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Matte box for looks?

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Darrell Beck
Matte box for looks?
on Sep 29, 2010 at 11:56:31 pm

I have been in this business for a long time, and really, never cared about my “professional appearance” on a shoot. (Well, I dress nice; I’m talking about the gear). I sell my clients on the work, not the tools I use. For me, it is not about the camera, but the talents of the guy behind it.

However, I recently learned that some clients were worried when I showed up to a high-end shoot with a DSLR. They were a little nervous. They did not share this with me until after they seen and were delighted with the final product, but more than one person mentioned this! These were interviews with a light kit, boom mic, lav mic, audio recorder, obviously a tripod, yet they were worried why I was using a “still” camera.

I think I need what I’ve heard others mention – a matte box. Can anyone recommend an inexpensive one? For the life of me, I cannot imagine using it with filters and I actually LIKE the occasional lens flare. I have managed 20+ years in this business without one and I have a hard time justifying $800 for one. Any suggestions?


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Phil Balsdon
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Sep 30, 2010 at 12:31:06 am

B & H have a huge range of matte boxes at an equally large price range, it's probably good place to start looking.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/buy/Matte-Boxes/ci/16498/N/4279260956

Cinematographer, Steadicam Operator, Final Cut Pro Post Production.
http://www.steadi-onfilms.com.au/


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David Johnson
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Sep 30, 2010 at 2:06:14 am

B&H is a great place to start for that kind of thing ... tough to beat the prices of one of the biggest box houses for items that don't require any pre-sale guidance, after-sale support, etc. You might also consider that matte boxes are often available used and are low-risk to buy used, unlike critical components like cams.

By the way, I totally understand your frustration with the silliness of having to concern yourself with “professional appearance” for gear. At the same time, I consider the importance of that subject to be one of the most valuable lessons I was lucky enough to learn (repeatedly) from a business owner I worked for early in my career ... and, I think part of it's value comes from the fact that it's so rarely considered or addressed. I've seen many times that, if a client doesn't have confidence out of the gate, their doubts can often become a self-fulfilling prophecy as they insert themselves in the process in ways and places that they otherwise wouldn't.

All these years later, I work for a large corporation and, when equipping our facilities, I made a point to factor in that most of our clients are very wealthy individuals with coinciding expectations. In addition to the functional uses for our studio and edit suites, they also serve as important show pieces for VIPs and similar uses. So, even though a handycam and a toss-up backdrop would do for 50% of our production needs, our studio is now equipped with full-size ENG cameras in partial studio configs, as well as a custom designed and dressed set (all of which is necessary for the other 50% of needs, but that's off-topic). And, yes, the cams have matte boxes ... primarily because they're needed in our environment for flares, quick filter swaps and lens protection, but I'd be lying if I said appearance isn't a factor I consider just as important as those other needs.

Just my two pence ... hope its helpful.


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Darrell Beck
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Sep 30, 2010 at 1:05:38 pm

I've used B&H for years and started there. I think I will try eBay. I just hate to spend 50% what I spent on the camera. Besides, I love traveling light, with as little gear as possible. Right now, I can show up to a shoot, by myself, with just one trip from the car. A matte box will be something else I need to try to fit in the bag. :(

Lately I have been showing up with my Sony EX1 around my shoulder as I run around shooting b-roll with the DSLR. At least they know I have a couple camera choices. :)


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Dave Johnson
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Sep 30, 2010 at 2:32:05 pm

I hear ya, but I would guess that a matte box for a DSLR will be pretty small.

B&H has a used department too, as do most of the other big resellers like Adorama. Or, you could buy a non-functional yet impressive-looking shell of and old BetaCam from your local pro video repair shop for $20 and set it up next to your DSLR. ;~) Would blow the travel light plan out of the water though.


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Michael Sacci
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 1, 2010 at 3:43:10 am

Matte boxes serve a purpose, they are important beyond making you look more pro. They are also just part of a system, In most cases you need a rail system to mount them to. Then of course there are the filters.

But I cannot believe that people would use a DSLR camera on a shoot without discussing it with the client. If someone put off by a still camera my guess would be, they would be put off by a still camera with a matte box.

Like Darrell stated once the client saw the results they were sold, but they should be sold before the start of the shoot. Just show them examples and simple say, I'm going to use the camera I shoot this with. Just my 2 cents.


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Darrell Beck
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 1, 2010 at 12:12:55 pm

In the above example, my client is a PR firm who I have worked with for many years and completely trusts me. It is THEIR client that I was shooting. No one had any objections the day of the shoot, it is just that afterwards, they mentioned to the PR firm they were shocked by the quality because such a small camera was used. They were holding off giving us other jobs until they seen the result BECAUSE OF THE GEAR.

Funny – I just never really thought the person in front of the camera gave any notice to the gear.


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Dave Johnson
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 1, 2010 at 12:46:28 pm

[Darrell Boeck] I just never really thought the person in front of the camera gave any notice to the gear.

In the scenarios I described earlier in the thread, the people in front of the camera are rarely in that position for the first time and, in my case, have often been in that position for higher-end productions. So, yes, they absolutely are aware of the difference between sitting in front of a film rig with a dozen crew scurrying around them and the other end of the spectrum, which is one of many reasons a handycam and a toss-up backdrop just wouldn't do for us ... despite the intermediary clients' common desire to do everything mega-cheap, they generally eventually understand that the real client (their client) is the one who matters.


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Ken Hendricks
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 1, 2010 at 4:43:21 pm

With all due respect, the client was nervous (and rightly so) because of all the known problems associated with shooting video on a still camera.

Who's going to be taken more seriously, the guy who shows up to a "high end" shoot with a high end camera (even without a matte box) or the guy with his DSLR and a fancy new matte box (or even two matte boxes!)?


