Film School Friday – Spherical or Anamorphic

Spherical or Anamorphic Episode Summary

In this weeks episode of Film School Friday, Corey and Bill are talking about some of the differences between spherical and anamorphic lenses.

Spherical or Anamorphic Episode Notes

In this weeks episode of Film School Friday, Corey and Bill are talking about some of the differences between spherical and anamorphic lenses.

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Spherical or Anamorphic Transcript

Corey Allen  00:05

Welcome to Film School Friday. I’m Corey, I’m Bill. And together, we host the infocus podcast, Film School Friday is our special weekly episode where we try to pass along all of our knowledge, wisdom and experience to you all of it every single bit knowledge dump.

Bill Cornelius  00:24

So Corey, I’m about to embark on directing a short film that’s currently in pre production. I know you have a lot of lenses. This is me flexing on your sphere, spherical or anamorphic?

Corey Allen  00:40

You know, that’s a, that’s a really good question. And I think the fact that we live in a day and age where indie shooters such as ourselves could even consider that a consideration, I think is fantastic. A privilege and honor, it is a privilege and an honor to have that be a possibility. Yeah, you know, lens choice will define a huge percentage of what a project looks like when it’s delivered.

You know, I think every lens has different characteristics, some warmer, some cooler, some sharper, some softer, some, like, talk about things like detail in the corners, and like anamorphic lenses get really crazy in the corners, depending on the model in the year and how old it is. And a lot of times spherical lenses are not that. But you know, anytime a DP or a client, in this case, maybe a little bit of both asks that ever magical question, can we shoot anamorphic?

You know, you have to understand exactly what that means, right? And what that means for the project. Like with anamorphic lenses, it’s much easier to make a shot look like a very different, really stylized world. Even if the viewer can’t really identify exactly what’s different. A lot of times when you see that anamorphic look, we don’t know, you know, we don’t know how to describe it, but you’re like, man that looks. And I’m using air quotes here. cinematic. Yeah.

And it’s not just the streaky light effect that you get? No, like, there are a lot of things, there are a lot of things that go into that, like that anamorphic look, but all of those things combined really can convey like a range of emotions from nostalgia to wonder, which seems weird to say like the lens can do that. But I mean, that is true. Like there are a lot of things that go into the look from camera onto the screen.

Bill Cornelius  02:39


Corey Allen  02:40

none of those plays a bigger role than the lens choice. Spherical, on the other hand often conveys a really neutral or natural subdued look. Oftentimes what we see with our own two eyes, spherical lenses do a great job of representing that, because protip our eyes are mostly spherical.

Bill Cornelius  03:02

We don’t have anamorphic eyes,

Corey Allen  03:03

we don’t have anamorphic. Guys, if, like if there are doctors listening, feel free to correct me, but I’ll correct myself like the eyeballs are not perfectly round, but they’re way more aspherical than they are anamorphic

Bill Cornelius  03:17


Corey Allen  03:18

So I mean, there’s there’s definitely that but all that to say, you know, spherical or anamorphic is completely a creative decision, technically speaking, whatever the intended output ratio is, should also inform that decision anamorphic shots by design are really wide screen. You know, there are in this is getting a little technical, but that’s okay.

There are several different anamorphic squeezes like there’s 1.33 1.8 in what’s probably most common is that 2x anamorphic squeeze and that 2x means that the lens captures twice as much horizontal information as it does vertical information, and then it squeezes that into a compressed kind of square image that’s then captured and then all gets kind of re stretched back out.

A lot of technical stuff we don’t really have time to get into and like a 10 to 15 minute podcast episode, maybe we’ll do like a really long, extended anamorphic all about glass. There’s also a really good YouTube series called the anamorphic cookbook that I’ll link to it has a ton of really good information from the like the history of anamorphic to DIY anamorphic lenses all the way up to some of the common modern lenses like Atlas Orions or hawk or Cooke ARRI master anamorphic. ‘s

The ton of different options. But the most common again that compression is that to x so that compression when it gets stretched back out is what we often identify visually as cinematic and that 2.39 widescreen, when you watch maybe it’s in a movie theater, it’s probably less prominent there. Because the screen sizes are adjustable with a lot of different reasons. When you watch a movie at home on your TV, that’s probably 16:9, and you see big wide black bars at the top and the bottom, that’s a 2.39, probably aspect ratio, Netflix does some really weird aspect ratios for some of their original content.

