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Old August 9th, 2008, 04:26 PM   #1
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c-stand versus regular stand

When do you use a c-stand versus a regular lighting stand? Having looked at the specs, and the prices (c-stands seem generally simpler in construction but more expensive) it's not immediately obvious why c-stands are used. I appreciate being able to put them closer together, and being able to get them into a corner...what else am I missing?

I was comparing the ones from Arri/Manfrotto...for instance the "standard" Master Stand versus, say, the 30 or 40 inch c-stand.

I have pretty much saved up my wages enough to invest in a basic lighting kit, enough for interviews and carefully augmenting practicals and daylight, and I need to hold these up off the floor for best effect, in my humble opinion.

Thanks in advance.
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Old August 9th, 2008, 04:43 PM   #2
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I use C-stands mostly for holding flags, but on occasion for a light when I need to extend a boom out kind of far. For example, you can use a double arm and place the light directly behind a person for a backlight and keep the C-stand out of the frame. You have to weight it down with sandbags, of course, when doing this. They're also handy if you us heavier fluorescent lights, such as Lowel's Caselights. The Caselights come with small stands that fold up into the cases, very handy but not very sturdy and the lights don't tilt much. So you can mount one on a C-stand and angle it better. I also use a C-stand with a mic fishpole holder.
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Old August 9th, 2008, 06:14 PM   #3
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I think the main difference is that traditional light stands are designed for portability by way of folding for transport and typically try to keep their weight down as much as possible consistent with rigidity.

C-stands are designed primarily for durability. Every C-stand I own weights at least three times as much as any light stand I own. And I bet they last more than three times as long - all other things being equal.

Hauling C-stands out to a location can be a pain.

Working in the studio with light stands can equally be a pain since they're easier to knock over and require more prep and dress to be secure.

Different design focus.
Different strengths.

YMMV
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Old August 9th, 2008, 07:25 PM   #4
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C Stands can be taller than most regular stands (unless you got a shorter C stand) and they have a different style of leg so you can put a taller C Stand into a smaller floor space than some regular stands so I use them as needed for both lights and flags. I don't use regular stands with arms very often but I use C stands with arms consistently. Adding a few c Stands to a kit with regular stands can give your lighting quite a bit of extra flexibility.
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Old August 11th, 2008, 10:10 PM   #5
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What makes the most sense is the strength-in-terms-of-durability angle. That would account for the extra weight, despite not being rated to hold heavier loads. And maybe that extra weight, if most of it is in the base, accounts for greater inherent stability- as the only other factor really is area of the base, which if generally smaller, is less suited to off-centre loads.

Hmmm. Sounds like they might be more trouble than worth it in the field. Especially if it is literally a field.

Thanks chaps.
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Old August 11th, 2008, 10:30 PM   #6
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C stands are heavier but also sturdier. They can hold more when properly sand bagged. But the reason they were designed like they are with a low leg, medium leg and a high leg is so that you can nest the stands closer together without having the same issues of legs tangling together like the more common light stands. For example, you can have a stand with a low leg under a medium leg on another stand and that stand can be under a high leg on another stand.
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Old August 12th, 2008, 07:04 AM   #7
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C stands are great, they're used for more complex productions both on location (including fields) and in the studio. However,they're not really intended to be used on small crewed documentaries filming basic interviews. They really come into their own when you're doing work which demands more control than using a basic lighting kit.

You can use a master stand (sandbagged) with the arm from a C stand, which works well for the odd flag etc. However, once the forest starts to grow, the C stands really start to come into their own because of all the features people have mentioned.
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Old August 12th, 2008, 09:53 AM   #8
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I actually prefer C stands even for interviews because they are easier to fit into smaller spaces that the typical tripod light stands and are also easier to secure in situations where a stand might be walked into. They are a pain to move to location due to weight. Once there, however, they're worth it.
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Old August 12th, 2008, 01:20 PM   #9
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I was trying to do a comparison, and perhaps that ended up being unfair to the c-stands.

I picked the Arri/Manfrotto Master stand (LS.3) versus the 40" Century Stand (LA.2005.A).

I picked them as roughly similar based on the heights. The Master Stand (MS) goes from 109cm to 385cm, the C-stand (CS) from 134cm to 328cm. So the MS would seem to have the advantage here in terms of range. Maximum load for the MS is 9kg versus 10kg for the CS. The circular area occupied by the base of the MS is 109cm in diameter- for the CS it is 95cm.

So it's not that much more compact. When people say it is easier to stabilise- as I said apart from the greater weight- the only thing I can see in the CS's favour is the horizontal section of the leg tube, which would make sandbagging easier, I assume.

