Anamorphic lenses still useful?

Blackscreen

Extra
Joined
Jun 9, 2014
Messages
22
Reaction score
6
Points
11
Real Name
Robert Hart
What do you guys think about using anamorphic lenses with home theater projectors these days? I.e. Have current trends and tech made them obsolete or are they still an essential component of an enthusiast quality home theater?

I love projectors and I hate black bars on any content but when someone offered me a great deal on a used Panamorph lens recently, something made me pause.

One of the key selling points for me was that it made it more like the theater but, these days, I'm told that they don't even use anamorphic lenses with dci theater projectors anymore. They use the same zoom / lens memory technique as entry-level home theater users... Perhaps with better masking though.

More importantly, I watch more TV than movies these days and the non-standard 2:1 aspect ratio is becoming common. I haven't seen a projector with a vertical stretch mode for 2:1 content or any of the other obscure ratios that are popping up. Are there solutions for this?

I was hoping that affordable 21:9 projectors would have been a thing by now but I guess the sensibly priced 2.40:1 screen / constant height home theater is as far off as ever....
 

Josh Steinberg

Executive Producer
Reviewer
Joined
Jun 10, 2003
Messages
18,431
Reaction score
22,847
Points
9,110
Age
37
Real Name
Josh Steinberg
That’s definitely a personal call and it’s always going to be an opinion thing. Technically, I’m not sure it’s essential. The current crop of HD and UHD projectors are so good that you can afford to zoom in without sacrificing quality. And as you pointed out, there are more aspect ratios in play today so putting extra money and effort into just one of those ratios won’t completely solve the issue.

You may actually have better luck looking into some kind of moveable masking setup for your screen, in combination with a projector that has a lens memory and can zoom. I’ve seen expensive masking systems with motorized controls and I’ve seen homemade ideas that are manually operated like curtains, or affixed and adjusted with something like velcro. I don’t have enough knowledge to recommend a product or brand, but I would think if your goal is to watch all of your content without seeing black bars, you’ll have an easier time masking parts of the screen and adjusting the masking based on the ratio of what you’re watching than you will getting a lens that will put everything into one wide ratio but would still leave you with black bars on the sides for anything less wide.
 

DaveF

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Mar 4, 2001
Messages
23,119
Reaction score
4,347
Points
9,110
Location
Catfisch Cinema
Real Name
Dave
Anamorphic lenses don't add nor eliminate black bars.

Anamorphics lenses remain a niche upgrade for those so inclined. I tend to think of them as high-end upgrades for high-end home theaters. That's not necessarily true, since there's a lot of DIY a person can do to minimize the expenses associated with all the surrounding aspects of using an anamorphic lens.

The increasing availability of programmable zoom and focus memory make faking it more accessible to more people.

To my meager understanding, the use of an anamorphic lens requires a video processor to interpolate the window boxed image to a full HD or UHD frame which is then squeezed back to the right shape by the anamorphic lens.

If you're willing to spend the time and/or money to get an anamorphic lens working with your home theater, have at it! That's part of the hobby for many people: playing, tinkering, upgrading, and trying get technology to bend to their will to produce the best image possible.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Josh Steinberg

Blackscreen

Extra
Joined
Jun 9, 2014
Messages
22
Reaction score
6
Points
11
Real Name
Robert Hart
Anamorphic lenses don't add nor eliminate black bars.

Anamorphics lenses remain a niche upgrade for those so inclined. I tend to think of them as high-end upgrades for high-end home theaters. That's not necessarily true, since there's a lot of DIY a person can do to minimize the expenses associated with all the surrounding aspects of using an anamorphic lens.

The increasing availability of programmable zoom and focus memory make faking it more accessible to more people.

To my meager understanding, the use of an anamorphic lens requires a video processor to interpolate the window boxed image to a full HD or UHD frame which is then squeezed back to the right shape by the anamorphic lens.

If you're willing to spend the time and/or money to get an anamorphic lens working with your home theater, have at it! That's part of the hobby for many people: playing, tinkering, upgrading, and trying get technology to bend to their will to produce the best image possible.
Most decent or semi-decent projectors have an anamorphic stretch mode built in these days so external processors haven't been needed for some time. The projector vertically stretches the image to make it fill the screen (eliminating black bars). The anamorphic lens then stretches it horizontally to make it the correct ratio, or, compresses it vertically.

