The anamorphic format is a technique cinematographers use to create a widescreen image from a standard recording medium, such as 35mm film or a digital video sensor. \nAnamorphic lenses work by squeezing a wider view than would normally fit onto the recording medium. Projecting the image de-squeezes it, giving audiences a wide field of view with a widescreen picture that doesn’t appear overly distorted. It’s helpful to imagine a sheet of paper that is gently bent between your fingers, creating a convex curve. While the image on this paper is being distorted from side to side, the top and bottom remain the same. \n\nAnamorphic lenses consist of a standard camera lens with an additional attachment or incorporated lens element. The lens squeezes the visual information and maximizes the resolution. Anamorphic lenses vary in depth of field, speed (light sensitivity), and focal length—from wide-angle to telephoto zoom lenses—offering a full menu of options to filmmakers and cinematographers. When the image is finally displayed, it requires a different lens to stretch (or de-squeeze) it back to its original dimensions.\nAnamorphic lenses create high-quality images with a wider format.\n\n- __Spherical lens__: Cinematographers experimented with widescreen images using regular spherical lenses (the standard lens shape), simply by bracketing out the top and bottom of the film frame, creating black bars on the top and bottom of the film frame image. This process achieved a wider picture but with a loss to some of the image quality since it had the effect of shrinking the usable space on the negative. \n- __Periscope__: The earliest anamorphic lenses were developed during WWI as a way of allowing tank operators to see a wider view than was visible through the apertures in their armored exteriors. Periscopes using anamorphic lenses allowed for this tactical advantage.\n- __Anamorphic widescreen__: Anamorphic lenses, such as those introduced by Panavision under the CinemaScope label, were a means to entice viewers back to theaters after the widespread adoption of television. Hollywood studios and exhibitors were looking to create an experience that couldn’t be had at home with large, ultra-wide screens. Anamorphic widescreen, also known as full-height anamorphic, created a cinematic look while maintaining the best possible resolution.\n- __Anamorphic adapters__: Since the advent of digital image-making technology, there has been growing interest in anamorphic technology. Many companies such as Arri and Sirui produce anamorphic lenses, and there are even anamorphic-style lens mounts available for iPhones. These adapters are also available for the modern DSLR, or digital single-lens-reflex camera, which now features high-definition video modes. The sensors in these digital cameras—some of which are mirrorless, which makes them more compact with fewer moving parts—have very high pixel counts and greater latitude, making them prime candidates for anamorphic modifications.\nIn filmmaking, the aspect ratio refers to the length-to-height ratio of the image. In almost all cases, anamorphic lenses will produce a picture with a wide aspect ratio of 2.39:1. By way of comparison, regular spherical lenses will often produce a 1.375:1 aspect ratio, usually referred to as the “Academy Ratio.”\n\nAnamorphic lenses can cause slight alterations to the image. Some cinematographers and filmmakers view these effects as flaws; others embrace the aesthetic and even recreate the effects in post-production. Some characteristics of the anamorphic format include:\n\n1. __Anamorphic flares__: Anamorphic flares are small bars or streaks of light that sometimes appear on images shot in the anamorphic format. These horizontal lens flares are bluish and move as the light in the frame moves, creating an eye-catching effect.\n2. __Bokehs__: Bokehs are small, out-of-focus areas in the frame. Their shape is why they are sometimes called “oval bokehs.” The word “bokeh” stems from the two Japanese words “boke” and “boke-aji,” which translate to mean the beauty of the unfocused areas of an image.\n3. __Distortion__: Slight artifacts from the alteration process are legible on the de-squeezed image. Some early anamorphic systems (such as CinemaScope) tend to enlarge the center of the image, giving the illusion of a slight magnification. (These systems were not optimal for close-ups.) Later technology corrected the distortion, but the effect, which can make vertical lines at either side of the image seem to curve outward, is a stylistic choice.\n4. __Wider perspective__: Shooting anamorphic offers one of the best ways to achieve a wider field of view. Anamorphic optics can greatly enhance exterior shots, such as those found in Western movies. A wider angle of view can be an excellent way to get across a sense of scale and grandeur.\nBecome a better filmmaker with the [MasterClass Annual Membership](https://www.masterclass.com). Gain access to exclusive video lessons taught by the world’s best, including Ron Howard, Ken Burns, Spike Lee, David Lynch, Shonda Rhimes, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, and more.