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Now that I’ve piqued your curiosity, let me do so further with a riddle: What has three legs, one arm, a head, and knuckles? No, it’s not some monster dreamt up by Guillermo del Toro, but rather, the C-Stand. The Swiss Army knife of the media production world, it is one of the most important tools at your disposal. From holding lights, boom poles, flags, silks, backdrops, and even a person’s weight for a quick break, there are a myriad of uses for these workhorses.
Before we set one up, let’s quickly answer the title of this blog’s question: what does that “C” stand for? The answer is Century and there are quite a few theories as to why. One is from the original company that manufactured them, which was named “Century Lighting.” Another is that the stands were used in the early days of cinema to hold sun reflectors that were called “Centuries.” And there’s even a theory that given their multitude of applications on set, they have over 100 uses, hence, Century. So now you know, I know, we all know.
Now, let’s learn how to set up one of these metal beauties, so that the next time you’re on a set and you want to look busy, feel useful, or someone asks, you can be confidently competent.
There are four main parts to the C-Stand.
If it is not already put together as one piece, insert the column into the base and tighten the screw.
There are a few types of bases and how you unfurl the legs will depend on what you have. A turtle base has a lever at the top of the base that pulls up and frees the legs so they can spin out and then be locked into place. With other types you just need to muscle the legs apart and some may even have a knob you need to loosen. No matter the method, you must ensure all three legs are spread out and locked in place.
One of the most important steps is how you place the stand, doing this incorrectly will lead to an unstable setup. The tallest, biggest leg is meant to take on the weight of whatever it is you are positioning. Make sure that this leg is facing toward the weight that is being supported. For example, if you have a large softbox, make sure the tallest leg is facing the same way as the softbox and is directly underneath it. The tallest, biggest leg is meant to take on the weight of whatever it is you are positioning.
Once the stand is up and you’re ready to attach something, you first need to place a sandbag (or two) on the highest leg. This seems counterintuitive, as you would imagine putting it on the back legs to counterbalance the weight. But alas, you would be wrong. If placed on either of the shorter legs, the weight of the sandbag will fall to the ground and will not fully support the C-Stand. In other words, you’ll be shouting “Timmberrr!” instead of “Action!”
Typically, when mounting a light, you will remove the gobo head/arm and place your light directly onto the end of the center column, called a baby pin.
But if using an arm or knuckle, say for a flag or boompole, it’s very important to remember the classic idiom “righty-tighty/lefty-loosey,” while tightening it. Always make sure you are tightening the knuckle toward the weight of the item, away from you. This will ensure that if the item begins to fall, the weight will only further tighten the knuckle and not loosen. A good rule of thumb is to always ensure the knob is in your right hand, which will only allow you to tighten in this way. Check out the visual demo to the right for more clarification.
When extending the risers, always start with the top one first. If you start at the bottom, you will not be able to reach the others up top, unless you are stretch armstrong or have a ladder.
So there you have it — you are officially a certified C-Stand assembler. To get your disassembler certificate, just reverse engineer these steps. Interested in learning more? Stay tuned for future production tips and tricks.