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VoxBox Pro Mark II Review

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The VoxBox Pro MKII is a follow-up to the VoxBox Pro. It is a two-way mirror box that positions in front of the camera lens that then allows film makers to shoot down-the-lens interviews while maintaining eye contact between the interviewer and the subject.

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VoxBox Pro was invented by cameraman Steve Lord, after he thought he could come up with a better solution than what was already on the market.

Devices like the EyeDirect mirror box have been around for years, and while they work well, they are a pain in the backside to set up and construct.

Key Features

  • Fits in seconds to existing 15mm rails, or to a lighting stand
  • Lightweight aluminum construction – built to last a lifetime
  • Converts to a Teleprompter using the included tablet holder
  • Complete with superior quality hard case and laser-cut foam
  • Can be stored in the case fully-rigged ready for instant use

So what has been improved on the new MKII version?

Well, a few key elements have been redesigned to make the whole user experience easier.Below are the new improvements:

  • Completely re-designed and built using lightweight aluminum throughout.
  • Now you can use wider lenses (approx 24mm on a Super 35mm sensor; approx 30mm on a full frame sensor).
  • The glass mounting, height adjustment, and tilting side mirror have been re-designed.

How does it work?

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The interviewer and subject see each other through the two-way mirror, but the subject is actually looking down the lens, resulting in direct eye contact with the audience. This is a nice way of conducting interviews where the interviewee needs to look straight down the barrel of the lens.

By having someone else to look at, it helps relax the subject and allows them to give better interviews. There are no additional cameras, TV screens, or technology required.

There are no cumbersome tripod plates or adaptors to fit – the unit simply attaches in place of your matte box to existing 15mm rails. If you don’t have rails or you are using a DSLR, the kit includes a 16mm receiver allowing it to be mounted on a standard lighting stand.

First Impressions

The VoxBox Pro MKII comes in a nice hard case and when you open the case for the first time you are greeted by nice laser cut foam inserts. Everything is well spaced out and positioned.

I like that they include a proper instruction manual that gives you really good information and reasonably detailed instructions about how to use the product.

As this is a product that a lot of people may be not familiar with, a good set of instructions is a welcome addition.

Build Quality

The VoxBox Pro MKII is fairly simplistic, but it is well made and thought out. Nothing about it feels particularly cheap.

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You should be aware that the type of material being used is very susceptible to getting scratched. This is more of a cosmetic thing than anything else, but some potential buyers may not like that.

Setup Time?

I have used the EyeDirect mirror box in the past, and although it works well, I found it to be too cumbersome and slow to set up.

The unit can be quickly configured to allow the interviewer to sit at several possible positions. For shooting-producers, directors, or camera operators, the unit comes with a side mirror that allows operation of the camera whilst maintaining eye contact with the subject through the VoxBox Pro.
This flexibility allows you to quickly adapt to each location.​ The unit can be carried fully-rigged to the camera between setups.

So how quickly can you set up the VoxBox Pro MKII? It is actually pretty quick to set up especially if you are positioning it straight onto 15mm rods. I found I could get everything set up in around 3-5 minutes.

Even though it is quick to set up I would still recommend that you take your time and do everything correctly. If you are rushing that is when you make mistakes. When working with anything that features glass it is better to be sage than sorry.

Converts to a teleprompter

Included with the VoxBox Pro is a tablet holder that attaches to the unit, converting it to a teleprompter. This is a nice feature because it certainly increases the versatility of the product.

The only problem I found with it was that the holder only takes small sized tablets. I have a 12″ iPad Pro and it wasn’t even close to fitting in the tablet holder. Again, this is something you need to be aware of if you plan on purchasing this device.

The maximum size between the clamps on the tablet holder is 188mm.

If the VoxBox had have been designed to fit large tablets, they would have had to make the VoxBox really big, and this is something they didn’t want to do. Primarily it’s for interviewing, not teleprompting, so there will always be some compromises here.

How wide can you go?

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The VoxBox Pro MKII is quite deep so I was concerned that you wouldn’t be able to use wider lenses with it. According to the company, a 24mm lens on a Super 35mm sensor and a 30mm lens on a full frame sensor should work.

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I found that on an S35 sized sensor when using a 25mm prime lens that the VoxBox Pro MKII got in the shot. You really need to use lenses that around 30-35mm and longer for it to work. I had the VoxBox Pro MKII as far back as I could get it so that the lens I was using was almost touching the beam splitter.

