even though I prefer the term add-on software, that can run on most Canon cameras. Magic Lantern itself is absolutely awesome for enabling zebras, focus peaking, crop marks and many other tweaks otherwise non-existent on the original Canon firmware. A group of hackers and programmers started to study Canon’s source code around 2009 and quickly achieved some advantages over the original firmware. The software is free for anyone and can be download from its official website. I have used from 2010 to 2016 with zero major issues, and a few bugs that only required me to pop off the battery and reinsert it.

Magic Lantern became extremely popular in 2013 for enabling RAW video recording on many Canon DSLRs, and RAW absurdly improves image quality over the original H.264 codec, you can see some comparisons here and here. I can honestly say it was Magic Lantern and RAW recording that made me hold on to my 5D3 for so long. The only issue is that you need tons of fast cards. I tested the workflow on several personal projects – including Zona SSP – and have used it for all the reviews in this channel until after the Isco Widescreen 2000 review, when I switched to the Sony A7s2.


Zona SSP

The common ground between shooting RAW and using anamorphic lenses is the ability to pick a non-standard “recording window” from the camera’s sensor area. If I set a recording window to 4:3 and use 2x stretch lenses, the final output is 2.66:1 instead of 3.56:1. Shooting with a shorter aspect ratio also avoids wasting footage that would be immediately cropped in post. While shooting RAW, these guidelines show you what’s being recorded, so they’re your key to framing.

To change the recording resolutions, go in the “Movie” tab, then “RAW video (MLV)”, enter its submenu (Q) and open the “Aspect Ratio” tab. There you can change it freely. I’ll go with 4:3. Then you can go in “Resolution” and adjust the size according to your preference. For 4:3 I usually go with 1600×1200, then so you know what you’re framing, set “Global Draw” to Allow (the default is OFF). If you want more information on how to shoot RAW, there’s plenty of tutorials around.

CUSTOM CROP MARKS

My first contribution to Magic Lantern was way before RAW video, and it’s still useful for cameras that can’t handle RAW: custom anamorphic crop marks. These are overlays placed on top of the image that is being shot, allowing you to preview a different frame format than the one that is actually being shot. This guides my framing based on the final aspect ratio I want for the video. The Anamorphic Calculator is a great tool to help you with that too.

Since mixing stretch factors in the same video is a common thing (more than once I used a 1.33x stretch lens for some shots and a 1.5x or 2x stretch for others) we know that something is gonna be cropped off later (either top-bottom or left-right of the frame). From here, I created nine unique crop marks that allow mixing any kind of lenses (from spherical to 2x) always showing what’s the core framing and what will be cropped. To install them, just copy the BMP files to the ML/CROPMKS folder in your card. You’ll have to remove any other cropmarks, as the limit is nine.

To enable them, go on the “Overlay” tab, then into “Cropmarks” (Q) and choose the one you want. I also like to enable “Show in PLAY mode”, so when I’m reviewing the footage I can see what’s going to be cropped.

File names look like some sort of code but I promise they make sense: the first value is the final aspect ratio, according to the lens stretch. 1.33x stretch results in 2.4:1, 1.5x equals 2.66:1 and the monstrous 2x goes as wide as 3.56:1. The second part of the file name is for the kind of lens being used. Let’s say my whole project was shot with 2x stretch and I’m going for the 3.56:1 aspect ratio. After principal photography is done, I have to shoot some extra footage using spherical lenses. In this case, I need to pick the “2x-norm” crop mark for the extra footage.

ON SET PREVIEW

One of my main concerns shooting anamorphic was how to take a look at the footage on set at the correct aspect ratio, not squeezed like it’s shot. This is really easy to solve through Magic Lantern. In the “Display” tab, there’s an “Anamorphic” submenu. This submenu offers the most common lens stretches. By selecting one of the values, this stretch is applied to the LiveView and you see things in the right proportion while shooting. Its only flaw is the fact that it doesn’t work when you’re reviewing your clips in Play Mode. Developers informed me that messing around with Play Mode is complex and risky, but it works great with RAW recording!

If you’re handling the camera by yourself this is a great solution for it eliminates the need for any other piece of gear devoted only to fixing the images’ aspect ratio.