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Darrell Beck
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 1, 2010 at 4:53:21 pm

Ken, please… give me a break..

I had a Sony EX1 with me as a backup. Earlier in the shoot (over several months), I shot the interviews with both cameras. After seeing the results of the DSLR, it became pointless to continue using the EX1.

I know this post is silly about adding a matte box for looks. Fact is, I am NOT using a DSLR because they are cheap (I own two Sony EX1’s), I am using them because sometimes they are BETTER. Yes, like any tool they have their drawbacks.
Obviously you too are considering using them or you would not be surfing this forum.


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Ken Hendricks
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 2, 2010 at 5:05:15 am

Hey Darrell,

I really want to learn more about shooting with the DSLR and I'm curious about a comment that you made.

When you said that you use DSLR's because they are sometimes better than the EX1's, what exactly did you mean? We shoot with EX3's at Red Rocks Amphitheater and they seem to be very nice cameras. I think that the EX3 has better dynamic range and of course way less aliasing than a DSLR. So, in what ways and in what situations would the DSLR be the better choice?

Obviously the DSLR can give you more control over your depth of field and they seem to work pretty well in low light. Are there more advantages to shooting with the DSLR that I am missing here?

Ken Hendricks
Director of Photography
REDRUM Digital Cinema Production


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Darrell Beck
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 4, 2010 at 3:24:23 pm

Ken, you did not offend. No worries. So much is learned with fun discussions.

As for how it compares with EX1 or EX3’s: DSLR’s can be a pain to work with and like any tool, has it’s advantages and disadvantages. But for $2k (body and nice lens), it is one heck of a money-making tool! Yes, it cannot replace a EX1 for live events, seminars, or ENG. But for interviews and run & gun b-roll, I just love it. See the attached pix…

Granted, for the first image, not as much care was put into setting up the EX1. It was mostly used to record audio. Still, notice the difference with the large chip. For these examples, the camera was 6 to 8 feet away.


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Darrell Beck
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 1, 2010 at 4:55:25 pm

One more point Ken… I may be taken more seriously the day of the shoot with a high-end video camera, but I stand a better chance of booking the job by showing work shot with a DSLR.


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Darrell Beck
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 1, 2010 at 4:59:15 pm

Ken, I just viewed your work. EXCEPTIONAL! I take back what I just wrote.

:)

Price IS an object. I cannot afford a RED. :)

Humbled,
Darrell


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Ken Hendricks
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 1, 2010 at 5:10:03 pm

Hey Darrell,

I didn't mean to offend you at all and I apologize profusely for doing so. I actually bought a 7D about three months ago and I've played around with video on it, but it's disappointing me to no end. Don't get me wrong, the stills are unbelievably awesome, but the video is killing me. I guess I just don't know what I'm doing.


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Ken Hendricks
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 1, 2010 at 5:12:47 pm

Hey Darrell,

I didn't mean to offend you at all and I apologize profusely for doing so. I actually bought a 7D about three months ago and I've played around with video on it, but it's disappointing me to no end. Don't get me wrong, the stills are unbelievably awesome, but the video is killing me. I guess I just don't know what I'm doing.

And thank you so much for the kind words. I'm still learning every day. That's what makes this profession fun!


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Patrick Simpson
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 1, 2010 at 7:16:34 pm

I just ran across the brand indisystem. The price of their rigs don't shock me the way other brands do. They have a mattebox w/ flags for $400. http://indisystem.com/products/indimatte_pro

That said, I really can't vouch for their quality having never used one. Oh, and it's unclear whether the matte box will work with a DSLR or just 35mm adapters. Still, worth a look. Their rail systems seem reasonably priced, too.


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Richard van den Boogaard
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 3, 2010 at 7:18:05 am

Initially, I got the same response from the PR & Marketing firm I work for. After having seen a couple of my productions, my client (PR Firm) actually makes a joke or two to his clients, if only to reassure them: "Richard works with these still cameras. It looks silly, but the results are phenomenal."

Also, I have learnt that using DSLRs provide another benefit as well - initially when you're shooting people they tend to pose as if you were taking stills. I let them for about 5 seconds and just when they begin to wonder why they have not heard click, I tell them that I am shooting video. Whilst still recording, they instantly relax and laugh and provide you the best natural footage you could wish for.

So having a matte box to make it look like a video camera can also work the opposite way.

Richard van den Boogaard
cameraman / editor / video marketing consultant

Branded Channels
W: http://www.brandedchannels.com


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Darrell Beck
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 4, 2010 at 3:27:21 pm

Here is the sample...



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Patrick Simpson
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 4, 2010 at 3:33:26 pm

Just wondering, what lens is used on the above sample shots from the T2i?


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Darrell Beck
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 4, 2010 at 3:38:52 pm

Canon 17-55 lens. It can be found here:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/425812-USA/Canon_1242B002AA_EF_S_17_5...


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Jim Hancock
Re: Matte box for looks?
on Oct 24, 2010 at 8:15:22 pm

Well I'm surprised after being in business for a "long time" you are surprised by that....
One thing I've learned as a photographer and filmmaker for 25 years..... and the bulk of that
advertising..... that fluff is "very important" If a client is paying a substantial day rate they expect to
be dazzled.... When I go into a set with a client, after we finish lighting and setting up it looks
very impressive, I use giant softboxes, hi rollers, c-stands, booms, no less then 12 lights, sometimes many more, flags, long lenses, computers, all sorts of bells and whistles.... and yes it even makes the image look better..... but even if I can get by with less I don't and it is for the very reason you speak...... not only is the imagery you are producing important, but how you look producing it is important too.....


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