This post was inspired by something João Gabriel Rodrigues wrote a couple weeks back. Jota said he’s competitive to the point that he can’t have fun. If he’s set to do something, that something has to be the absolute best, otherwise, what’s the point? As I read his post I realized I have a lot of that too. And some more.
If you ask me what I’ve been up to, the answer is gonna be quite different than if you ask me how I’m doing.
Here’s what I’ve been up to: I turned 30 last year. I got somewhat of a steady job for the first time ever and switched from working on set to working in post. I thought I was done talking about anamorphics and it turned out I wasn’t. Last fall I taught a class for an entire semester in the college I graduated from.
I traveled through Europe and met a bunch of people I only knew from the internet. I (self) published two e-books after two years of drafts. I’ve been involved in all sorts of projects I never expected. Yesterday I wrapped shooting my first feature film as director of photography and next week I start teaching classes at Langara college. Today I’m posting a video and livestreaming about a camera I had before it was announced. The first big payoff of five years working on the YouTube channel.
If that’s all you know from me – because it’s the information I volunteer -, then it really sounds like I’m living the dream.
Here’s how I’m doing: since I rushed back from Brazil to Vancouver before the border closures in March, I’ve been afraid. I’ve been feeling weak, scared, and insecure. I’ve been sleeping four to five hours a night, and I hardly feel hungry. I’m also randomly sad and there are days I hate feeling like this.
I’m used to dealing with impostor syndrome for a single aspect of life at a time. Dealing with it on multiple fronts all at once was a new experience. The latest rush of accomplishments – feature film, secret new camera, teaching -, plus not faltering with the channel and pushing for some more still-secret projects got me reeling.
Right now I feel like playing video games for a week straight and not stepping out of the house. As much as I want it, I know that’s not what I’ll do. There are classes to be taught and videos to be made.
Feeling weaker now was different from previous times. On the feature I had a team I could be honest with and say “today I’m feeling like garbage and I need some extra help”, so they stepped up giving me time to recover. On the channel I’m not on my own anymore, Blake and Lila help me on different fronts and they help a lot. For teaching, Sara has always been an inspiration and endless source of support. Last, for absolutely everything I do, I got Ari. Ariana is a major source of inspiration and motivation. She pushes me forward and always helps me when things get out of hand. I’m super grateful for having these people around me.
I guess the idea is there’s always some sort of balance. While things are great, others are not so good. I take them as I go and I’m still learning to take breaks.
You want to achieve the anamorphic look, or make your footage more “cinematic”, but you’re not ready or you don’t have enough time to figure out anamorphic adapters. You also don’t have enough money for cine anamorphics (who has it?). Lucky for you, I spent the last three years breaking down what makes the anamorphic look into components that can be created separately without any anamorphic glass. That’s my Anamorfake It Until You Make It! guide. More about it later! In this post we’re creating the anamorphic look with the Rokinon 35mm T1.5 Cine Lens!
This 35mm is a very versatile lens. It has great minimum focus and features a fast aperture which boosts bokeh for the smart shooter. 35mm is a mandatory focal length in any set, acting as a normal lens on S35 cameras and a mild wide-angle on full frame. The one I’m using is in EF mount as it’s the most versatile budget mount on the market. In the following steps we’ll open up the lens, take out some elements and add an oval insert to the aperture mechanism.
Modifying a lens can feel like a daunting experience if you have never done it before. I still get shivers every time I’m opening a new lens. The secret to staying cool and safe is to take notes and film/photograph the process, paying close attention to what piece goes where, as well as its orientation. The mod we’re attempting today is a simple one.
In this video you can see me doing it all in just over ten minutes. I usually don’t share these in writing anymore, but I teamed up with Cinema5D to provide you with an illustrated guide here so you can do the process on your own pace!
For this mod we’re gonna need the lens (obviously), a lens wrench (not mandatory), scissors, a phillips screwdriver (#000), marking tape, a permanent black marker, and oval inserts you can get from me on eBay.