I thought Magic Lantern deserved this video since it was my loyal companion, making my life easier and the results better, through these years of shooting indie anamorphic projects. I miss the custom crop marks and LiveView stretch every time I’m shooting bare bones with the A7s2 and I’m still getting used to life without it. If you’re shooting with Canon and haven’t tried Magic Lantern yet, waste no more time. Just before you do that, remember to subscribe and quickly check the blog for more reviews, downloads and tutorials! Ferradans out.

This morning someone tried to break into our house by punching in a window screen. Ariana and I were both still in here and we heard a loud noise, but we dismissed it as Finnegan – the cat – does that sometimes. When getting ready to leave, Ariana headed for her bike and found… nothing. The bike was gone, probably taken by the same person who punched in our window screen and bailed after the noise.

At first I thought our other roommate had taken it to work, since both of her bikes were still in the garage. Then we noticed all the bike locks were accounted for, and the distinctive stuff about Ariana’s bike – mudflaps, lights, blue helmet – was in a neat pile by the gate. That was when I noticed the skewed window screen and linked it to the weird noise. It was at 10h30am.

Ariana immediately called Vancouver Police’s non-emergency number and reported the situation. Since both of us were leaving soon, VPD said officers would stop by around 2pm. In the meantime, we set up an alert for the stolen bike on Project 529′s website and shared it on facebook. 529 Garage is a website that links owners and bikes and is connected to Vancouver’s Police Department. It’s an easy way to prove ownership in case of stolen bikes, since they track model, serial number and include pictures of the bike. Their registration fee is $20, and after today I believe it’s more than worth it.

With the alert out we headed our way. On the train I contacted our landlord to tell her about what happened and if she had any valuable advice. She mentioned that the house across from ours – in the alley where the bike was taken – had security cameras pointed to our garage. She also said she would be stopping by later to catch up on the situation and help us with making sure that no one would try to break in again. On facebook I got good tips from a friend – keep an eye on craigslist, check Hastings and Main, look out for shitty paint jobs, as the thief might’ve sprayed the bike to change its look, and DON’T engage with the thief if you find the bike: call the police.

On the way home, we were rooting for that security camera footage. Hopes up, just to be crushed down by finding out it was a fake, an empty shell to scare away burglars and thieves. I guess we should get some of these too.

It was around 5pm and the police hadn’t shown up yet, so Ariana called them again, and they said the officers would stop by at around 7pm. In the meantime we went to the garage, grabbed everything valuable that was stored there and brought it all inside.

By 6h30pm, Natalia and I were trying to cheer up Ariana with ice cream and brigadeiro, talking about the crap life throws our way and she told us the sentimental story about that bike – her first prized possession, bought with her own money, and that she carried everywhere she moved. That part we knew about, since we were the ones who helped putting the bike back together after she brought it, in pieces, from the US. Things were looking bleak.

As soon as we leave the room, Ariana goes “GUYS, I FOUND MY BIKE”. It was on craigslist. No doubt it was hers. The address on the map was five blocks from our house. She replied to the ad, playing it cool, asking if the bike was still available. She was calling the police again when someone knocked on our door. Two officers, Rebecca and Caroline, were here to help us. Ariana went over the entire plot with them, showed the listing, we went to the backyard, checked all the times for the noise and bike theft, looked around and headed back inside. Upon leaving, they said to contact the non-emergency number if her email on craigslist got a reply and mention the case number so they would be updated.

In the meantime we were desperately looking at the photos on the craigslist post, trying to figure out where the bike would be, and checking with google maps the houses in that area, placing bets on which of them was holding the bike and coming up with plans to get it out. We never intended to actually go there, but, man, we were so angry. Natalia and Ariana finally agreed on which house they thought the photos were taken.

It had been about hour since her email, so we decided to create a fake email account and email the person again, low-balling the price. Bruno then took the alias of Todd, and sent a message offering $270 for the $300 listing. He got a reply in a few minutes, including the seller’s name, address – the girls were right about the house! – and phone number. We were all exultant. Ariana called the police again, while Natalia called the officer directly – leaving her a trumped voice mail as Ariana’s call was picked up. They called her back and said they would stop by in a few minutes to brief us in what was going to happen. They also instructed us to set up a meeting with the seller, at the near skytrain station, at 10pm, and, in the message, say we would text him upon arrival. Todd was doing great spy work, posing as a West End dude casually stopping by East Van to grab a bike after work.