They are expensive but they don't have to be. My first anamorphic lens was a diy job made with crystal wedge trophies.
 
  • Like
Reactions: John Dirk and DaveF

DaveF

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Mar 4, 2001
Messages
23,119
Reaction score
4,347
Points
9,110
Location
Catfisch Cinema
Real Name
Dave
Most decent or semi-decent projectors have an anamorphic stretch mode built in these days so external processors haven't been needed for some time. The projector vertically stretches the image to make it fill the screen (eliminating black bars). The anamorphic lens then stretches it horizontally to make it the correct ratio, or, compresses it vertically.

They are expensive but they don't have to be. My first anamorphic lens was a diy job made with crystal wedge trophies.
I'm unfamiliar with integrated anamorphic processing in projectors. The enthusiasts I see going for this are likely to be using madVR to pre-process the video for optimal results.
 

Blackscreen

Extra
Joined
Jun 9, 2014
Messages
22
Reaction score
6
Points
11
Real Name
Robert Hart
That’s definitely a personal call and it’s always going to be an opinion thing. Technically, I’m not sure it’s essential. The current crop of HD and UHD projectors are so good that you can afford to zoom in without sacrificing quality. And as you pointed out, there are more aspect ratios in play today so putting extra money and effort into just one of those ratios won’t completely solve the issue.

You may actually have better luck looking into some kind of moveable masking setup for your screen, in combination with a projector that has a lens memory and can zoom. I’ve seen expensive masking systems with motorized controls and I’ve seen homemade ideas that are manually operated like curtains, or affixed and adjusted with something like velcro. I don’t have enough knowledge to recommend a product or brand, but I would think if your goal is to watch all of your content without seeing black bars, you’ll have an easier time masking parts of the screen and adjusting the masking based on the ratio of what you’re watching than you will getting a lens that will put everything into one wide ratio but would still leave you with black bars on the sides for anything less wide.
I was kinda reaching the same conclusion.

I found some anamorphic lenses with a motorized variable stretch to deal with non-standard aspect ratios. That doesn't solve the issue of projectors only offering a vertical stretch for 1.33x and 1.25x lenses though.

If using the zoom / lens memory method, my view is that variable masking is an unnecessary gimmick on a constant height set-up. Surrounding the screen area with black felt (or equivalent non reflective dark fabric) does the job. Cheap curtains could cover the unused sides on 16:9 content for those that feel the need.

I really thought the world would have a better solution for dealing with variable aspect ratios by now. It turns out that CRT is still the best projector tech... I'm jealous of my friend with a Sony G90 being able to output a native 1920x800 image for 2.40:1 and then 1920x1080 for 16:9 content.
 

Wayne_j

Producer
Joined
Nov 7, 2006
Messages
3,352
Reaction score
1,702
Points
4,110
Real Name
Wayne
These days you can buy a projector with lens memories cheaper than many anamorphic lenses.
 

Blackscreen

Extra
Joined
Jun 9, 2014
Messages
22
Reaction score
6
Points
11
Real Name
Robert Hart
These days you can buy a projector with lens memories cheaper than many anamorphic lenses.
That has been true since 1.33x anamorphic lenses and lens memory projectors first started being used. But... all genuinely high quality home theater kit is expensive (when new).

Manufacturers would have us believe that display tech is getting continuously better and cheaper. My experience has been that the best high end 1080p kit from 5 or even 10 years ago is far better than entry level 4k stuff from today.

So.... I like to live 5 years behind with electronics. While some spend $2000 on a cheap 4k HDR projector, my $2000 goes on a used $30,000 1080p projector with an $8,000 lens included.

The point is that, at the moment, there is an opportunity to pick up the anamorphic lenses that others no longer use at prices that regular mortals can afford. Some sell for around $400.... So, for the first time, regular people (like me) can decide based on preference instead of a price barrier.

It helps that real 4k panels like those used by Sony and JVC (instead of UHD) need a 1.25x lens instead of the 1.33x needed by 16:9 projectors.

The question is... if the cost wasn't a factor... Would you still choose lens memory over an anamorphic lens? Keep in mind that you could use both. I.e, the lens for 2.4:1 movies and lens memory for 2:1 and 16:9 TV.
 

