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Old November 3rd, 2003, 11:28 AM   #1
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What does a Matte Box do?

It may seem like a stupid question, but most of the time when shooting a film, everyone will use a very large matte box. To me it looks like it's a large sunshade. Does it make the picture look better? Why is it needed? What's the diffrence with my small matte on my DVX100 and a large one that would be well over the size of the camera? Example: http://www.stealart.com/wolskiphotos...wolskpic7.html
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Old November 3rd, 2003, 11:43 AM   #2
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It delivers good protection from lens flares, especially if you use a matte box with a French Flag - which is a hinged mechanism that sits on the top and performs the same function as if you put your hand to sheild your eyes from the sun. It should also have several slots to house filters.

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Old November 3rd, 2003, 12:03 PM   #3
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Does size really matter?

Well depends on your perspective. When you are doing an independent piece and are trying to make potential investors and potential crew members take you seriously, do you really want to be seen with a camera that "looks" like it is a consumer toy?

Granted the camera they are using falls in the prosumer/pro category, but still appearences are everything.

A good way to beef up the look of a wimpy camera is to add on a bunch of attachments. A huge matte box can be one of them. This way the camera looks bigger and more "professional" (to the untrained) - thus earning more "respect" and potentially that investor who is looking to part with some of his/her riches.

Think I'm joking? Take a look at the Canon site and look at their flash ads for the XL1s with all the attachements. Quickly you will see that the more gizmos they add on, the cooler and more pro the package looks even though the camera itself doesn't change.

A friend of mine in Alabama has a PD-150 and a couple of shoots he told me a few by-standers/interviewees thought his camera was "pretty small for a documentary. Is this for your home use/school project?". The next week, he purchased a matte box for his camera, and the same bystanders thought it was a new camera.

If looking big is more important than the usefullness of such a large matte box, then go for the biggest baddest mutha you can find. If usefullness is what you are going after, then use the one that best suits you. For me, I've put off getting a matte box for over a year now, and am finally thinking of breaking down and getting a Century Optics 4x4 for my PD-150 with a series of Schneider filters.
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Old November 3rd, 2003, 01:48 PM   #4
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The oversized matte box in your link looks like a Vocas or Petroff. They most likely cost almost as much as the camera. i can see 3 filter trays and the system is modular.

The matte box performs several functions. As the name implies it can be used to matte the frame. ie: put an outline in front of the camera lens like a reactangle,heart, circle or keyhole (to be really hokey)
It serves as a filter holder for flat glass filters (3x3, 3x4, 4x4, 4x5, 4"x5.65" etc). these filters can be rotates (effects, graduated or polarizor) or moved up or down to vary the effect on the horizontal (graduated or effect).

It also acts a s a whizbang sunshade. I have a Cavision 4x4" filter frame with 2 trays and a 7.5x5.5" cloth bellows that will adjust from 1.5 to 5" deep. There are solid shade matteboxes that will give varying degrees of protection. The Hard shades usually max 2" from the filter frame. All of the shades will accept side shades and french flags. French flags are usually clamped to the top of the lens shade ane are usuallu in the range og 7-8" wide by 5-6" deep. One usefull little gizmo is the Flare Buster. This clamps to your hot shoe and will work independant of a matte box ot filter holder

Two items worth noting for the Century matte box. The trays do not rotate separately and the support rods will get in the way of a grad filter.

The Century can be fitted with a french flag which I think will do more than the shallow side shades. The eyebrows looked neat but I think the flag does a whole lot more. The century is made by Vocas.
http://www.centuryoptics.com/products/dv/matteboxes/dvmb.htm


The Chrosziel is the cream of the crop. The hard shade DV version is very well made but pricey. To have any serious shade the french flag and side shades should be used. this really brings the price up
http://www.saferseas.com/vsd/eye/sunshade%20a.html

I looked at the century, chrosziel , TLS, Formatt, Tiffen and the Cavision. I wound up getting the cavision 4x4 bellows. I also got a cavision wide angle rubber lens shade for the times I didn't need the extremes of the mattebox. When i use the bellows i mount it on a carbon fiber support system. The accompanying grips give me an excellent grip on the front end of the camera. Much better than I had immagined.

www.cavision.com

There are several UK manufactures matte boxes, noteably the Lee Kestrel madew by TLS , the Van Dieman Mosquito and the Formatt. Several of these are very wide and in a high wind may cause you to fly. The formatt and Kestral french flag are 14" across. Of all of them the TLS Kestral as sold from TLS seems the better design. The problem with the UK made matteboxes is in the open filter tray design. The filter trays are open to stray light. there is a half hearted effort to block the light with a flap but it really doesn't do much.

http://www.truelens.co.uk/kestrel.htm

The Tiffen mattebox looked an excellent design but is more than the competition and delivery wasn't available when I bought.


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Old November 3rd, 2003, 02:10 PM   #5
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Century?

I've been thinking about a Century box for my PDX10. Can you explain a bit more about the rods getting in the way of a grad filter?

