Possibly the greatest asset on a set is called The Century Stand aka C-stand, aka The Big Kahuna. Ok, maybe no one calls it The Big Kahuna but, the C-Stand is one of the oldest friends in cinema. A C-stand may look like just a metal coat rack but, it’s possibly the most versatile tool used on a film set. In other words, it’s a big deal.
What are C-stands and their uses?
A C-stand is simply a metal stand. The base is made up of three sliding legs that can collapse together. This is called a turtle base. The legs collapse together so that the stand can be transported easily. The legs connect to a long pole called the extending stand. On top of the extending stand is a clamp called a gobo head or a knuckle. Connected to the knuckle is a metal rod called a grip arm. You can mount lights, flags, a lowel, diffusion, and other pieces of equipment to the knuckle directly or the grip arm.
A C-stand has many different purposes such as these below:
- Position light modifiers and accessories such as silks, nets, or flags in front of a light source.
- Mount lights
- Position reflectors
- Create a green screen or backdrop frame
- Hold a boom pole or audio recording devices
A C-stand can truly do it all. Need to mount your diffusion and flags to help control your lighting? Or need to replace your light stand and hold the heaviest of lights? Done. A C-stand can even hold up your camera to get that beautiful overhead shot of your breakfast so you can show it off on Instagram. I wouldn’t recommend carrying a C-stand around like a selfie stick – believe you me, this baby has some weight to it!
This thing is a big deal if you want to take your videos to the next level. You might be thinking, who even thought to create this beautiful object from the heavens?
How to use a C Stand
To enjoy and understand how great a C-stand is, you need to understand the proper setup.
- Open the Legs
People have a lot of ways they like to open it. I like to set it right side up, and I release the legs with one of my free hands. Is this the best way? Who knows, but do what makes you comfortable and what is safe for the people around you. Also, different brands of C-stands have a quick release that lets you swing the legs open.
- Proper Setup
This is not open to interpretation, a C-stand setup incorrectly will damage equipment and things in the surrounding area or worse injure a person. First, you need to make sure the arm of the C-stand (gobo arm) is always over the biggest leg on your C-stand. Next, you set your gobo head on the right side of your C-stand arm. This will allow the weight of your equipment to cause the grip heads to self-tighten.
- Be Safe
One of the most important things on a film set is safety. So with a C-stand Always have a sandbag on the biggest leg. It doesn’t matter if the C-stand is holding something super light. Always have a sandbag on the biggest leg. A sandbag will prevent your C-stand from falling over. It doesn’t hurt if you can have someone on standby to stand with the C-stand.
The history of our beloved C-stand has many stories. Some say that the name “century stand” came from its hundreds of uses. Others say that the first company to manufacture film equipment was Century Lighting, and they created the Century stand. In 1974, Matthews, a film equipment studio from southern California, developed the first C-stand with collapsable legs.
There are so many stories and innovations that come with C-stands, but there is one consistent thing. C-stands are here, and they are here to stay.
C-stands can elevate your productions and make life easier for your shoot. This Multidimensional stand can be whatever you want it to be. If you want to learn more about other great essentials for your set we have a great article about apple boxes. We would love to hear your thoughts.
Want to learn about other video production tools and terms? Check out this article.
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