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Cinetactics Matteblox Matte Box System
by Roger Richards

The other day I came across a useful accessory kit for DV filmmakers and videojournalists. It is a collapsible matte box and filter mounting system called the Matteblox, produced by a California company called Cinetactics. Information on the Cinetactics Web site says the system is designed for Panasonic DVX100/100A and AG- DVC80, Canon XL-1/XL1S and GL-1/GL-2, Sony PD 150/170 and VX2000/2100 camcorders. The enthusiastic responses I read from people who had bought the Matteblox piqued my interest.

I wrote to Cinetactics and heard back from company representative Greg Mote, who said that he would send out a set for us to evaluate for Digital Vision Network (DVN-The Digital Journalist, The Digital Filmmaker, et al.) readers. I told him that most of the professionals visiting DVN who use compact DV camcorders have either Canon or Sony, usually with the Canon WD-58 wide angle lens adapter mounted (the WD-58 fits both the Canon GL and Sony PD/VX camcorders). Greg Mote responded that most of the company's Matteblox customers also use these cameras, with an increasing number of Panasonic DVX100/DVX100A and Canon XL-1/XL-1S users now ordering kits as well.

For those unfamiliar with its use, a matte box is used by filmmakers and videographers to control light diffracting into the lens, a cause of degraded image quality. For example, to videojournalists or documentary filmmakers shooting live action when the light source is at an angle low on the horizon, such as working outdoors in the morning or late afternoon, the extra control of a matte box can be invaluable. In addition, a matte box allows the use of multiple filters mounted in front of the lens without the vignetting caused by stacking screw-in filters.

When it arrived, my first impression of the Matteblox system was of a compact, well-constructed and very lightweight set of hardware. It comes in a case with the Matteblox shade, a French flag for extra flare protection and a carabinier to clip the case to a bag or belt. Made of ballistic nylon and reinforced with rigid plastic inserts, the Matteblox folds open and mounts on the front of your camcorder in place of the stock manufacturers lens shade. It is wide enough to offer significantly more protection from lens flare than the OEM shade, whether Canon, Sony or Panasonic.

According to Cinetactics, the Matteblox is designed to fit directly on a lens 60-85mm in outside diameter, such as a Canon GL or Sony PD/VX series camera with the Canon WD-58 lens mounted. It fits securely on the end of the lens by using rubber grips that are non-scratch and is fastened by using a Velcro strap. If you are not using the WD-58, a step-up ring covering 37mm-58mm connecting a 72mm threaded adapter with the Matteblox is necessary. The 72mm threaded adapter allows Panasonic DVX100/DVC80 and Canon XL-1/XL1S cameras to have the Matteblox mounted directly on the lens, and a protective filter can also be screwed into the adapter over the front lens element.


Another optional accessory for the Matteblox is the Oversize French flag, which offers even greater lens protection than the supplied standard French flag in the kit. I highly recommend this accessory for when you are working in lighting conditions when a lot of flare is possible. Additionally, the Oversize French flag can be used on the Panasonic AG-LA7200 16:9 Anamorphic Converter for the DVX100/100A camcorders.

The optional ballistic nylon filter holders mount via Velcro into the front of the Matteblox. Filters can be stacked together, but make sure that there is no debris on the filter surfaces to avoid scratching. Large 4x4 gels and filters by manufacturers like Schneider, Angenieux, B&W and Cokin can be used, and also available are holders for Cokin P and Cokin A filters. For using a circular polarizer, the Cinetactics Web site offers some tips on how to make their system work.

After testing the Matteblox and accessories on my camera I found a lot to like about the system. It is rugged, portable, light and offers significantly improved control of lens flare, at a very reasonable price. Cinetactics' Greg Mote said the company will continue to refine their product, and are open to any suggestions from their customers. Upcoming changes to the line, according to Mote, will be availability of the Matteblox system in black and an improved Velcro fastening system. I found the current product to be well-designed and extremely functional, and a worthwhile purchase for those who need what the Matteblox offers. For more information go to http://www.cinetactics.com


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