Regards,

Julian
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Old November 3rd, 2003, 02:31 PM   #6
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The filter slides up and down. Look at the placement of the rods vs the filter frame. to properly use a graduated filter, you'd need a 4x5 , 4x5.65 or a 5x6 frame. These are available (vocas frames) but you don't have the clearance to slide them very far. Look at the competition. I really liked the build and construction of the vocas/century but it just had too many drawbacks for me.

To be more thorough, I've done a complete reedit of my previous post.(my spelling most likely sucks)

If you have any more question, just ask. I drove myself nuts researching this topic.
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Old November 4th, 2003, 08:11 PM   #7
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Actually, the matte box used in Steal Art is an Arri 6x6. Cost is from $3000 to $4000 for that model if you include rods and everything else. Serious hardware.
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Old November 4th, 2003, 09:55 PM   #8
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To address another aspect of Mark's question, the reason larger matteboxes are used for film is pretty simple, really--the lenses are larger, since the format is larger! To prevent vignetting (the edges of the mattebox becoming visible) for wide lenses, you have to use a bigger mattebox. The 6x6 is the largest general purpose system for 35mm and HD work, although the standard setup uses 4x5 filters (4x4 being somewhat phased out).

Believe me, if we could use smaller matteboxes in the film world, we would. It's a necessary "evil"--part of the equation--but they can get in the way sometimes.
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Old November 4th, 2003, 10:25 PM   #9
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Charles
Isn't the old panavision standard 4"x5.65"
I've seen sizes up to 6.6"x6.6"

For my uses 3x3 would have been barely adequate, 4x4 to 4x5.65" will give me some room to grow. I have an Optex .65 wide angle with an 82mm thread (85mmOD)

3x3 is ok up to a .65 wide angle lens with a 85mm outside diameter (82mm inside thread 76mm clear aperture) Most of the 3x3 filters are special order, 4x4 are usually stocked.
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Old November 5th, 2003, 01:40 PM   #10
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I'm getting close to getting a matte box too, probably not before next year. For many years I have not needed one, because I've always used Series 9 filters, with stepdown rings to whatever size lens I happened to have (82mm for now). For keeping the sun out of the lens, I've always used a French flag. So, I've avoided the weight, expense and hassle of a matte box.

Things change. Now we're shooting 16:9 on everything, and if I add more than one filter, I get vignetting in the corners. Under normal conditions, that would be OK, because it's always in underscan and won't show on any TV. But...most of our stuff is going to CDROM these days or DVD and is shown mainly on computer screens. Meaning no video crop.

I don't want to spend a couple thousand bucks for a matte box for my aging lens which will get replaced with the next camera upgrade, no doubt. So I've done a bit of the same research Beaser did (mostly, I asked him what the heck). I've come to the same conclusion about Cavision. They are very friendly and knowledgeable people, it seems, and even answer their email very promptly with good info. And, they can adapt an adapter for me so I can use their box with my external focus lens. I also sent them the focus travel distance for the front element so they could measure and find out if there would be clearance for ECU's, and they recommended I go with the 3 slot box, leaving the rear one empty when needing the space. Mostly I use 2 filters max, so that's a fairly decent solution that's relatively cheap--under $1,000 for what I need. And, their new 5X6.5 box should be shipping along about now.
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Old November 5th, 2003, 02:16 PM   #11
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WFIW, both I and Keith Loh use Cavision matte boxes and have been very happy with their quality and function, not to mention price. Plus I've been to their offices and they are a real, large company. Not some fly by night, make some cheap matte boxes and leave town, place.

If Keith is around, he will testify to the fact that having a matte box gets you noticed alot more in public.
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Old November 5th, 2003, 02:37 PM   #12
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Thanks for that endorsement. They do seem to have a good reputation. I probably ought to buy before they raise their prices because of all the good press they get.
As far as being noticed in public, I usually don't want to be noticed in public...especially by the kind of person who would come up and say, "Oooo...nice matte box!"

My favorite question, which I always seem to get is, when I'm in a public place, camera on tripod, standing there waiting for something to happen...
"Whatcha doin'? Takin' pictures?" ("No, you jerk, I'm setting up a missile launcher!!!!!!!":))
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Old November 6th, 2003, 01:07 AM   #13
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I've been to the Cavision office as well and was given a preview of everything they had on the web site except the lenses. I actually spent the better part of a day in their board room playing (research). When i'm working in vancouver i stay at the Raddison just down the street by Grandview and Canada Way.

Lorne Lapham sales and rental down a few blocks is also a fully stocked dealer. The DV Shoppe in Toronto is also carrying the line.
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Old November 6th, 2003, 10:08 AM   #14
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Yeah, when I get ready to buy maybe I'll come to Vancouver and pick it up. Save the shipping. Lemme see...about 700 bucks for round trip airfare, a hundred or so for the hotel, food, beer for Beaser...probably I could make the trip for a thousand or so, but I'd save the shipping cost. What a deal!
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Old November 6th, 2003, 10:45 AM   #15
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The Raddison has a nice bar and there is a casino across the street. We also seem to have quite a few members from that neck of the woods. (Hongcouver)
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