Before I even touch the lens I paint the oval insert black. The ovals come in thin transparent acrylic. Use the permanent marker for that. Paint both sides of the disc and do two coats. Set it aside.
Now get the lens and notice how the locking pin on the mount aligns with the line for the aperture mark. That is important for reassembling the lens later. Get the screwdriver and remove the three screws that hold the mount in place, putting them on a safe place.
Then take out the lens mount and set it aside too.
This gives us great access to the rear group of the lens. Time to check where the aperture line is again. Using it as a reference, cut a small triangle of marking tape and place it on the rear group, aligned with the aperture line.
You’ll notice two little grooves on the housing around the glass. You can use the lens wrench here to loosen the initial tension. If you don’t feel like getting a lens wrench just for this one mod, get a firm grip around the rear group (rubber gloves help) hands and twist it out. There’s a lot of turns on this one.
This gives you access to the aperture mechanism. You can open and close it, see how it works up close. You’ll also see that there’s not a lot of room in there for our oval insert. We’re going to have to attach it to the rear group itself.
Use the triangle mark to align the oval insert. Considering its narrowest diameter, the oval must be perpendicular to the triangle. This ensures that when you screw it back into the lens, the oval will be in the proper orientation – I learned this the hard way. The cheap option to stick the disc in place is using little loops of tape. The fancy way of doing it is using double-sided tape. Make sure you stick the tape to the metal housing around the element, not to the glass itself!
All that is left to do is screw this little guy back in place and reinstall the mount. Be prepared, though: there is a good chance that the oval will not be perfectly aligned. Here’s trick I learned after doing a dozen of these mods and adjusting the ovals to perfection: reinstall the lens mount using only one screw.
Make sure the notch in the mount is aligned with the aperture line as we observed early on, and install the screw closest to that point.
Then mount the lens on your camera and check how the ovals are looking. For me, they were a bit off to the left. To fix that I need to reopen the lens, get to the oval again, and twist it a little bit in the opposite direction.
This is the only challenging part of this mod. Sometimes it takes me up to three tries until I get it perfect. Take your time, think it through and make the adjustments.
Once you are happy with alignment, install the rest of the screws, locking the mount in its original position!
This concludes the modding process for the Rokinon 35mm. Go out and shoot some good-looking oval bokeh! Notice that the aperture mechanism still works perfectly, allowing you to stop down the lens. The downside of doing so is that the oval shape will start to get cut off until it disappears completely. After installing one of these mods, I also throw a variable ND on the lens and use that to control exposure, instead of the aperture ring.
In terms of crafting the anamorphic look, this mod won’t make your lens squeeze the footage or produce streak flares. This is the cleanest style of modification. The Anamorfake It! guide includes several other aspects of creating the anamorphic look such as distortion, lens flares, detailed instructions for modifying over fifteen lenses, how to make your own mods plus video tutorials and a ton of resource material that you can use in your projects. This is all without actually changing the way you shoot – if you ever used adapters, you know they require a lot of compromises. To inspire you a little more, use the code C5D at checkout for a 10% discount!
I made an Aspect Ratio Calculator as part of the release for the revised and updated Anamorphic on a Budget guide. This tool helps you figuring out timeline resolution and optimal scale settings. By following the numbers you can maximize footage use towards delivery size!
All the fields have handy tooltips, so if you have questions just hover over the titles.
This is my first time talking about actual cinema anamorphics. I decided to start with LOMOs because Russian glass has a special place in my heart, and the LOMO Foton-A is one of the rare lenses I’m never letting go.
I started writing this shortly after we came back from the NAB show in 2019. The gears got stuck and I just managed to push them back in motion now as we approach NAB 2020.
At some point in late February I realized I had a shot at going to the NAB Show 2019. It was something I wanted for at least a few years – plus Las Vegas isn’t that far from Vancouver. I had stopped making videos for the channel in September and I left Facebook by Christmas. It felt like I was done with all of this anamorphic and youtube stuff, so going to NAB was a sort of farewell.