The meeting was set and the posting was deleted from craigslist. Officers Rebecca and Caroline showed up a little after 9pm to get all the information and proof they needed to check if that was Ariana’s bike. Ariana also wrote a statement about what happened, in detail, including info on the bike like serial number and a Chicago-bike-shop sticker. Go Village Cycle Center!

By 9h40 we were still waiting on the plainclothes cops who were going to pose as Todd and his buddy. I started to worry they would miss the 10pm meeting, but they quickly showed up and got all the notes they needed to check the bike. With ten minutes to spare, they all left and the four of us (Bruno, Natalia, Ariana and I) were in a state of extreme mixed emotions, from “THEY WILL DEFINITELY GET THE BIKE BACK!” to “what if the guy doesn’t show up and the bike is gone for good?” and everything in between those two scenarios.

After the most painful thirty minutes, we heard a knock on the door and Ariana rushed down to get it. Officers Rebecca and Caroline were there. With her bike. It turns out the guy said he bought the bike this morning from another guy and without any evidence, it’s impossible to charge him for stealing it. The difference is that now he has a record for possession of stolen goods, and if that pattern repeats, well, too bad for him. They also said Ariana did all the right things with contacting the non-emergency number, playing as instructed and letting the police sort out the situation without trying to solve it by herself.

The whole thing felt way longer than twelve hours but, there it was, solved by 10h30pm.

Later on we got another message from the seller to Todd, our coverup identity, saying he learned his lesson and pointing to another craigslist post where he said he got the bike from. Doing some light digging on the other post’s name and phone number, Bruno found a guy selling all sorts of crap for ludicrous prices out of a basement on Kingsway, not too far from here. The stuff ranged from graphics cards for $5 to full working computers and bikes. A distribution center for stolen goods, apparently. Ariana forwarded all this information to the police, it would be good if more people could recover their things.

All in all we got very lucky with the whole turn of events and VPD didn’t let us down. All of us had a really hard time going to sleep after this was over, for all the ups and downs along the day and the adrenaline still pumping in our stream.

WATCH THE VIDEO HERE!

Ever since I reviewed the Isco 16:9 Video Attachment I, the only 1.33x anamorphic I was missing in the reviews was SLR Magic’s. Now that I have it here, I wrote a very simple and straightforward script then got a ton of help (and patience!) from my friends while shooting this side project mixing all the 1.33x attachments in unmarked shots to see if we can actually spot the difference between them. Thank you very much Nicko and Ariana, you are the best.

Shooting this was all kinds of crazy since I was constantly swapping taking lenses, anamorphics and diopters (every single shot!) and keeping track of which shot had which combination was a complex task but not more challenging than shooting it all in a single Saturday afternoon. It was a fun project and also my first time shooting with Rob’s Kinemini, so I took advantage of the S35 sensor + SpeedBooster to match full frame and shot it all in 4K Cinema DNGs without having to worry about crop factors and math (the resulting crop factor was 1.066x, which for me can be considered 1x).

Telling which shot used which lens, without looking at my notes ended up being much more difficult than I expected. A few of them are easy to spot thanks to more visible features – SLR Magic’s super blue flares, the Panasonic’s super wideness and poor edges, the Isco’s oval bokeh – but when these features are not so visible in the shot, it’s blind luck trying to tell which lens was used. Check the list below for full specs. How many did you get right and which ones are your favorite shots?

Before I end this video, I would like to point out the amazing score composed by my friend João Gabriel Rodrigues, he was my classmate back at Film School, and he did an outstanding job coming up with the music from the most bizarre set of notes I ever wrote about what I wanted for the mood in this project. If you’re looking for good music, he’s a freelancer and works super fast, so you should definitely get in touch!

What did you think of this alternate method for reviewing lenses and putting them against each other? Leave a comment below, subscribe to the channel and drop by the blog for the extra anamorphic content! Ferradans out.

Also, here are the reviews for all the lenses used in this test
Century Optics 16:9 Ratio Converter
Century Optics WS-13
Panasonic LA7200
Isco-Optic 16:9 Video Attachment I
SLR Magic Anamorphot 1.33x-50

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