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This is something you really need to be aware of if you plan on purchasing. I think it would be possible to use a 24 or 25mm lens on an S35 sized sensor camera, but that would depend on the lens. With larger cinema lenses you can’t get them as far forward as their physical width and height is going to mean that they come in contact with the beam splitter. With a smaller-sized stills lens, I think it would be possible to get a little further forward.

When I reached out to the company to ask them about lens choice that told me that the idea behind down-the-lens interviews is to get close and personal to the subject, which usually negates the use of any lens wider than 50mm on a super-35 sensor. We realize some creatives like the wide-angle interview style but the majority go for 50 or 85mm. To allow even wider lenses would of course make the VoxBox Pro very large indeed.

Real World Use

In the real world, the VoxBox Pro Mark II is super easy to set up and use. As I have already mentioned in the review, I could have everything ready to go in about 3-5 minutes. If you keep the Beamsplitter glass inside the main box it is even quicker to set up.

Above you can see the views from the talent and the interviewee. The physical size of the VoxBox Pro Mark II allows the talent to see the interviewee clearly which leads to better engagement during an interview where someone has to look straight down the barrel of the lens.

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I love that there are tapped 1/4-20″ threads on top of the main box. This allows you to attach a small light that you can use to illuminate the interviewee. Correction: This isn’t actually a 1/4 20″ thread. I just presumed it was. It is actually an M6 (metric) screw hole that is only for the tablet holder and will probably get damaged if you try to screw in a 1/4″ accessory. It would have made sense to go imperial, but it was designed in Europe!

If you are conducting the interview yourself and standing or sitting next to the camera you can use the Tilting Side Mirror so that the talent can still see you clearly.

This definitely works better if you are sitting next to the camera rather than standing up. If you are standing up then the angle you have to position the Tilting Side Mirror means that you will appear to be leaning to one side.

The autocue tablet holder works reasonably well, however, you need to be very aware of the size of tablet you can use. In this COVID-19 age, it is also nice that you can set up a Zoom call or similar and use the remote interviewers’ image so that the talent can look and speak directly to that person.

What do you get?

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Below is what is included in the kit:

What’s in the box

  • Main box
  • Beamsplitter glass
  • Tilting side mirror
  • Tablet holder
  • Doughnuts (63, 80 & 112mm)
  • 16mm receiver
  • Printed instruction manual
  • Hard Case with laser-cut foam

Competition

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Competition is bound to come in the form of the EyeDirect MARK II. The EyeDirect MARK II is very similar in a lot of ways, however, it consists of more pieces and you need to rig your camera to the 18″ adjustable balance base plate and riser.

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This does make it a lot more cumbersome and slower to set up. Yes, it does offer more finite adjustment, but you can’t quickly go from using the EyeDirect MARK II back to normal shooting as you need to remove the camera from the baseplate.

In contrast, because the VoxBox Pro MK II is designed to attach directly to cameras that are already running 15mm rods you can remove it and be shooting again very quickly. Where money is time and lime may be limited, this offers a big advantage.

Price & Availability

The VoxBox Pro MKII is now available and it retails for £1,499.00 plus VAT. For non-UK customers, the VAT/TAX will be removed at the checkout

This price is a considerable increase over the original VoxBox Pro (£995 + VAT). However, if you look at the EyeDirect MARK II which retails for $1,560.00 USD and doesn’t come with a hard case, the price isn’t so bad.

What you need to consider is that products like these are made in very limited numbers so the manufacturing cost is going to be fairly high. This is not a budget solution and it is more likely to be bought by broadcasters, rental houses, and production houses. That’s not to say it isn’t suitable for owner/operators who would rather purchase than have to rent.

Conclusion

The VoxBox Pro MKII is a slightly niche product, however, if you are doing a lot of work where the talent needs to be looking down the barrel of the lens or you need to use an autocue, then it is worth looking at.

In saying that, it is a fairly expensive product, and you need to factor that in to see if the initial outlay is worth it. The nice thing about products such as this is you can use them for decades and decades as long as you look after them.

It isn’t going to be a product for everyone, nor is it meant to be. The main benefit of the VoxBox Pro MKII is that it is well made and easy to set up and use.

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