Mr. Robinson was in discussions with Panamorph during the time he was on the fence regarding shooting his feature anamorphically, plus he had just wrapped up his review of the CineVista. However, based upon what he wrote above, what projector / lens combo he used is irrelevant to the points he is trying to make. Andrew is talking about theoretical limitations of the anamorphic process as related to digital video, not limitations of a specific lens or projector. As I understand it, his points are:
Andrew asserts that capturing extra vertical resolution by shooting anamorphically does not have value, since the resulting film will need to be letterboxed for delivery to any home theater or commercial cinema format. For example, shooting a film in 2.35:1 and 1080P with an anamorphic lens means that the filmmaker can capture the full 1920 x 1080 resolution that the HD camera is capable of. However, when delivered to Blu-ray (for example), the film must be down-rezed and letterboxed back down to 1920 x 810 in order to comply with the 16:9 container space. All of that extra resolution you captured vertically gets tossed out due to being restricted to 16:9 on the delivery end and the necessity of encoding letterbox bars. However, this ignores the fact that an anamorphically captured HD (1080) film WILL deliver 33% additional vertical resolution when upconverted to 4K (as Stanger89 pointed out in regard to the Star Wars prequels). It also ignores the efforts we are making with Folded Space to get anamorphically encoded films delivered to home and commercial cinema for projection using anamorphic lenses. That would result in the same very real 33% increase in resolution. The same applies to 4K anamorphic upconverted to 8K, etc. He is correct that currently digital formats are not encoded and projected anamorphically here in the US, but it is my understanding from talking to the folks at DCI that certain parts of Europe do project digital anamorphic.
Andrew asserts that using an anamorphic lens and vertical stretch for digital projection does not add any additional picture detail over the original letterboxed image for the same reasons outlined above. It is turning on more pixels but not adding more picture detail. This is true. However, none of us in the anamorphic lens world have ever claimed that it did. We have always claimed greater pixel density, the elimination of the black bars (vs. projecting them onto the wall) and greater picture brightness. As mentioned above, there are efforts to get true anamorphic content delivered via Blu-ray or other HD / UHD digital formats by Folded Space and others. If successful, that would literally mean 33% greater picture detail for anamorphic projection systems and 4K displays that can take advantage of the anamorphic process - picture detail that you would not be able to see if you used the zoom method.
Andrew asserts that the scaling required to get from 810 lines (800 in his article) to 1080 is "bad. Real bad." He also goes on to state "not only are you altering the image, you’re effectively destroying 1-t0-1 pixel mapping while potentially introducing or making worse digital anomalies such as “jaggies”. These items destroy an image’s natural clarity and sharpness while simultaneously re-applying an optical manipulation that has already been applied at the mastering stage." While I am not sure what he means by "re-applying an optical manipulation" at the mastering stage, I will address the other points. First, it is true that you are "destroying" the 1:1 pixel mapping of 1920 x 810 when you apply the vertical stretch, however, you are gaining greater pixel density in the process. Following on, he is claiming that this process can introduce or exacerbate picture anomalies such as jaggies. While this is true in a theoretical sense, the current reality is that just about any decent scaling engine these days does NOT introduce artifacts such as jaggies during the vertical stretch process. Even budget projectors these days are using HQV scaling or the equivalent in order to do the vertical stretch. I personally have not seen a "jaggy" from this process in about 4 or 5 years. If you throw a quality scaler such as the Lumagen at this process, the objection becomes even more irrelevant (as many on the Forum can attest to). Andrew goes on in a later response to compare the vertical stretch process to keystoning, (rightly) pointing out that most of us in the projector industry would strongly warn against using keystone to correct for geometry issues. However, keystoning DOES create some visible picture artifacts such as jaggies because engaging keystoning literally affects every pixel in the image in both the horizontal and vertical AND to varying degrees per pixel! This is why it is not recommended. Vertical stretch scaling is limited to vertical processing only and applies the exact same proportion to each "pixel." To insinuate that keystoning and vertical stretch are somehow equivalent is just factually wrong.
Andrew in a later response challenges the "anamorphic is brighter" argument, saying that "I have tried it and in my tests there is no visible difference in quality between using an anamorphic lens and simply zooming out so that the bars top and bottom are over scanned." I have two problems with this statement. First, if using the extra glass plus the vertical stretch scaling destroys the 1:1 pixel mapping that is "vital for a digital image's natural clarity and sharpness," then how could he say that there is no visible difference in quality when comparing using a lens to zooming? That simply makes no sense. If the stretch scaling truly destroys the image's clarity and sharpness, it should have been obvious that the lens image was inferior to the zoomed. Yet Andrew himself could not see these supposed negative effects. However, the main issue I have here is that using an anamorphic lens does IN FACT create a brighter image than zooming in almost every install configuration. All it takes to confirm this is a simple light measurement taken after applying either method to achieve a 2.35:1 image. In most cases, the brightness increase will be around 20%, with up to 30% improvement possible in some scenarios. This is easily confirmable, AND repeatable. The other way to prove this is to set up two identical projectors side by side with the same throw and settings and zoom one and "lens" the other. Side by side the improvement in brightness (and apparent color saturation, although an illusion due to the brightness increase) is obvious. I challenge anyone to try this. However, I can understand why someone who tries one and then the other in succession
may not find the increase in brightness as noticeable, but that is only because of how our brains work. Our memory for comparing relative brightness is extremely poor the longer the time between comparisons. When you consider just how slow the typical zoom process is combined with how long it takes to then set up the lens for comparison, you can see how it renders sequential comparisons meaningless. The long and short of it is that the increase in brightness using a lens is a very real - and measurable - improvement. When you see end users constantly striving for larger and larger screens, you can understand how achieving greater brightness becomes a real benefit. Add 3D to the mix and the argument becomes even more compelling. Of course, Andrew did not address the other downsides to zooming (such as black bars and menus actually projected onto walls, misalignments over time, etc) but he is correct to point out that some of us here have "vested interests" in advocating for one method over the other
The last point I want to make in this rather long post is that there is a big difference between theoretical issues with anamorphic (the destruction of 1:1 pixel mapping, for example) and the actual experience of viewing it. To use an example from the audio world, there are those who advocate for 24 bit 192 khz recordings and rail against Redbook CD and lossy mp3 (even at bit rates demonstrated to be transparent to the source). Yet when double blind tests are done comparing 24 / 192 to good old 44.1 / 16, no one is able to reliably hear a difference. The same thing is true of certain high quality "lossy" codecs as compared the original, uncompressed digital file (to be clear, I am not claiming that all lossy music files are transparent to the source, as most are
audibly different, I am referring to those codecs and bitrates that have been demonstrated to be audibly transparent to the source under controlled conditions). Especially in the later case, it is absolutely true that a lossy digital file is missing information as compared to the original digital file. Ultimately, though, it comes down to what we can actually hear. It is much the same with digital video. How much of this is actually visible, vs. how much exists on paper? As many here can attest to, an anamorphic lens combined with a high quality scaler can produce excellent picture quality with a pixel density and brightness greater than achievable by using zoom. And yes, I do have a vested interest in this argument, as I consult for Panamorph. However, like Andrew I am also a filmmaker and someone intimately familiar with aspect ratios, how they are achieved, and the artistic intentions behind them. All of that plays into this discussion.
Lastly, I deliberately stayed out of this thread until now because Andrew is something of a friend in that we have had multiple conversations about filmmaking, 4K, and anamorphic lenses. However, this thread continues to get revived and I thought it appropriate to chime in to clarify a few points from my perspective.