August 24, 2014

This Low-Budget Alternative to C-Stands Could Save You Hundreds of Dollars

Few filmmaking tools are as ubiquitous and multifunctional as the C-Stand. From mounting lights at any conceivable angle to flying modifiers/flags, C-Stands have literally hundreds of uses on a film set. The only problem: C-Stands are not cheap. At roughly $150 a piece -- and that's for the cheaper models -- C-Stands aren't something to which low and no-budget filmmakers have constant access. Luckily, there are some significantly less expensive alternatives out there that can provide much of the same functionality at a fraction of the cost. Scott Eggleston over at the Frugal Filmmaker has one such alternative that he'd like to show you, and it will only set you back $20.

So there you have it, a quick guide for coaxing C-Stand functionality out of a $16 microphone stand using only a few basic accessories, most importantly the 1/4-20 to female mic stand adapter, which opens up an entire world of possibilities for what can be mounted to the end of the stand. This is an absolutely fantastic way to replicate some of the practical uses of a C-Stand without having to shell out more money than you're willing to spend on grip equipment.

As a note of caution, however, despite the fact that a setup like this one might be incredibly useful for mounting and flying lighter items such as microphones, portable LEDs, and small modifiers, it certainly won't replace traditional C-Stands for safely holding heavier objects. Mic stands are not made to hold the amount of weight that C-Stands are, so in order to maintain a safe set, you'll want to avoid mounting heavy lights or modifiers to a stand like this, especially if you're mounting them at the end of the extendable arm.

As with all stands on a film set, it's important to practice proper safety techniques by weighing down the stand with a sandbag, and making sure that weight is on the opposite side of the stand from whatever you have mounted to it.

Another thing that's worth mentioning is that C-Stands are an absolutely fantastic investment if you're serious about making a living in either video production or studio photography. Unlike cameras and other pieces of digital technology, C-Stands will never become obsolete. Additionally, most of them are literally built like a tank, and should last you for many years.

Link: The Poor Man's C-Stand -- The Frugal Filmmaker

Your Comment

38 Comments

Awesome write up Rob. and good work on finding that dude on youtube... i think another use for this kind of 'c stand' mic stand whatever you want to call it... is holding the backdrop and 2 mics (one on each stand) this way you'll get a nice taught backdrop and if you use white sheets or whatever you can effectively create silhouettes very easily by putting a couple of lights behind the sheet while suspended (just bear in mind SAFETY especially if using incandescent bulbs or "hot Lights")

but as a full on replacement for a c stand - well nothing will beat the endless capabilities of those beauties /// wish I could buy some.. but alas the price (even for 2nd hand ones) is always at a premium...

my other thought for this is maybe it could hold the 2nd camera in an 'interview' type set up... (dslr or go pro or something smaller an wayyyy lighter than a full blown film camera)

any how that's my thoughts.... (i might be a tad off with the weight on the last suggestion but ... i'm going with the legs extended and the neck extended and leave the head as close to the neck as possible)

August 25, 2014 at 12:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Bryce

Don't do this. Well, maybe, if you're in an absolute pinch. Just rent c-stands. You don't have to buy c-stands. There are rental houses to help. I didn't watch the whole video, but no matter what learn the right hand rule: the knuckles should be on the right side. Whatever your hanging, the weight will force the arm to tighten. If your knuckles are on the left side, the weight will drop and the knuckle will loosen, and gear will fall from the sky (and potentially hurt someone). If you're looking for lighting or grip help, use Harry Box's book; The Set Lighting Technician's Handbook.

August 25, 2014 at 12:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Anonymous

Seriously, C-stands rent out for like $5 a day.

August 25, 2014 at 11:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
dembek

If you leave near a place that rents them. Not all of us live near rental houses.

