Budget filmmaking is about finding creative ways to get cinematic looks out of cheaper gear. We took an in-depth look at how to mod your own lenses for more interesting images.
When it comes to filmmaking, we’re always trying to find new and creative ways to vary the looks of our images. It might be a new filter; it might be a different lens or camera altogether, but it’s all about experimentation.
A while back, I heard about adding an “anamorfake mod” to your lens. This process, which I learned about on Tito Ferrdans’s YouTube channel (which, by the way, is a phenomenal resource for all things anamorphic and lenses), is essentially about adding an oval-shaped aperture and a lens flare filter to your lenses. To do this, you need to disassemble your lens, add a couple parts, and re-assemble it. You do all of this with the goal of adding the characteristics of anamorphic lenses to your spherical (or non-anamorphic) lenses.
In the below video, I show you how I handled the process.
As you can see, there are a couple of options that go beyond getting an anamorphic look. This includes stripping certain black coatings of paint and replacing it with orange (or your color of choice). This will create varied effects when the light hits the lens, such as a warmer look or an intense glow from the light itself.
There are many different ways you can mod your lenses — it’s completely up to you. You can add solely the oval-shaped aperture, you can add solely a flare filter, or you can use some metal polish to remove the anti-flare coating.
NOTE ON THE METAL POLISH: In the video, I mention metal polish. I didn’t end up fully using this on my lenses, but if you’re curious what it’s for, you can use it to remove the anti-flare coating from your lenses. The metal polish creates thousands of micro-scratches, which removes various coatings from the glass elements. This makes your lenses much more impervious to flaring.
All of this raises the question of why anyone would want to go through this process? What’s the benefit of an anamorphic-modded lens?
One of the most recognizable-yet-subtle characteristics of an anamorphic lens is the shape of the bokeh (the out-of-focus points of light).
Because of the squeezed image in a standard anamorphic lens, you get an oval-shaped pattern in the bokeh. This is really only a desirable characteristic because we’ve conditioned ourselves as viewers to interpret this as cinematic. This is generally because the majority of classic movies were shot with anamorphic lenses.
To get anamorphic-style bokeh from your lens, you can install a plastic, oval-shaped aperture disc. This will reshape the light coming through and create the look of an anamorphic lens.
Another very recognizable trait of anamorphic lenses is their distinctive lens flares.
Anamorphic lenses flare more than spherical lenses because of the compression of the light — but also, because of the general coatings and the construction of the lenses. Most of them pre-date much of the flare-reducing technology we’ll familiar with today.
Adding a very tiny piece of fishing line to your aperture disc will create a convincing anamorphic flare look. If you want colored lens flares, you can color this fishing line with a marker — any color you choose. Leaving the line as-is will make your flares the same color as your light source.
One of the things that anamorphic lenses have in spades, generally due to their vintage qualities, is interesting character.
Anamorphic lenses are known for their interesting aberrations and fringing and all kinds of weird qualities that people generally try to get rid of. However, these are also the sources of some of their beauty.
Removing various coatings and then replacing them with colors or paints can create some really interesting effects. For instance, once you’ve disassembled your lens, you can remove the coating from certain glass elements with acetone, and then paint over it with the color of your choice.
Here I went with orange, hoping to get a nice amber glow out of these shots. But the possibilities are endless. Experiment!
Interested in the tracks we used to make this video?
“Leaving It All Behind” by Ben Beiny
“Stay For The Weekend” by Julian Bell
“Retro Vibes” by Wolves
“Sao Paulo City Lights” by Mattijs Muller
“Laid Back Vibes” by High Street Music
“Mellow Dusty Beats” by High Street Music
“The Master” by Flashing Lights
“Lo Fi Abstract Chill Hop” by Trending Music
“Lo-Fi Dreams” by Trending Music
Looking for more video tutorials? Check these out.
The Basics of Rotoscope Animation in After Effects
10 Types of Shots and Angles Every Filmmaker Should Know
The World’s First Cinematography Video Game — Cine Tracer
How to Build Your Own Video Editing Computer
Video Tutorial: Why You Need Lens Filters for your Drone
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