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Is a matte box needed?


DBounce

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Recently,  I have been exploring the pros of using a matte box. I like the idea of dedicated NDs and flags to control glare. But for as simple as a device as a matter box, is there seems to be a huge variance in price. So my questions are as follows:

1. It's a matte box needed at all? 

2. Given the huge range in price, what is good enough?

3. Do flags matter in a controlled studio?

4. Are dedicated NDs really that much of an advantage over variable NDs?

Feel free to share your knowledge or experience.

 

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8 minutes ago, DBounce said:

Recently,  I have been exploring the pros of using a matte box. I like the idea of dedicated NDs and flags to control glare. But for as simple as a device as a matter box, is there seems to be a huge variance in price. So my questions are as follows:

1. It's a matte box needed at all? 

2. Given the huge range in price, what is good enough?

3. Do flags matter in a controlled studio?

4. Are dedicated NDs really that much of an advantage over variable NDs?

Feel free to share your knowledge or experience.

 

I have looked matte box options quite a while. For long time been keeping my eye on Tilta MB-T05. But also Fotga DP500 mark III matte box is interesting. Those are in the price range I think, is ok investment. Sure if you want top quality and best materials you most likely have to use a lot more. But I don't need that.

Here is my thoughts on your questions:

1. It's a matte box needed at all? 

It depends what you prefer and how you shoot. If I have crew and time I like to use it. But if I am alone and in hurry, no it's just extra weight and bulkiness...

2. Given the huge range in price, what is good enough?

For me I can get everything I need from matte box around 200-500€ price range

3. Do flags matter in a controlled studio?

If I am in studio usually have better and bigger flags + c-stands around. So no, I don't need flags.

4. Are dedicated NDs really that much of an advantage over variable NDs?

There is certainly differences on variable ND's and hard ND's. With variable ND's I have ruined some face shots, got some bad colour shift and weird glares. With good hard ND's: never.

---

Even that I am looking for matte box set and nice hard ND's, I definitely are not going to lose my variable ND. Has it moments and places for me, always.

But I definitely want quality ND's without quality loss to be found at edit table. It sucks.

IF you don't want to use matte box and decide to invest in hard ND filters. I definitely recommend XUME adapters. I use 77mm XUME adapters on my all lenses and Variable ND + Polarizer filter.

 

 

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2 hours ago, DBounce said:

3. Do flags matter in a controlled studio?

4. Are dedicated NDs really that much of an advantage over variable NDs?

Feel free to share your knowledge or experience.

 

Flags can be very handy in a studio setup - often much quicker to adjust or attach a flag then get a flag on a stand and position it. If I'm shooting in a setup where there are lots of light sources potentially visible, I stick all the flags on. And keep in mind, just because light isn't hitting the sensor, it can still be hitting the lens (esp, say, a full-frame lens on a small sensor camera). Sometimes you don't even know you're getting some flare until you see the same shot flagged.

A variable ND isn't an ND at all - it's two polarizers. So yes, it can jack up a shot pretty badly, particularly skies or expanses of solid color, or long camera moves. And for close ups with skin, it can really deaden the skin. And they can be hard to match from shot to shot.

A matte box with a rotating stage is really handy for ND grads and polarizers. You'll stop thinking of a grad as "just for the sky" and use them to, say, knock down a  bright sidewalk or wall. And with pola's, it makes it easy to kill (or enhance) reflections. A pola in a rotating stage eats a lot less light than a circular pola, which is 2 stacked polarizers.

If you're 100% "run and gun", a matte box could be a hassle (but then, you should be shooting with a camera made for run & gun, with switchable ND and a good EVF and so on). (I see a lot of newbies say their "style" is "run n' gun", when in reality run & gun is a situation).

I don't find 4x4's slow me down significantly. If I were shooting an event, I'd use my big "video" camera. Most other situations, you have a few minutes to frame a shot and work out the DOF and exposure you want. 

I'd say the minimum to look for is 2 stages, at least one rotates - adjustable height; flags that attach securely and can be removed and adjusted without tools; and flags with no open slots at the mount, as you'll get reflections of your FF gears in your footage!

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A good mattebox is a smart investment. It's one of those ergonomic accessories like a follow focus or an on-board monitor that stays with you as you move from camera to camera. If you're using a bunch of different lenses with differing lens diameters, a mattebox can make your life much easier. You can just slide that filter in instead of juggling step-up rings. And if you've stepping up to cine lenses, a mattebox is necessary. You're not screwing anything into a Cooke or a Master Prime.

As far as light control goes, I think that you will consistently find yourself shooting snappier and more contrasty images when you slap on a mattebox, particularly if you're shooting with vintage glass. Vintage lenses are great, but veiling glare and poor contrast isn't.

