Single-Focus Anamorphic DIY (Update)

January 7, 2016 · 9 Comments

I’ve been meaning to post an updated single-focus anamorphic test for several months now.
The main difference between this and my first anamorphic test involves the use of an achromatic diopter (A Polaroid 250D) instead of the single-element (Hoya).
It’s still mostly hand-held (working on a threaded focusing solution) but I tried to minimize the jitters more than in the first test.

The unit has the same low-tech (read: “unprofessional”) look as before, but I’ve added some strips inside the PVC to help minimize the jiggle.

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New Feature – MAX PERIL

May 19, 2015 · Leave a Comment

I’m pleased to announce the completion of our 2nd feature film, Max Peril.

As with my first film, I’ve taken the “mockumentary” approach. Coming from a documentary background plays into this, but I primarily take the documentary-style route because I’ve found it to be the best approach for coaxing the most natural performances from non-actors (there were a few exceptions in this case.)

Max Peril is a film-within-a-film, in the sense that we follow Riley’s struggle to complete a movie before turning 30, AND we also see portions of that movie – in low-fi VHS grandeur – as the story moves along.

We screened the film for a crowd of over 400 very receptive local viewers. Response was great! …but the true test will be in how it’s received by the more objective festival crowds. :)

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Single-Focus Anamorphic

December 27, 2014 · 11 Comments

In a time where we no longer have to convert footage to 24p or use depth-of-field adapters to achieve a “cinematic” look (those things are now commonplace in the prosumer market) the anamorphic format is one of the last remaining elements to accomplish a decidedly cinematic aesthetic.

But everything’s a tradeoff, and in the case of anamorphic lenses you lose some convenience due to double-focusing.  The anamorphic lens is attached (usually by an anamorphic lens clamp) to your “taking” lens (ie. 50mm, 85mm prime, etc.) and both lenses have to be adjusted independently to achieve exact focus.  It’s fiddly, and rack-focusing is super tricky since – even if you can rotate both lenses at the same time – they won’t adjust at the same increments.  It might make you want to remove the anamorphic lens and simply throw an oval bokeh filter in front of (or behind) the lens to approximate the look.  …though you’ll still be missing the main benefit of anamorphic shooting: a much wider view.

A few guys over at EOSHD have been experimenting with a simple solution to get around the double-focusing problem.  The solution seemed too good to be true:  Attach a diopter to the front of the anamorphic and use a wide-angle adapter in front of that to adjust focus.  (This is done after the taking and anamorphic lenses have first been focused.  But that’s a one-time step.)

Anxious to try this, I used an existing Hoya +4 single-element diopter, a large wide-angle lens, and some cardboard.  Here’s my first test:

Here’s a picture of the current setup. (Only difference between this and the version used to shoot the above video is the housing was changed from cardboard to PVC.)

Single-focusing anamorphic rig layout:

(Move the wide-angle lens further away for closer focus… and closer to the diopter+anamorphic for further/infinity focus.)

This is a VERY early version, so there’s plenty of room for improvement.  Here are the plans for the next revision:

  • Replace Hoya single-element diopter with an achromatic diopter.  (Sharper and less chromatic aberration.)
  • Find or build a front housing that fits better. (There’s too much play currently.)
  • Try to make it all look a little better.  😉
  • Shoot the next test from a shoulder rig or tripod.

If you’d rather go for a ready-made, professional-looking setup with precise focusing, have a look at what the guys at are doing HERE.

I’m pretty excited about this solution for focusing anamorphics, and am anxious to try this setup in an actual run-and-gun / documentary style scenario.

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Cheap Anamorphic Bokeh

December 22, 2014 · 1 Comment

I’ve had this DIY oval bokeh filter for a while, and it’s seen a lot of use on my vintage 50mm and 85mm prime lenses.  The main downside is it becomes a bit cumbersome to use in conjunction with a variable ND filter, as both filters have to be adjusted independently.  (The paper oval bokeh filter, cut from black cardstock, is mounted within a rotating circular polarizer filter frame.)

