Films shot in the Anamorphic process are instantly recognizable. They have a quality and resonance that other lenses can’t capture. Anamorphic films seem to capture an almost 3D quality onto film’s 2D medium. The process makes creative use of aberrations such as long horizontal lens flares, oval bokeh and highly curved corners that all add a sense of heightened reality.
Getting your hands on Anamorphic lenses is very difficult for the low budget filmmaker…so I created my own After Effects project that replicates the look and feel of the Anamorphic process. If you drop your footage into the timeline…you will have access to 3 options that help you achieve the magical look without resorting to additional adaptors or lenses. This workflow has been optimized for cameras that capture 16:9 footage and for lenses between 28mm to 35mm (Full frame equivalent).
The Anamorphic lens that I chose as the holy grail to emulate is the Panavision Primo 40mm Anamorphic. It was the ONLY lens used on Roman Polanski’s Chinatown and used 95% of the time on Wes Anderson’s films Rushmore and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
AFTER EFFECTS PLUGIN PROJECT WORKFLOW:
1. VASHIMORPHIC is by default 1920×1080 / 23.976 FPS / 16:9 aspect ratio.
2. Use a full frame camera with a 28mm or 35mm lens. APS-C camera use a 20mm or 24mm. BMCC use a 10mm or 12mm.
3. Capture your footage in 16:9 format and frame for 2.35 during the shoot.
4. Import your footage into the “Your Footage” layer of After Effects.
5. Adjust CI Vignette settings to taste. Default setting is 10% Opacity and 200 pixel feather.
6. Adjust Corner Blur to taste. Default is 3 pixels with repeat edges on.
7. Render out footage to the codec of your choice.
VashiMorphic will not replicate lens flares or the oblong out-of-focus areas like an actual Anamorphic lens. It will however…for the very first time…give you a free and easy way to morph your normal DSLR or other 16:9 footage into a convincing and controllable simulation of the Anamorphic look. It’s by no means perfect, but I spent a lot of time trying to find a way to duplicate the aesthetic of a filmmaking tool that I really love. I hope it will find a home in your filmmaking arsenal and give you the opportunity to enhance your footage and help you tell your story.
To read how the plug-in was created, or to understand the steps involved, read Vashi’s article.
Here’s an example of using the VashiMorphic40 plug-in, by Neumannfilms:
You can tweak the plug-in to get the desired effect, or even create your own distortions based on the lenses you love.