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Filter choice and DIY Mattebox

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Jeffrey Venable
Filter choice and DIY Mattebox
on Jul 16, 2009 at 6:54:30 pm

I'll be shooting a short fictional adventure series in Hawaii in the next few weeks and I'm getting some gear ready for it.

If funds are not available for a full mattebox, couldn't I achieve the same benefits from making sure that we shade the sun from the camera lens manually? Like with a flag?

Also, we have a XHA1 rig with the Cinevate adapter and Nikon lenses...but as far as filters go (polarizer,UV,ect), which ones would be a must-have for doing the kind of shooting we will be doing? What would they accomplish? Will they screw onto the nikon side? Or the xha1 side?

Any specific recommendations would be fantastic. Thanks for your help!

Jeff Venable
-Video + Editing + Photo-

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Todd Terry
Re: Filter choice and DIY Mattebox
on Jul 16, 2009 at 8:18:03 pm

[Jeffrey Venable] "ouldn't I achieve the same benefits from making sure that we shade the sun from the camera lens manually? Like with a flag?"

Sure. Well, maybe not the same benefits, but it will work.

The matte box is there for two reasons: to keep unintended light from directly hitting the front element of the lens, and to hold filters.

As long as that light is not hitting the front glass, that function of the box is not needed. Sometimes you don't need one at all. Sometimes a rubber lens hood will do. Or a piece of gaffer tape. Or, as you said, flagging the light source.

The other usage is filtration. Rather than screw-on glass filters, the matte box uses square (or rectangular, depending on the box) filters... which may be glass, acetate, resin, or polyester. Most boxes have multiple slots allowing the use of more than one filter, and most will have at least one filter stage that rotates for positioning the filter (important for polorizing or filters with gradations). These are the advantages of matte box square filters (that, and the fact that you can have a whole case full of different filters that are usable on different cameras of different sizes). If your particular usages don't need any of that (multiple filters, rotatability), then the matte box may not be needed.

These days more and more you see less filtration at acquisition, since post effects are getting better and better it's often more preferable to shoot a clean "raw" image and do the "filtration" in post... since once you record with it in camera, you can't take it back off. I personally rarely use filters at all... usually my matte box is empty, or only contains neutral density filters.

If you don't use a matte box but are using screw-on filters with your particular rig, they will go on the front of the Nikkor lens, not the camera lens (not between the Cinevete Brevis unit and the XHA1's zoom lens).

You'll probably want a polarizer, maybe a UV filter, and a selection of neutral density filters. Since you are using a lens converter the ND filters could prove very important... I'd suggest getting a set that includes .3, .6, and .9ND.

And, not that you asked, but if you plan to use SLR lenses on your DoF converter, you'll find that a good follow-focus unit is a must-have (and not one of those cheap plastic ones, the gearboxes are too sloppy). Even with real cine lenses a FF unit is highly desirable, but with SLR lenses they are super important since the range of lens travel from nearest-to-infinity is soooo tight (about one-fifth barrel turn as opposed to almost a complete barrel turn with a cine lens) that it makes precise focusing super critical. And, as I'm sure you probably know, with a DoF converter your viewfinder will be almost useless for eyeball focusing since the resolution is so low... a full HD monitor is needed for focusing, or use a tape measure (measured to the groundglass "film" plane, not the front of the lens) and focus by distance using the lens numbers and witness mark.


Todd Terry
Creative Director
Fantastic Plastic Entertainment, Inc.

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