Ode to the C-Stand
Updated: Feb 7, 2020
It is the ultimate, versatile production tool. There is little on a production set that it cannot hold, brace or help manipulate. The C-stand or Century Stand is the name given to this extremely versatile grip device. There are many knock-offs, but the C-stand has become a generic term for this tool manufactured originally by Matthews Studio Equipment. Oddly enough, the term derives from an earlier piece of equipment that was actually a lighting reflector that was 100” square, hence the ‘century’ nomenclature.
A C-stand’s primary function is in holding flags, nets and silks in front of lighting instruments to modify and control the intensity, scope and quality of a lighting instrument. In cinema, the Director of Photography and his or her lighting surrogates, like gaffers, are understandably obsessed with modifying light. The real determination of a particular cinematic “look” is often determined by tight and rigorous control of light reaching the subject matter. More than this, C-stands routinely hold monitors, boom microphones, antennas and props or pieces of set in place.
This is one of those cinematic tools that is deceptively sophisticated in its design. Think of the requirements: strong - to hold significant weight, variable - by height and reach, durable - to handle years of production abuse, light weight - for quick transportation and precision positioning, all to be able to place and secure a flag or net within fractions of an inch. Often the C-stand can function as an actual light stand, able to position a smaller lighting instrument in a normally inaccessible position or angle. The individual legs of a C-stand are of different height so the stands can become “nested” meaning numerous stands can be placed closely together around one light source.
If you really want to increase your production street cred around the grip and lighting department ask if they have a “Gary Coleman” - a baby C-stand (20 inches high) for low work, or if they have a “Rocky Mountain” leg on that stand - one where the top leg is moveable up and down to accommodate an uneven surface like stairs or a hill.