My contract ended the week prior to the event so I asked Ari if she wanted to come (it’s a gear thing, she could be bored). She was excited for Vegas. We got tickets. It was too late to get a good price on a hotel but we got an airbnb. The NAB website said from April 6-11, but that’s too much time to feed G.A.S. so I thought of staying the weekend to check out the showroom and be done.
The plan was to arrive early on the week to explore the city and surrounding areas for a couple days, then NAB on the weekend, then back home early on the following Monday to start working on new things. If you’re a seasoned NAB visitor, my mistake might be apparent already. So we go, we explore, we drive, we eat – oh, the food!
Saturday comes around and we head to the convention center to get our NAB passes and drool over gear. We get there and there’s only contractors going in and out, putting the showroom together. We go to the information booth in the lobby and that’s when we learn that the showroom is opening on Monday at 9am – two hours after we’re scheduled to board our plane. I feel somehow I should’ve known that schedule from the start although the website wasn’t at all clear about it.
It devastates me. “This-was-all-for-nothing” style. “What-a-waste-of-money-and-time” style. In a mix of anger, disappointment and sadness I storm out of the lobby and Ari catches up. By the time I sit down outside I’m set on trying to enjoy the two days we have left and miss out on what I came to see. It’s a crappy plan and it doesn’t really make me happy, but it definitely cuts my losses.
We take a car back to the airbnb. I’m done with the day and Ari is telling me this is all too stupid. I’m not taking it too well. We talk some more, call the airlines. Changing the flight is more expensive than getting a new one. My best shot at getting a refund for missing the flight is getting my airport fees and taxes back. I file for that anyway. It comes to $15.
Ariana says we’re not leaving without seeing the showroom. She says I can argue and fight all I want but she’s getting us new tickets home for late Tuesday instead of Monday morning. If I wanna go back by myself, I can, but she’s gonna see the showroom. That makes me recover a bit and I start looking for a place we can stay.
I start seeing past my anger and self-doubt from the misunderstanding by the time we book a room at Circus Circus – the creepiest and most bizarre place I’ve ever paid to sleep at. It’s gonna be good and it’s gonna be fun. We have the weekend to enjoy the city so we find some comedy, a little knife-throwing, and more delicious food – now with NAB discounts. It’s not like Vegas has little to offer.
The NAB Show 2019
Monday rolls around and we hit the showroom. It’s a lot of fun. Ari is a compositor and there’s a lot of post-production tech that she’s interested in. In the first day I just wander around in awe. We stop at Boris FX’s booth for a Mocha demo and sign up for some random prize raffle. I talk to a bunch of people, ask questions to brand representatives, hang out at the Atlas booth with Forrest Schultz, some folks recognize me from the channel – Tom Antos and Raafi Rivero right at the start, and more through the day. My backpack is stuffed with free samples and gifts. I don’t have a goal and I feel pretty accomplished by now.
The last thing I do is to attend Adobe’s talk on “Editing for Youtube: Keeping Pace with Rapid Change” because, well, I relate to all of the words in that sentence: I use Premiere and After Effects for work. The guys from Corridor Digital were at the talk and I’ve been a fan for a while, so I went for it.
I sat there and watched. Ariana joined me halfway and by the time the panel was over she bolted from her seat to the front of the stage (if you watch the video, on the very last seconds she’s the girl in yellow coming from the bottom right of frame).
Before I catch up to her she’s taking photos of the panelists at the request of the mediator. I just hover over there waiting for her to finish up so we can head out. That’s when Sam Gorski, from Corridor Digital, points very directly at me and says “man, I love your channel”. My mind goes “Haha, me? this guy here? Tito? Nah, he must be thinking of someone else, I don’t even look like in the videos for a while”. So I react in the most natural way I can: I point at myself and mouth back “Me?” with a mildly concerned face. To that he goes “Yeah, man, you, with the anamorphic stuff”. I’m pretty sure there’s no one there with an “anamorphic stuff” channel, so it can only be me.
