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Old July 22nd, 2003, 06:56 PM   #1
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What's the point of a matte box?

You may at first think I'm trying to be a smartass, but really I'm not. I just want to hear a short, reasonable argument in favor of a matte box.

For dramatically less money you can outfit the same camera with a variable depth lens hood and 3 filters stacked... so what's the point of the box? Other then looks and easy flare control... since the hood also provides easy flare control but doesn't look as professional... thoughts?
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Old July 22nd, 2003, 07:04 PM   #2
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For one thing, a matte box (the right type anyway, with a rotating filter ring) allows you to precisely position a graduated filter at a specific angle.
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Old July 22nd, 2003, 11:22 PM   #3
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Thanks Chris... I guess I'm still a little too new to "professional" dv because I've not used graduated filters yet.

Basically I was asking the question because I want to only buy one Portabrace camera bag and there are two different models depending on wether or not you use a matte box.

Also I didn't want to waste money on filters if I was going to end up with a matte box and 4x4 filters later...

At this point I still need a much more solid argument in favor of matte boxes to warrant the extra cost...

The best zoom controller available could be had for less then the cost of the CHEAPEST matte box... and unless you can buy both, which I really can't right now, I think the zoom controller would do more for a professional result... I can always flag the camera anyway for even better flare control then a matte box...

More thoughts?
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Old July 23rd, 2003, 12:06 AM   #4
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Matt,
The "matte box" is a very old device that actually pre-dates motion pictures, into the 19th century. Their original purpose was to facilitate the exact placement of a flat element in front of the lens, thus enabling photographers to matte-out a portion of the frame to split-expose a photograph.

Today, of course, they have become common tools for filmmakers and videographers. Their primary application in these arenas is to facilate the quick deployment of square filters. As Chris noted, graduated density filters are a prime example of where a matte box is indispensible. The general purpose of such filters is to tone-down just a portion of the frame, such as a particularly bright sky or, on an indoor shot, an area occupied by a bright window. Matte boxes can, of course, also be used for constant-density filters and for polarizers (if the box features a rotating holder).

Whether or not -you- need a matte box depends on what type of work you do. Generally speaking they are most appropriate for dramatic work where you (the photographer) can control your frame. They are much less useful for event coverage and run-and-gun shooting.

And, yes, they can be gruesomely expensive with far too much profit sprayed to the manufacturer and distributors. Relatively speaking, however, you do get what you pay for. My Chrosziel 4x4 matte box is extremely well designed and machined, with precise fitting tolerances. It can stand-up to to frequent use.

Still, it is just a tool for a specific type of problem. If you don't have the problem, don't waste money on the tool.

Hope this is helpful.
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Old July 23rd, 2003, 12:25 PM   #5
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I've also found that the handles on the CA Vision matte box make for better handling than just the XL1S's top and side grips. My poor wrists.
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Old July 23rd, 2003, 02:40 PM   #6
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Flare control cannot be understated if you are working in a lit environment that incorporates backlights or edgelights. An articulated eyebrow (top flag) is absolutely essential; having articulated siders is also great.

I think it safe to say that a great deal of folks shooting DV films today with simple lens shades are regularly compromising the quality of their lenses by allowing light to hit the front element. Flares are not always as obvious as "sunspots" from a direct hard light; they can appear as a subtle "milking out" of the overall image i.e. loss of contrast that is very difficult to see in the viewfinder.

I'm currently working on a feature that may help to illustrate the importance of this. We use very little front filtration, yet we are religious about bringing the eyebrow down until it is just above frame, and the 1st assistant is constantly festooning the sides with black paper tape to protect the lens from stray light. In addition, the grips are regularly setting flags and teasers to augment the effort. This in spite of the fact that the lenses are Panavision Primos, which are celebrated for their ability to resist flaring.

Speaking of setting flags, it's a much more time consuming method than having a good mattebox, and it's sort of useless for moving camera shots, especially handheld.