Front-Mount Anamorphic Bokeh Filter

Since I primarily shoot with M42 mount lenses, it made sense to try and incorporate the filter into the M42-to-EOS mount adapter and position it behind the lens.  A big benefit is the filter could be fixed within the adapter such that it would always remain vertical.  Aligning the oval perpendicular to the notch pin hole on the EOS adapter accomplished this.

Rear-Mount Anamorphic Bokeh Filter

I left fold-out paper tabs around the edges of the filter for attachment points within the EOS adapter.  Mounting it flat directly against the rear surface of the adapter could potentially throw off the flange focal distance, so this seemed like the best way to go.  An even better idea would be a more precise 3D printed / plastic adapter, possibly with a threaded edge.

Rear and Front Mount Anamorphic Bokeh Filters

An anamorphic flare filament (more info on a Cheap DIY anamorphic streak flare here) could also be attached behind the lens in the same way.


Anamorphic Oval Bokeh Filter

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Custom Action Figure

August 19, 2014 · Leave a Comment

My good friend Allen Mann ( is working on his first EP, which was recorded here at my little home woodshop.  To help raise money for his upcoming fundraiser, I put together this exclusive action figure which we’ll use as a reward.

Allen Mann Custom Action Figure

The figure was kitbashed from a Grand Moff Tarkin figure and features some custom sculpted hair (Lumina polymer) and painting which resembles Allen’s wardrobe in an upcoming music video.

Allen Mann Custom Action Figure - Behind The Scenes

Allen Mann Custom Action Figure - Behind The Scenes

Allen Mann Custom Action Figure

Allen Mann Custom Action Figure - Frank Ladner

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Homemade Microphone for Low-Fi Vocal Recording

November 17, 2012 · Leave a Comment

I’ve been experimenting with music recording a bit lately and have an idea that calls for a low-fi vocal sound. Singing through a kazoo works (somewhat) but isn’t the easiest approach so I started looking into vintage harmonica microphones, which are known for their gritty qualities when used in vocal recordings.

In the process, I learned “tin can” microphones are quite easy to construct, so I gave it a try.

Low-Tech Metal Can Microphone

The metal can was one I’ve had laying around for a while. I couldn’t help not sanding around the edges more, to give it a well-used appearance.

Low-Tech Metal Can Microphone

Low-Tech Metal Can Microphone

No advanced electronics expertise required here: The main components are a piezo transducer and 1/4″ microphone jack.

Low-Tech Homemade Metal Can Microphone

Next I’ll experiment with altering the resonance within the can using things like aluminum and wax paper. (And perhaps try building the mic element itself from scratch.)

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Hickory Never Bleeds

August 9, 2012 · Leave a Comment

Woo hoo!

Ahem.  I recently finished post-production on my quirky, sci-fi  mockumentary film entitled “Hickory Never Bleeds”.

Hickory Never Bleeds - Poster

It was filmed with a very limited crew (ie. me and my wife) and features a cast of local talent.


This sci-fi mockumentary follows the unusual efforts of the Monster Defense Team, a group appointed by 94-year-old mayor Harper Stokes (Hayward Barrett) after the small, reportedly monster-inhabited, town of Farr is ridiculed by the media.

Retired machinist and weapons enthusiast Emil Sutton (Mark Forte) acts as the team’s leader, whose primary objective is to capture or kill the threat lurking in their woods. Emil takes under his wing the young, enthusiastic Ard Bridges (Torrey Harriel), a graphic designer who escaped to Farr as an alternative to city life. Concerned for the team’s public image, Ard insists they have a professionally-designed logo.

Former Army engineer Munn Feith (James Sonny Howard) brings additional firepower to the team, along with an understanding of conspiracy theories and a strong appreciation for Samurai swords.

Concern escalates among the group for the fourth – and most reclusive – member, Leland Walles (Frank Ladner), whose home is a small shed in the middle of the woods. Using his own peculiar technique of audio cassette ‘fear conditioning’, Leland seems all too willing to face the threat alone.

