One of the most powerful tools for you as a cinematographer is understanding light and shadow. This is where my Key Grip, Dave Knudson, comes in.
It’s all about shaping light and creating all those wonderful layers. We’re going to go through the tools that do that. It starts right there with the c-stand. Dave, take us through this baby…
This is your basic c-stand made by Matthews. They’ve been making it the same way, it’s not digital, it’s not phosphorous technology, it’s not LED; it’s steel, and that’s what I like about it.
The c-stand is very important. It’s the hammer of the film industry for a grip. We don’t build as many walls as we used to, but when we shape light, we want to use a c-stand and a flag.
We’ve got all different kinds of flags here. This is what we call a 2×3 flag. In the gripping world it’s all basically learned. The great thing about gripping is that it’s passed down from generation to generation. If I was on set with someone for their first couple of days, I would sit down and explain to them exactly how to use this stand, just like I’m going to explain to you now.
The thing with the c-stand is that you want to make sure you’re always safe with it and that the big leg is always facing the product. If you have an expensive object in front of the c-stand here that you’re lighting with a big soft source and Shane would like me to shape light on that product, I would take the big leg and face it toward the flag. I would take the flag, which has a soft side and a hard side, and face the flag toward the product. Then I would set the flag.
You put the grip head on the right side of the stand. These stands were perfectly designed by Matthews, or earlier by Century. They’ve made some adjustments on it. When you set it up and are ready to work, you have knuckles on the left and you have the grip heads with the big knuckles on the right side with righty tighty.
It also coincides with the big leg facing forward towards the product. So you want to set a flag and/or the weight you’re rigging to the c-stand out over the big leg.
We take the soft side of the flag and face it towards our product. We loosen up our grip head while making sure everything else is still tight. We insert the flag making sure everything is righty tighty and then tighten the grip head.
With their new technology in their grip heads you don’t have to crank it like you used to have to do.
You used to have to use all your weight to crank this thing.
You’d take a hammer to it, anything you could do to get it to stand. But that’s not a problem anymore. Just a little tight turn works.
What I like to do and what I’ve been taught from the very beginning is to always go up on the arm first. You never know how high you are going to go.
I’m always listening to Shane and paying attention. I want to be able to react to what he’s saying with the light because a lot of times you want to do this quickly. You want to buy him as much time to film as possible because that’s actually what we’re here for.
So again, loosen up the second, lower, grip head and go up on the arm. Always go up on the arm first without touching any of the risers. The light might go up or you might want to make a minor adjustment. If you don’t do it properly and you want to make a small adjustment to your flag, you’re going to have to reach way over your head. It just doesn’t make any sense and you can’t make a fine tune adjustment. So you want the grip head down at chest level so that if you want to make an adjustment you can do it better. It’s in a reachable area.
That’s basically it with c-stands. There are a few other basic things we are thinking about. If I want to do a hard cut, obviously, the closer I go to a product, the harder the cut, because it’s further away from the light. If I want to set a softer cut, I would go closer to the light rather than the product.
The only other thing I would tell someone on their first day is how to bag it properly. I would usually bag the middle leg. You want to counteract the weight that’s hanging over the big leg. Some people like to put it on the big leg which is also fine. As long as the whole bag is off the ground, then it’s fine.
I’m using c-stands for practically everything. LED fixtures: I’m using c-stands; I use the post to arm Dedos out. They’ve become not only the hammer in the grips’ toolkit, but they’ve also become such an incredible resource for us to be able to articulate and get the light exactly where we want it.
This lesson from Shane’s Inner Circle contains over 18 minutes of extensive video content and analysis.