Matte Boxes

Bolex Product Codes:- COPEN 1st Type, 266.220 COZOM 2nd Type.

Bolex COZOM Matte box kitSo what is a matte box? The dictionary definition of a matte is "A piece of cardboard or other stiff material that acts as a frame for a picture or as a border between a picture and its frame".

Matte boxes historically have been used to hold the work of a matte painter in front of a camera.

A matte painter would normally work with the films director before the age of digital technology to seamlessly integrate something into a real shot that was not there originally.

Got a great location shot of people in the foreground but the landscape in the distance is a bit of a disappointment? No problem the matte painter will paint a picture to fit over the top of the frame which integrates with the real shot unnoticeably and gives the director the overall image he wants.

Bolex COPEN Matte BoxAlthough this is an old technique of cinemas past you still see it crop up in current films such as "Enemy at the Gates" which opens with a matte shot.

The matte box was introduced in the early 60's as a kit of parts the main selling point being the ability to do lots of trick shots such as a characters point of view when looking through a keyhole or a pair of binoculars.

Making the same character appear in numerous locations in the same scene and the ability to do simple home titling without buying a full super titling bench.

The matte box consists of a pair of rails on to which sit two movable metal frames. The metal frames are connected together to each other by some bellows. The bellows are designed so you can position them over the end of the lens you are using to give it accurate shading. On the front and the back frame there are holes where you can attach vertical and horizontal rails to hold the mattes. Mattes are either the matte painter's paintings or the cut-outs or the titles you have designed to fit between the lens and the shot your taking.

There are two types of matte box available from Bolex.

Matte box with long rails attached to cameraThe first (Bolex Product Code COPEN) had a Tapered set of bellows and can only cover prime lenses or the Vario Switar compact because it only has parallel rails measuring 17cm in length so will not fit over longer zoom lenses like the POE.

The bellows when fully extended cover 12cm. It has a front frame allowing the fixing of 14cm x 10.1cm mattes and a back frame allowing the fixing of 7.6cm x 6cm mattes.

The second (Bolex Product Code COZOM) has a parallel set of bellows and can come with either short or long parallel rails. A long rail set would be one greater than 17cm which does fit over zoom lenses. The front and back frames both allowing you to fit mattes to the dimension of 14cm x 10.1cm.

Attaching Matte box to camera via slide railTo fit the matte box on round base cameras you will need to buy the accessory flat base adapter with matte box rail (see flat base adapter section).

To fit the matte box on flat base cameras the parallel sided matte boxes usually came as standard with a slide rail. This is a piece of metal that fits on the front of the camera.

BackBy removing a panel of leather and unscrewing a metal plate reveals two screw holes where you can screw in the slide rail which will hold the matte box.