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Recommend me a Matte Box System

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    Recommend me a Matte Box System

    Hello Listers

    I am beginning to use my 5d3 for video. And already I'm wishing for a matte box. I am at least familiar with the concepts but know nothing about the quality of the different available hardware. In a perfect world my system would include the possibility of a shoulder mount the could be also used on a tripod. Follow focus would probably come next. It would be really awesome if it could also accommodate a Panny Handycam; at least the shoulder mount components.

    I've been looking at Redrock Micro for starters. I haven't established a budget yet, but absolutely don't want to buy any junky brands and also don't want to buy the most expensive either. So recommend me a brand that makes enough stuff to fill out the kit and say what features are most important.


    Lens hoods are good enough most of the time, but matte boxes come in handy at beaches or in bright snowy environments. Here's an article on matte boxes that explains some of the different version.

    I have a Cinematics matte box, but I wouldn't recommend it unless you need a bottom flag and have a baseplate that's vertically adjustable. If you're using stills lenses you'll be fine with 4x4 filters.

    I don't know specific model numbers, but here's a list of brands that make decent matte boxes: Tilta, Bright Tangerine, Genus, Lanparte, Movcam, Camtree, Shoot35, TrusMT etc.


      Side flags would be nice but I can do that with rags when mounted on stix. In the end, the two important aspects for me are filters (ND in particular) and a quick change option between shoulder rig and tripod mounting. Of course all the other things you can dangle off rods and a baseplate would be good also; external monitor, remote controls, and possibly a follow focus. I have a pretty good idea about the utility of a system, but want specific info about the strengths and weaknesses of the different brands and their relative value vs price.



        Good 4x4 ND filter cost a few hundred bucks apiece; I've read some good things about Nisi filters. Aputure, Liliput, and FeelWorld make some decent budget monitors; I have a Liliput 664. SmallRig makes good affordable hardware like rails, baseplates, and cages. The Fotga DP500 follow focus is a good cheap option. I don't know about shoulder rigs, Neewer has a $70 one that looks decent. Here's a video that covers good inexpensive video gear.


          My recommendation is for you not to get a matte box. I shoot professionally, I own a matte box, and I rarely ever use it. I'm shooting content for ESPN / Turner Sports / NBA tv on Canon L glass sans any matte box. If you need ND or want to use a pola, just use screw on front filters.

          Buy a small french flag like the one in the following link, but customize it to mount on a spring clamp-

          Or get the larger size flag-

          IF you are set on getting a mid-range priced matte box, consider the Movcam MM102-

          or the Tilta lightweight:

          If you can stretch your budget a little further, consider the Wooden Camera matte box.

          But I'm telling you, you will rarely ever use filters in a matte box and likely end up not using the matte box all that much. Many people want them because they look cool and make your camera look more cinema / Hollywood. But a French flag does the trick most of the time. A matte box can be inhibiting if you are running around with the camera and unless you buy an ARRI matte box that is built like a tank you are probably going to break a matte box. It's a lot of fuss with little payoff for it. The exception I'll make is if you are someone who really likes using grad filters. But grads have mostly fallen out of favor ever since similar effects can be done in post and editors would rather you shoot things "clean", without committing the post production to any grad effect.

          I've worked on many reality tv shoots and never once have any of them used matte boxes on the cameras. Same for the network sports shoots I have worked on. Every once in a while and only every once in a while, some DP doing a sit-down interview will have a matte box on his camera. But mostly just for show and to justify is day rate / camera rental rate.
          Last edited by JPNola; 02-24-2017, 10:43 PM.
          Sachtler tripod user for 40+ years.


            thanks for that JP, and I have certainly considered what you say, in particular, just using screw in ND. But getting enough of the different sized ND filters would be a considerable expense; 72mm, 77mm, and 82mm in a couple densities = $600+ for anything decent. Though I suppose in the big picture, that would work out ok. I really need a good shoulder rig first that a matte box could be added to later if wanted. And in particular, I would want it to be easy to convert between shoulder and tripod.


              I'm not saying matte boxes can't be useful in some situations, but when you see one on a DSLR it's mostly because the owner of that rig wants to look "professional". And that would be their definition of professional…

              But being able to put NDs in front of your glass is, of course, essential. I tried screw on NDs and vari NDs but wasn't happy with the quality or hassle when wanting to change quickly. I ended up investing in the Lee 100mm (4x4) filter system. It's good for both photo and video. It's extremely simple and I'm confident it will last for a very long time. You can stack two filters, including graduated ones.

              The Lee filter system might seem pricey for what it is, so you might want to look into knock-offs or other brands, depending on budget. What I wanted to say is that it is a solution that works well for me. You will need to buy adapter rings that screw on different thread lenses, or you can put a ring on every lens you own—which would make swapping the NDs around between lenses extremely fast.

              That said, there are no flags included with that system. If you feel the occasional flare is a problem you should probably look for a proper matte box.


                I replaced my stolen ARRI with this.....

                I fully intended to replace it with another ARRI once the check came in, but never did.


                  I have three matte boxes. An old clamp-on Vocas/Shade FX 4x4, a big swing-away Arri 5.65x5.65(MB-20 II) that I bought when I was making way too much money and a smaller Arri 4x5.65(MMB-1) that I bought for my "cine" stuff(C300/F55). I mostly use mine for light control and maybe 50% of the time when I'm outside I'll have a polarizer in. I have a top flag for the Vocas and top & side flags for both Arri's. I have a dedicated polarizer for each matte box, a clear flat for each Arri and a set of ND(.3, .6, .9) that will fit in either Arri. I also have an old soft fx 4x4 that a few clients/shows liked 'back in the day', but like others said, not many people use a lot of filtration now, beyond just a polarizer or ND. I pretty much never run around with a matte box on while I'm shooting off the shoulder. It's only on when I need it for sit-downs, LS's and the like.

                  The MMB-1 is probably my favorite. It's small, lightweight, works on rails or as a clamp-on, accepts flags on top and sides. Two filter trays(one rotating) and can accept filter trays from 4x4 up to 5.65x5.65. And it will work with a lens at least as wide as 14mm in s35(that's the widest prime I own). My 13x4.5 2/3" ENG lens is just a little too wide on the back-end for it. I think Arri said it will work at 4.9mm.


                    Buy all of this stuff from me and sell what you don't want.
                    KPSR, Inc.