home-made dv matte box

17 replies [Last post]
king
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Joined: Aug 27 2001

I was wondering if anyone know of any links to sites that have drawings/plans on building a nice matte box for dv cameras? Thanks

Charles King
If it can be done, do it!

king
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Joined: Aug 27 2001

Wow. Not one reply. Not even to say: sorry no one knows. Oh well. Just kidding. Since no one replied I've just kitbashed one and the results look very effective.

Charles King
If it can be done, do it!

Richard Loxley
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Joined: Jan 9 2001

Ok, I'll reply then. But only to say that I don't even know what a matte box is!

So what does one do, and how did you make one?

- Richard (just trying to be sociable)

tim.callaghan
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Joined: Apr 4 2001

Hi,

Sorry, never made seen any links for homemade ones. I bought the FM500 with french flag from optex when it was arround. Although expensive, it is great because it easily allows the use of 2 slot in filters (as it should do), and one that rotates through 360 degress.

You'd be hard pressed to engineer one as good a quality as that. It also can be used with numerous attachment rings to fit loads of cameras.

Tim

[This message has been edited by tim.callaghan (edited 27 March 2003).]

king
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Joined: Aug 27 2001

Here's the link to the my homebuilt/kitbashed mattebox:
http://homebuiltstabilizers.com/charlesmattebox.html

[This message has been edited by king (edited 12 April 2003).]

Charles King
If it can be done, do it!

RichardB
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Joined: Aug 27 1999

Very nice result: I see you use the phrase 'just bashed one up' in a very different way to the way I do...

What kind of extra weight is that giving you? I know most french flags are detachable to try and cut down on the weight, are you finding it a significant drag when H-holding?

V impressed
RichardB

king
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Joined: Aug 27 2001

thanks. There is not so much drag. Not more than what the XL-1 feels like with it's front-heaviness. I'm still adding more weight to be able to use it on my stabilizer.I havn't weight it yet. I'll let you know.

[This message has been edited by king (edited 13 April 2003).]

Charles King
If it can be done, do it!

chrisbl
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Joined: Oct 26 2002

Found this page with instructions. Bit late though
http://www.rit.edu/~andpph/text-mattebox.html

Chris

king
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Joined: Aug 27 2001

Thank you but I had seen the article a long time ago.

Charles King
If it can be done, do it!

Hagglund
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Joined: Nov 11 2003

King, your mattebox looks very very nice. What did you use? I too want to buy a matte box but it is so expensive. After I see your I want also to build one.

Gladders
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Joined: Apr 28 1999

Can I be totally thick by asking why you would need a matt box for a DV camera? I can see why for a still or movie film camera, where the film can be double exposed, but need someone to gently explain to an intellectually challenged person how you would use this...sorry if it's obvious.

Paul

MrWhite
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Joined: May 18 2003

Gladders a Matte Box is the single most important accessory you can add to your kit, I would never shoot a single frame without one, even indoors, yes that’s right, there is still light indoors and if you’re using Redheads/Dedo’s etc you stand more chance of getting glare and flare etc. If you want to know how crap footage looks when you don’t use a matte box on your lens go and watch the film “Easy Rider” with Jack Nickleson, there is more lens flare and glare in this film than any other film ever made. I know it could have been done for artistic reasons, but until you reach that status don’t try it, people will ALWAYS say “look at that flare, what an amateur”. Besides you can always add flare in post.

The following is a small section (from the “Matte Box” section) of a script of mine:

The Matte Box is quite often overlooked by digital filmmakers who think the lens hood that came with their camcorder does the same thing; this couldn’t be further from the truth, the sorry attempt for a lens shade that accompanied your camcorder doesn’t count. To be effective, the shade needs to extend some distance from the front element of the lens and have a fully adjustable French flag.

The matte box should be very high up on your list of priorities for the following reasons: you’re camcorder is designed to collect and control the reflected light entering the lens and the matte box is probably the most practical and significant step towards controlling that light, not only does the matte box shade the front element from stray shafts of light, it also has a mechanism for attaching a variety of filters such as natural density, polarizer or many other various special effects filters. A good matte box will be an indispensable addition to your camera system and will go a long way to improving the quality and definition of your images.

The idea is to get the French flag on top of the matte box as close to the top edge of the image frame as possible without it causing any vignetting. To do this you put one of your fingers so that the first joint is against the edge of the flag, then move it down until the tip of your finger shows up in the top of the frame in the viewfinder. Your finger should be just short of the first joint, any less and you run the risk of the matte box cutting into the edge of the frame, any more and you won’t get the full light shading benefits it was designed to offer.

Remember when you adjust the focal length of the lens for another shot you must also readjust the French flag and depending on which lens and matt box combination you choose there’s a chance that you’ll get a vignetting affect if you set the focal length of the lens too wide so be careful to assure this doesn’t happen by carefully checking the viewfinder or monitor.