DaveF

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Mar 4, 2001
Messages
23,119
Reaction score
4,347
Points
9,110
Location
Catfisch Cinema
Real Name
Dave
I chose a 16:9 screen and don't use any anamorphic at all. Going CIH screen at 2.35 and shrinking down for 16:9 didn't make sense for my space. And it doesn't make sense for the great majority of projector owners. That's why it's a super niche setup, even ignoring the cost.

But for those that do it, more power! It's a cool idea and especially if you could go all-in with a motorized, automated system with lens sled...that's living the dream!
 

Blackscreen

Extra
Joined
Jun 9, 2014
Messages
22
Reaction score
6
Points
11
Real Name
Robert Hart
I chose a 16:9 screen and don't use any anamorphic at all. Going CIH screen at 2.35 and shrinking down for 16:9 didn't make sense for my space. And it doesn't make sense for the great majority of projector owners. That's why it's a super niche setup, even ignoring the cost.

But for those that do it, more power! It's a cool idea and especially if you could go all-in with a motorized, automated system with lens sled...that's living the dream!
You don't go smaller for 16:9 content on a 2.35:1 constant height set-up. You make it with the 16:9 screen size you want and have it go wider when you watch movies.

My 16:9 screen area is 120" diagonal (the same as it was on the 16:9 screen I used to use in my living room). It widens to 150" for 2.40:1 content while remaining around 58" tall.

In terms of home theater set-up, it makes the most sense for most people (in terms of max use of available space). Most people's rooms are a good bit wider than they are tall. Most rooms in homes top out at 8 or 9 feet tall but widths of 20ft + are not uncommon.

With that said, I'm in favor of making the screen the same aspect ratio as the majority of the content you watch. When I used to use a projector as a living room TV, my screen was 16:9.

These days I have a 77" Oled in my living room and use my projector in my basement home theater / games room / man-cave. I like to see the screen go wider when watch Star Wars and Goodfellas instead of shrinking.

My basement screen is 2.40:1 and my set-up is constant height either way. The question is about the method of filling that screen. Lens or no lens.

My projector puts out over 7000 lumens with both lamps on so improving brightness or "using all the available resolution" is a non-issue. My old anamorphic lens set-up used to prevent a lot of excess light spillage though, so it made a noticeable contrast improvement. I don't have black ceilings and probably never will...

I've arranged to borrow a friend's Panamorph lens for a few hours to see if I still like what it does compared to lens memory.
 

DaveF

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Mar 4, 2001
Messages
23,119
Reaction score
4,347
Points
9,110
Location
Catfisch Cinema
Real Name
Dave
You don't go smaller for 16:9 content on a 2.35:1 constant height set-up. You make it with the 16:9 screen size you want and have it go wider when you watch movies.

My 16:9 screen area is 120" diagonal (the same as it was on the 16:9 screen I used to use in my living room). It widens to 150" for 2.40:1 content while remaining around 58" tall.

In terms of home theater set-up, it makes the most sense for most people (in terms of max use of available space). Most people's rooms are a good bit wider than they are tall. Most rooms in homes top out at 8 or 9 feet tall but widths of 20ft + are not uncommon.
In my room, limited by width, I have a 120” 16:9 screen. A CIH setup would have been a 113” 2.35 with 90” 16:9.

That’s a terrible compromise for my tastes, viewing, and space and budget limits.

Many movie rooms I’ve seen are similarly limited by width. But if you’re instead limited by height, then go for it. :)
 

Blackscreen

Extra
Joined
Jun 9, 2014
Messages
22
Reaction score
6
Points
11
Real Name
Robert Hart
Goodfellas is 1.85:1
That's why I used it as an example. 1.85:1 and 2.40:1 both should go wider than a 1.78:1 (16:9) screen instead of shrink in a constant height set-up.

If you look at 1.85:1 movies on a 16:9 screen, you'll notice small borders at the top and bottom. It's not enough to bother most people but if you can make it fill the screen with the touch of a button, there's no reason no to.

The latest Sony and JVC 4k projectors use a real 4k 17:9 res instead UHD 16:9 for this reason (just like DCI digital theater projectors).
 

Blackscreen

Extra
Joined
Jun 9, 2014
Messages
22
Reaction score
6
Points
11
Real Name
Robert Hart
I chose a 16:9 screen and don't use any anamorphic at all. Going CIH screen at 2.35 and shrinking down for 16:9 didn't make sense for my space. And it doesn't make sense for the great majority of projector owners. That's why it's a super niche setup, even ignoring the cost.

