For our short documentary film Drive 2 we are shooting with our anamorphic adapters for a more cinematic look and feel.
We have the Panasonic AG-LA7200 (no longer sold) for our main cameras and the Letus AnamorphX-GP for our GoPro cameras.
We love the Panasonic AG-LA7200 at Mediawerx; it's an excellent adapter but has some issues - especially with close-up shots where diopters need to be used in order to pull focus.
We have a few macro shots in mind for our short film and was worried about getting the camera to focus through the anamorphic glass, so we decided to do a bit of testing.
Anamorphic shots usually don't work too well beyond around 80mm so we realise this is a lot to ask.
The subject for this particular test is a watch face. This gives us a little depth, reflections and some very fine details to focus on.
After testing with a number of diopters with the AG-LA7200 we just couldn't get the camera to focus at all which was really disappointing.
If we're to capture these shots; it's going to have to be without the anamorphic adapter and we'll have to be creative to get the footage to look right when cut with our anamorphic clips.
We used our run & gun setup for this quick test - Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera with Metabones BMPCC Speed Booster, Sigma 70-300mm Macro lens (Nikon mount).
We captured a short clip of the watch face without the anamorphic adapter and gave it a quick colour in Davinci Resolve.
As you can see; it's a nice, standard 16:9 clip with good, narrow focus and shallow depth of field as you'd expect from a macro shot.
Adding black bars quickly gives it more of the look of anamorphic with a more cinematic 2.35:1 aspect ratio; this somehow gives it an appearance of a much wider shot (even though it obviously isn't).
This quick fix isn't half bad; our macro shot doesn't have the need of the beautiful oval bokeh or the lens flares you get from anamorphic glass and the 2.35:1 crop would very quickly make this clip useable with additional anamorphic footage.
This still isn't ideal as there's so much more to anamorphic than oval bokeh and lens flares; even if most people wouldn't notice the little trick here - we would.
After scratching our heads a little we remembered seeing a free Adobe After Effects project called VashiMorphic40 a while ago that gives a pretty good representation of the anamorphic look.
A quick online search later, we have it and the required CI Vignette plug-in (also free) installed and ready to go.
It's worth noting that the project has been updated with a 4K version also available.
Applying the look is a quick, easy drag & drop before adjusting the clip length to suit our footage.
The resulting image is really quite good; there's definitely more of the look we want here and it will definitely sit much better and easier in our edit.
For a quick anamorphic look without having some real glass, the VashiMorphic40 is actually pretty good; it can't replace the real thing but in a squeeze it certainly fills a gap and for us, it's ideal in this situation where we simply can't use our adapters.
Jarle’s Deadpool Handheld Camera Presets
The camera was fixed for this test so the shot was pretty boring overall; with just the small second hand moving.
They're incredible and made from actual shots with a real camera – not some digitally created wiggle.
We couldn't resist adding the handheld camera shake to our simple test which instantly gives this once totally static shot just a little bit of life which would be quite tricky to achieve with a macro shot.
The frames shown above are from a very quick shoot, colouring and edit, they're not the images we'll be using in the final production but as a quick test and to see if we can achieve the shots we're looking for - it's been a success and we're confident that with some creativity we can get the look right throughout the final edit.
We're especially impressed with the handheld camera presets as they add a really nice amount of movement to the static shot and inject a little bit of life which really enhances the feel of the overall production.
As they say; the Devil is in the detail.
We're not completely done as we're looking to acquire more anamorphic lens options like the Letus AnamorphX or the SLR Magic Anamorphot 1.33x 50 Anamorphic Adapter and if we can pull focus with those then we'll be very happy - if not; at least we have a stand-in solution.
We knew that pushing an anamorphic adapter to extreme focal lengths was a gamble but it's always good to try these things and it does allow you to get to know your glass and it's limitations.
With the 1.3 diopter we could get very close to focus in the center but the edges were pretty weird looking.
The VashiMorphic40 workflow is the way we'll achieve this look for macro shots from now on. It's not quite the same as real anamorphic glass but it's a very good approximation and we're happy with the looks we'll be able to capture with this method.