SPECTRAL, a sci-fi thriller about a special ops team fighting supernatural beings that have overrun New York City, is the feature debut of commercials director Nic Mathieu. While readying their camera equipment for the shoot in a test room at ARRI Rental Budapest, cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, ASC, and 1st AC John Holmes spoke to ARRI News about why they had requested the new ARRI Studio Matte Box SMB-1, with its integrated tilt module and anamorphic accessories.
What cameras and lenses are you using on this production?
Bojan Bazelli: We’re using three ALEXA Studio XTs and also the ALEXA M. It’s an anamorphic project and our main lenses will be ARRI/ZEISS Master Anamorphics, because of their ability to shoot wide open without any compromise in quality. They also display no breathing at all when pulling focus, and no distortion.
Why did you decide to try the new SMB-1?
BB: To be honest I put the SMB-1 on my gear list for SPECTRAL without studying all the features in depth. I’d heard that it had a tilting function and anamorphic accessories, but I wanted to try it mainly because it is something new from ARRI. I’ve always used ARRI cameras, starting with an ARRIFLEX 35 BL on my shoulder when I was 17, so I have a lot of trust in the products.
Having tested it, what do you think of the new stackable filter stage modules?
John Holmes: I like the new design. Not only does it reduce the amount of filter stages you have on the camera, but it also gives you flexibility in building five possible configurations.
What kinds of situations will the tilting function be useful for?
BB: Sometimes under special lighting conditions you can get reflections between filters or between a filter and the front of the lens. It is difficult to predict when this might happen, so having a module integrated into the matte box that allows you to quickly eliminate these reflections by tilting the whole filter assembly is a big improvement over the workarounds we had to use before.
How about the anamorphic accessories?
BB: Anamorphic is very popular at the moment, so it makes a lot of sense to have accessories specific to that format. When you compare them, the difference between the opening of the 4:3 spherical sunshade and the 2:1 anamorphic one is huge. Using these accessories when shooting anamorphic with the SMB-1 is just an efficient way to work and helps keep everything as compact as possible.
Does the SMB-1 have the ergonomics and build quality to stand up to your shoot?
JH: In terms of ergonomics, new features like the single-knob locking mechanism on both rods, the sliding accessory mount for ultrasonic distance measurers, the friction-driven side flaps on the top flag, and the fast adjuster for the top and side flags, will all make life easier and faster on set. If I had to choose a single feature that I like the best, the new fast adjuster for the top flag is brilliant. These features — and the fact that you are visiting us while we’re testing — show that ARRI quality is not just about product reliability, it’s about listening to the real needs of crews.
SMB-1 MAIN FEATURES
- Integrated tilt module counteracts reflections
- Stackable filter stage modules
- Anamorphic sunshade, side flags and matte set
- Versatile accessory mounts
- Advanced adjusters for flags
- Takes filters up to 6.6″ x 6.6″
- Ideal for zooms and wide-angle primes