June 6, 2014

The Most Ironic Video of All Time Teaches an Essential Lesson in Film Set Safety

C-Stand SandbagThe lighting and grip department is full of unspoken rules that are geared towards keeping the cast and crew as safe as possible. However, there's one rule that might just be the most important of them all. That rule can be summed up as: "ALWAYS USE SANDBAGS WHEN USING A LIGHT STAND, C-STAND, OR COMBO STAND FOR ANYTHING." I'm sorry I yelled, but this simple concept can prevent some seriously calamitous things from happening on a set, chiefly hot lights or heavy modifiers falling on people's heads. With that in mind, let's take a look at an incredibly ironic video and talk a little bit about proper techniques for setting up C-Stands!

Just in case you're not already convinced of the potential danger of falling stands, here's a rather lighthearted (and absurdly ironic) clip that shows what can happen when stands aren't weighted down properly:

Luckily, in the case of the reporter in this video (who, in a cruel twist of fate, was reporting on sandbags), the only thing that fell on her head was a small silk. However, had the production team been flying a light of some sort on that stand, or had the reporter gotten hit with a bulky gobo head, the outcome of this short video could have been devastating.

With that out of the way, here are some basics for weighing down your various stands.

  • Always put sandbags on your stands, regardless of whether you're flying lights, modifiers, or anything else. Always.
  • On C-Stands, point the largest leg in the same direction as your light or modifier. This will make it incredibly difficult for your light to tip the stand, no matter the weight. (I've also heard that the largest leg should be placed opposite of your light or modifier, but placing them in the same direction makes the most sense to me.)
  • On C-Stands, the sandbag should be placed on the largest leg.
  • Make sure the gobo arm/head is pointing towards the righthand side of the knuckle so that the knuckle will tighten down on itself with any additional weight.
  • On regular light stands and combo stands, you can place sandbags on one of the braces at the bottom of the stand, preferably on the opposite side from the light or modifier.

Here's a quick video that walks you through the basics of how to set up a C-Stand and place your sandbags.

As simple as this stuff seems, it's incredibly important to make habits out of all of these small techniques so that basic lighting safety is engrained into the way you work.

Do you guys have any horror stories of improper stand setup? What are some of your tips for maintaining safety when working with various types of stands? Let us know down in the comments!

[via PetaPixel]

Your Comment

32 Comments

Thanks for sharing! It might seem obvious but since I always worked on my own film projects and never went to film school I learned a lot with this video.

June 6, 2014 at 10:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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C stands aren't really meant for outside anyway. They should have had a combo stand with a grip head. If they had used a combo stand, they wouldn't have needed a sandbag (but, obviously one should ALWAYS use sandbags).

June 6, 2014 at 10:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry Pray IV

Ironically, they're still setting up the stand wrong in that video. The arm should 99% of the time never be pointing out like that, with the end opposite of the knuckle floating in the air. At the VERY least put a tennis ball on it, but you should almost always be able to find a way to set up the stand without the arm pointing out like that.

June 7, 2014 at 12:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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dembek

Haha @dembek. Right!? I thought the exact same thing to myself. Or possibly 45 degrees downward and raised away from head height.

June 7, 2014 at 10:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Marc

Very true. I have a small dent above my right temple from walking into a gobo arm.

June 7, 2014 at 12:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4503

My comment was not meant to be a reply, whoops. My mistake.

June 7, 2014 at 12:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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dembek

No mention in the video or article of WHY the sandbag usually goes on the largest leg. It's to avoid a large/tall sandbag touching the ground and therefore not exerting its full weight to stabilise the stand. It could then still tip over enough to cause a hazardous situation. With a heavy load, it's also wise to put the sandbag weight on the side away from the load as a counterbalance and/or some secondary load secured on the opposite end of the arm with another sandbag or weight.

Agree with dembek that the arm end should not be sticking out like that without some sort of protection/warning. Tennis ball, ping pong ball or at minimum a flag of white tape so the end of it is more visible!

