A c-stand is a device used in film or video production to position light modifiers, such as silks, nets, or flags, in front of light sources. It consists of a collapsible base, two riser columns, and a baby pin on top.
In addition, a C-stand can rotate a light modifier without moving the stand itself. The C-stand comes with a gobo head and a gobo arm. The gobo arm lets you articulate a light modifier without moving the stand. The legs of the C-stand can be nested together for easy storage.
The term C-stand derives from Century stand and comes from the early history of lighting equipment, where a popular sized sun reflector was 100 inches square, or century.
Today the term C-stand is a popular name for the grip stand made by Matthews studio equipment and has been copied by other manufacturers.
C-stands are also employed to position smaller light fixtures. A typical use would be to offset a backlight from the stand column so that the stand itself can be placed out of shot, while the backlight hovers somewhere above the top edge of the frame.
In recent years, C-stands have found a new use, supporting the brackets used for balancing Steadicam (and similar) camera sleds. Due to the off-center weight distribution in this practice, it is necessary to use sandbags to add weight to the C-stand leg opposite the camera sled.
A C-stand is sometimes referred to as a "grip stand". While the grip department always carries C stands, sometimes the electric department may as well, for use well as lights that don't mount onto baby or junior stands, such as kinos.
A "baby C-stand" is only 20 inches at its shortest height. It is nicknamed a "Gary Coleman" or a "Billy Barty" stand in the US. In the UK a short flag stand with stubby legs is called a "shotgun" flag stand (a reference to the stand having been sawn off).
A C-stand with a removable base is called a C-stand with a turtle base. The opening at the top of the turtle base accepts the base of the c-stand upright or a junior pin. Turtle bases are great for setting up lighting equipment very low to the ground.
A C-stand with an uppermost leg that is moveable on the vertical axis is called a Stair Leg C-stand as the unit can be placed on a stairway. Also called a Rocky Mountain leg.