Anamorphic on a Budget – Chapter VIB

January 1, 2015



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 being shot. This topic contains not only the time of shooting, but also reviewing a previous shot for evaluation.

Proper monitoring is really easy to solve through the use of MagicLantern’s features. 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.

Display Menu inside MagicLantern, Anamorphic option highlighted.

This path has two main downsides. First one, the stretch is not applied on Play Mode, images are correct while you shoot, but not while you’re watching a previous shot directly from the camera card. Second downside, even more serious, this LiveView distortion eats up a lot of processing power, which ends up blocking our ability to shoot raw.

If you’re shooting with the camera’s native H.264 codec or just still pictures, this is a great solution for it eliminates the need for any other piece of gear, devoted only to fixing the images’ aspect ratio.

Since our case wasn’t “I, by myself shooting and walking around” – we had predetermined locations, call sheets, storyboards -, a larger number of people need to see the shots as they happen (director, art department, sound, and so forth, each one of these areas looking for specific bits of information whithin the frame related to their work), which calls for a screen at least a little bigger than the camera’s LCD.

Unfortunately, not many external monitors feature anamorphic stretching among their menus. During pre-production I looked for some of them based on tips from other anamorphic users and specs from the manufacturers’ websites (only Zacuto, SmallHD and Cineroid provided this feature at the time this was written). Some TVLogic models present a feature called User Aspect in which you can set specific dimensions for the height and width of the frame, working similarly to a custom-made stretch.

I already owned a Zacuto EVF, which offers less options than the Anamorphic submenu inside MagicLantern but still covers the most common stretches – 1.33x, 1.5x and 2x. Image quality is excellent, but the screen size is exactly the same as the camera, with only 3.2″. Its performance is increased through the use of a loupe which allows you to pay close attention to every bit of the frame.

The Cineroid EVF4 has, as the name states, a 4″ screen and it’s not so much bigger than the Zacuto. It also has a loupe that must be used along with the small screen for optimal view. I couldn’t find any of these around São Paulo, but its manual states that through custom parameters you can apply any stretch value over the displayed image.

Saving the best for last, SmallHD offers a wide range of monitors with anamorphic stretch. DP4, DP6 DP7 and AC7 models are capable of anamorphic stretching for 1.33x, 1.5x and 2x lenses. The model number is equal to its screen size, in inches so none of them is really huge, the biggest one has 7″.

A common feature to all these monitors and EVFs is they provide both ins and outs for HDMI connections, while cheaper models have only an in port. Thanks to this pair we can chain them one after the other to make the camera’s image easier to share around the crew. On a simple system we used the Zacuto EVF paired with a SmallHD AC7. Since the Zacuto is smaller and lighter, it was stuck to the camera rig, while the bigger screen was further apart, for the other crew members to see.

That would’ve been enough if we weren’t shooting raw. Reviewing raw material straight in the camera is still pretty lousy, only goes a couple frames per second and lacks any color, which stands for “unusable”.

The solution we found for this problem was to use an external recorder with HDMI input – Atomos NUNJA 2 – as the first link in our monitor chain. Its recording was triggered directly by the camera and its footage was much easier and faster to review because it’s extremely light. From the NINJA the image stream would go through the Zacuto EVF which stretched the frame and then passed on to the SmallHD AC7, also with corrective stretch.

With this large number of small bits of gear and several meters of HDMI cables we were able to see each shot in the correct aspect ratio as well as reviewing them using the external recorder to decide if we should move on to the next or do another take. The chain also allowed the crew to stay further back instead of packing around the cinematographer and speeding up the work.


  • TFerradans. · Anamorphic on a Budget – Chapter VIC January 11, 2015 at 5:42 pm