Last month I wrote an article entitled Is Anamorphic Still Relevant? In it I tackled the basic ideas and concepts associated with anamorphic filmmaking and exhibition in the digital age and how because of digital the once optical “cheat” has been rendered somewhat useless.  While I didn’t write the article to put a stop to the filmmaking process known to many as anamorphic, nor did I write it to tear down companies who specialize in the manufacturing of anamorphic lenses and products, that didn’t stop many from believing I did. Truth is, despite what I know about anamorphic filmmaking and exhibition, I still like the look of it. I would even consider filming in it as it is, in its own way, a form of artistic impression. That being said, artistic or not, it doesn’t mean I have to simply go along with some of the myths that seem to be associated with the format.

One of the myths in question has to do with this idea that because a properly setup digital projector with an anamorphic lens attached uses the projector’s entire image sensor the resulting projected image is somehow brighter. This “truth bomb” was lobbed at me several times following the publishing of my original anamorphic article. One company specializing in anamorphic lens attachments, with whom I have a close, friendly relationship with, even asked me to test it -again. I say again because I had originally stated that in my tests I saw no difference in light output between a projector with an anamorphic lens versus one without. But, I’m not always right and it never hurts to double check.

Advocates for anamorphic lens setups will say that using a lens will result in more light hitting the screen because a) you using all of your projector’s chipset and b) you don’t have to zoom out as far to achieve the same size image -as it relates to width of course. Both these reasons seem to make a lot of sense, they’re even logical. I’ll admit in my earlier test, the one where I stated that I saw no difference, I merely measured the light output of a projector, with and without a lens attached. In my new test, the one that inspired this post, I would tighten up my form in order to ensure an apples to apples comparison. Here goes.

My projector sits approximately 17 feet back from my 120-inch diagonal screen (lens to material). I started by measuring my projector’s light output with an anamorphic lens attached. I zeroed out my projector, that is to say I set it back to its factory defaults. I then put a 100% IRE white pattern through the projector via my DVDO Duo connected by a 1 meter HDMI cable. I set my projector to its appropriate anamorphic mode, which resulted in a large white box appearing on my screen. The white box was 6 feet wide on my 120-inch screen -this will be important. Using a calibrated C6 meter and SpectraCal’s CalMan v.4 software I measured the 100% IRE box with the anamorphic lens attached at 4.3 foot lamberts. Remember, don’t get hung up on the projector’s light output, we don’t care about that right now, our only focus is light output with lens versus without. I took over a dozen readings and 4.3 was pretty much the figure.

Now, I removed the lens and turned off my projector’s anamorphic mode and resent the same 100% IRE pattern to the screen. It was smaller so I zoomed out until the box was the same size as it was when using the anamorphic lens. Doing so simulated the effect of using lens zoom or memory, opposed to an anamorphic lens attachment. With the box now the same size as it was with the anamorphic lens in place I re-measured the projector’s light output. Remember, I didn’t move or touch anything but the projector’s zoom function, which is entirely remote controlled. The measured light output without the anamorphic lens was an even 4 foot lamberts.

Proponents of anamorphic lenses and such claim that using one (an anamorphic lens) will result in 30% more light output than zooming. My tests above show that simply isn’t the case. Not sure what they’re doing in order to arrive at a 30% increase in light output, but if it were true I should’ve measured 5 plus foot lamberts with the lens attached against the 4 without. Sorry, but in my tests, the numbers don’t support the claims. As for more pixels and full resolution, well I think I successfully explained those claims away in my previous article.

So, what is the point of using an anamorphic lens then? Well, for starters using an anamorphic lens may allow you to obtain a wider 2.35:1 image with the projector resting closer to the screen. Those who live in tight spaces would therefore benefit potentially. However, it does mean that you’ll have to suffer a smaller image when viewing 16:9 content -unless of course you have an auto masking screen and/or your anamorphic lens on a motorized sled. Anamorphic lenses do get around the issue of over scan or light leakage as a result of simply zooming out until the black bars top and bottom fall above and below the projection screen surface. But there are ways of treating over scanned bars so they’re not too distracting either -many of which cost less than most anamorphic lens attachments. In the end I believe it comes down to personal preference and what the end user simply wants. It’s not as if using an anamorphic lens ruins the projected image per se, it just isn’t made of magic. In the end its ultimately the call of the end user and whether or not they want to use an anamorphic lens or rely on lens memory. Whichever you choose doesn’t mean that the format or technique known as anamorphic is silly, it just means there’s now more than one way to enjoy it in the home.

As always I thank you all so much for reading. Until next time, take care and stay tuned…

Andrew