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Lens Accessories, Filters and Matte Boxes

by Christina Fox   (IBC 2001)

For serious camerawork you'll need a set of filters, a matte box and a remote zoom controller. We tell you what's new at IBC 2001

Filter Feeding

Tiffen has three new filter kits for DV camera owners. These seem to its most popular filters, which have been packaged for the beginner in a smart black pouch. All the kits are available in a complete range of sizes from a miniDV-sized 52mm up to matte box snug 4x4.

The Video Essentials DV Kit is what every beginner should own. It includes a clear piece of glass to prevent scratches on the expensive front element of the lens, a circular polariser for reducing reflections and enhancing fluffy cloud shots, plus a Warm UV 17 to remove 97% of ultra violet light, warm up shots and give the talent a healthier glow.

Its Special Effects DV kit contains four filters for those wanting to improve the look and feel of their shots. A Color-Grad ND 0.6 is a half clear filter developing smoothly into a neutral density filter. Very useful when struggling to expose a high contrast landscape. The Pro-Mist reduces sharpness and contrast, giving a halo effect around highlights. Gold Diffusion/FX will flatter the talent as wrinkles are smoothed out, blemishes softened and skin tones warmed. The Enhancing filter was described by Simon Beer of OpTex (who had volunteered to man the Tiffen stand) as "the filter of the season". It offers super saturation to the warm tones at the red end of the spectrum, but has minimal effect on cool tones.

According to our Web site data, there are a lot of people who want to make video look like film. Tiffen has spotted this too and its third kit is a "Film Look" DV filter kit, which includes four filters. The black diffusion/FX takes the hard edge off the video picture. The warm black diffusion/FX gives a similar effect, but with an additional warm tone. The black Promist tones down excessive video sharpness to increase the film look. It lightens shadow areas and minimises highlights and flare. The Soft/FX 1 subtly softens unwanted detail.

Tiffen has introduced a new range of Centriclear glass filters which are clear in the middle, but have graduated neutral density coatings at the edge (of ND 3, 6 or 9).

Formatt Filters' new Pro-Comp filter is designed for use in blue and green screen production. "It eliminates colour spill and so will make compositing objects easier, and eliminate the need to clean images in post," says Darren McAlister, Formatt's sales director. The filter comes in a range of sizes from 3x3 to 6.6x6.6 as well as 72mm up to 152mm, and in a range of densities, for about £200.

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Matte Box

If you are serious about filters, you'll need a matte box. For the prosumer DV operator, Schneider has designed what is claims is the "World's best DV camera filter and light management solution." It doesn't attach to the lens, because the combined weight of a matte box and a wide angle adaptor on the front of a lens can cause a lot of problem. Instead, it is secured onto the camera's base-plate. It takes 4x4 and 3x3 filters, two of which can be rotated. Developed by Vocas, it has its adjustable "eyebrows" (horizontal barn doors inside the lens hood) to reduce flare. It compliments Schneider's wide angle convertors without vignetting, and will be available from December 2001 for around $700. It will fit a range of DV cameras including the Sony PD-100, Canon XL1s and the JVC GY-DV700.

Vocas claims its internal French flags or "eyebrows" in its matte boxes are something no one else has. "It's very simple and very effective," says Bas Ladru, Vocas research and development engineer. Because they are always in the matte box, they can be instantly deployed.

Chrosziel's DV-Sunshade 4x4 has been upgraded to take the larger filters (it previously only accommodated 3x3 filters). It has one fixed and one rotating filter holder, plus French flag. It costs 490 Euros.

Its bigger Sunshade (1,230 Euros) is suitable for use with Fujinon Prime lenses for HDTV. Its two filter holders can accommodate 4x4, 5x5, and 4x5.650 filters. The special housing can be used as wide as 5mm focal length lenses in 16:9 format. Chrosziel also provide a range of step down rings for both Sunshades.

Also new is its wide angle matte box for 16:9/4:3 HDTV, ENG and film (1,680 Euros). The basic unit can work with lenses down to 4.5mm focal length and can be expanded to take four rotating filter holders restricted to 7.8mm focal length.

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Lens Control

If you're used to the smooth variable speed zoom of a professional camera lens - having to use a miniDV zoom will feel positively amateurish. What was needed was a professional zoom controller. Step forward Varizoom with the VZ-PG-L and VZ-Pro. These two controllers work with all the best-selling prosumer camcorders. They have a record button, focus control and a pressure sensitive thumb control with speed control dial, letting you zoom from fast to a slow creep. They can be clamped on to the tripod panning handle or attached to most shoulder braces. If you do a lot of tripod work then this is a useful piece of kit. Prices start at $369.

For those with bigger cameras there is Chrosziel's Aladin (from 10,800 Euros), a three-channel camera remote-control. You can control focus, iris, zoom and camera on and off. Each module can be operated separately via its own transceiver, by separate operators in different locations. The zoom module can be clamped to a Steadicam gimbal.

Vocas lens controller allows users to control both zoom and focus with one hand. "Neither Canon or Fujinon have such a controller," claims Bas Ladru, Vocas research and development engineer.

JAN 2002

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    Christina Fox