August 25, 2014 at 1:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Doug

yeah, no joke! I checked my last rental receipt and it was $8 per c-stand w/ arm for a weekend. DIY improve is great, and awesome in a pinch when you didn't get enough of "x part", but in this case it makes no sense at all - especially more so if you intend on using lights that cost more then most cameras discussed on NFS. Frankly most folks shouldn't even be buying grip gear! Leave that to the rental houses and just spend 3 or 4 hundred bucks for a years worth of liability inland marine coverage and just rent what you need when you need it. Not only will you not waste time re-inventing the wheel, but you'll end up spending less! Also you won't go crazy trying to inventory all those spuds, gobos, scrims, etc in-between shoots... let alone using precious space to store it all. If you're gonna spend money, my suggestion is buy a set of primes and MAYBE a camera of some kind as a backup - rent everything else. YMMV

August 25, 2014 at 10:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply

I rented a few c-stands and some reflectors for a gig once. Only cost me about $40 for the weekend which is great. However, they held the value of the merchandise ($650!) until I returned it. I don't know how to avoid that hold. Is that where insurance comes in? I've only once had to rent equipment on my own that one time. Usually I'm working on a gig where someone else is in charge of that.

August 26, 2014 at 4:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Nick

Deposits vary from house to house - having production insurance usually waives any deposit fees, but some houses have made me leave a deposit for the amount of my insurance deductible. Once you create a decent working relationship with a rental house, they will move you to a net 30 term payment. This makes things much easier. Deposits are annoying... especially when you're trying to shoot an indie film on a shoestring budget.

October 23, 2015 at 5:54PM

Reply
Mark Austin Heim
Producer
85

yup, rule #1 SAFETY Everything.
...If it can fall over, electric you, trip you or catch something on fire... chances are it will!

Sounds stupid, but when you've been working 6-12 hours and your hot, tired and you just want to nail "the shot" someone will get careless. It happens; safety first always.

Before setting up a piece of gear make sure to ask, "how do I best safety this?".
Here is another great use of rental houses, just call them and ask.

August 25, 2014 at 10:16PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply

I'm also in the "don't do this" camp. I appreciate most articles on here, and I also really appreciate no budget, out of the box thinking...and I think sometimes it's a badge of honor (in addition to shame) to be involved with something that gets on shittyrigs.com...but this article shouldn't even be posted. C-stands are cheap! Compare c-stands to almost anything in the camera department...you could buy half a dozen or more c-stands for the price of a baseplate. Use the right tool for the job...there are reasons to do workaround when the piece of equipment is expensive or hard to find, but c-stands are not... Also, that's ignoring the safety factor, which can't be stressed enough.

September 3, 2014 at 6:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Daniel Mimura

Seems like SAND BAGS would be a great addition to this setup and aid in holding heavier lights and flags.

August 25, 2014 at 12:57AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
earnestreply

I don't think this solution is a good idea -I've tried experimenting with it and a mic stand is very shaky, just look at the arm shake in the video when he attaches a top light. Mic stands are not built sturdy enough -the base does not have enough spread. You might be better off adapting a cheap light stand as an alternative.

August 25, 2014 at 2:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Stephen

Stupid idea is stupid…. don't call this a c-stand, please.

You can call it: "something homemade to hold stuff that doesn't weigh anything."

A proper c-stand will however take 10kg (obviously a little less on the extension arm. But this flimsy shit… eek.
I have a mic stand, but it only gets used as a mic stand.

August 25, 2014 at 3:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Torben Greve

Why is this on nofilmschool.com?

August 25, 2014 at 4:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Max

Nope. Not a c-stand alternative. Not even close.

August 25, 2014 at 8:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Juju

I was thinking the same thing.

August 25, 2014 at 9:22AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Michael Hawk

I definitely agree that this is not a viable alternative to an actual c-stand. The major reason to use a c-stand over a cheap light stand is because it is big and heavy.

That said, for the uses indicated in the video (china ball, small, LED's) and a variety of other uses I can think of, these cheap mic stands with adapter would work great. I'm gonna pick-up a few.

August 25, 2014 at 9:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Joseph Moore

Seriously? This "advice" is potentially VERY DANGEROUS when some kid tries to hang a 1000W work light over head and the whole thing crashes down, because, well - IT AIN'T MADE FOR THIS.