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3 hours ago, M Carter said:

adjustable height; flags that attach securely and can be removed and adjusted without tools; and flags with no open slots at the mount, as you'll get reflections of your FF gears in your footage!

I remember you mentioning the FF glare before. Must have killed a nice sequence you set up! 

What matte box do you use now?

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3 hours ago, M Carter said:

If you're 100% "run and gun", a matte box could be a hassle (but then, you should be shooting with a camera made for run & gun, with switchable ND and a good EVF and so on). (I see a lot of newbies say their "style" is "run n' gun", when in reality run & gun is a situation.

Funny you mention this.  I was explaining to a producer/ friend how my gh4 manual lens+variaable ND+tascam recorder+shoulder rig+large diaphragm condenser mic was a nightmare to film an event (a protest with interviews of public) ... as one individual. I said that that combo would work best in a controlled environment, and he asked me 'what is a controlled environment?'.

I thought about it and came to the conclusion that it's any shoot where you can ask people to do it again... 'but this time with feeling.' (While you sort out the tech stuff knowing the first take was fine, except for your exposure, focus, temperature etc - butbwe don't say that's why exactly;).

Run and gun is when you shut your mouth and need to get it right first time as many times as possible. Then you are in c100 territory as a base level fundamental camera consideration. 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On July 2, 2016 at 6:04 PM, HelsinkiZim said:

Funny you mention this.  I was explaining to a producer/ friend how my gh4 manual lens+variaable ND+tascam recorder+shoulder rig+large diaphragm condenser mic was a nightmare to film an event (a protest with interviews of public) ... as one individual. I said that that combo would work best in a controlled environment, and he asked me 'what is a controlled environment?'.

I thought about it and came to the conclusion that it's any shoot where you can ask people to do it again... 'but this time with feeling.' (While you sort out the tech stuff knowing the first take was fine, except for your exposure, focus, temperature etc - butbwe don't say that's why exactly;).

Run and gun is when you shut your mouth and need to get it right first time as many times as possible. Then you are in c100 territory as a base level fundamental camera consideration. 

I have one client that has me shoot events - I still have a 1080p Panasonic AC-130. It's got all the grab & go stuff, ND, EVF, XLRs, good OIS, power zoom, easy WB controls, not bad on the jello. I don't think of it as a "beauty camera", but to this day, when I have to use it, I get the footage home and think "damn, that's pretty stuff". Other than not-so-hot AF, it's a hell of a value if you have decent light levels. And it has great peaking, so I never bother with the AF. I stick the most-excellent manfrotto focus-iris controller at the front of the rails and shoot mainly shoulder mount, focus with my finger, all manual. Available used for around $2k.

On July 3, 2016 at 9:54 PM, DBounce said:

Very interesting, the comments about snappier and more contrasty are food for thought. How about recommendations as to good value in an matte box. And opinions on 4x4 vs 4x5.65? Any advise on ND filter brands?

This looks like it has the bells and whistles, $329:

http://supamods.com/product/matte-box/mb-20-pro-carbon-fiber-dslr-matte-box/

I bought an "Indian" matte box years ago when DSLRs were the new thing - $300, basically the same as the one above. Never needed to upgrade it, still going strong. I did add some tabs of self-stick velcro where the flags meet each other, they could rattle a bit when moved. 

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On 7/2/2016 at 2:39 AM, DBounce said:

1. It's a matte box needed at all? 

Do you have filters to hold and flare to control/cut? If so, then yes. If not, then no.

On 7/2/2016 at 2:39 AM, DBounce said:

2. Given the huge range in price, what is good enough?

Depends what you need/want. Personally, I'm a fan of Arri, Chrosziel and Bright Tangerine, all of which can be had second hand for <$1000. 

On 7/2/2016 at 2:39 AM, DBounce said:

3. Do flags matter in a controlled studio?

Side and top flags on a matte box? Of course. Much easier to slide on a top or side flag on the matte box, and then it's set as you move around as well. Trying to cut the flare other ways can work better for big flares, but are also much more time consuming, and in some/many cases would be unnecessary with the right matte box.

On 7/2/2016 at 2:39 AM, DBounce said:

4. Are dedicated NDs really that much of an advantage over variable NDs?

Depending on how much you spend, they're generally significantly better quality, with less/no colour shift. Don't forget there are hundreds of other filters you can use in a matte box other than just NDs. Colour filters, grad NDs, softening filters etc.

On 7/3/2016 at 0:54 PM, DBounce said:

opinions on 4x4 vs 4x5.65? Any advise on ND filter brands?

How big are the lenses you need to cover? Overall, you'll probably get away with 4x4 for the majority of lenses you'll use. Some bigger cinema lenses may need PV (4x5.65) filters, and PV is certainly the de facto standard amongst rental companies these days.

Good ND filter brands are Tiffen, Schneider and Formatt.

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