But to be able to capture that squeeze with minimal image loss, like you would deliver an anamorphic as a 2.39, when you see an image streamed or projected, like with those bars, you know, that’s absolutely what that is. Now, if the image was captured with spherical lenses, and you need to, you would have to sacrifice some of the Image Crop at the top and the bottom to get that same kind of D squeezed look, while the desqueezed anamorphic. See, like fully capture all of that in like a six five ratio, and then you’re good to go.

Now on the other end of the spectrum, if you want to deliver a full like screen filling 16:9 image, spherical lenses allow you to to capture the full image and sacrifice almost none of that from your master shot. While, again, anamorphic, if you wanted to go that route, but still wanted 16:9, you’re gonna have to crop a good chunk of your image from the left and the right on the outer edges, which may not seem like a big deal. But some of the most defining characteristics of anamorphic lenses show up on the outer edges of the frame, part of the distortion that you get, wow, it is beautiful. The more central you get to the image within the anamorphic lens, the more neutral things look to your eye.

Bill Cornelius  06:49


Corey Allen  06:49

the bokeh and the fall off is still very extreme. But when you lose the outer edges, all of that becomes really subdued. It’s still good, beautiful images shot on anamorphic deliver at 16:9. And it looked gorgeous. But again, I’m not a fan of that because you’re gonna you’re giving up too much of the image to achieve that. So just one more thing to consider.

Bill Cornelius  07:15

How does this impact lighting these choices?

Corey Allen  07:18

one of the biggest characteristics that most people probably associate with anamorphic are light flares. Specifically the anamorphic staff layer, which is so stylized, they sell lens they sell lens filters for spherical lenses to emulate anamorphic flares. So not only do you get really long streaky flares, which for most common anamorphic lenses, they present as blue lenses can be treated for a more neutral flare cooking area, I think both have options like that.

Atlas Orion recently released their silver edition where the flare is way more controlled is not blue is actually very gorgeous, like a really warm player. So flaring is definitely way not controlled in most anamorphic versus spherical, oftentimes spherical lenses over index in the control of flares, where they really want to present almost none.

Yeah, neutralize it as much as they can. And then obviously, you know other characteristics like bokeh, when you like the things that are out of focus in the background, if you’re in a really wide open, t stop or F stop on an anamorphic lens, they look like really big stretched out ovals, versus on a spherical lens. Your bokeh is a nice, beautiful, like round circle. Some people don’t like that, like they think it distracts from what you would normally expect for like an out of focus image. So again, just more stuff to think about.

Bill Cornelius  08:51

Do you think JJ Abrams likes anamorphic?

Corey Allen  08:54

I think he likes paying a PA to flash a flashlight into the edge of the anamorphic. I guess there is definitely something to be said about the look that can be achieved with an anamorphic lens. It’s yeah, again it in the right hands, it can really convey some emotion, some disconnect from reality, which a lot of times for narrative things. That’s what you want.

Bill Cornelius  09:19


Corey Allen  09:20

So but yes, I think JJ Abrams, is a big fan of anamorphic.

Bill Cornelius  09:24

Yeah. Well, so am I. And so I have decided to shoot my next film on anamorphics.

Corey Allen  09:31

Yes. Will you rent them from me?

Bill Cornelius  09:34

You know it.

Corey Allen  09:35

Nice. You can find me on shared grid. That’s right.

Bill Cornelius  09:40

Well, thank you, sir.

Corey Allen  09:41

Yeah. Oh, hopefully that wasn’t too much of a data dump that maybe one day we’ll go a little deeper on all things glass.

Bill Cornelius  09:49

Let’s call it all things glass.

Corey Allen  09:51


Bill Cornelius  09:52

I like it. I like

Corey Allen  09:53

awesome. Well, that was fun. And for our listeners, make sure you check us out on Instagram at infocus or online at infocus And if you like what you heard today, go ahead and subscribe or smash the bills smash the like button or like, put it in your favorites. shine the light on it shine a light on it for some great ultra wide anamorphic like, I don’t know. Yeah, love it. Love it. Yes. And until next

Bill Cornelius  10:24

time, feed your crew. Shoot on anamorphic ‘s

Corey Allen  10:28

and try pineapple on your pizza.

Bill Cornelius  10:31

That’s right Corey.