Nevertheless, deciding between the purchase of a mattebox and a rear zoom control would be a tough one. The zoom control is a much more comfortable way to shoot, but unless I'm mistaken, none of the DV-oriented units allow for true variable zooming (the limit is the zoom motor on the camera itself, which in all but the highest end DV cameras is capable of multiple, fixed zoom speeds). To achieve a true broadcast-style variable zoom, you'd be looking at a lot more than the cost of a good mattebox; that setup (i.e. the BEST zoom controller) would include a separate motor that would be mounted onto the lens.
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Old July 23rd, 2003, 03:13 PM   #7
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Thanks for the input guys... I should have stated: "The best zoom controller available (for a dvx100) is cheaper then the cheapest matte box system for that cam"... and I could still be wrong, but I'm thinking the 522p will be a pretty sweet zoom controller once it comes out... and it'll be less then $400.

Still torn on the issue, but leaning away from a matte box right now.
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Old July 23rd, 2003, 11:09 PM   #8
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For simple needs, the FlareBuster works great. Cheap too.

http://www.flarebuster.com/
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Old July 23rd, 2003, 11:21 PM   #9
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Mike,
Indeed, I nearly forgot that I have one coiled-up in my bag! Yes they are clever gizmos that can be handy for stationary shots. You can make your own flag for use with them. But they will wiggle when the camera's in motion.
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Old July 24th, 2003, 09:04 AM   #10
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Mike, thanks for the Flarebuster link... that's basically what I was talking about when I said I could flag the cam...

I'm a big fan of the Manfrotto articulated and flexible arms... the Magic Arm is pretty heavy, but they have lighter versions perfect for holding lightweight materials such as foamcore...

I'm thinking a lightweight flexible arm with a foam fork on the end would make a pretty decent flag/shade... cheap too, and useable for other purposes.

Decision made.

BTW, did anybody see that poorly made movie called "The Transporter"? I was progressively irritated by the lack of production values, but the pinnacle was at the very end where there is supposed to be a dramatic scene of refugee prisoners being let out of a semi trailer and the shot is almost into the sun. There is a series of sunspots AND flare which fades out much of the picture, and they just HELD the shot like that for minutes!
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Old July 24th, 2003, 10:50 AM   #11
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Yes, the TRANSPORTER is a terrible movie that got a lot of push because of Statham and the interest in the unrelated BMW Films. The fight in the slime was interesting but everything else .. holy cow.
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Old July 24th, 2003, 11:53 AM   #12
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Just for your information locker.

The arm for the flarebuster is made up of linked plastic tubing that is used in the machine tool world to carry air and liquids to cutting tools and to support shields and the like.

One can purchase additional tubing sections, the tools to dis- and assemble the sections and even larger and smaller tubes.

A good source, if you want one, is MSC Industrial Supply Company. http://www.mscdirect.com/. They have a free catalog that is so large it almost hurts one's legs to hold in the lap.

Here is one such kit: http://www.mscdirect.com/IWCatSectio...93&View.x.y=12
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Old July 24th, 2003, 04:19 PM   #13
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There are some beautiful images in film that have been the result of allowing flares to play in the shot. It's certainly a choice. Usually the idea is to "go for it" and really see them; having an unmotivated flare is somehow less satisfying (i.e. not seeing the light source and getting a little kick or flare in the corner vs. seeing a LOT of flare). There were some radical ones in "Punch Drunk Love" that really impressed me. Again, it's a choice.
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Old May 1st, 2010, 07:25 AM   #14
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About Matte boxes and Tubes

