Wooden Clothespin

What is a C-47 in Video Production?

When you hear the term C-47, you may think of the Douglas C-47 Skytrain, a military transport aircraft used by the Allies during World War II. You would be right if you were in a history class. Yet, when on a video production set, this couldn’t be more wrong. Video production sets have very unusual jargon and terms for the equipment.

A C-47 might be the simplest piece of equipment you will find on set. It is essentially a wooden clothespin. The reverse version of the C-47 is referred to as an “A-47” or the “reverse bullet”. 

Other names for this piece of equipment include:

  • 47’s
  • CP47’s
  • Bullets
  • Pins
  • Ammo
  • Pegs

This clip typically clamps gels or diffusion material onto hot lights. Because a C-47 is made out of wood, it doesn’t transfer heat as metal does. This makes it safe to touch after being on hot lights for a long time. It is also cheap, so if it breaks, it doesn’t cost the production much.

If a C-47 is a clothespin, why does it have a fancy name?

The production name for a C-47 is widely disputed. Here are some theories for its unusual name.

  • THEORY 1: The most common story is of Hollywood exeuctives who hated the idea of spending money on commonplace items. When gaffers found out about this, they supposedly changed the name of this item in an inventory list from “clothes-pins” to “C-47”. With the name change, the order successfully made it past the disapproving eyes of these executives. From there, the name for this clip caught on and spread to other sets. Now, the this pin is available to work its magic on-set without the stigma of being a commonplace item. 
  • THEORY 2: This theory actually involves the military plane mentioned in the introduction. The Douglas C-47 Skytrain is a very versatile plane. Because these small wooden pins are also very versatile and useful on set, they were nicknamed after these planes during the early days of Hollywood.
  • THEORY 3: This name helped producers avoid the IRS. The IRS wouldn’t consider clothespins to be a work-related expense. Yet, once the name changed to C-47, they had no problem with it.
  • THEORY 4: Some believe that a studio stored clothespins in a container marked C-47. From there, the name stuck.
  • THEORY 5: That this term was the patent number for it when it was invented.

Whatever the true story may possibly be, a clothespin is not a clothespin when on a film or video production set – it is a C-47.

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