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Buying a Matte Box...trying to figure out why


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#1 Jon Petro

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 07:04 PM

I am looking into getting myself a 4X4 for my camera. The thing is I don't like using filters. I am thus wondering what the point of a Matte Box is beyond filters and protection from flares.

I am sorry to sound ignorant, but they cost a fortune and if I don't plan on filtering that much or at all, is it necessary to get a Matte Box?

Any opinions?

Jon
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#2 Chris Keth

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 09:36 PM

I am thus wondering what the point of a Matte Box is beyond filters and protection from flares.


You already answered your own question. That is exactly what they do. No more, no less.
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#3 Jon Petro

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 09:41 PM

You already answered your own question. That is exactly what they do. No more, no less.



Are there a ton more flares without a mattbox though? I have shot mostly with matte boxes so I never really thought about it. French Flags do come in handy now and then.

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#4 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 10:10 PM

I'm sorry to sound so condescending but...are you kidding?!! f you are serious about shooting film (or serious video for that matter) AND you want options and PROFESSIONAL looking results, you need filters. Color correction, Pola, ND, colored and on and on, all give you options AND make it possible to....oh I don't know, kill glare, cut down on excessively bright sunlight, use tungsten film during the day without losing too much, accentuate a mood though color, kill the green tint of florescents just for starters. A mattebox helps keep horrendous amounts of glare, flares, spilled light and such from ruining your well planned, meticulous staged, very expensive shot BUT if you have some magic fairy dust that when sprinkled over your camera, makes all these little problems just disappear, more power to ya, what the Hell does every other cinematographer and cameraman on Earth who every picked up a movie camera know anyway, right? I mean, don't take offense but come on, what did you think people here were gonna say when you asked this question- "Naw, go ahead and just shoot whatever you want, it'll look JUST as good without any filters and a mattebox." Yes of COURSE you CAN shoot without a mattebox and the proper filters but why the Hell would you want to? Just break down and cough of the cash and buy 'em one at a time until you've built up a basic set, no one buys an entire set all at once unless you get a killer deal and you're rich. B)

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 08 October 2007 - 10:12 PM.

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#5 Matthew W. Phillips

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 10:16 PM

I'm sorry to sound so condescending but...are you kidding?!! f you are serious about shooting film (or serious video for that matter) AND you want options and PROFESSIONAL looking results, you need filters. Color correction, Pola, ND, colored and on and on, all give you options AND make it possible to....oh I don't know, kill glare, cut down on excessively bright sunlight, use tungsten film during the day without losing too much, accentuate a mood though color, kill the green tint of florescents just for starters. A mattebox helps keep horrendous amounts of glare, flares, spilled light and such from ruining your well planned, meticulous staged, very expensive shot BUT if you have some magic fairy dust that when sprinkled over your camera, makes all these little problems just disappear, more power to ya, what the Hell does every other cinematographer and cameraman on Earth who every picked up a movie camera know anyway, right? I mean, don't take offense but come on, what did you think people here were gonna say when you asked this question- "Naw, go ahead and just shoot whatever you want, it'll look JUST as good without any filters and a mattebox." Yes of COURSE you CAN shoot without a mattebox and the proper filters but why the Hell would you want to? Just break down and cough of the cash and buy 'em one at a time until you've built up a basic set, no one buys an entire set all at once unless you get a killer deal and you're rich. B)


James, you are more passionate about Matte Boxes than anyone I know!
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#6 Simon Miya

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 10:30 PM

I have an Arri 4x4 mattebox available if you have trouble finding one for sale elsewhere. I haven't really put it up for sale yet so I don't have a price in mind, but PM if you are interested and we can talk.

Cutting down the amount of incident light hitting the front lens element is important for getting the best image possible, even if there aren't flares apparent. Any unwanted light hitting your lens cuts down the contrast in your image - control over these elements is key.

Edited by Simon Miya, 08 October 2007 - 10:35 PM.

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#7 Jon Petro

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 10:33 PM

I'm sorry to sound so condescending but...are you kidding?!! f you are serious about shooting film (or serious video for that matter) AND you want options and PROFESSIONAL looking results, you need filters. Color correction, Pola, ND, colored and on and on, all give you options AND make it possible to....oh I don't know, kill glare, cut down on excessively bright sunlight, use tungsten film during the day without losing too much, accentuate a mood though color, kill the green tint of florescents just for starters. A mattebox helps keep horrendous amounts of glare, flares, spilled light and such from ruining your well planned, meticulous staged, very expensive shot BUT if you have some magic fairy dust that when sprinkled over your camera, makes all these little problems just disappear, more power to ya, what the Hell does every other cinematographer and cameraman on Earth who every picked up a movie camera know anyway, right? I mean, don't take offense but come on, what did you think people here were gonna say when you asked this question- "Naw, go ahead and just shoot whatever you want, it'll look JUST as good without any filters and a mattebox." Yes of COURSE you CAN shoot without a mattebox and the proper filters but why the Hell would you want to? Just break down and cough of the cash and buy 'em one at a time until you've built up a basic set, no one buys an entire set all at once unless you get a killer deal and you're rich. B)


Sorry to upset you. I guess I came here to ask if people thought that they are truly necessary. Apparently you think they are. Thank you.

