*I'm not being paid to review this product and these are my honest findings.
DISCOUNT CODE: DM-CINEFLEX
I do a lot of documentary work, and for a long time I've been looking for the perfect light to take with me on this type of job. For a while now, I've been using a couple of FloLight Blades, which have done a good job in these situations for the most part. But they have a big downside - weight! Many times on docs it's only me, the director and a soundie. You often find yourself having to walk considerable distances to get to the interview location, and you're never quite sure what you'll find, or where you'll end up going on a whim. For this reason, I regularly find myself leaving lights in the car and using natural light only.
Flexible light mats are therefore very interesting to me. I've hired several of the top end brands, and the only thing holding me back from buying is the considerable price. Then I came across the CineFLEX lights. I'll be honest, when I saw the price, my first thought was - they might be crap! Generally, the rule with cheaper LED's has always been to avoid, mainly down to horrible colour casts. But LED tech is getting so good across the board these days. So I got in touch with Cine Light and they sent me this:
You'll notice no bag in this shot. I'm going to get this one out the way. The bag isn't great. I've ordered a new one which will take 2 or 3 of these lights with stands. I use this bag for my Blade lights and it's pretty decent for the money. Moving on...
The first thing that struck me when I unpacked this gear, was that it all had a fairly premium feel. Nothing felt cheapo plasticky or badly made (except the bag - I'd happily pay a bit extra for a better one). The thing I was most impressed with was the light itself.
I've handled some of the more premium brand-name lights, and this really does feel every bit as well put together. Only time will tell, but I'm pretty confident it will last a long time.
You can power the light off V-Lock batts, and you get approx 1h from a 146Wh/9.8Ah batt. The power display also doubles up as the colour temp select (3000-5600K), and you can wirelessly link these up to control multiple lights. It can all be easily clamped to your stand with the included mount, and the AC/DC can also be neatly attached where a battery normally goes with a V-Lock velcro strap.
Initially I was going to take this light to a small studio, put on my white coat and do some 'tests'. But a bit of doc work came up, so I thought I'd take it straight into the field. We were filming a doctor in a hospital location. It was a perfect example of the kind of places you end up filming when you shoot docs - as it was horrible! :)
So you can see how nasty the room is, you have about 15 minutes to set up, and you forgot to hire a grip truck and gaffer. This is the type of situation I find myself in a lot - difficult! I ended up deciding to point out the window. Not usually a great idea, but it was that or a dirty wall. It was an overcast day, and the light was more than punchy enough to get us a level. In fact, I believe it was only at 65% in the end.
My lightmeter says this light gives around 2000 LUX at 1m with the softbox. Not even going to measure it without diffusion, as I always diffuse multiple source LED's.
I also had the grid over the softbox, to keep spill off the white window frames. This takes out quite a bit of light and hardens it up a little.
I'm using a little Manfrotto Dedolight stand, which keeps everything lightweight. I have a small gripe with the mounting bracket, as it doesn't tilt down far enough. What you're seeing in the photos is it at full tilt. Easily replaced if I want more movement on the head though.
Here's what we got:
I don't want to mislead at all, so this is straight out the camera (Sony Fs7) with my favourite BertDegraeve LUT applied. Straight away, I thought it was just a little magenta. But the doctor had red hair and therefore a rosy complexion. Regardless, I knew it was slight and if there, easily dealt with in the grade. I was very happy with the softness (even with the eggcrate attached). This is exactly why I wanted the large 40x60cm model. I'm not a fan of 1x1 panels at all.
The next job I was on was a 2 person, 3 camera corporate interview. Lots of ways to light 2 person interviews, but when you have a 3rd camera doing a wide2-shot, your job can get tricky, especially on location with no lighting grid. One way to do it is 'back-cross-key', but this isn't easy with soft lights due to the fall off. You can front-light them, but it's always nice to keep lighting 'far side'. In the past I've used all kinds of methods to achieve this, such as bouncing a flagged Skypanel:
Turns out the location we were given this time, was extremely awkward. Dark with hardly anywhere to put up lights, never mind 3 cams! So this is what I came up with:
I promise this wasn't planned! It just so happened I had this ultra lightweight light with me and I thought, I bet I can support that on a double arm. It supported it - easy! Here is one of the HUGE benefits from having these types of lights. If you check out my last blog you'll see my gaffer made extensive use of LiteMats. What's not to love about being able to do this type of thing? In the past you needed a proper boom arm and heavy stand. It was studio lighting. Now I can do it in aN office with a C Stand! I was also very happy with the lovely soft wrap I got off the Gem Ball attachment. Can't show you any frames, but the director and soundie were very happy to sit in and demo. You can see how happy they are! :)
Already, after 2 jobs, I knew I was keeping this light. Output is good, ergonomics are great, I can get 2 or 3 in one bag. I had noticed what I thought was a little magenta cast though (at the daylight end), so I wanted to test it against an industry standard light. I happen to own a remote phosphor Skypanel, which supposedly has great colour accuracy (to be clear, it's the RP version, not the RGB LED version that has a bit of a green cast).
So I filmed my daughter in her room. The idea being that I'm cheating the daylight wrap around from the window behind. I wanted to see how natural it looked when combined with the daylight:
So the Skypanel wins on output. I had it at 55%, whereas the CineFLEX was at 90%. The Skypanel also weighs about 50x more and costs about 10x more! Here's what came straight out the camera, again using the Bert LUT. Also keep in mind that I could use ANY LUT and results would vary. This is about being able to use a LUT I know and trust. Now before looking at which is which below, I challenge you to try and tell for yourself (scroll slowly)!
CineFLEX is on the left. Here's where it gets very interesting. I posted these on a cinematography group, Shane's Inner Circle. 'A' was the CineFLEX. Here's a few samples of what they said:
I still have no idea what happened here, but it was almost unanimous that the CineFLEX had better colour! Personally, I liked the Skypanel better, but was that me subconsciously trying to justify spending so much? :) Regardless, I think it passed this little test! End of the day, it doesn't matter. This was shot in Slog3, and I can take it into Da Vinci and using that colour checker, do this:
Identical? Close enough! So am I depressed I spent $4k on a Skypanel, or happy I got a great light for $400? I'm kidding, the Skypanel is great. It's output is what sells it, but... Damn!
For those interested in such things. Here's the values Cine Light got with an Asensetek light spectrometer:
CRI (Ra): 96 - CQS: 96 -TLCI (Qa): 98.6
To conclude, I'd say that if this light seems like it will fit your workflow, I would buy with confidence. Don't be PUT OFF by the low price tag. I'm almost certainly getting another, maybe 2 (they do a nice 20x120cm version that will come in all kinds of handy). I reckon I'll get all these in that one bag with Dedo stands, and that's my doc location lighting kit right there! Pretty amazing how far this tech has come in the last few years. I'm sure pretty much every lighting manufacturer will be coming out with their own versions in the near future. Right now, I can't see much else out there that competes at this price point though.
DISCOUNT CODE: DM-CINEFLEX
Any questions, leave a comment.