There has never been such a wide variety of sources for content as there is today with streaming media. Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services offer everything from classic TV shows to memorable sporting events to award-winning cinema masterpieces to original content programming. But along with the diverse content comes the inherent problem of changing aspect ratio and resolution of the various sources of content. It might not be uncommon to have to toggle between 4 x 3, 16 x 9, 2.0:1, 2.2:1 and 2.40:1 in a single sitting… a potentially tedious task in a projector-based home theater.
For integrators, one viable solution is to deploy an anamorphic lens for their clients, says longtime calibration expert Kris Deering of Deep Dive AV outside Seattle. Anamorphic lenses, such as the Paladin and Paladin DCR (Digital Cinema Resolution) lenses from Panamorph, enable homeowners to automatically move between aspect ratios with zero inconvenience when paired with a video processor, while also producing more light output that enables a premium Cinemascope experience.
“Anamorphic lenses have been around for a really long time. We’ve seen a lot of different types of lenses over the years, from horizontal expansion to vertical compression. The primary lenses available today are vertical compression,” says Deering, who acts as a freelance consultant for homeowners and integrators across the country, calibrating home theater video and specifying high-end home theaters.
“There are several benefits to anamorphic lenses in today’s market. The biggest benefit is light. An anamorphic lens gives you more light to work with because it focuses more light on the screen,” he notes. Deering says he typically sees a light gain of 30% or more using an anamorphic lens.
“Anamorphic lenses, especially the lenses from Panamorph, take the light that normally would be above and below the screen and focuses it on the screen to give you a bump in light,” he notes.
Using the memory built into the projector, the lens will adjust the light to fill the screen, whether the original content is 16 x 9 or 2.40:1. With today’s 4K and HDR becoming more prevalent, the lenses produce fewer scaling artifacts, especially when combined with a processor, such as those from Lumagen.
According to Deering, with certain projectors, such as JVC and Sony, that do not have automatic aspect detection or compensation, having a video processor in the mix is vital.
“That automatic adjustment is the solution to eliminate the extra light that might be spilling all over the place around the screen. It also eliminates the cumbersomeness of having a mechanical adjustment between 16 x 9 to 2.40:1, then back again.
“Especially now that we are in a streaming world where people access content from different sources versus just sitting down in one long session. Bouncing between aspect ratios quickly can be cumbersome when you are talking about a zooming solution,” says Deering.
Questions to Ask Clients to Sell Anamorphic Home Theater
So how should an integrator discuss anamorphic lenses with their clients so that extra $7,000 to $9,000 investment is worthwhile?
“The first thing to discuss is their viewing habits. Is this a client who 80% of the time is just watching the news, football games or the Big Bang Theory? Most of that content tends to be 16 x 9 in nature, so a 16 x 9 screen might suffice. But if they say, ‘I built this room because I love to watch movies, and these are the kind of movies I like to watch.’ The majority of today’s movies and even streaming shows are in an aspect ratio that is wider than 16 x 9. A good majority are 2.40:1, or 2.39:1 technically. They are in what we call Scope,” advises Deering.
Once the client is determined to be a real movie lover, then the option is between zooming and anamorphic.
“With zooming, you have not eliminated the tedium of use. When you have an anamorphic lens in place, you are not sitting around waiting for the lens to change its memory. You’re not worrying about whether or not that lens memory is going to be at the same place with the same focal adjustment as the last time.
“With an anamorphic lens, it is much easier. The projector will likely have a mode for Scope and a mode for 16 x 9 and it will adjust everything instantly in combination with a video processor. It’s pretty much plug and play,” he says.