Home of Professional Cinematography since 1996


Anamorphic Super 16mm

Published : 5th October 2003


A while back I read some interesting posts from David Mullen, Jeff Kreines and others about using an anamorphic lens in order to shoot 2.40:1 on Super 16mm. Reading this past month's AC (Sept. 2003) set my mind wandering back to the subject.

"I still have another problem with [using an isco 1.5x projection adapter to shoot anamorphic super16]. The 1.33x would be the ideal magnification, yielding almost exactly a 2.39 frame from a 16:9 format. This is a 1.5x squeeze. One ends up wasting almost exactly the same amount of image area on the sides as one would by shooting straight 16:9 and cropping top & bottom for 2.39. That plus the use of an additional distorting lens element. I see no advantage to Aaton's experiment. I'd still like to see a professional-grade large size 1.33x anamorphic element."

-Mitch Gross

Does anyone have on hand one of the old Panavision variable anamorphic adapters?

I believe that they can go from 1x to 2x+, and can be varied to any degree within that range. I'm not sure how horrible the image would look after coming through one of these old adapters, but it seems like they could be used to test a 1.33x squeeze for super 16 anamorphic. Also, it seems that if the aperture size for S16 is .486 x .295, then that would make an aspect ratio of 1.65:1, which would require an anamorphic squeeze of 1.45x to get to 2.40:1(even if the ratio is 1.66:1 this still holds true).

Why not use more negative space instead of using 16:9? If someone could clear this up for me I would be grateful. I personally find the concept of shooting anamorphic S16 alluring.

Joel Edelstein

-Also, this is my second or third post to the forum, and I'd like to take the chance to thank Geoff Boyle for taking his time to create something that has been so helpful to budding DP's such as myself.

Years ago I worked on a commercial where the director wanted a mixture of formats within 1 spot. The commercial was predominately spherical 4x3, but with anamorphic sections dropped in. We were using Arri III's with Zeiss standards. 435's weren't built yet! The rental house had a set of anamorphics by Ultrascope. It was a long time ago, but I think the focal lengths were: 28, 50, 75 & 120(?), I'm not sure about the 120mm. There were 4 lenses & there was one longer than the 75mm! I do remember them having a good quality about them, less prone to flare than some of the C series anamorphics. A few things did really piss me off about them though, none of the fronts were the same diameter, so filtration was cumbersome, none had focus gears & the minimum focus on all of them was a disaster where any kind of close up required diopters.

The lenses were all in Arri standard mount, so a PL adaptor can be used for the older 35mm Arri cameras, but may be a problem with 435's. They can be used on a 16mm camera because of the Arri standard mount.

Angelo Sartore
1st. AC

The Super-16 Full Aperture is .493" x .292" (1.69 : 1) so it takes about a 1.41X squeeze to get a 2.39 : 1 image.

There were the old non-2X anamorphic formats of the 1950's – Ultra Panavision, which had a 1.25X squeeze, and Technirama, which had a 1.5X squeeze, but most of those lenses are now collector's items and museum pieces.

A 1.33X anamorphic lens series would make a lot of sense all around, from squeezing 1.78 onto 1.33 to squeezing scope onto Super-16, etc. However, 2X anamorphics are already a small subset of spherical lens manufacturing...

David Mullen
Cinematographer / L.A.

The biggest hurdle with using an anamorphot of 1.33x or 1.5x or any ratio that isn't 2x is what to do with the footage in post. If you are simply going to finish to video then various devices can be used to unsqueeze the image, but then again it could be much simpler to crop the spherical frame in this case. But if you're going to a film print, then you need to get your Super-16 1.33x (or whatever) image to a 35mm 2x image. That would require a very odd sized anamorphot indeed, one that is most certainly not in existence. Or you'd have to add steps with unsqueezing one image to a spherical Super-35 print and then resqueezing to a 35mm 2x print. That means an anamorphot at three stages: on the camera, for the IP and then for the IN. That's just begging for a lot of distortions and loss of resolution, not to mention what's going to happen to the grain structure of all those generations with grain that's been stretched and squeezed repeatedly. Could be a funky look, but I don't know how desirable.

In the end I still say that the simplest, most straightforward and probably best-looking way would be to just shoot spherical Super-16 and crop the image in post.

Mitch Gross