August 25, 2014 at 9:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
BearWithMe

comments here are dead on, I would never use this to put any kind of light. It's still a mic stand after changing the connector. If you really need em, rent em.

August 25, 2014 at 10:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
mranderson

It looks like an eBay territory.

August 25, 2014 at 11:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
DLD

Maybe these are fine for really light applications, but there's no way in hell that you can call this an alternative to a C-Stand.

August 25, 2014 at 12:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Brian

So it's basically a cheaper version that's not strong enough to do the job.

Great article. Really...

August 25, 2014 at 12:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
FabDex

And I have this to add: don't post fucking stupid shit if it's fucking stupid shit. Better not post anything than idiotic cheapass crap. Stop lowering your posting standards !!

August 25, 2014 at 12:32PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
FabDex

Woah there, unnecessarily angry guy. Settle yourself down and take a step back. Chances are that if your budget is low enough that you need to resort to a solution like this, you're not going to be using it to fly a 1K fresnel over somebody or anything like that where you would need a traditional C-Stand.

However, this setup would help you fly small LEDs and clip lights over the head of a character. With some grip clips you use it to hold up flags and light modifiers. That's what the point of the video was, and frankly that kind of thing can be helpful to people just starting out. Not to mention that I have a bold and underlined section of the article that states, "it certainly won’t replace traditional C-Stands for safely holding heavier objects."

So cool your jets, guy. Take this for what it is, an inexpensive method for no-budget filmmakers to fly light items in a way that would traditionally require a C-Stand. If you don't like it, move along and take your vitriolic remarks elsewhere.

August 25, 2014 at 2:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
avatar
Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4745

+1, I'm that no budget guy. If you don't like an article, then enjoy your liberty to not read it. I've disagreed with some of the articles here (like 3, in over a year) and surprise - I just don't read them. I challenge you to take the ALS IceBucket challenge and chill.

August 25, 2014 at 3:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Kent

And vitriolic is a great word.

August 25, 2014 at 3:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Kent

Nobody said to throw your common sense overboard and hang a 1K fresnel on this! I mean, it wouldn't work anyways, not for a second...

I have used microphone boom stands (although the larger type that are a little higher than the one in the video) to fly small LED lights. It is useful if you are alone and shooting for tv - everything needs to be quick and it needs to fit into one car and you need to be able to carry it by yourself.

In those situations a C-stand is not an option, but you can stand out from your competition if you manage to light an interview better, but you don't need more time or more people because your hair light or edge light is just a small LED that weighs virtually nothing (and can be very safely operated on a microphone boom stand)

August 28, 2014 at 7:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Heiko

Are you people stupid or just can't read?

August 25, 2014 at 1:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Space Captain

+1

August 25, 2014 at 3:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Kent

l would never consider using a C stand - it defeats the whole purpose. The "DSLR revolution" meant we could use lightweight portable cameras - Led lights mean we can use light portable go anywhere lights - if you need more power, use Lowel brand hot lights, which are still lightweight portable and BRIGHT. Not that I need a lot of bright lights these days because the cameras just keep getting better. I porduce professional results both indoors and out - with no need for any of this old fashioned overweight gear - and I don't need to buy into expensive fads like "Gimbals" either - which will end up gathering dust in a closet anyway. If you're still carting around dinosaur gear like C stands then you've missed the boat - why not use a heavy old mitchell camera while you're at it?

August 25, 2014 at 2:44PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Ed Wright

Good article.

August 25, 2014 at 2:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
William

Not a low budget alternative. A very dangerous diy. I have been a gaffer for last 10 years. Seen my fair amount of silly rigging, done my fair share too. This is NOT a good option. It is a mic stand NOT an alternative to a C stand.

August 25, 2014 at 3:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Hetinka

If you use a small battery-operated LED light, like he does in the video, the microphone boom stand is not more dangerous than if you use it with a microphone.

The title might be misleading, though. It is not really an "alternative" to a C-stand. You can only use it to mount things that are about the same weight as a microphone.

