Join Richard Harrington for an in-depth discussion in this video What is a matte box?, part of DSLR Video Tips: Gadgets & Gear.
Hi there. I'm Robbie Carmen. And I'm Rich Harrington. And Rich, this week we're going to talk about something that looks really cool but is also very functional when it comes to shooting DSLR video. And that's the Matte Box. Yeah, I think a lot of people are used to seeing these. They're, they're cool looking, you know. That definitely makes it look like a real camera, but through the years it's become lost what technical purpose this serves. And I think there's really two main benefits to the Matte Box. Mm-hm. One is that it becomes a carrier vehicle for delivering filters. Mm-hm. And the other is protecting on flares. Yep. So, the benefit here, with filtration, is that we can go ahead an adjust the exposure with things like, ND filters, or use technical filters.
And we'll explore some of these options in just a moment. The other thing, is lens flares. Now, we're not talking the cool JJ Abraham's lens flares. Rob, what's a major drawback of having lens flares hit the lens? What's it do to the shot? Well, it tends to wash out the shot, right? So you're going to get decreased contrast. But also things like chromatic aberrations. That is where, sort of, colors will look weird, almost like they've gone through a prism or something like that. That's not particularly good when it's on somebody's face or another important object on screen. Yeah, so when you look at the Matte Box here, a couple of key components that you'll usually find. Some sort of device here that makes it easy to connect the Matte Box to the lens.
In this case we're using sort of this elastic skirt. Yep. Over there you have what called the doughnut, right? Yeah, these doughnuts are right here, and they come in different sizes, depending on the lens that you're using. And the whole reason for having either sort of the skirt or one of these doughnuts is because you, what you do not want to have happen is light come from the back of the camera, into the back of the Matte Box and then hit a filter and then bounce back into, into the lens. And you get all sorts of weird things if that happens. So by using a doughnut or a skirt you're sort of blocking light from entering the rear of the Matte Box.
The next area sort of up from that then becomes the actual place where we could place the filters. In this case we have two stages. And we're going to explore filters in our next movie. Yup. But needless to say, you could stack one or two to serve a real technical purpose. Yup. Then we move forward to the French flag. Now some Matte Box like this one has a single flag on the top. Yup. To cut down on things hitting from above. We can also get others that have them from the side. Absolutely. So you can stack it. So there's lots of different things here. But this is part of a professional rig and what's nice about it is when you go ahead and place that.
You'll see that I can go ahead and adjust here. And so I could adjust here. I want to make sure that this isn't down too low, cutting off the shot. Right, and on this one you actually have a follow focus hooked up. But you could also have a monitor hooked up. And there's actually one more important thing I want to mention about Matte Boxes. And that's that they come in different styles. And what I mean is that this particular one is sort of a, a fixed Matte Box. So when it comes time to change the lens, well, you kind of have to disassemble the whole kit to get a new lens on. Some matte boxes will be of the, sort of the swing out variety, or they actually pivot from the actual front mount on the rig that you're using, which makes it really easy to quickly change lenses.
And you typically find those styles at the higher end of the Matte Box price range. But, you know, most Matte Boxes, you know, they can be found for, you know, pretty good value. But don't be surprised when you go online to look up a Matte Box and you just go, huh, whoa, I wish I was in that business. I mean let's face it, Matte Boxes can be, especially for the good, quality ones, can be a lot of money. So just make sure when you go out there and you start researching Matte Boxes, that you're really comparing some of these features. Because some of the Matte Boxes that you find on the market are expensive simply because of the brand name, not necessarily because of the functionality.
So it's important to try out different Matte Boxes and get that good balance between cost and features for your particular needs. The thing is that you'll actually start to save money when you go to buy the filters. The main benefit is that the Matte Box here uses a standard sized filter, so even though I change lenses and those lenses have different diameters, I don't have to keep buying different sized filters. So while you may pay a little bit more for the Matte Box and the initial filter, it's going to get a lot more mileage as you start to shoot. So when we come back, we're going to talk about how you insert a filter into the Matte Box, as well as what type of filters you should have in your kit.
- Reducing lens flare with matte boxes
- Using loupes and electronic viewfinders to check focus and exposure
- Capturing metadata with a slate
- Fixing shaky footage
- Controlling a camera remotely
- Sliding the camera
- Elevating your camera