I come closer, we chat for a bit, talk about anamorfaking and how cheap and effective it is, especially for VFX and post-production – this conversation was a huge encouragement to the Anamorfake It guide. Sam emphasizes a bunch of things about my videos that I thought no one cared or that held me back in the sense of generating income. The showroom is closing so we wrap up the chat. At this point I’m shifting my perspective about the channel and how much of its impact is unknown to me. I also have it very clear that Ari is a big catalyst for the things I want to do but I’m afraid to take the shot and I’m very thankful to be with her.
The second day is much shorter than the first since we have to finally catch our flight mid-afternoon. On the bus from the hotel to the showroom the guy sitting next to me recognizes me and we chat about his experiments with shooting scope and anamorfaking.
At this point I have already decided that I’m not letting the channel die just yet and that my work has value and importance. The conversations all point to what I set out to do from the channel’s start: to provide information that allows anyone wanting to experiment with the anamorphic look to do so without breaking the bank. I don’t know yet what I’ll do to start making videos again, or what to cover in them, but I know that on this second day I’m making connections.
On a mission
While on the lobby outside the showroom I study the floor map to mark the booths I wanna hit to try and create connections that could benefit the anamorphic chat (Cooke, Scorpio, P+S Technik, TLS, LumaFusion, FiLMiC Pro, some more Atlas, etc). In the middle of that we get an email from Boris FX. Remember we signed up for some random raffle prizes? It turns out Ariana won a full pass for 2020’s NAB Show.
The second day is much less overwhelming than the first, we see a bunch more demos. I talk to a lot more people than I did in the first day and we head out around noon for the airport. By the time we leave the ground we already know we’re coming back for 2020. This time I’ll be there for my birthday!
This experience was key for resurrecting the channel and changing my take on it. I don’t have expectations of it making up all my income – as I expected before -, I just find it important to put the content out there and hope that it helps someone in need of it. I’m also set on putting out different options for people that want to support my work through the sales of merchandise, guides, mods and whatever else I can come up with. I helped you and you wanna help me back? Buy something! :)
I started to write this post the day after we got home (April 10, 2019), but it took me forever to finish itbecause I’m worried about stupid things. First I don’t wanna sound like I’m tooting my own horn for the Corridor Digital part, although I am super proud of it. Second, I find it hard to reveal my mistakes online for anyone to see. I messed up with the schedule and I didn’t wanna show I messed up.
It took me a while to realize that not revealing where I go wrong makes for a too-perfect-life and that’s one of the biggest problems with the internet right now. I don’t wanna add to it: I make mistakes. I mess up almost as much as I get things right, sometimes more. Plus mistakes make good stories and that’s something definitely worth sharing.
This is my thought process on how to buy an anamorphic lens. It can be your first, it can be your twentieth. Have fun! I recommend opening the image on a new tab and maxing out the zoom.
Below is a list with all the things mentioned in the flowchart. There’s a brief description and useful links. This should equip you with more than enough information on whatever endpoint you reach!
All the RED links on this post are part of eBay’s Partner Network. If you purchase anything through them you’re helping this project.
