Cheap “Anamorphic” filter

on August 12, 2014

This is an old trick that has been used by many “DIY”ers in the past, but I thought it was definitely worth posting.

We all love that anamorphic look used in so many Hey! Hope your newly found freedom is treating you well.
I was just brainstorming for the reel scene… what do you think about top gun/annapolis style but roles reversed.. my character is going through bootcamp and the scene’s main focus is her standing up to an officer who’s been giving her so much shit that she’s finally had enough,

(some event had to transpire and she did exceedingly well but got no respect) and through the scene it’s revealed that he’s secretly in love with my character.. or maybe he’s just realizing it as the scene unfolds..

backstory possibility is her brother died in one of the wars (iraq/iran.etc) and that’s what motivated her to join the airforce… his poss backstory.. he actually was over there and good friends with her brother so besides realizing he’s in love with her, he really doesn’t want her to get involved and get hurt..

maybe made a promise to her brother? idk these are just thoughts flowing. And I feel like it’d be easy to shoot.. just out on a grassy field somewhere representing the bootcamp.. male lead just needs uniform and i would just need bootcamp/exercise attire. Sorry it’s not in complete sentences, but hopefully you get the gist. Let me know! and JJ Abrams movies. The bokeh is beautiful and oval, the lens takes advantage of the entire image, and you get that great streaky flare. That flare is the telltale sign of an anamorphic lens, and it is used in many sci-fi and space movies. I have no doubt we will see plenty of it in the new Star Wars movies.

There are many adapters out there for DSLR shooters, ranging from the authentic and insanely expensive, to the simple and “why didn’t I think of that” approaches.
Adapters are notoriously hard to focus with, because you are in essence, focusing with the regular lens, and then the anamorphic lens as well. Projector lenses have been adapted with some success. And then there is the Cinemorph filter, which is brilliant because of its simplicity. It simply takes an oval shape and superimposes it on a filter, giving all the bokeh the stretched out shape. Then they use a simple etched pattern into the filter itself to reproduce that awesome flare.

As a side note, it’s incredibly interesting to note that all these aspects of image that photographers and filmmakers fought so hard against for years, we now try to reproduce. Film grain, Light leaks, film burns, solar flares, lens flares. The collective unconscious of the moviegoing public has a sense of nostalgia for these elements and they feel organic and rooted, which helps suspend disbelief in a media circus that is inundated with digital and CGI.

But back to topic: The cheapest way that I have come across to reproduce the Anamorphic flare is simply: fishing wire.

That’s it!

Some fishing wire strung vertically across the lens will produce a horizontal lens flare. Take a blue sharpie to the fishing wire, and every time your lens crosses a light source, a gorgeous blue streak will cross your image.

You can do this with simply a rubber band and some ire, but sometimes that’s a hard sell in front of clients.
I had an extra petal lens hood that I didn’t know what to do with, but really, just a step up ring adapter would work great, too.
I drilled some pilot holes into each end of the hood, ran the string through and made sure it was tight off tight at each end and: voila! A very simple way to just throw some anamorphic flare into a scene.

One of my first trepidation about his DIY “trick” was that it was a little TOO DIY. Given the money and the resources, I would shoot anamorphic almost all the time. It felt so much like the “Poor Mans Anamorphic”- until I saw it in a very well-respected production. In the beautifully shot BBC series “Sherlock”, Holmes and Watson find themselves subject to some possibly paranormal experiences in the “The Hound of Baskerville”. There are lots of slider shots, lots of crystal beakers crossing frame, and lots of lights with anamorphic flare used to cover transitions as the scene went behind a pane of glass. I had always assumed that they just shot on anamorphic- they are, after all, a REAL TV show with a more than modest budget. Then I saw an interview with the DP where he revealed his secret for crafting the look in that episode, and it was fishing wire! His method was slightly different in that he taped it to the back of the lens right where it meets the mirror. That had the effects of giving the flare a larger wash across the scene so that it would cover his scene transitions.

Truly, For less than $5, you can have some very fun effects that give a much more organic feel than anything you could do in post. I always prefer practical FX to CG- it feel real and in the moment, and I also like to “get it right in camera” whenever possible. It’s a cheap mod to make, and takes up next to no space when thrown into your bag with your other filters.