Reshape shots with lens distortion effects

Fisheye lens, wide angle lens, telephoto lens, and other kinds of camera lens are rather expensive. So aside from mastering the lens you have, you should also master fixing shots through editing. You can even create a lens distortion effect through editing. Don’t worry, you won’t have to deform your lenses to achieve this high-value effect. Runway’s lens distortion tool puts reality-bending power in the palm of your hand. Distort raw footage with careful precision by controlling every parameter of the effect—it only takes a couple of clicks.

Distort images with ease

Filmmakers are usually worried about lens distortion. When a shot has a geometric distortion, mustache distortion, tangential distortion, fisheye distortion,or optical distortion, they start wondering about the focal length and other problems. But lens distortion doesn't always have to be problematic, so there are times lens distortion correction isn't necessary. They can even be intentional and stylistic. Whether you’re doctoring up clips for a Beastie Boys-inspired music video or removing distortion from your go-pro helmet cam footage, Runway can help you achieve the look you’re envisioning. Access your project from any device and edit within your browser window. Cloud-based, super-fast, and packed with intuitive tools, Runway makes it easy to alter your video according to any vision.

How to Use

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Upload your video file directly to the cloud and never worry about computer storage again. From MP4 to ProRes, we've got you covered.
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Apply Lens Distortion
Look for the “Lens Distortion” effect in the right-hand panel of the video editor, under “Effects and Filters.” Click to add, and then use the accompanying adjustment slider to fine-tune intensity.
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Once you’re satisfied with the applied effect, you can continue editing or export your finished creation in a variety of resolution and formatting options


Runway’s nimble tools can handle anything you throw at them. With the power of AI and a totally intuitive design, our online editing software is the perfect companion for any video-making pursuit.

Test your vision in real-time

Easily test the concept you’re seeing in your head. You can upload your footage to Runway on location and create a lens distortion effect in seconds—it’s an on-demand proof of concept.

Create otherworldly images

Use distortion to your advantage with selectively applied effects that enhance a moment of horror, highlight a supernatural being sent from above, or bend the laws of physics. With the power to stretch the bounds of your clips—and your imagination—you can warp your work with purpose.

Bring reality into question

With contorted image edges and chromatic aberrations dancing across the screen, it’s easy to feel the surreal sensation of this effect. Transition between dimensions, cast doubt on a character’s sanity, or create a visual dichotomy between good and evil by applying a lens distortion in post-production.

Why Runway?

Stay nimble in an ever-shifting industry—with Runway’s sleek and dynamic online editing software, you can easily outpace the crowd. From lens distortion to blurs, flares, grain, and beyond, Runway’s effects allow you to adjust each frame of footage to match your vision exactly. Runway was designed to help you deliver incredible results with ease.

Share, collaborate, and edit on one platform

Whether you’re an independent operation or a department within a massive organization, Runway is the ideal software for video creation. Share your work and collect feedback from collaborators with just a simple link. Or, you can all edit the same footage together—remotely, in real-time, from anywhere.

Access a full suite of editing tools from your browser

Edit lens distortion, remove a Green Screen, cut clips together, crop frames, correct color, remove object from video, and crossfade within one dynamic interface, without missing a beat. Runway is full-service online editing software, so you don’t have to bother with storage-sapping programs and file downloads. Achieve the edits you’re dreaming about, exactly the way you picture them.

Streamline the editing process to save time (and money)