June 7, 2014 at 5:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Eric

I've been taught that the largest (highest) leg goes underneath the weight. This flies directly in the face of what you said since you say that the weight should be on the side opposite of the weight. You can't do both at once unless you use two or more sandbags.

June 8, 2014 at 10:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry Pray IV

Like Charlie says further down, there are can be a good argument to have the sandbag away from the load for counterbalance purposes. There are also situations where the leg towards the load is also useful, say if you have insufficient sandbags to counterbalance a heavy load. In the end, it's about whether the setup is safe in the actual situation it's being used. On unstable ground, or windy conditions, it's quite possible that a person has to be manning the stand as well.

With most sandbags, it's possible to wrap one across the two smaller legs off the ground away from the load, so providing both a leg towards the load and counterweight!

June 10, 2014 at 7:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Eric

The video said that.

June 11, 2014 at 7:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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yoyoyoyoyo

If the large/tall sandbag touches the ground even on the largest leg, then it should be wrapped around two legs to keep the whole bag off the ground.

June 7, 2014 at 5:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Eric

Is it just me or are the recent article titles getting revised every six hours or so??

June 7, 2014 at 11:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Alex

I noticed the same thing, this article's title is on its third iteration :P

June 7, 2014 at 1:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Benjamin

We're actually using a new plugin that rotates titles. So we write a few titles for each article, then the plugin changes them up then determines which one works the best.

June 7, 2014 at 1:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4503

Wooo work those metrics. Impressive :)

June 10, 2014 at 4:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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I do think it is important to share this knowledge. As many of us over time simply expect everything on set to be rigged and set up appropriately. It's always a good idea to take quick glances around a set to ensure others have placed equipment properly and/or to share your knowledge with those entering the business.

I have been on the wrong end of an improper lighting setup. It was on a still shoot. A green photo assistant did not bag a c-stand on set. He also placed the knuckle facing the wrong way and the weight of the light spun the arm loose. Needless to say, the light fell directly on my head and the flash tube broke. I got cut up pretty badly and needed a few stitches. Fortunately I did not get electrocuted. And that assistant made sure to set up properly moving forward.

June 7, 2014 at 11:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Marc

Good thing it was a silk.. I've seen near-miss reflector board incidents. Safety first guys.

June 7, 2014 at 12:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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One thing that film school helped me that i couldn't learn online or anywhere else, was actually learning proper grip techniques, and lighting techniques other than just simple three point lighting. Safety for all equipment was always a number one and i think many online film schools don't teach it or think by using one episode to teach one safety rule is enough. Im glad i went to film school, C stand safety and pretty much all grip,gaff equipment was always taught to respect. Cant find that online.

June 7, 2014 at 12:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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John Wilton

Actually no... you can learn that stuff in other places. On set perhaps? By watching, learning and asking questions. Oh and let's not forget that little thing called common sense. Film school is merely one method nowadays to enter the industry. If articles like this offer a bit of information that could prevent someone getting injured then great. I might have mis read your comment but for me, how is what you just said helpful to this community? Furthermore, you have a whole career to learn more such as "lighting techniques other than just simple three point lighting" I wonder how many film school graduates are able to successfully implement "simple three point lighting" in every situation... vocational training is merely stepping stone!

June 7, 2014 at 1:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Chris

Professional film sets are an incredible place to learn the ins and outs filmmaking. There's no question about that. Unfortunately, no-budget and beginner film sets usually aren't rife with proper "industry standard" practices when it comes to things like setting up C-Stands and whatnot. That's where film school can be extremely valuable, in that it teaches you the proper mechanics of filmmaking, and it engrains those proper mechanics from the very beginning.

June 7, 2014 at 2:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4503

Here is a place where the movie industry could barrow "Rebar Caps" from the construction industry for gobo arms. Orange is the most common color, sold at your box stores, and designed to slide on and pinch.