Oh and by the way, I was asking a question, not trying to persuade other people that "every other cinematographer and cameraman on Earth" was less knowledgeable than myself. I guess I don't get the animosity.

I know there are some cinematographers that try to avoid the use filters, ignorant bastards like Roger Deakins (not true, I love you Roger). So I don't see how crazy I am for trying to avoid them as well.

If you see flaring as a major issue, then I suppose that is what I am trying to find out here on these forums. You could have simply said that, in lesser and kinder words.

Ever notice how any time someone starts a statement with "I am sorry to sound so condescending..." you get the feeling they aren't very sorry. I know you didn't "mean" for me to "take offense", but please I would rather you refrain from answering my posts in the future. If the question is that stupid feel free to IGNORE it.

Thanks,

Jon
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#8 Jon Petro

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 10:37 PM

I have an Arri 4x4 mattebox available if you have trouble finding one for sale elsewhere. I haven't really put it up for sale yet so I don't have a price in mind, but PM if you are interested and we can talk.

Cutting down the amount of incident light hitting the front lens element is important for getting the best image possible, even if there aren't flares apparent.



Thanks, if I get one it will be a while from now, but I am making a list of the things I need to get eventually, and was trying to see if a mattebox was one of them. What you say about incident light hitting the front of the lens makes a lot of sense to me.

I wonder if I could get a cheap clip on mattebox or sunshade that fits my lenses. I have also seen french flags that have an arm and can clip on to your camera, so that might help me too.

Thanks,

Jon
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#9 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 10:43 PM

Give ten cameramen a room to light and they'll likely come up with at least ten different ways to achieve the same goal. Sure, it's nice to have every toy in the toybox available on every shoot for every shot "just in case," but the reality is different. Even the biggest budgeted projects make compromises at some point.

Sure a matte box has a specific and helpful purpose, but it is possible to make pretty pictures without one. Having a matte box doesn't make someone a professional as much as not having one turns someone into an instant amateur. Learning how to use the tools of the trade is a valuable and necessary skill. Learning how to create beautiful pictures without all the tools available is an even more valuable skill. Ultimately, all that matters is what's on the screen. Nobody really cares how you got it there.
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#10 Jon Petro

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 10:53 PM

Sure a matte box has a specific and helpful purpose, but it is possible to make pretty pictures without one. Having a matte box doesn't make someone a professional as much as not having one turns someone into an instant amateur. Learning how to use the tools of the trade is a valuable and necessary skill. Learning how to create beautiful pictures without all the tools available is an even more valuable skill. Ultimately, all that matters is what's on the screen. Nobody really cares how you got it there.


much appreciated.

Jon
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#11 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 11:10 PM

Sorry to upset you. I guess I came here to ask if people thought that they are truly necessary. Apparently you think they are. Thank you.

Oh and by the way, I was asking a question, not trying to persuade other people that "every other cinematographer and cameraman on Earth" was less knowledgeable than myself. I guess I don't get the animosity.

I know there are some cinematographers that try to avoid the use filters, ignorant bastards like Roger Deakins (not true, I love you Roger). So I don't see how crazy I am for trying to avoid them as well.

If you see flaring as a major issue, then I suppose that is what I am trying to find out here on these forums. You could have simply said that, in lesser and kinder words.

Ever notice how any time someone starts a statement with "I am sorry to sound so condescending..." you get the feeling they aren't very sorry. I know you didn't "mean" for me to "take offense", but please I would rather you refrain from answering my posts in the future. If the question is that stupid feel free to IGNORE it.

Thanks,

Jon


It wasn't a stupid question and I don't think you really are trying to say you're smarter than every other cameraman on Earth, what I'm trying to get across the VITAL importance of having the right tools to do your job well and worrying that these tools cost too much so you just won't get them is a gross mistake. I've seen so many guys out there just shooting because they want to make a film and not giving a damn how it looks. Your image IS your art and if you don't care what the image looks like, it will diminish your art sometimes to nothing. I perhaps tend to put things in strong terms sometimes but it is not meant as malevolent, it's meant to make you really consider what you are saying and IF you REALLY need to ask the question. You already know in your heart, you will need these tools so don't try to talk yourself out of it because it will be a hardship to acquire them, ALL art is hard to accomplish and you have to dedicate yourself heart and soul to it or you will fail, it's that simple.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 08 October 2007 - 11:12 PM.

