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If the word anamorphic seems like Greek to you then don't feel bad. Anamorphic's roots ARE Greek. According to Athens based Director of Photography Argyris Theos the word is derived thusly...

"ANAMORPHICOS" is a composite adjective that derives from the words "ANA" and "MORPHI".
"ANA" is a preposition that is equal to the English "RE".
"MORPHI" is a noun that means "SHAPE".
"ANAMORPHICOS" in Greek, "ANAMORPHIC" in English is by consequence "HE WHO IS BEING RESHAPED".
In its Anglicized form, it is sometimes defined as "a controlled distortion". A picture, created with a deliberate distortion can be viewed as normal with an appropriate de-anamorphoser. In the case of the motion picture, anamorphic lenses squeeze a wide image onto a narrow film frame. Projection through a similar anamorphic lens displays the image on the screen in its full, undistorted, width.

Anamorphic lenses are referred to by their compression (or expansion, in the case of projection optics) ratio. A 2:1 lens squeezes into the film frame an image 100% wider than a normal lens. A 1.5:1 squeezes in an image that is 50% wider, a 1.33:1 squeezes the image by 33%, etc. Most 35mm anamorphic films are made to be projected with 2:1 lenses. In 70mm, the only squeeze factor used theatrically was a modest 1.25:1 (MGM Camera 65 AKA Ultra Panavision).

CinemaScope Scene as viewed through camera finder.
The area outlined in white indicates the portion of the scene that the camera will photograph with the anamorphic lens.
CinemaScope image squeezed onto 35mm film
The compressed image as seen on the release print, which also carries four magnetic soundtracks.
CinemaScope undistorted projected image
The film image is expanded by the anamorphic projection lens, yielding an undistorted picture on the wide screen.

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Martin Hart, Curator