Again, going from the Arri/Manfrotto catalogue, c-stands are far from the tallest stands they sell (though pricing and construction diverges away from the master stand design by a great deal), but there's the 269HDBU Super Giant Stand, and that tops 7 metres.

In terms of what you *can* do with it, well, they both come with baby studs. It seems people associate c-stands with lighting control (flags, scrims, gels, diffusion), possibly for historical reasons? Yes, and maybe because you have a few in front of a single light source.

Again though, durability is going to be important to a lot of people, esp. rental houses, and if you have burly grip-types to carry them, the weight is no issue.

Or my figures are biased because Arri/Manfrotto make great master stands and/or awful c-stands?

This is mainly idle curiosity though, so no-one needs to feel they have to chip in. I'm just interested, though I am tempted to get the one c-stand (instead of all master stands and one boom stand) just to see if I end up preferring it.
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Old August 12th, 2008, 03:24 PM   #10
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I love using C-Stands with the "puck" to get a 40" arm in there to reach my hair light up and over talent for seated interviews. As well, two C-Stands with 40" arms linked together make a reasonable back drop support in a pinch.
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Old August 12th, 2008, 03:44 PM   #11
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I've got a mock setup in my office now. One c-stand with the gobo arm extended holding a 4x4 silk. The other with the gobo arm extended and a Lowel DP light fixed on the end of it. In that config, the c-stand can be used in a high or low config, I can push the arm wide to reach around an obstacle, I can pivot the light any way I like, and I can lock it at any angle I choose.

As previously mentioned the c-stands can act hold flags, scrims, diffusion, backgrounds, etc. You can put two together and simulate a with some mafler clamps with baby pins. I can clamp a couple workshop lights on them for eyelights.

Very versatile, nearly bulletproof, and reasonably inexpensive. I think my Matthews stands were about $160.
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Old August 14th, 2008, 05:50 PM   #12
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One other nice feature I don't think anyone else mentioned is the ability to move the legs up and down so you can adjust where they go. This is nice for placement of the stand in a weird spot like on a stairway where you could have two legs on one step and the other one on the step above it. This would also work on a hill or any other non-flat surface as well to allow you to level the stand by adjusting where the legs go. I don't know if all C-Stands have this feature but most of the ones I've worked with do.
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Old August 14th, 2008, 09:50 PM   #13
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Most people have mentioned what they use their c-stands for- but few have said why the c-stand is superior for that task.

That's what I'm most interested in getting to the bottom of.

As for legs, I don't know which wins for maximum adjustability for non-level ground, but most of the normal, non-c stands (how do people generally refer to them?) seem to offer variants with levelling legs, certainly the aforementioned LS.3 Master Stand does.

Just to confirm, I'm not leading some kind of campaign here, just a chap who has always liked to know why things are done the way they're done so I can tell the difference between tradition for the sake of tradition, and tradition founded on evidence, and that remains true today. And it makes me look ungrateful and argumentative, but...erm...ah...well...

...mumble...mumble...
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Old August 14th, 2008, 10:11 PM   #14
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I think the C-Stand is superior for all the things we mentioned we use it for. Otherwise we'd use something else. I have plenty of both. Most common light stands do not have adjustable legs so you have to purchase more expensive stands to do it. Meanwhile most C-Stands DO have adjustable legs and are included in the normal price.

Try one of each for a few things and see what YOU think.
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Old August 16th, 2008, 04:31 AM   #15
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Not to make this difficult, but these things are just different. You'll start to understand that as you work with them. There are just some things that C-stands are superior for. Period.

For instance, my Avenger C-stands center poles can be removed from their turtle bases and moved to heavy duty roller bases. When I do that, the mass of the pole and wheel combination makes them MANY times more stable than even large light stands on wheels.

I do a lot of work in retail environments where the crew has to cover perhaps 6-12 in-store locations in a typical shoot where we take over the store after hours.

Having sturdy, mobil light stands that can take a weighty softbox or a Kino-flo fixture and keep it stable while efficiently wheeling from location to location around the store is a BIG on-set time saving advantage.

Even the larger "light stands with wheels" are typically MUCH lighter and less stable than C-stands, and I just can't risk tipping one into a store display or having a light stand fall and blow a lamp on a shoot where we're typically burning through several thousand dollars an hour in the cost of the crew, talent, equipment and company suits who populate a typical corporate shoot set.

Properly constructed C-stands are the result of DECADES of trial and error focused on creating a tool that works right for motion picture production.

Light stands have their place. So do C-stands. Experience will quickly tell you which you need and when.

Simple as that.
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