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Matte Boxes

If you've ever watched behind-the-scenes footage from a Hollywood film, you've probably seen a camera with an elaborate matte box mounted on it. The matte box is an important tool for creative control over your imagery. It protects your lens and shields it, to a certain extent, from sunlight and reflected light that can cause undesired flaring on your image.

A matte box also offers customizable trays for all your lens filters, which are essential; the RED camera has no built-in neutral-density filter wheel, so you must use glass filters to control exposure and depth of field. Those accustomed to working with traditional video cameras must be prepared for the extra time required to change filters. The filters must be removed, inspected, cleaned if necessary, and then inserted in the matte box, which any experienced cinematographer will tell you is essential. Even if you want to save creative color effects until post, you'll almost certainly need to work with basic neutral-density (ND) and polarizing filters to control light (you'll learn more about filters later in the "Filters" section).

Which matte box to get depends on your needs and budget. I use an ARRI MB-20 II compact matte box with 4 x 5.65mm filter trays (see Figure 4.12). You can also add trays and lighting shades as needed. By the time you read this, ARRI will also have an MB-28 model that looks like a great match for the RED.

Figure 4.12

Figure 4.12 ARRI MB-20 compact matte box with 4 x 5.65 mm filter trays.

The Vocas ( MB-450 and the Chrosziel ( 840 (both about $3,000) are other good potential options for the RED. Matte boxes come with a variety of accessories—such as support rods, swing-away brackets, and bellows rings—to fit onto the camera body and work with a variety of prime and zoom lenses. A dealer can help you select the best parts to work with the lenses you plan to use.

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