For the last several years I’ve seemingly become obsessed with something that I’d never once thought about.
What is it? The ‘long arm’!
I’ve been working in the film industry in the US since 1989, and here in London since 2006.
One of the first things I noticed when I started working on sets over here, is that no one uses long arms when using a ‘C-stand’. When the gaffer gets on the walkie and says “Bring me in a tall C-stand”, 90% of the time the spark brings it in with just a knuckle. Then when the gaffer is setting the flag or net, and the DOP says ” Ok, lower that a little.” The gaffer gets back on his walkie-talkie and says “Bring me in a long arm.” Most DOP’s I work with would sit on the dolly opened mouth watching this event.
Now why do you think they don’t use long arms naturally here? I have a few theories.
They’ll say they don’t use long arms because it adds another joint, and makes it easier for the flag or net to droop. That may have been true all those years ago when grip heads (kunckles) were crappy. You couldn’t get a good hold on Small ‘t-handles’ , and the cork washers used to break apart and supply no grip. Grip heads are so much better now. My favorite is the Matthews Studio Equipment grip head. It’s got a big ‘T-handle’ only two holes, and locks so tight that ‘righty-tighty’ hardly matters anymore!
They sometimes say that if you use the arm, it’ll place the grip head too high to use. That’s a bit ridiculous considering the grip head is only 2.5 inches. Add another inch of exposed long arm, and at the most you’ve added 3.5 inches to your stand. If you need to be that much lower, or even lower than that, use the long arm! If you don’t “need” the long arm, DON’T USE IT! But that doesn’t mean you have to take it out and dramatically throw it on the floor muttering about how unsafe they are, while at the same time creating a trip hazard.