What is an anamorphic lens in film?

Capture that epic cinema look with an anamorphic lens. Find out what these lenses are and why they’re so popular in filmmaking.

If you’ve ever watched a movie, you’ve seen a shot filmed with an anamorphic lens. These lenses are the favorite of both famous Hollywood directors and aspiring indie filmmakers. They give videos that epic, cinematic feel you expect to see on the silver screen.

But what exactly is the anamorphic lens, and why is it so popular? Let’s find out.

The basics of anamorphic lenses.

The anamorphic lens has rather violent origins. First used in World War I, the lens gave tank crews a wider view from their vehicles. After the war, filmmakers realized they could use this new invention in their craft.

An anamorphic lens horizontally compresses the image projected onto the camera sensor. This way, the camera can capture twice as much horizontal information than a circular lens. When moviemakers used celluloid, they could film wide angle shots without losing vertical resolution. With today’s digital cameras, anamorphic lenses can capture even higher horizontal resolutions, which can result in the famous black bars.

Uses of anamorphic lenses.

The technical aspects of the lens are important, but that’s not the only reason filmmakers love it. Simply put, it creates a unique, artistic look. The anamorphic compression stretches lens flares into impressive horizontal lines (think of a J.J. Abrams movie). The lens creates a deeper depth of field and produces a natural bokeh effect. Its wider horizontal resolution also lets filmmakers create unique compositions by capturing more of the scene.

There’s one crucial thing to note about anamorphic lenses — because they compress the image, it must be stretched in post-production or you end up with a horizontally squished video. It’s easy to fix your anamorphic shots with Adobe Premiere Pro before you start editing the video further.

Take a moment to discover more about video editing and then explore everything you can do with Premiere Pro.