I took a close look at the Westcott Flex Cine Travel Kit and took it for a spin on shoots to find out if it’s holding up to the job. Check out our review below (and the review video above).
On the feature I DP’d last summer, and again on a feature I shot last month, we used a 1×2 Flex Cine consistently throughout the shoot. It’s so lightweight and versatile that we were able to easily both fly it on a C-boom arm, and also mount it to the ceiling for our back or top light.
When I heard that Westcott came out with a new self-contained travel kit, I was interested in checking it out. If you’re like me, you do a fair amount of traveling where you’re lugging gear in the back of cars and around airports. While I do work on larger features, my bread and butter is still corporate work and direct response commercials – and these shoots often call for a lot of traveling. When I have a simple shoot that consists of basic interviews or shooting b-roll, the crew often consists of just a producer and myself. This is where a compact; airport friendly travel kit is essential.
Westcott sent me their Flex Cine Bi-Color 2 (1×1) Light Travel Kit to review and test? In this video I’ll show what’s in the kit and go over some of its pros and cons.
Westcott has a ton of different Flex Cine kits available. I wanted to check out one of their more affordable kits, the Flex Cine Bi-Color, 2 (1×1) Light Travel Kit. There is a lot packed into this 2-light flexible LED kit. It includes the following:
- 2 of the 1×1 Flex Cine Bi-color LED mats that adjust from 2800K – 6000K (more than the standard 3200K – 5600K)
- 2 collapsible frames that the 1×1 light mats can be attached.
- 2 Flex Cine Dimmers
- 2 Softboxes
- 2 dual-joint brackets
- 2 compact light stands
- 2 x 26V lithium-ion batteries
- 1 dual charger for the batteries
- 2 AC power adapters
- 2 straps
- 1 waterproof hard case.
At the heart of the kit are the 2 Flex Cine bi-color mats. By now most of you have seen and played with flexible mat lights. Westcott was one of first players in the flex mat game and they’re known for their durability/reliability. The Flex Cine mats are a pliable 1/3” mats that are rain resistant. They have magnetic corners and metal grommets, which makes them really easy to mount just about anywhere. They are really easy to conceal in tight spaces and the mats by themselves weigh only 3 lbs, which means you can gaff tape them onto a wall or ceiling if needed. Westcott stands by the build quality of the mats by offering a lifetime warrantee – which is great.
The Flex Cine Dimmers are well made with a hard aluminum case and they have very intuitive controls. The light mats have an 8’ cable attached to them which feeds into the dimmer. Having the dimmer separate from the mat keeps the weight down and allows for easy rigging. I do suggest that you buy the 16’ extension cable. This allows you to rig a Flex Cine mat to a ceiling and have plenty of hose for your dimmer.
The kit comes with 2 lightweight collapsible frames that the mats can Velcro to. It also comes with 2 dual-joint brackets that allow you to attach the frames to their stands. These are lightweight, flimsy stands but because the light mats weigh so little, the stands definitely work. In order to keep the kit to just under 50lbs, which allows you to check the case at the airport with no additional changes, Westcott needed to keep the stands very lightweight. Personally, I only use these stands when I’m traveling; otherwise I use more heavy-duty stands.
The kit’s softboxes work well with the lights. They are fast to set up – like everything else in the kit, they attached via Velcro. The inside of the softbox is lined with silver which helps increase the output so you only lose 1 stop of light when using the softbox. One concern I have abut the kit is how well all the Velcro they use will hold up over the years. Will it need to be replaced in 5 years? Not sure.
What is really impressive about this kit is it comes with two 26V lithium-ion batteries and a dual charger. I tested the batteries with both the Flex Cine 1×1 and 1×2. At full power the batteries lasted for 2 hours and 15 minutes in the 1×1 and 1 hour and 30 minutes in the 1×2. These are respectable times. I just did a shoot where we rigged 2 of the 1×1’s to a drop ceiling and we hid the controller and cables in the ceiling and used the batteries for power – eliminated any cabling in our shot. We had the lights at under 50% power, so I knew I had several hours of run time and it worked perfectly.
Finally, the kit’s hard case is your standard pelican style water resistant case but it’s cleverly laid out with compartments for all the accessories. It’s great to have a case where everything has its proper place and with a glance you can tell if you have all your pieces.
Westcott also sent a few light modifier accessories for me to review. Now these do not come with the kit but can be purchased separately.
The HARD DIFFUSION is what we used on the Flex-Cine 1×2 light on last summer’s feature film. As I mentioned, we had the 1×2 armed out as a backlight on most of the scenes we shot. The hard diffusion on the 1×2 worked great, especially when you’re trying to be a low profile as possible. On many of the shots the Flex Cine 1×2 was just out of the top of the frame, making the hard diffusion a better option than a larger softbox. Now I wish we had the EGG CRATE on that film shoot. This simply prevents the light from spilling into unwanted areas.
The CHINA CUBE is an interesting modifier. It’s a different take on China ball. A Flex Cine 1×1 is mounted on the top of the modifier and its light bounces around the silk sides and bottom and spills in all directions. The China Cube comes with 4 black out skirts, which can be attached to block the light from sides where you don’t want light spilling. We recently used the China Cube on a walk-and-talk scene shot on the Ronin 2. We attached the China Cube to a boom pole and had a grip walk backwards with it, arming it over the head of the camera operator and onto the talent. It worked well and was easy to use because it is so lightweight.
In the Field
To see how the Flex-Cine lights performed on a subject, I recruited my son to do several tests.
Here is the first test where I lit the subject with a Flex Cine 1×1 as key light on the right and another 1×1 as a rim light on the back left. I was curious to see the light quality difference with the softbox on and off. Using my light meter I dimmed the open face light down to match the output of the softbox. As you can see, the results are similar with a little softer light with the softbox on. I actually expected more of a difference. Note: the window is pretty far behind the subject and it is not influencing the key light.
Here a test of the softbox versus the hard diffuser. The softbox is definitely softer where the hard diffusion has more of a punch.
In this shot I was going for a more flat corporate look. I used both of the Flex Cine 1×1’s with softboxes as front the lights. I had the key on the right one stop hotter than the fill on the left. No back/rim light.
In this setup I have the 1×1 with the China Cube modifier as the front light and I have pretty bright rim light coming from another 1×1 through a softbox.
By the Numbers
I used my Sekonic C-800 to measure the output and color rendering of the lights. The Flex Cine 1×1 and 1×2 had good solid scores.
Here is some of the raw data. Check out the video to see my analysis.
I like the Flex Cine lights and I use these lights in my production. That’s why I wanted to review them. The Flex Cine Travel Kit is great little kit to have when traveling or to augment a larger lighting packing. Everything you need is packed into this kit including batteries. I personally wish the stands were more heavy duty, but I get the portable design that keeps the kit under the 50lb airport limit.
If you’re looking for some lightweight LED lights that are physically flexible and flexible in the since that they can be rigged almost anywhere, then give the Westcott Flex Cine kits a look. The Flex Cine Bi-Color LED 2-Light Travel Kit (1×1) that I reviewed retails for $3,799.90. Remember that the kit comes with two 26V batteries and a dual charger, which alone would set you back over $1000.
What do you think of the Westcott Flex Cine Travel Kit? Do you think it would be useful for your kind of work? Let us know in the comments below.