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#12 Jon Petro

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 11:36 PM

It wasn't a stupid question and I don't think you really are trying to say you're smarter than every other cameraman on Earth, what I'm trying to get across the VITAL importance of having the right tools to do your job well and worrying that these tools cost too much so you just won't get them is a gross mistake. I've seen so many guys out there just shooting because they want to make a film and not giving a damn how it looks. Your image IS your art and if you don't care what the image looks like, it will diminish your art sometimes to nothing. I perhaps tend to put things in strong terms sometimes but it is not meant as malevolent, it's meant to make you really consider what you are saying and IF you REALLY need to ask the question. You already know in your heart, you will need these tools so don't try to talk yourself out of it because it will be a hardship to acquire them, ALL art is hard to accomplish and you have to dedicate yourself heart and soul to it or you will fail, it's that simple.


Fair enough, I agree with a lot of what you are saying. I just want to make sure that I don't spend my hard earned money on something that might not really be necessary. At this point it has taken me two years to get to where I am equipment wise, and I am getting the feeling that I could spend forever without ever thinking I have all the tools necessary to start shooting a movie. This obviously is not true. I believe that talent and artistry will go a lot further than what seems to be a highly overpriced item like a matte box. However, I could be wrong. Like so many struggling filmmakers, money is often the enemy. I see no clear line either, no definitive point that lies ahead where I will feel, yes now I have all the tools necessary. Thus I have started to get picky about what else remains to be purchased.

I appreciate anyone who takes the time to explain their viewpoint on this subject.

Don't get me wrong, I am obsessed with my images, I guess I am just wondering if a matte box is going to make me appear any more talented than I am. Will it really improve my images, or rather save them if I am some talentless hack. Will it make a difference to the audience? I feel like it is easy to get lost in all these tools.

If someone came on here and said I shot my last movie without a matte box and the whole entire thing was one giant flare! I would take heed. But I have seen Harris Savides shoot without one, and he is a master in my opinion, so it makes me wonder what is truly necessary.

I came here for a second opinion, that is all.

Jon
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#13 Adamo P Cultraro

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 11:43 PM

Now that we're here, Who can recommend a good basic starter set of 4 x 4 filters to have? I'm shooting video.
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#14 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 08 October 2007 - 11:58 PM

Don't feel bad, Jon, I've spent 7 years building up the equipment I have BUT I now am close to being able to take a film from concept to distribution prints all in house and I have sacrificed a LOT to get this stuff, hang onto my studio, gather up the vehicles we'll need, ect, ect ect. and I STILL have to get a full set of filters for my 35mm Kinor 35C as well. Now, because I'm using Russian equipment and planning on shooting anamorphic, all my filters have to be custom made OR I have to use huge ones so imagine what THAT costs. See, I'm not just talkin' out my a** I walk the walk too. ;) A mattebox isn't going to save or ruin your movie, but not having one WILL limit your options and to me that's unacceptable, Take it for what it's worth.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 09 October 2007 - 12:02 AM.

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#15 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 12:10 AM

Don't feel bad, Jon, I've spent 7 years building up the equipment I have BUT I now am close to being able to take a film from concept to distribution prints all in house and I have sacrificed a LOT to get this stuff, hang onto my studio, gather up the vehicles we'll need, ect, ect ect. and I STILL have to get a full set of filters for my 35mm Kinor 35C as well. Now, because I'm using Russian equipment and planning on shooting anamorphic, all my filters have to be custom made OR I have to use huge ones so imagine what THAT costs. See, I'm not just talkin' out my a** I walk the walk too. ;) A mattebox isn't going to save or ruin your movie, but not having one WILL limit your options and to me that's unacceptable, Take it for what it's worth.



Hmm, not having a 50' Technocrane limits your options. Not having a Steadicam on set every day limits your options. Not having a lot of different things on set limits your options. Is it then always unacceptable to shoot every movie that can't afford to have absolutely everything available all the time?
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#16 Jon Kukla

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 12:15 AM

You don't NEED anything. But you have to be willing to accept the limitations that come with the lack of certain gear. And of course each shot has its own particular needs. While I don't doubt that Savides has shot material without one before, there are a thousand reasons why that was so - from actually wanting flare to having a lens too wide for one to needing to get the camera closer to a subject without either hitting it or creating a camera shadow. And so on. But I am also fairly certain that he uses them most of the time. In any case, it's not really relevant - what do YOUR shots require? That's what's important.