Free up some processing power and edit footage much quicker with an intuitive, easy-to-pick-up suite of editing resources. Runway is hosted in the cloud and driven by advanced AI, so it’s as fast as it is frictionless. Get your work done in half the time with twice as many options.
What is lens distortion?
In photography and videography, lens distortion generally refers to deformations to an image or clip—most commonly, when straight lines appear curved or warped. It can be as pronounced as a rippling effect through a person’s entire body or as subtle as a slight disfigurement of the face or in the outer edges of your shot. There are two primary subsets of distortion:
  • Perceptual distortion has to do with the translation of three-dimensional space into a two-dimensional format, wherein our perception of the image differs from what was actually happening when it was shot (like those pictures of tourists “holding up” the Leaning Tower of Pisa or pricking their finger on the pointed roof of the Louvre).
  • Optical distortion has to do with the shape of the lens capturing the image. Most lenses (even professional, expensive ones) are subjected to some form of lens distortion, though many are so subtle that they cannot be spotted by the human eye.
What are the three types of lens distortion?
The three types of lens distortion/optical distortion are:.
  • Barrel distortion – This is a convex distortion, wherein the originally straight lines of an image are being spread further apart. Certain cameras will use a fisheye-type lens to achieve a wider field of view (think modern security cameras and go-pros). This creates a rounded-out or protruding distortion.
  • Pincushion distortion – The inverse of barrel distortion, pincushion is when the straight lines of an image are concave—essentially squished or pulled—closer together, and is most often seen with macro lenses. Parts of the image become smaller than others, like a tiny head on a big body.
  • Complex distortion – True to its name, this is the pesky combination of barrel and pincushion distortion. It can be found in all sorts of lenses, though it’s becoming less common as technology advances. Complex distortion pretty much always requires sophisticated software to fix since tools built for only barrel and/or pincushion distortion would only exacerbate some of the visual deformations.
What is the best way to eliminate lens distortion?
There are many viable tactics to take when you’re looking to reduce lens distortion. Let’s start with the manual options:
  • Limit your focal length. If you stay in the midrange while shooting, you’ll avoid most distortion problems altogether. There are exceptions to this rule, of course (like when you’re shooting with specialty lenses), but it mostly allows you to avoid extremes.
  • Shop with distortion in mind. You should always comparison-shop for lenses, as outwardly similar lenses can deliver incredibly varied results in practice. Add lens distortion to your list of qualities to examine. You might even decide to buy certain lenses because they distort the way they do. Distortion has a reputation as a nuisance, but it can be used purposefully to create compelling visual effects.
If you’d rather not constrain yourself on the front-end, you can always address distortion parameters during editing. While not all dedicated video editing software will include a satisfactory distortion tool, Runway’s complete suite of online video editing software tools can help you control distortion for greater visual clarity and purposeful storytelling.
How can lens distortion be used creatively?
Unequivocally, yes. Lens distortion is more than an aberration to be corrected. It’s a visual tool that has been used to great effect by both commercial and creative filmmakers since the medium was invented. Here are some examples of creative use in film:
  • The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat – This one-minute “short film” was produced by the Lumiere Brothers way back in 1895. It’s perhaps one of the earliest examples of perceptual distortion on film. As the vintage train pulls into the station, it grows larger to the audience, simulating the experience of viewing it in real life. The urban legends say that late 19th-century audiences ran screaming from the theater, certain that the approaching train would crush them. While that may not be the whole truth, one thing is certain: perceptual distortion remains an essential tool for adept filmmaking.
  • Cinemascope technology – This popular film format in the 1960s heavily used optical distortion. It used a system of anamorphic lenses to present movies in a widescreen view. The film was recorded using an anamorphic lens, which captured a distorted, stretched image. When the finished movie was screened, another anamorphic lens was rigged to the projector, which would reverse the distortion, presenting a clean, finished image.
  • The Favourite – Yorgos Lanthimos’s 2018 black comedy extensively used lens distortion effects. Lanthimos wanted to focus on the relationship between the characters (British royalty and nobles in the early 1700s) and the space around them (intricate, ostentatious, and far too large to justify so few occupants). He pushed his lenses to their limits, using the expanse of the shot as another character in each scene. The distortions set the viewer on edge. They communicate the stifling claustrophobia of life in the court, trapped inside a bubble of wealth and completely cut off from the world at large.
Creative use of distortion can be found across many genres and has been used to invent entire formats. Like most of the tools in a filmmaker’s belt, distortion is equal parts frustrating and effective, depending on what you’re trying to achieve for the output image. But as long as you can control the effect in post, you can use it to your advantage.
Can you fix a distorted lens?
Lens distortion can be addressed in a number of ways, as outlined above. However, none of the listed solutions provide a fix for a deformation of the lens itself.
If you suspect something may be wrong with your new lens, double-check with the manufacturer. Some lenses have natural distortions that cannot be fixed—they are a feature of the lens. In the rare case of a defect, most manufacturers will provide you with a new lens.
If your lens was damaged or you bought one used (and, perhaps, misused), it may be possible to fix the problem with help from a camera repair shop.
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