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Cinematic Video With a 20-Year-Old Camcorder

Are you a fan of the 4:3 aspect ratio? There's definitely something nostalgic about the nearly square framing that instantly transports me back to my childhood in the late 1980s. Aside from that, I’m overjoyed that it’s no longer in widespread use.

The 4:3 format has always made me feel uncomfortable, the unnecessarily short width feels so confining, doesn't give the scene enough room to breathe, and ends up giving me a sense of claustrophobia. And for over a century, it was the de facto standard. What would happen, though, if you could see life through the technology of the early digital age, but with a truly cinematic aspect ratio?

In this amazingly fun video by Mathieu Stern, he answers that very question. He takes a 20-year-old JVC MiniDV camcorder and mates it with a Kowa 2x anamorphic adapter. It's hard to imagine that just 20 years ago, we were still fiddling around with MiniDV tapes in standard definition with such horrendous quality! That aside, his adaptation is unique and simple. The lens and camera are mounted separately on a pair of 16mm rails, which allows for the adjustment of proper backfocus between the lens and the camcorder. With a little bit cropping in post, the new 2.39:1 anamorphic aspect ratio looks pretty amazing coming out of the little JVC. 

I love this video. The idea of adapting a junk camera to make the footage more cinematic is unique enough. Also, nobody asked for this! It's just a fun project from a tinkerer who put two pieces of very disparate kit together. But that is what Mathieu Stern is known for, as he also curates The Weird Lens Museum. If you liked this video, you have to check him out there as well.

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1 Comment
Daniel L Miller's picture

It's rather humorous that in the late 90's and early 2000's we were debating whether HD1080P was necessary or not. And now the pixels in the 480i/p looks like the size of Chiclets. (Gen Z readers may have to look that up.)