Essential Video gear – The C Stand

There is an ever increasing range of camera and lighting gear, new LED lights through to camera gimbals. But the C stand is probably the piece of gear that will be used on almost every shoot. The term ‘Century Stand’ goes back to the early days of motion picture production. Century Stands also known as “C Stands” are one of the most frequently used stands in the film industry. They are mainly used by grip and lighting and can support other things on film sets.


They are incredibly versatile and are a great tool to have in your arsenal. Sometimes referred to as a grip stand, and have nicknames – in the US a “Gary Coleman” or a “Billy Barty”, is a baby C-stand is only 20 inches at its shortest height. In the UK a short stand is called a “shotgun” flag stand – a reference to the stand having been “sawn off”.

A C-stand is primarily used to position light modifiers, such as silks, nets, or flags, in front of light sources. The stand is constructed of metal and consists of a collapsible base, two riser columns, and a baby pin on top. In addition, a C-stand includes a gobo head and a gobo arm, which provide the ability to articulate a light modifier without moving the stand itself. The legs of C stands are designed to be nested, so many stands can be placed around a light source.

In 1974 Matthews Studio Equipment became the first company to create and build the first folding leg C Stands and later became the first company to make stands with spring loaded folding legs. Now Matthews manufactures many different C stand models and continues to be a leader in the industry but there are a wide range of other companies making great C stands too.

C Stands come in many different configurations, lengths and finishes as well as three different options for the base. The unique staggered leg design allows C-Stands to be nested and therefore be placed extremely close to one another on set as well as aid in transport as the pack down really well. A C stand with a removable base or legs is said to have a Turtle base. A C-stand with an upper most leg which is movable on the vertical axis is called a Stair Leg C-stand as the unit can be placed on a stairway or sloping surfaces (while keeping the stand vertical), this is also called a Rocky Mountain leg in the US.

Using a C Stand

Always put big leg of C stand forward toward weight it is holding.

Keep knuckles on the right. Righty tighty. The right hand rule. Gravity will tighten, not loosen.

Start with top riser of stands first, then work your way to next riser.

When you hit the top of a riser on big stands, drop back down an inch or two so the stand wont bend at the joint. Especially on exterior locations.

Its always a good idea to make sure that the stand will be stable so don’t forget to use sand bags on the stand, to make sure it isn’t going anywhere.

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