The name comes from the official term “Century stand“, which in turn comes from the earliest days of filmmaking, when the Sun was the only major source of lighting; reflectors were used to keep the light on actors.
The most popular size of reflector was the 100-inch “Century”; a progenitor of today’s C-stand was used to hold it up. The C-stand as we know it today provides the crew with an infinite amount of possibilities. It can hold a light. It can hold a flag. It can clamp on to something like bead-board or show card. It can hold something up or hold something down. It can work in a studio or it can work outside. It can withstand rain or be totally submerged under water . . . and it can do all of this at any angle or at any height.
Works well with others
The C-stand is not just a lighting and grip tool. It is the one of the few tools that can be utilized by every department in the biz. Audio operators often use C-stands to hold boom microphones in studio setups. Camera operators will use a C-stand with a piece of show card to block the sun from their view finders. Stage Managers will often use two or more C-Stands to hold cue cards for easy access . . . and Producers usually use them to lean on while watching a take.
Anatomy of a C-Stand
The most common C-Stand, like the one shown here, has four parts; the base, the stand – with two to four “risers”, the gobo head and the gobo arm. A C-stand is complete when it has all of these pieces attached. It is not uncommon to find the gobo arm missing, or both the gobo arm and the gobo head missing off of a stand. It is important to know that when someone asks you for a C-stand, be sure to find one that is a complete set.
There are several different configurations to a C-stand too:
If you remove the base and add a Stand Adapter (lovingly referred to as a “butt-plug,”) you now have a low stand, capable of holding a light for an effects shot or an up-light.
You can also remove the gobo head and gobo arm and attach it to another type of stand or a Baby Wall Plate (also known as a “pigeon”) that is screwed into a set piece. This can provide greater control of a flag or silk in places that a conventional C-stand can’t go. The combinations are endless . . . so make sure that you watch the grips and the gaffer on each set to learn something new.
Baby Wall Plate (Pigeon)
Why is it called a “Baby” Wall Plate? In grip terminology a “Baby” anything refers to the mount on the item being 5/8″ and a “Junior” refers to the mount on the item being 1 1/8″ in diameter. One very important thing to remember is that the terminology is different from region to region. LA grip terminology is slightly different than what we find on the East Coast. There will probably be an entire post dedicated to terminology in the near future – watch out for it. In the case of the C-Stand, you will be using 5/8″ adapters and receptacles.
Just remember this for now:
Baby spud = 5/8″
Junior spud = 1 1/8″
The “spud” refers to the post of the object, such as a C-Stand.
Tip of the day
The video above demonstrates the most common mistake when using a C-stand – tightening the head. When using the arm of the stand to hold something heavy, you want to make sure that you tighten the head in such a way that the downward force of the object applies pressure to the head causing it to tighten more. This is done by making sure that the arm faces to the right when looking at the grip on the head. In the opposite arrangement (arm facing to the left) any downward force applied to the arm would actually loosen the gobo head causing the arm to slip and fall. This would be bad if your light was directly below someone. Therefore it is ALWAYS important to think about this simple action and follow these steps:
1. When facing the gobo head the arm ALWAYS goes to the right.
2. Tighten the head making sure that the arm is slightly higher – usually 10 – 15 degrees higher than parallel – this will cause the weight of the light or other accessory to add even more pressure and more tightening power to the head.
3. Use a SANDBAG!! This is the MOST IMPORTANT part of the entire process!! As it was pointed out below, make sure that you place the large leg toward the direction of the arm of the stand (large leg directly below the arm) and place the sand bag on it. It’s not very clear in the video but it’s an important thing to note. This will keep the stand from going over with weight on the arm. When in doubt, just sandbag the heck out of the stand.
That’s all there is to it. If you remember these steps – and familiarize yourself with the C-stand itself – you will be well on your way to winning friends in the lighting and grip department. This is a good thing . . . they usually tell the best stories.