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Canon XL1S / XL1 Watchdog
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Old October 11th, 2002, 10:06 PM   #1
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Matte boxes - know zip

Hi there! Could someone give a tutorial on matte boxes. I see them referred to often and I know absolutely nothing about them. Or perhaps you could just point me in the right direction...

Thanks
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Old October 12th, 2002, 01:32 AM   #2
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Well, fundamentally, a matte box mounts to the front a camera and features a way for you to use square filters with your lens. The "matte" term comes from the original use for such devices which was to matte-out portions of the frame during production, often for some sort of double-exposure effect (with film). With video, though, the primary application is to be able to quickly deploy drop-in/lock-in filters. Many such devices also feature a "flag" or eyelid to control glare and flare (and make the camera look more professional <g>).

Some matte boxes mount to the lens while others mount to rails which mount to the camera's body. Cavision, Century and Chrosiel are the most prominent brands. Lee also makes a model that features a flexible bellows design.
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Old October 17th, 2002, 01:07 AM   #3
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Hi Phil,

What are you using for a camera?

As our good friend Ken states, there are many different types and brands available in many different price ranges. Chrosziel and Arri make the best and most expensive units in both rod mounted and clamp-on versions. I have seen a nice bellows unit from Cavision before, not sure if they are still producing it. Petroff *had* a sweet and light bellows style that they should have modified for DV shooters who want a clamp-on, not sure but I think they are no longer in business. Century Optics makes a nice "Digital Sunshade" filter holder for under $400, however the slot(s) do not rotate. The Lee Wide Angle Lens Hood is a bellows style filter holder and much more affordable than the CO or Image 2000 filter holder. The Lee Lightweight Video Hood is even nicer, as the two slots rotate.

Since you are very new to filtration, I suggest investing in something on the lower end, which will not kill your wallet and still allow you some money left over to buy some nice filters. The idea for beginners is to affordably and immediately begin to experiment with and learn about filters, first hand, in the here and now. Right now, I think the Lee system excels for people who are just beginning and want as much performance as they can get for the least amount of cash. Very compact, portable and easy to keep in your camera bag when it is folded up and stored in the included canvas soft case when not in use.

Very informative filtration summary:
http://www.tiffen.com/camera_filters.htm

Also from the BarryMeister:
http://www.lafcpug.org/curseofdigital_feature.html

And regarding the LEE matte box with Tiffen 4x4 filters
http://noisybrain.com/onloc1_01.html
http://noisybrain.com/onloc1_02.html

Filtration without a matte box:
http://www.tiffen.com/DVfilterkits.htm

Check out the Tiffen DV Filter Kits and don't forget that you can always start off with one or two filters and build upon that as you go. You can soon expect Tiffen to be reintroducing the Tiffen Filter Flex, which received a great deal of response from many different users when I demonstrated it in the Tiffen booth at the LA DV SHOW and at the Tiffen Tech Center's "Open House". Also, Tiffen is certainly listening very intently to the many DV filmmakers who are requesting a very solid, yet affordable *under $300* filter holder/ matte box. Looking forward to that.

Keep in touch,

- don
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Old October 22nd, 2002, 02:13 PM   #4
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Just looked up the Lee Filter Video Hood on their site, and it's listed at $495, plus the possible cost of a converter ring. This places it right around the price range of the Image 2000, listed on ZGC's site for $495 (for the XL1)with $72 step-down rings. Cavision's are also in this range, I believe. Is there any benefit to bellows style versus hard shell, or vice versa?
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Old October 22nd, 2002, 02:29 PM   #5
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Don would be the better responder to your q, Josh, since he's used the Lee bellows-style hood on a project (see the Watchdog article). Logically, I would imagine that it would be much more flexible (no pun intended) than the hard-sided design. Imagine, for example, that you have a shot lit and framed just right. But looking through the viewfinder, DOH, you see a flare gremlin. So your choices with a fixed hood would be to move the camera, move the offending light or move the subject. With a bellows hood you might be able to adjust the hood's length and preserve your scene setup.
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Old October 22nd, 2002, 02:42 PM   #6
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Ken, you are absolutely right. That is why I like a bellows style box. It makes a big difference outdoors too, when you can fully extend the bellows and really "dial in" to the light you are pointing your camera at, avoiding as much as possible any stray ambient light, flares or halation.

I still use the LEE box when I need to go low-profile, "in and out" style, with only one case (my trusty black Domke bag!). The Lee LVH, when compacted and store in the included soft case, is very small and stealthy. Plus, I can usually fit 3-4 filters in the case with the LVH matte box, including the step up ring for my 16X manual/ Servo lens.

