In this After Effects video tutorial, learn how you can create a cinematic anamorphic-inspired look. With free project files!

In this tutorial, we are going to make our footage appear as if we shot it with an anamorphic lens, using Adobe After Effects. This process will involve converting the footage to a 2.35:1 aspect ratio, adding adjustable chromatic aberration, creating oval-shaped bokeh effects, and more.

Let’s get started!

While doing research for this tutorial, I discovered that feature-film editor Vashi Nedomansky has already developed a free After Effects template (VashiMorphic40) for creating the anamorphic look of a 40mm Panavision Primo lens. If you want a technical look at recreating an accurate anamorphic look, his website is a great place to start.

For this tutorial, we are going to create an anamorphic-inspired look, specifically the anamorphic look that you get from a DSLR. Nothing has to be technically perfect, and you can dial in the look to suit your taste.

Optical Distortion

Anamorphic lenses often lend a curved appearance to footage. This makes a center-framed subject look as if it pops out of the picture, closer to the viewer. In order to imitate this, we will use the Bezier Warp effect, adjusting each of the corners to add curvature to the footage.

How to Create the Anamorphic Look in After Effects — Optical Distortion

2.35:1 Aspect Ratio

In order to create the traditional 2.35:1 aspect ratio of anamorphic footage, we will pre-compose our footage and then adjust the aspect ratio of the new comp. — as opposed to adding in black bars at the top and bottom. Outputting at an actual 2.35:1 aspect ratio means the footage will look correct on a variety of video players. For 1920 x 1080 resolution footage, change the dimensions on the new comp to 1920 x 816.

How to Create the Anamorphic Look in After Effects — 2.35:1

Chromatic Aberration

To create the chromatic aberration at the corners of the footage, we will use the Shift Channels effect to separate each RGB channel (red, green, and blue). Then using the Optics Compensation effect, we can dial in some subtle chromatic aberration.

How to Create the Anamorphic Look in After Effects — Chromatic Aberration

Corner Blur and Vignette

Next, using an adjustment layer, we can add some corner blurring and a vignette on top of our footage. (Again, this is a visual feature often associated with anamorphic lenses.) To create this, we can use an oval mask, feathering, a CC Radial Fast Blur, and the Curves effect.

Oval-Shaped Bokeh

Anamorphic lenses create recognizable oval-shaped bokeh in areas that are out of focus. We can easily imitate this using the Camera Lens Blur effect and setting the aspect ratio for the blur to 0.5. Keyframe the blur to imitate a rack focus pull.

How to Create the Anamorphic Look in After Effects — Oval Bokeh

Film Grain

Finally, to complete our look, I recommend adding some film grain over the footage. You can do this using film grain overlays, like those from RocketStock’s Emulsion pack, or by using the “Add Grain” effect in After Effects. (The Add Grain effect takes a long time to render in After Effects, so plan ahead.)

Try it out, and share your results by tweeting us @rocketstock.

Looking for more After Effects tutorials? Check these out.