If you’re actively honing your skills as a videographer, either with camcorders or HDSLRs, try working with matte boxes to enhance your video production and kick it up a notch in quality.
A matte box is an accessory that attaches to the end of a lens and allows you to block stray light from striking the surface of the lens. A matte box also holds one or more filters in front of the lens—they drop in quickly and easily. It’s basically similar to a lens hood, but instead of having a fixed form, matte boxes usually have movable metal flaps, or French flags, up front that allow you to block sunlight and artificial light sources that can cause problematic glare and lens flare.
While nobody will be able to tell that you’ve used a matte box, the important thing is that nobody will notice that you didn’t use one but should have. Matte boxes and filters are simply used to prevent or compensate for problems such as lens flare, which can cause haziness or other visual artifacts to appear across the image.
Matte boxes and filters are also used to ensure consistency from one scene to the next, which can be a problem when shooting outdoors in bright sunlight where the camera has to point in different directions for different scenes. Conversely, matte boxes and filters are sometimes used to achieve various effects such as vignetting. It all depends on what final effect you’re after.
Depending on their size and weight, some matte boxes attach to the end of a lens, while others depend on a rod system for support. The rod system attaches to the underside of the camera and runs the length of it, and it can support a matte box and other accessories if needed. The rod system is important because it takes the weight off the lens, which isn’t designed to support much weight on its own. On the other hand, a lightweight matte box that attaches to the end of a lens doesn’t put much stress on the lens and therefore doesn’t require a rod system. Lightweight matte boxes are recommended for handheld shooting, while heavier rod-mounted units should be used with a tripod.