A matte box is an integral part of an independent filmmaker’s toolbox. However, due to the simple design of a matte box, many filmmakers are confused over the products high price and wonder to themselves, why they should even spend the money on a matte box in the first place.
The price is associated with both the limited demand of such a niche product as well as the material and details that go into making the hardware. Matte boxes often cost anywhere from $200 – $1500. The price will vary depending on brand, size & modifiers.
Matte boxes are used to shield the front element from direct light. A matte box serves two primary purposes. Firstly, it keeps the camera lens in the shade helping to ensure that you avoid unsightly lens flares and also help you improve your lens’s ability to handle contrast. This is important to understand as a filmmaker because you’ll often be moving your camera through different light trajectories in an attempt to keep your subject properly framed. A matte box helps you minimize the consequences of moving your camera around an environment.
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Secondly, a matte box provides slots for you to use filters during your shoot. Getting the strongest possible footage while on set is a good habit to get into. This means, rather than spending countless hours in post production, filmmakers are diverting more of their energies on getting as close to their final image as possible during the actual filming process. If you can commit to the look of your film early on, then the use of filters is a great way to color and style your film before the footage has even been inserted into an editing system.
Less expensive matte boxes may not have the slots available for filters (or may have only 1 rather than 2), but more expensive matte boxes usually hold at least two filters. This means you can use any assortment of filters such as the 85b filter, polarizing filters, color filters, ND filters, ND graduated filters and so on.
Matte boxes built for DSLR’s and smaller digital video cameras come in 2 main sizes. They either allow for 3×3 filters or 4×4 filters. There are larger sizes as well, but these are the 2 most common sizes.
The brands and prices for DSLR compatible matte boxes can be found below.
Redrock – Standard Bundle $852 – Deluxe bundle $995
Kamerar – $140
D/Focus¤Systems - $379
Cavision – $208
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