December 29, 2015

3 Things You May Not Know About Setting Up C-Stands

There are tons and tons of ways to use a C-stand, which make them a must-have piece of equipment when shooting a film.

But using them isn't as easy as it looks. Seriously -- if you're looking at a C-stand and thinking, "What's the big deal? Just loosen those knobby things, pull out those bars, and plop a light on it," then your chances of accidentally knocking a light over and busting your buddy in the head just went up 10,000%. In this great tutorial, the folks over at RocketJump Film School help us out with terminology, safety precautions, and even a few tricks to ensure that nothing falls down and goes boom.

In case you couldn't watch the video, here are a few of the key C-stand tips RocketJump mentions:

  • Keep the big leg under the weight, because it provides the most support.
  • ALWAYS put a sandbag on the big leg, because the other legs are too short to keep the sandbag off of the floor (bag on floor = less support).
  • Keep the knuckles on the right side, because if the arm ever becomes loose and starts to fall, it'll self-tighten.

Near the end of the video they talk a little bit about soldiering C-stands, as well as how to safely walk around with them so as to not impale someone through the face.

What C-stand tips and tricks do you know? Feel free to comment below!     

Your Comment

10 Comments

Question to the grips here: I've heard someone saying that aside from having the knuckle on the right side - it's better to have the arm with the weight that goes through - *above* the center of the knuckle, rather than below it. As far as I know - shouldn't make any difference, since it will still be tightening on itself when it goes down with the weight - but am I missing anything?

December 29, 2015 at 2:43PM

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Gleb Volkov
Director of Photography
424

You're right, it makes no difference. Some people think it looks nicer but it doesn't matter.

December 30, 2015 at 7:01AM

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Danny Valentine
Gaffer/Director
234

Nice job, guys. Everyone who walks onto a set, especially for a low-budget, student, short etc... Should watch this video for a basic understanding. The smaller productions tend to have the biggest chance of having someone who doesn't know the protocol help set up a stand or two. C-stands are always around & these basic lessons lead to an overall safer set.
Additionally, remember to cap arms with a tennis ball for visibility if they must extend much behind the knuckle. Although this can be avoided 90% of the time by simply raising the stand and aiming downward if need be.

December 30, 2015 at 12:26AM

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J.M. Anderson
Director of Photography
502

There is a key grip that colleagues of mine have worked for who demands that you put your sand bags on the second leg instead of the first one - and will yell at you if you do it the other way. A good thing to remember: the "right" way is whatever way your superior wants it.

December 30, 2015 at 12:46PM

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Alan Dembek
Camera Assistant
273

Except that guy is totally wrong and doesn't understand basic physics. That "key grip" shouldn't be trusted with set safety if he can't set a c stand right.

December 30, 2015 at 1:27PM

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Except that guy who is "totally wrong" was the key grip for Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Minority Report, and has about 30 years of experience. So something tells me he's more qualified to speak on the matter than anyone here - including the people in the video.

December 30, 2015 at 3:47PM

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Alan Dembek
Camera Assistant
273

I do understand Newtonian physics and I agree with Alan: If you are only going to sandbag one leg, and the big leg is where it should be ( under where the mass the arm is supporting which isn't always directly at the end of the arm), sandbag the second leg. If the sandbag is on the side where the mass is, it cannot counteract the downward force of what ever you have attached to the end of the arm. and if you are worried about the sandbag dragging on the floor lay both sandbags across the leg instead of parallel to it.

Another (minor) correction: They are called Century stands because Century is the company that first invented them.

To protect the unwary who might be walking around the edges of a set, once the stand is set up put a bright colored tennis ball on the end of the arm that poking out behind the stand. You rather have someone bump their face on a tennis ball than a 5/8" metal rod.

December 30, 2015 at 8:41PM

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Ellis Vener
Photographer
81

I have a couple of things to add. The photo (at the top of article) of the hand tightening the C-stand head shows "bad form." Although the grip head is correctly positioned on the user's right hand side, the "knuckles" that lock or unlock the stand risers are incorrectly positioned on the same side as the grip head. They should be positioned on the user's left side. This prevents the user from getting the C-stand arm tangled up with the stand knuckles when the arm is being set in a more vertical position. This position also makes it easier to raise and lower a flag using the stand risers. The left hand can loosen and tighten the knuckles while the right hand can lift the weight from the stand grip head. Otherwise, one is crossing arms or fighting with the arm. Seems like a small detail but good form is all about quick, safe, and efficient motion. As far as sandbagging a working stand. I agree that the high leg is usually the go to leg for bagging a stand. However, in some situations here is an an acceptable alternative method: "Wrap" the "handle crease" of a sandbag around the base of the stand with the edge and weight of the bag resting on the small and middle legs. In this method, the weight is placed around the center of gravity. The reason for using this method is the following: Sometimes, multiple C-stands are placed in close proximity to each other for safety or to conserve floorspace. In such cases, the high leg of a second stand might be "nested" over the middle or low leg of the first C-stand (similar to the "soldiering" technique demonstrated in the video). In this situation, it could be difficult to place the sandbag over the large leg of the second stand because the bag can't "rest" properly without interfering with or moving the first stand. It gets more complicated if a third stand is added to the "nest." This is when the "around the base" method works best.

December 30, 2015 at 8:31PM

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Randolph Sellars
Director of Photography
325

Here is another great c-stand tutorial. http://youtu.be/UvgETwl7Iog

January 1, 2016 at 8:16AM, Edited January 1, 8:16AM

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Craig Steele
Best Boy Grip
74

Did anyone else notice, that at about 1min 55 seconds into the video, while demonstrating the arm locking in the head, the instructor said: with the knuckel on his left it will slip when pulling towards himself. He was really doing righty/tighty by pulling it towards him. Please note: the knuckle will slip going left or right, if not properly tightened to start with.
TJ
Key Grip

February 28, 2016 at 6:44PM

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TJ Beatty
Key Grip
74