I just stumbled upon this Topic these days - trying to inform myself about Matte-boxes in general - since I am transforming part of my business onto HDSLR (Canon 5D MkII) - which is really great for some limited kind of shooting (tremendous picture captured through that 35mm chip, such a contrast, deep blacks, beautiful colors, shallow depth of field with all possible photo and cine lenses adjustable on it, in 30p, 25p, 24p full 1920x1080 HD resolution and SD resolution, as well, of course) - but it also has its downsize - the chip is so big and writing captured info-data onto it last for a while, so you can''t really pan and tilt at any speed you like - cause you'll get choppy picture - sort of Aliasing --- but you get used to speed which is alright, plus, if you do faster pans and tilts, problem is not visible as well... It is matter of nano-seconds, anyway! So I expect that 5D Mk III will have this problem solved --- It has to do with the way the binary info is written onto this chip - it's not like usual camcorder chips where entire chip is lit and writing info with all of its surface at the same time - but this one is writing in "rows" (again, cause of size of the chip and speed of cards that this much info has to be written on).
Another downsize is that it shoots video in .MOV format (which is OK), but then compresses it into H.264 which is showing format (for youtube and vimeo and online showing) and by no means was meant to be the format for NATIVE EDITING...(it is understandable protecting of tens-of-thousands-of-dollars Cameras, which would lose its customers to cheap $2.5K photo-camera which does better video job!)
That is why we, who loved result of footage look of this camera, had to buy extra $100, 3rd party codec (Cineform's NEOSCENE) which re-compressed it from 8bit (4:2:0) h.264 into 10bit (4:2:2) AVI footage --- of double size than original .MOV ---- but it was perfectly editable...
Although, this ain't downsize any more, since ADOBE released their CS5 package few days ago and new PPRO from this package has ability (and PRESET) to capture and edit that CANON 5D and 7D footage NATIVELY....
The same option will be included in AVID MC 5 that's coming out this Summer!
(FinalCutPro editors didn't have this problem at all - they could've edited it natively from beginning!)

It is now obvious, from this entire Thread - what the Matt boxes are actually meant for!...
But few people also started to mention tubes...
It's been a while since this Thread has been started - but I must say that today tubes and rigs and kits for HDSLR cameras (and other DV cameras) are really gone beyond imagination... With all the attachable tubes, on which you can add and add and add different add-ons, like following focuses, monitors, audio-preamp, shoulder-mounts, matte-boxes, weights ---- unbelievable!!!
There are many companies involved in this business nowadays, and they are quite expensive - i think the leading ones are RedRock and ZACUTO...

But, if you wanna have not just a function, but looks and most perfect materials that these things are made of, as well - try visiting HD Camera Rental, DSLR Camera Accessories site....
I was astonished by their arsenal of equipment for any kind of "guerilla" shooting (check few of their videos) - with HDSLR or RED or any kind of HD cameras.... Looks superb, works superb - I ordered the focusing helper (tube that magnifies the object from your camera back-display and helps you do perfect focusing! Together with follow-focus gadget... Blast!!!

This Z-Finder is actually turning your CANON 5D Mk II into camcorder with PERFECT VIEWFINDER...

Only thing is that I'd really love to have that darn Matt-Box --- since I am doing lot of documentaries and some features lately ---- and I'd love that "Eyebrow" at least --- and some filters ---- but that is soooo expensive!!! My head hurts!

And, to make it better, they are really hard to find over here in Europe - which means it would cost me double - 100% more than the price I see on the website --- when I pay shipment, Customs and Taxes - bow-wow.... too-much....

I've seen some guys simply transforming their Barn-Doors (from smaller light units like the smallest DedoLight 150 or HADLER 10) into some kind of Matte-Boxes - but it is just glare protection - no place to put filters! :(

Hope its price will come bit down with time (although, life had thought me that PRO things keep their prices --- it is not a trendy gadget which will be forgotten in few months (except for few show-offs that have it just to look like Pros)...

Anyway, if you are interested in boxes, tubes and rigs and kits made of tubes, visit ZACUTO home page - it will blow your mind!!!

(and dear Zacuto ppl, look what an advertisement I am doing for you - maybe a matte box for me:))) - just kidding)
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