August 28, 2014 at 7:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Heiko

I don't work as a gaffer or grip but before working in film and TV I worked many years as a lighting technician and stage/rigging technician in professional theatre so believe me when I say I have seen enough silly accidents to know that you should never screw around with diy rigging like, ever. Things get load rated for a very good reason, not least of which is you wont have a leg to stand on if someone gets hurt.

THAT SAID: Rob made it VERY clear that this is not something you should use to replace a proper C-Stand and even in the video, the dude is rigging a china ball and a tiny LED and if I was going to be shooting something on a spontaneous whim with a couple friends then this may or may not come in handy. Those aren't the kind of shoots where we are gonna rent kit, it isn't the kind of load that would cause any kind of accident and it isn't the kind of company that is gonna sue my ass if they get their arm broken by a paper lantern :p

Granted the headline is a touch of an exaggeration (seriously, if there actually was anything wrong here it would be that), but it's a nice little 'hack' none the less :)

August 25, 2014 at 9:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply

Your right Kraig. The authour does give some cation. The title and opening paragraph read as if it is a true alternative, which is what concerned me. Wonder if the music stand would compliment as a combo ;-)

August 25, 2014 at 11:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Hetinka

Buying quality grip is the best investment you can make—it almost never wears out and gives you more chance to play around. If you don't travel and mostly do narrative, just buy a C stand already. If you do travel, or mostly do doc, pick up a more-versatile and lighter combi-boom. It's that simple. Ask for them for birthday or christmas if you can't afford them. But don't do something like this which you'll end up having to replace in no time anyway.

August 26, 2014 at 9:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Jeremy Nelson

While I normally love DIY budget media tools I think this approach should be taken with a grain of salt(but incredibly handy to keep up your sleeve). As many of us work as our own grip/electrics/DP's/ everything else, safety should be paramount above all else for cast and crew. This "could" work in a pinch if you have a babysitter, but the whole point of most C-stand applications is to replace a person to hold a Fixture/Net/Backdrop. I know regular 40" C-stands can be clunky, especially if put in a 92' hatchback civic for transport but instead of ripping a guy for having a decent idea I offer a suggestion. Rent a turtle C-stand. The tri-foot base is removable and collapsible and the riser can be tucked away together in your car. Plus you get a free junior turtle base for floor mounted 5k's and production fans should you not need the riser. This video is cool info and can make you a Mcguyver when you run out of C-stand's but bagging a Mic stand still gives you a shaky stand and a shaky stand is usually a falling stand. As an a reader of Nofilmschool I rarely comment on the cool stuff you guys share because I still have alot to learn but after 3 years working in a G&E rental house I can tell you that the turtle stand is one of the least requested item(often one or two) even on medium size grip packages. Cool Video and thanks for sharing and I look forward to any comments or suggestions.

August 26, 2014 at 9:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Jonathan Simmons

This is rubbish. Why would anyone who's on a budget want a c stand to attach a light to, there is countless stands out there to attach lights to that cost far less, and weight far less, you can get much more practical rigging material for overhead lighting when it comes to an LED light the size of a match box. 2nd this guy obviously doesn't know what c-stands are primarily used for, flags, frames and nets, I can count maybe 10 occasions I've used a c-stand for a light. He points out that a c-stand comes with a gobo head or knuckle as they're sometimes referred to, however that threaded adapter he came up with is not an alternative, a c-stand without a gobo head is not a c-stand. How in gods name can you rig a flag/frame to that thing, gaffer tape? Haha

August 28, 2014 at 5:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Gino Lynch

Yes I was a gaffer for years. One of the first things that you learn with C-stands, is "Righty tighty" "Lefty loosey" — I would be very careful using such rigs as this. I wouldn't even attempt it unless the above rules were in place, and there was a hefty sandbag on the stand — and only if it was a feather weight unit on the boom. We would boom 5K Fres on a specified boom arm with counter balance and safety wires, this is dangerous business, and I'd say buy a C-stand, what's $200 really? Oh, better to risk something hitting someone on the head?

August 29, 2014 at 10:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

Reply
Stu Kawowski