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Anamorphic format is the cinematography technique of shooting a widescreen picture on standard 35 mm film or other visual recording media with a non-widescreen native aspect ratio. It also refers to the projection format in which a distorted image is "stretched" by an anamorphic projection lens to recreate the original aspect ratio on the viewing screen. (It should not be confused with anamorphic widescreen, a different video encoding concept that uses similar principles but different means.) The word "anamorphic" and its derivatives stem from the Greek words meaning formed again. As a camera format, anamorphic format is losing popularity in comparison to "flat" (or "spherical") formats such as Super 35 mm film shot using spherical lenses; however, because most movie projectors use anamorphic projection format, spherical format negatives are commonly converted into anamorphic prints for projection.

History and development

Anamorphic lens illustration without stretching

Figure 1. Shooting without an anamorphic lens, in widescreen picture format on 4-perf film; some of the film surface area is wasted on the upper/lower, black frame lines.


Anamorphic lens illustration with stretching

Figure 2. Shooting with an anamorphic lens stretches the image vertically to cover the entire film frame, resulting in a higher quality but distorted image. When projecting the film, a reverse, complementary lens (of the same anamorphic power) shrinks the image vertically to the original proportions.


History

The process of anamorphosing optics was developed by Henri Chrétien during World War I to provide a wide angle viewer for military tanks. The optical process was called Hypergonar by Chrétien and was capable of showing a field of view of 180 degrees. After the war, the technology was first used in a cinematic context in the short film Construire un Feu (To Build a Fire, based on the 1908 Jack London story of the same name) in 1927 by Claude Autant-Lara.

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