The town residents round out the quirky personalities presented in this story, offering up their theories about what the creature is, where it came from, and what should be done about it.


I’ll be premiering the film locally this month, and entering into a couple of nearby film festivals.

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Cheap DIY Anamorphic Lens Flare Filter

March 4, 2012 · 4 Comments

Anamorphic Flare Test

Sure, anamorphic lens flares (and lens flares in general) can be overused. As can extremely shallow depth of field, vintage color grading, or any number of stylistic approaches that catch on, see a lot of use, and eventually get labeled as a gimmick. But they can also be used creatively and selectively to enhance the visual experience of a story.

True anamorphic lenses aren’t the easiest to attain or use, factoring in price and the ability to mount to your camera. So a handful of companies have started selling anamorphic streak / flare filters that simply screw on to the front of your lens.

However, if aesthetics (read: “professional appearance”) don’t matter much to you, there is a super cheap alternative to achieving a very similar result. Best part of all, there’s no glass involved in this do-it-yourself method, so no worries about degrading or softening the image.

At minimum, you’ll need a short section of fishing line. How you attach it to the front of the lens is up to you. Ideally, you’ll want some way to mount this so that it can be easily attached and removed. In my case I drilled two holes on opposite ends of a cheap step-up adapter and knotted the fishing line at both ends.

Cheap Anamorphic Flare Filter

Cheap Anamorphic Flare Filter

This is only one way to mount the filament, so get as fancy as you’d like. I chose this particular step-up filter because my Variable Neutral Density filter threads onto the opposite end.

(If you prefer a ready-made solution with a professional appearance, have a look at the CineMorph filter from Vid-Atlantic.)

Notice the line runs vertically for a horizontal flare. This can be adjusted to change the streak direction.

The filament thickness makes a difference so you’ll want to experiment. In my case, I went with a rather thick 30LB test line. It can be colored to vary the color of the streak, but I prefer to leave mine clear. For a more exaggerated effect, try multiple lines spaced parallel.

Here are some color-graded test images (with 2.35:1 crop):

Anamorphic Flare Test

Anamorphic Flare Test

Anamorphic Flare Test

Anamorphic Flare Test

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Camera-Mounted Microphone Boom

January 5, 2012 · Leave a Comment

My current project, a sci-fi mockumentary film entitled “Hickory Never Bleeds“, involves lots of interviews. I reckon that’s the nature of documentary work. 😉

In some instances, I’m able to drag along a boom operator. This is always preferable, since it allows me to focus on… the focus. And the boom operator can concentrate on riding sound levels and following the subject with the mic.

But, as can sometimes be the case with D.I.Y. independent films, I’ve found it necessary to plan for scenarios where the crew consists only of me.

So this is what I’ve come up with…

DIY Shotgun Mic Boom Mount

DIY Shotgun Mic Boom Mount

DIY Shotgun Mic Boom Mount

Granted, this is not much more than a telescoping shotgun mount, so it isn’t revolutionary. But I really do like the adjustability of it, and the fact that it was really easy to mount the boom arm to the rig. All I had to do was drill one of the holes in the aluminum mounting bracket/handle a little larger, and attach the mic arm to the top with a 3/8″ screw.

Attaching the field recorder (Oade Bros. Modified Marantz PMD-660) to the rig took a little more thought, as I really only had one connection point through which to attach via screw. (Not ideal.) So I simply wrapped the strap around the mounting bracket/handle for added security.

While trying to plan out this setup, I was concerned with balance. But that doesn’t seem to be an issue so far.

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Flying Backwards – Star Breathing Giant

December 25, 2011 · 2 Comments

New music video for the Florida-based group, Flying Backwards.

We incorporated some timelapse, light painting, and greenscreen/camera-matching into the mix. Lots of fun! Plus, the guys stayed in our home, so we had a great time just hanging out. :)

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