The LEE LVH is not as high performance as my Tiffen FIlter Flex matte box, but again, it is very small and affordable.

- don
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Old October 22nd, 2002, 02:49 PM   #7
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By the way, I think CaVision makes a bellows 4x4 clamp-on matte box with 2 rotating filters slots. Might be more robust than the LEE LVH, doubt that it compacts as small as the LVH though. But, it does look like a nice unit. Haven't used it though.

- don
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Old October 22nd, 2002, 11:51 PM   #8
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But these are all $500 units correct? The ones mentioned above still have not arrived on the market at this time, correct?
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Old October 23rd, 2002, 01:34 AM   #9
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I've got a cavision bellows matte 4x4. Works great. I contemplated a hard visor, but settled on the bellows and frenchflag as I need to cut reflections as much as possible. I use fullscope anamorphic lens in front of my XL1, so it can flare bad if not careful. The bellows and filters add a lot of flexibility to my shooting, especially indoors where there is lots of spotlights.

Actors and crew respond positively to a more professional looking rig. No joke.

Adrian
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Old October 23rd, 2002, 02:54 AM   #10
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Hi Adrian,

Which model are you using? Is it a clamp-on or rod system? How many stages rotate? Do you ever experience any vignetting at all with your widest angles? How much did the unit cost?

Could you clarify exactly which lens and adaptor you are using?

Thank you very much for your participation.

- don
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Old October 23rd, 2002, 03:23 AM   #11
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I use 4x4 bellows. It's a rod system, as I need the support for the Kowa 16H A-lens. (doesn't give me full zoom range and have to watch for vignetting, but hey, I get a nice 2.35:1 aspect hardmatte on film without losing lines. This is in front of a 14x manual zoom lens.)

It has two stage filter slots. One rotates, one fixed. If I remember correctly, the matte box itself was 350, and the carbon fiber rods system with metal mount plates for XL1 was 180. The frenchflag was an extra 30, and I got the slick handgrips for better handheld work for another c-note. So total was around 660, plus taxes. Really cost effective equipment.

I had to find a custom strut and clamp (which plops on the rods, which are standard 15mm dimensions) as the 14x barrel rotates on focusing, and some step rings. All I had to do was see how the did this in the 1950's with cinemascope, when I don't think there was such a thing as an internal focus lens, or at least they weren't widespread... and before the advent of an integrated prime-A lens. What I saw was the same thing... support rods with step rings and clamps. Simple mechanical solution.

Oh yeah, the mattebox can take a monster wideangle converter as well, so it's mouth is very large.

If you want to find out more about A-lenses, check out http://lavender.fortunecity.com/lavender/569/anamorphic.html

Adrian
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Old October 23rd, 2002, 05:18 PM   #12
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Adrian,

What camera(s) exactly are you using this with? Please do tell us more if you are shooting film, camera/ lens, stock, etc.

Also, are you using any DV camera(s)? If so, which ones and what lenses are you using? DO you use the CAvision with just your film cameras or also with DV cams?

Looking forward to hearing back from you,

- don
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Old October 23rd, 2002, 05:40 PM   #13
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I use Canon Xl1, GL1 and Sony pd150 (I don't own this one). I bump the footage up to film. Looks great. Nothing available to view on web, I am working on stuff for festivals next year, and said festivals are sticklers for showing material elsewhere before a screening.

I work at a film/vfx house, so I got access to technology that not everyone else does. We also have HD post facilities, but no camera's, just decks. >:(

I do effects for features and tv during the day (punch up my name on imdb.com), and work on _fun_ stuff on my own time. DV productions are so much fun and spontaneous compared to big, leviathan film projects where simple decisions hum and haw for days or weeks.

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Old October 23rd, 2002, 06:22 PM   #14
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Thanks everyone for your input - some of it was a bit beyond me for right now. I will check out some of the suggested web sites etc. I'm just using my screw on type filters for my XL1s right now. I have the Canon kit that includes a polarizing,UV and a neutral density filter. There have been several times that a quick filter change would have been nice. The main requirement for most of my shooting is portability and durability and most times setup time is short or nonexistant. I'm just trying to add the many aspects to my shooting and editing one skill at a time.
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Old October 24th, 2002, 01:58 AM   #15
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Hi Adrian,

I am very interested in what camera you are using the Kowa 16H a-lens with, and how it is working for you.

Could you fill us in when you get the chance? Sounds cool.

Looking forward,

- don
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