Of course, the other issue which is often discussed to death here is whether or not it's worth owning all of this equipment in the first place or just renting what you need when you need it. There are different arguments pro and con, again largely circumstance-dependent. I understand your desire to be discerning about which of the thousands of potential pieces of equipment you really need - most are not casual purchases. But at the same time, the desire to "control the means of production" (so to speak) should only be undertaken with the acknowledgment that it carries the burden of responsibility that you may need to continually spend time and money investing in your gear to bring it up to your requirements for particular projects.
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#17 Jon Petro

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 12:18 AM

Hmm, not having a 50' Technocrane limits your options. Not having a Steadicam on set every day limits your options. Not having a lot of different things on set limits your options. Is it then always unacceptable to shoot every movie that can't afford to have absolutely everything available all the time?



I just checked renting a mattebox is dirt cheap, same with a follow focus. I can just rent the accessories, and put the rest of my money into film stock.

Now that I own the camera and other equipment, the biggest rental expenses can be avoided. It would make more sense to me to own some and rent some, rather than have strict rules to won everything. They probably won't even require insurance, just a hold on my credit card. I think this solves my problems.

Jon
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#18 Jon Petro

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 12:22 AM

You don't NEED anything. But you have to be willing to accept the limitations that come with the lack of certain gear. And of course each shot has its own particular needs. While I don't doubt that Savides has shot material without one before, there are a thousand reasons why that was so - from actually wanting flare to having a lens too wide for one to needing to get the camera closer to a subject without either hitting it or creating a camera shadow. And so on. But I am also fairly certain that he uses them most of the time. In any case, it's not really relevant - what do YOUR shots require? That's what's important.

Of course, the other issue which is often discussed to death here is whether or not it's worth owning all of this equipment in the first place or just renting what you need when you need it. There are different arguments pro and con, again largely circumstance-dependent. I understand your desire to be discerning about which of the thousands of potential pieces of equipment you really need - most are not casual purchases. But at the same time, the desire to "control the means of production" (so to speak) should only be undertaken with the acknowledgment that it carries the burden of responsibility that you may need to continually spend time and money investing in your gear to bring it up to your requirements for particular projects.


Completely agree. I believe I will rent the last remaining items. For me it is in my best interest to own the gear that I have, but anything that I find questionable or out of reach I can always rent.

It does depend on what I need though, yes I agree.


Thanks,

Jon
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#19 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 12:45 AM

Hmm, not having a 50' Technocrane limits your options. Not having a Steadicam on set every day limits your options. Not having a lot of different things on set limits your options. Is it then always unacceptable to shoot every movie that can't afford to have absolutely everything available all the time?


I have a steadicam, but only a 10ft crane so I do have limits too, however that's not what we're talking about here, what we're talking about is BASIC tools. A GREAT mechanic can probably do a lot with a pair of visegrips and a flathead screwdriver but he won't be able to rebuild an engine and he knows enough to not even try. He doesn't have to own the machine shop but he better DAMN well own a tork wrench and a good set of sockets if he wants to stay in business. Our tool box consists of cameras, mags, lenses, filters, mattebox, tripod, fluid and/or gear head, batteries and/or power supply, camera tape, light meter, measuring tape, clap board and film. These are BASIC tools and YES if you don't have basic tools, don't shoot until you do have them, why waste very expensive film?

You don't need every lens know to man, but you better have a 35, 50 and 75mm set or a zoom, you don't need every filter ever made but you better have a 85, a Pola and and ND3 ND6 and ND9 , you don't need the best mattebox on the market but you'd better have a mattebox, you don't need 4 1000ft mags, but you'd better have 2, you don't need a $2500 Ronford but you'd better have a tripod, you don't need a Worral gear head, but you better at least have a fluid head, You catch my drift. MAAAYBEE you will be able to make a movie without all this very basic equipment but it's gonna make it much more difficult and frustrating so why not wait until you can do it right? You act like I'm telling him something that isn't true, when you know it is. There are certain things required to shoot a movie and if you don't have them, can't rent them and are unable to beg, borrow or steal them, you can't shoot, that's just reality.

Edited by James Steven Beverly, 09 October 2007 - 12:49 AM.

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#20 James Steven Beverly

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Posted 09 October 2007 - 01:09 AM

Completely agree. I believe I will rent the last remaining items. For me it is in my best interest to own the gear that I have, but anything that I find questionable or out of reach I can always rent.

It does depend on what I need though, yes I agree.
Thanks,

Jon


We don't have a rental house in El Paso, or a film lab, or editing rooms, or screening rooms, or any other motion picture support facilities so I was pretty much forced to build a film studio from scratch, which I've essentially at this point, done. Even if I did have some place to rent from, I personally, don't like having to rent anything. If I use it 3 or 4 times, I could have bought it. But if you want to shoot right away, renting is a good option.
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