June 7, 2014 at 4:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Hari Har

Good idea!

June 7, 2014 at 5:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Eric

Those are held on by gravity. What happens when the non gobo side of the arm is not facing directly upwards? The tennis ball works fine as is.

June 8, 2014 at 10:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Harry Pray IV

I've seen ones that grip bars - tennis balls are fine, but take time to cut a hole.

June 10, 2014 at 6:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Eric

Robert, sandbags provide counterweight. They work when hanging from the tall leg. Draped over the short leg, they rest on the ground instead of working.

If you extend your gobo arm over the tall leg with the sandbag, where's the counterbalance? Everything is aligned, but you have zero counterweight. There is nothing to counter a small, off axis force.

You usually adjust whatever the C Stand is supporting by making adjustments at the gobo head and arm. If you rotate the gobo arm off axis 20-30 degrees, it's no longer over the tall leg. You lose the support of the tall leg and have zero counterbalance. The stand falls.

Instead, rotate the C-Stand legs 180 degrees, with appropriate counterweight on the tall, rear leg. Now you have the shorter legs providing solid off-axis support, and the tall leg providing counterbalance on axis. The stand won't fall.

This rule is for C Stands indoors, on solid, level floors. Outdoors, or with bigger stands, rules change. Outdoors, flags become sails.

We have no idea how the news crew set the stand. It may be bagged. Considering they're on a beach, the stand probably was on sand. For a quick stand-up shot, I would have positioned a crew member at the stand. However, modern news crews seem to have shrunk to two or three people, including talent.

The student video illustrates an extremely dangerous practice. The students set a metal spear at head/chest level. You might remove that video from your article.

You'll be much safer getting advice from a professional grip or gaffer.

June 7, 2014 at 6:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Charlie

^^^--- THIS! There is a lot of bad advice being given, but Charlie has it right. This is how you setup a stand.

June 11, 2014 at 8:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Ken Elliott

Charlie has a strong case and point. what is missing in this conversation: Leverage, the farther out the Gobo is the more weight is placed on the C-Stand, also the angle, eg: if you place the Gobo in a 90* angle to the stand, so much pressure is redirected onto your front legs, which can result in your C-Stand falling over, if you place the Gobo at a 40* or less the weight is much more transfered evenly on all three legs, the smaller the legs, its best to keep weight above the stand as much as possible, perhaps in this example, the Gobo extension could have been removed, and the silk would be directly above the stand. the more weight you place at a farther distances from the stand center point the longer your legs need to be to stabilize and counter the above weight.... think of a "Cherry Picker", which lifts auto engines out and in the cavity of the car. the lower legs are in front and long to support the weight. ... something to think about.

June 25, 2014 at 11:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Cal

I think the reporter handled it great, keept her cool and finished the story, a true pro.
Just like my fellow swede Linda who threw up on live TV and then just whent with it, a media hero :)

June 8, 2014 at 4:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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M

I used to work in news and had setups like that everyday. Fortunately, I've never had any accidents involving a stand falling on somebody, but I have had people walk by in tight spaces and inadvertently knock a light over. Never anything heavy. Usually just a smaller soft box. Even though there would be 0 damage to the light, the sensitive bulbs that we used would always snap inside just from the shock of the impact. Anyways... always sandbag!

June 8, 2014 at 5:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robsquatch

It's also my understanding that you go over the top of the head with the arm, unlike in the video where they are consistently going under with the arm.

June 9, 2014 at 4:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Brandon

It depends on the situation... Sometimes there is no option...but in this particular case, I would have gone over it b/c then the end of the arm would probably be over head height and it would be safer, even though you've had to extend your C-stand taller, which is less stable. It's not that high, and it's indoors, so that's less of a factor.

June 9, 2014 at 6:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Daniel Mimura

who makes the best cordless vacuum

June 25, 2014 at 12:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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