Hope that cleared up what a matte box is. If you want a decent Matte Box without spending a small fortune go for a Crosziel DV box (cost £340) http://www.chrosziel.com/products.htm they are much better than the Formatt one which has two stupid holes in each side (this is the equivalent to having a baseball cap with two holes the size of golf balls in the visor) which lets stray light in from the sides.
If you don’t have any money I know a top-drawer video production company who basically gaffe tape a large (10 inch wide by 6 inch’s deep) piece of black matt none-reflective card to the existing lens hood of their DSR500.

To experiment go out into the mid-day sun and point the camera toward the sun (locked off on a tripod) so the sun is just a couple of millimetres out of the top of the viewfinder, you will notice glare, haze and god know what else, then gaffe tape that big chunk of black card to the lens hood and move it down until you can see it in the viewfinder, then move it up so that it just (by about the length of your little finger nail) disappears out of the viewfinder image, Hey-Presto, nice clean image with no glare or haze.

Forgot to mention that the Matte Box will greatly improve colour saturation making the colours deeper, it also helps when shooting footage like foliage and trees, DV hates green countryside shots, the Matte Box will reduce all those tiny white specks that reflect off the leaves and grass, even more so if you put a circular polarizing filter in the box, which you should pretty much always do in the sun anyway.
Think of a polarizing filter as sunglasses for your camcorder.

Next time your out in the bright sun with lots of nice white fluffy clouds in the sky, look at the clouds without your Foster Grants, then look at them with, notice how the clouds seem to come away from the blue sky and look three-dimensional, also the blue sky is now much deeper.

All this stuff is what makes pro footage look, well, Pro, lots of amateur footage looks crap because they aren’t fastidious enough and don't really think about the shot beforehand (me included sometimes).

[This message has been edited by MrWhite (edited 12 November 2003).]

Nigel Longman
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Joined: Apr 28 1999

quote:Originally posted by Gladders:
Can I be totally thick by asking why you would need a matt box for a DV camera? I can see why for a still or movie film camera, where the film can be double exposed, but need someone to gently explain to an intellectually challenged person how you would use this...sorry if it's obvious.

Great reply by MrWhite above which covers the lens shade and filter functions in detail.

But do matte boxes ever get used these days for holding mattes (which I suspect Gladders was alluding to) - ie those lamina with cutouts like binocular and keyhole shapes that used to be used so often in films? There were also solid mattes that used to be used to cover alternate parts of the frame in turn. This enabled separate exposure of each part of the image and thus (for example) the same person to appear in the picture twice.

Effects like that are produced in post these days, so it seems to me that the name 'matte box' is a relic from the past for what, these days, is used as a highly efficient lens hood/shade and sophisticated filter holder.

My 2p. NL

Gladders
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Joined: Apr 28 1999

Thanks to Mr White and Mr Longman for those illuminating replies. So effectively a Matt box is used as a superior lens hood. And, yes Nigel, I googled and found the original use, which puzzled me. Your replies have cleared that up, as presumably a matt box would clear up my video.

Paul

Christian Lett
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Joined: Apr 26 1999

It's worth noting that our Mr King is somewhat of a genius when it comes to "knocking stuff together" in the field of AV equipment. His steadycam rig is awesome (plus my homemade jib is/was featured on his site!).

Christian Lett After Effects and Maya Artist www.quarterlightpictures.com

king
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Joined: Aug 27 2001

Hi there. thanks for the kind remark Christian. Hagglund, thanks for your remark as well.
Again, my decision to built the mattebox was solely due to the cost. Plain and simple.
Here is an Excerpt from unrelease book about my homebuiltstabilizer:

...The Matte Box was made from rejected objects discarded by people and from miscellaneous stuff lying around industrial complexes to cheap purchase of, off the shelf items. The barn doors were taken from old halogen lamps that were thrown out. The shell, which makes up the matte box itself, is a cable housing used to pass big industrial cables connected to a junction box. I had used an industrial table band saw to slice a chunk off to get the size that I wanted. The two circular objects are industrial plastic that are used to separate steel coils on an assembly line.

Remember I work in a steel industry, and these things are plenty because they have to be replaced due to the wear and tear.
The circular objects provides coverage and helps blocks out any extra unwanted light coming from the rear of the camera. The matte box front is mounted on two rods that makes for easy adjustments. In turn the rods are connected to a small Galva plate used in joining two 4x4 that I bought at the hardware store. On the plate I is the Manfrotto sliding mechanism item no. 457. This method was easier and simple because the camera can easily be adjusted making it easier to remover the camera or to place filters in front of the lens...

Hope this helps

------------------

[This message has been edited by king (edited 13 November 2003).]

[This message has been edited by king (edited 13 November 2003).]

Charles King
If it can be done, do it!

Hagglund
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Joined: Nov 11 2003

Thank you Mr. King. I am glad you reply. Great idea. I see you said you are writing a book about your stabilizer. when will it be out? I am interesting in buying.

king
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Joined: Aug 27 2001

You are welcome. Hopefully by spring. I'm waiting to get my arm back from the machinist who is working on the last component. I have to take some more pics and I'll be done. You should check the HBS for more updates on this.

Charles King
If it can be done, do it!