This is my second take on a Guide for people interested in anamorphic lenses. My first compilation, the Anamorphic on a Budget guide, was also my graduation work at University of São Paulo (Brazil). It explains most of the basics about the lenses and a little bit of their history, but there’s a lot of it dedicated to my final project, Zona SSP. This time I don’t have a project in mind. The Anamorphic Cookbook is the result of almost five years of experiments with various lenses, systems and cameras. I’m trying to bring everything I learned during this time into understandable (even though very technical at times) writing for all of those who are entering the anamorphic world or already experienced shooters who want to learn a thing or two about lenses other than the ones they’re used to. MOST of it isn’t science, but as close to it as I could get through repetition, discussion, analysis and comparison. All of what I write is true for me and if you get different results please don’t hesitate and shoot me a message or, even better, leave a comment, so the whole discussion can be public.
What should you expect to find in this book? Actually, before that and even more important, what are you NOT gonna find in this book? For starters, I won’t tell you what lens to buy, or what’s the best lens for beginners simply because there is no objective answer to these questions. I’ll analyze dozens of lenses, give you charts and comparisons tell you which style of shooting works best with this and that lens and it’s up to you to decide which one you feel more confident with. All adapters have their drawbacks, some will bother you more than others.
Another thing I’m doing is dedicating a lot more space to talk about taking lenses and their effect on the resulting image. Why do we keep hearing vintage optics work “better” than modern glass, the effects of multicoating, zooms versus primes, why does everyone love the Helios 44, and other questions like these. The order of the chapters might look a bit odd at first but I’m doing it the way I believe people should learn these subjects. For example it’s essential to understand diopters before we get to talk about any anamorphic adapters. Diopters are, by far, the most underrated subject when it comes to anamorphic filmmaking and these tiny pieces of glass can boost the character of your production tremendously by directly affecting bokeh and stretch factor, but nobody ever seems to really care about them. It’s always “do I need diopters with that?”
Since Anamorphic on a Budget was published there was an increase in the number of cameras featuring anamorphic modes and such, like the GH4, Ursa Mini, Alexa 4:3, and the never forgotten and super convoluted workflow of shooting raw on Canon cameras. Plus, everyone’s eyes are always shining and asking manufacturers “Will this firmware update offer an anamorphic mode?” even though I get the feeling that most users don’t grasp the advantages of such modes versus simply cropping the sides of a 16:9 frame. This time I’ll do my best to try these cameras personally and explain why these or those settings are a way to improve (or simplify) your workflow.
As any film school will teach you, you first got to learn the rules and know them by heart before you start breaking them. Anamorfaking is possible, but if you don’t understand how the real thing works, there’s a great chance your fake will yell “FAKE!” and bring your production value down instead of up. In this section I’ll talk about flares, filters, mods and post processing, all of them cheaper than the real thing, which is what makes them interesting.
There are also a few odd uses and unique products to be included, such as the Letus AnamorphX-GP for the GoPro Hero 3 (and 3+), Moondog Labs’ lens for iPhone, using baby anamorphics with phones, hacking and slashing bulky lenses to make them friendly, a detailed explanation about Variable Strength Diopters, yadda yadda. Lots of bits and pieces that I tried to connect together and eventually jammed into what might seem a random spot.
The anamorphic community is small and spread across the globe. If we weren’t so united this guide would not have been possible. Having a few safe havens is key. The EOSHD forum and the facebook group Anamorphic Shooters are my go-to places whenever I have questions or want to share any discoveries. There is still a lot to go, but I’d like to thank a few individuals in advance – this list will probably increase with the following chapters. Rob Bannister, Richard Gale, Cosimo Murgolo, Jim Chang, Andrew Chan, Alan Besedin, Matt Leaf and John Barlow helped me a great deal with several aspects of my research and deserve the recognition. Thank you very much for all the enriching discussions and explanations, guys.
This guide is still at its earliest stages and I have plenty of writing ahead. If you wanna stay updated about the Anamorphic Cookbook, subscribe to my youtube channel for all kinds of video, follow me on Instagram, send your name and email to email@example.com and I’ll let you know when new content is available! Also, you can just visit this blog every once in a while.