C-Stands

A C-Stand is one of the most versatile stands on set, used to position scrims and small light fixtures.
Century Stands or “C” stands are an important component in the image makers arsenal of tools. The term “Century Stand” goes back to the early days of motion picture production. Before there was artificial lighting the stages would revolve to allow for continuous overhead lighting from the sun. Large reflectors would be positioned to bounce or kick the overhead light up onto the stage and illuminate the set and actors. These reflectors were made in many sizes but it seems the most popular was the 100 inch or “century” sized reflector. In later years studios, grips and gaffers began to manufacture the earliest versions of what we now call C-Stands. The original C-Stands had welded bases that did not fold up nor did they adjust but the fact that they easily nested together made them invaluable on the stage.
A 20″ C-Stand and a 40″ C-stand.  20″ C-stands are sometimes called “Gary Coleman’s,” although the term has been deemed inappropriate since Gary’s passing and is rarely used.

C-stands are seen on almost every film or video shoot and are most often used to position flags, nets or silks in front of the a light source.  They are also used to position small light fixtures (generally 650watt or smaller) using the extended grip arm.  A great example is placing a small hairlight behind and actor – the C-stand is set up off frame and the grip arm is extended horizontally, just above the frame line.  These are some of the vitually limitless uses for this versatile stand.

Every C-stand features four basic components:  The base, which can be removable, the riser (20″ or 40″ high), the grip head and the grip arm (20″ or 40″ long).
Many of the components of a C-stand are interchangable with other grip gear.  Since the top of the riser features a 5/8″ baby pin, it can accept most clamps for added flexibility.  Also, removable, or turtlebase, C-stands feature a junior receiver that can support light and grip rigs with junior pins. Additionally, clamps like mafers and cardellinis can be mounted to the riser to provide additional points for rigging.There are two sizes of C-Stands – a 40” C-Stand and a 20” C-stand.  While there are variations on the C-stand design from manufacturer to manufacturer, the basic components remain the same. While 40″ C-stands are most commonly used, 20″ C-stands are ideal when you’re working in a tight location or need to position a light or scrim below another light or the camera.
You can see C-stands being used to position a cutter, 4×4 floppy and a 24″x36″ silk
in the left part of the frame.

 

The Base
The hallmark feature of a C-Stand is its three-legged base. With each leg a different size, C-stands can be easily nested with other opened C-stands to save space. Alternatively, the legs can be collapsed for easy storage and transportation.
There are two basic types of bases:
  • Standard Base – Standard base C-Stands are permanently attached to the riser and are opened by loosening the locking knuckle and rotating the stand counterclockwise.  Gravity will pull the legs into their locking pins.  Tighten the locking knuckle to secure the legs.  These bases are the most stable.
    • Rocky Mountain Leg – Some C-Stands feature one leg that can slide up the riser so the stand can be leveled on uneven terrain.  A great example of using a rocky mountain leg is when setting a c-stand on steps – place two legs on the lower step and the rocky mountain leg on a higher step.
  • Turtle Base – Some C-Stands feature removable, spring-loaded bases.  To open, always start with the smallest of the three legs and work your way to the largest, ensuring each leg locks in place. One benefit of turtle-base C-stands is that the riser can be removed from the junior female receiver so you can rig a light or grip rig close to the ground.  This is especially beneficial if you need so set-up a Kino-Flow under the camera lens to create an eye-light.
    • Be careful when using spring-loaded bases. If the weight is not properly distributed, the stand can collapse the legs.
    • Always postion the base so the largest of the three legs is positioned directly below the weight.

One trick to determining whether a C-stand base is permanent or spring loaded is to look under the center of the base.  If there’s a large bolt, it’s a spring-loaded base.  If the center shaft is hollow, it’s a gravity-lock base.

This is the turtlebase removed from the C-stand riser.  Notice the collaped legs on the base, allowing for easy transport.
A removable, opened turtlebase.
The turtlebase features a standard junior receiver, so you can mount larger light sources, or use a junior-to-baby pin adapter to mount lights and grip gear with 5/8″ baby receivers.
A rocky mountain leg
The Riser
The riser is the center of the C-Stand and is most commonly available in 20” and 40” heights.  C-Stand risers feature three risers, each with a locking knuckle. Every riser has a male 5/8” baby pin at the top and can receive a grip head or any light fixture with a 5/8” baby receiver.
The Grip Head
One of the most versatile tools in a grips arsenal is the grip head.  Featuring a 5/8” baby receiver so it can be mounted to a C-stand, the rotating knuckle’s grip pad, 3/8”  and 5/8” receiver can be used to hold flags, nets, silks, mafers, cardellinis, or any one of an array of grip tools.  The grip head’s pad can be used to hold everything from furniture pads to foam core.
Grip Arm
Most grip arms are either 20” or 40” 5/8” steel stock, with a grip head permanently welded to the end of it.  This extension arm allow you to offer a flag or any other rig away from the C-Stand.
C-Stand Rigging Tips
  • Always make sure the weight is positioned so that the knuckle tightens itself When facing the knuckle, always position the weight at 12-6 o’clock.
  • Always place a sandbag on the legs of a C-Stand to ensure stability. As a general rule of thumb, add one sandbag for ever riser you use.  For example, if you use one riser, use one sand bag.  Use two sandbags for two risers, and three sandbags for three risers.
  • When using a grip arm, never position the arm at face level as the pointy end can cause injury on set.
  • If necessary, place a tennis ball or an empty water bottle on the end of the arm to protect the crew from injury.
  • When working on a high-quality floor, cut an X-shaped slit in a tennis ball and slide it onto each of the C-Stand’s feet as protection.
  • When handing a C-Stand to another person, always grasp the riser AND the grip arm. If your hand is only around the riser and the other person grabs the riser and grip arm, your fingers will be crushed like a nut in a nutcracker.
  • Always position the weight over the largest leg to ensure the greatest stability.

 

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