Aivascope 1.5x The second version of the Aivascope. A single focus adapter that rivals image quality with the mighty Iscorama. It makes some of the most beautiful flares among adapters. Product Page/Test Videos
Anamorfake It Until You Make It! An extensive guide I wrote on how to craft the anamorphic look without anamorphic glass. – Product Page / Videos
Anamorphic Mode Some cameras offer this alternative recording mode that shoots 3:2, 4:3, or 6:5 aspect ratio for better use of sensor area. + info at Cinema5D
Atlas Orion Lenses These are the new love of low-budget productions. Affordable anamorphics for cinema rates. Official Website / Video Review
Baby Hypergonar One of the most famous baby scopes. This thing is tiny and incredibly rare. Performs pretty well, but offers an odd squeeze factor (1.75x) and requires a lot of extras for proper rigging. Also not the best in terms of coverage. Look for one on eBay / Test Videos
Blade Runner 2049 A sequel to Ridley Scott’s 1979 classic, featuring Ryan Gosling. It was shot by Roger Deakins, who is known for not using anamorphics. IMDB / ShotOnWhat
Bolex Moller 16/32/1.5x Anamorphot The double-focus cousin of the Iscoramas. These gems are hard to find and pricy, but produce beautiful images. Look for one on eBay / Video Review
Communism A political theory derived from Karl Marx, advocating class war and leading to a society in which all property is publicly owned and each person works and is paid according to their abilities and needs. Wikipedia
Isco Ultra Star Anamorphic Lens A popular, fairly cheap and reliable anamorphic adapter. Due to its modern coatings, it barely flares. Delivers sharp images and beautiful oval bokeh. Look for one on eBay / Video Review
Letus AnamorphX PRO 1.33x Anamorphic Adapter The absolute king of the hill when it comes to “how wide does it go”. Delivers great image quality, but weighs a lot and requires double focusing. Official Website / Video Review
LOMO Squarefronts and Roundfronts LOMOs are the cinema lenses of the Soviet Union. Needless to say they’re not in production anymore and are very sought after because of the character they bring to the footage. Squarefronts are older and less reliable, using a synchro focus mechanism. Roundfronts are newer and use variable diopters for focusing (see below). + info at Anamorphic on a Budget
Moller Anamorphot 46/2x A very heavy projection lens. Makes handling the camera a real challenge. Delivers beautiful flares and image quality, but its unyielding size and weight make it unusable for me. Look for one on eBay
Panasonic LA7200 1.33x Anamorphic Adapter Second place to the “how wide does it go” list, the LA7200 was a very popular adapter for beginners. Now not so much due to the many new additions to the market such as SLR Magic and Sirui. Look for one on eBay / Video Review
Rapido FMJ FMJ stands for Front Metal Jacket, a metal tube that hides your adapter from prying eyes, disguising your DIY setup as a single unit. Official Website / Video Review
Rapido Full Package C This Rapido package includes the FMJ, FVD16a and a Schneider Cinelux, all of which are referenced in this list, so look for their own definitions. The advantage of the package is they all come together. Official Website
Rapido FVD16A The best cost/performance ratio on the market for single focus solutions (see Single Focus Solutions below). Official Website / Video Review
Rapido FVD35A The FVD16A (see above) is a limiting factor when it comes to vignetting on some of the bigger adapters in the market. The FVD35A supercharges on the size, keeping your image cleaner and wider.Official Website
Schneider Anamorphic Lens Sibling to the Isco Ultra Star (see above), but less friendly to double focusing since it doesn’t have a focus ring. Requires a single focus solution for better operation. Look for one on eBay / Video Review
Scope 30mm T/2 In April 1st, 2018 I said I made a lens. A lot of people loved the idea so much that they got mad when I said it was all a joke. Launch Video / VFX Breakdown
Single Focus Solution / Variable Diopter All the rave when it comes to converting double-focus setups into single focus. Set everything to infinity and go out to shoot. + info at Anamorphic Cookbook / Video Review
SLR Magic 1.33x-40 Compact Anamorphic Adapter Also one of my most popular recommendations, a super cheap adapter that works straight out of the box without requiring lots of clamps, step rings and other paraphernalia. Get one at B&H / Video Review
SLR Magic Anamorphot 65 The Anamorphot 65 was developed in partnership with Fujinon for perfect pairing with their MK lenses. Bigger elements mean less vignetting and can be made single focus when paired with said Fujinon MK lenses and a dual-motor follow focus system.Get one at B&H / + info at Cinema 5D
Van Diemen Rehousings These rehousings are amazing. The downside is they take a long time and cost a small fortune. You provide all the glass, they do the mechanical design and building. Official Website / Video Review
Vazen 40mm T2 1.8x Anamorphic Lens Vazen made a splash by offering a lens suited to MFT cameras and aiming at 4:3 shooting, optiminzing sensor use and squeeze ratio. Built like a tank, could be called a cine lens, but much cheaper than the other ones. Official Website / Video Review
Xelmus Apollo Anamorphic Lenses A brand new lens maker from Ukraine who promises to revolutionize performance on the low-budget end of cinema anamorphics. Official Website / Video Review