But for those that do it, more power! It's a cool idea and especially if you could go all-in with a motorized, automated system with lens sled...that's living the dream!
It's a golden rule that you never lose screen area with a constant height set-up because you never change the screen height. You'd keep the 16:9 screen at a 120" (8.7' wide). The anamorphic lens would then widen it to around 150" diagonal for widescreen movies (around 11.5' wide).

I'm not sure I'd put any projector screen in a room that maxes at 8.7ft wide. That's a super narrow room for a home theater. Is the limitation caused by something else like windows or a fireplace?
 

DaveF

Moderator
Moderator
Joined
Mar 4, 2001
Messages
23,119
Reaction score
4,347
Points
9,110
Location
Catfisch Cinema
Real Name
Dave
It's a golden rule that you never lose screen area with a constant height set-up because you never change the screen height. You'd keep the 16:9 screen at a 120" (8.7' wide). The anamorphic lens would then widen it to around 150" diagonal for widescreen movies (around 11.5' wide).

I'm not sure I'd put any projector screen in a room that maxes at 8.7ft wide. That's a super narrow room for a home theater. Is the limitation caused by something else like windows or a fireplace?
That "golden rule" is wrong. Read what I wrote about fixed width screen limitations.
 

Wayne_j

Producer
Joined
Nov 7, 2006
Messages
3,352
Reaction score
1,702
Points
4,110
Real Name
Wayne
That's why I used it as an example. 1.85:1 and 2.40:1 both should go wider than a 1.78:1 (16:9) screen instead of shrink in a constant height set-up.

If you look at 1.85:1 movies on a 16:9 screen, you'll notice small borders at the top and bottom. It's not enough to bother most people but if you can make it fill the screen with the touch of a button, there's no reason no to.

The latest Sony and JVC 4k projectors use a real 4k 17:9 res instead UHD 16:9 for this reason (just like DCI digital theater projectors).
So are you saying that everyone should get a 2.76:1 screen so nobody has to see the black bars on the bottom of It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World?
 

Blackscreen

Extra
Joined
Jun 9, 2014
Messages
22
Reaction score
6
Points
11
Real Name
Robert Hart
So are you saying that everyone should get a 2.76:1 screen so nobody has to see the black bars on the bottom of It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World?
I'm not saying anything about what other people should get other than what is best for their viewing needs. It's a personal choice. I don't care what you put in your house.

There are various reasons to use screens wider than 2.40:1 (like advertising / edge blending walls and super wide res PC gaming) but none that apply to me.

I happen to prefer constant height to constant width set-ups because I don't like losing screen size on any content. I like to preserve the original cinematic intent which was a wider screen, not a shorter one.

But... this thread is not about constant height VS constant width. It's about anamorphic lens VS lens memory given recent changes in tech and content.
 

DFurr

Supporting Actor
Premium
Joined
Sep 6, 2010
Messages
729
Reaction score
747
Points
610
Age
72
Location
SoCal
Real Name
Don
That's what I love about film. The picture is either (in most cases) 1:33, 1:85 to 2:35 ratio. No guess work. No decisions to make!! Hence constant height screens. Moveable top/bottom masking is just too much trouble for a home theatre.
 

Blackscreen

Extra
Joined
Jun 9, 2014
Messages
22
Reaction score
6
Points
11
Real Name
Robert Hart
That's what I love about film. The picture is either (in most cases) 1:33, 1:85 to 2:35 ratio. No guess work. No decisions to make!! Hence constant height screens. Moveable top/bottom masking is just too much trouble for a home theatre.

I don't get why anyone would need 4-way masking. If you go constant height, you'd only need / want to mask the sides. If you go constant width, you'd only want to mask the top and bottom. Either way, I agree that motorized variable masking is way too much hassle and cost for too little reward.

I've been testing my set up with an anamorphic lens and I think it may be the best solution for me after all.

The motorized zoom is clearly not meant for constant use. The Panamorph lens I'm testing is designed to be left in place all the time. You just use 4:3 mode for regular 16:9 content. I like it's simplicity.

I thought it might cause a noticeably softer image but it looks fantastic. It seems blocks a lot of the excess light spilling onto the walls and ceiling causing a noticeable improvement in contrast. It also makes the image brighter and more vibrant.
 

Forum Sponsors

Forum statistics

Threads
343,738
Messages
4,688,551
Members
141,026
Latest member
ViciousKing