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Sharing your gear

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Sharing your gear

There are at least a couple groups of theaters running CCI gear that have formed loose collectives to share the CCI gear that they own with each other. If one theater needs a piece of gear and another theater has it to lend, everyone wins.

One group is in Southern California and members include San Diego State, Old Globe Theatre, Southcoast Rep, and Cal State Fullerton. The other group is in the Seattle area and includes the Village Theatre, A Contemporary Theater, and Seattle Pacific University.

The benefits are enormous for the participating theaters. If you need to supplement your own inventory for a big show, there’s always a good chance you can borrow from the theaters around you instead of investing in equipment that you might not need again. We’ve even heard stories of these groups moving beyond automation and sharing other kinds of equipment through the same email lists. It’s nice to know our gear can bring people together!

In the next couple of months, we’re going to look at the map and see if there are other areas that fit this pattern and work to put people in touch with each other. It doesn’t need to be big; even two theaters can each have a much bigger ‘virtual’ inventory.

If you’re interested in being a part of something like this, drop me a line at ian@creativeconners.com and we’ll find out where the nearest CCI gear is to you. Sharing is good.

Spikemark Log Viewer

If you’re having trouble with a show (automation-wise, there’s nothing we can do about bad acting) and you’re not sure what happened during a cue or a sequence of cues, one of the first things you should do is check out the show log, using our fancy Silverlight-powered Log Viewer. This Silverlight viewer is web-based, so you launch it from a browser and then open your show file in it. Here’s the link to the viewer (don’t forget to bookmark it):

http://garethconner.pairserver.com/logviewerapp

The app is handy. An entry is created each time a motor changes state, a cue is run, or a link executes. The entry includes the name of the motor or cue or link, what happened and a time stamp. Reviewing these messages will help you narrow down what did (and didn’t) happen and hopefully speed up the troubleshooting process.  You can quickly filter messages by typing a motor name, or part of a message in the search window.  For example, to see only SL Wagon log entries just type “SL Wagon” into the search box.  Or if you want to find a network connection problem type “Connection”.

BTW, if you’re a geeky type, reviewing your show file is a great way to get to know SpikeMark from the inside. It’s really interesting to see exactly what SpikeMark does to make your show move.

Spikemark as an iPad app

For years Gareth has been talking about making a tool like a remote focus unit (RFU) for Spikemark. It would be great to stand on stage and jog motors into position for a cue, or just check the movement. The advantages are obvious: You could be close by while actors are riding the wagon for the first time; setting pieces that get very close to each other would be much simpler; and you could set wagons or perform preset checks without communicating with the booth.

The biggest obstacle, as usual, had been hardware. Gareth experimented with a Dell laptop/tablet about two years ago, but there were some problems that kept the project from getting past the prototype phase. The first problem was the Windows interface, which didn’t lend itself to handheld use. The second problem was the cost- the user would have to purchase a $2000 piece of hardware to run a piece of software that is already running on the show computer.

When the iPad was introduced 18 months ago, Gareth began to revisit the idea. (We love our Apple products here at Creative Conners) The iPad solves the form factor and cost problems and the ubiquity and ease of use of the iPad would help get people comfortable with the interface. The iPad is wifi only, so the show would have to setup a wifi network, but that doesn’t seem like a big deal these days.

The RFU would not be a complete show computer. Instead, a custom application would be written that would only incorporate the the RFU functionality. A rough feature list would be (1)display a list of motors in the show, (2) jog any motor and view scaled position values, (3) display a list of cues in the show and (4) run any cue in the show. What the RFU wouldn’t do is create and edit cues. That would clog up the interface and it’s a job better left for the full-blown Spikemark on the show computer.

Now that the company is expanding, there might be time to write an iOS app. So let me ask you these questions: Is this something you want?  How do you see it making your life easier? what would it need to do? We’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or email me at ian@creativeconners.com.

Creative Conners and LDI

Editors note: As part of the new customer outreach program, we have decided to discuss in this blog some of the business decisions made here at Creative Conners. We hope that this transparency is interesting. Most importantly, we’d like to hear your opinions, because whether you buy CCI gear or not, you’re interested enough to read this blog, so your opinion counts.

Earlier today we decided not to exhibit at the LDI convention this year. We were weighing the idea as part of our new marketing push where everything is ‘on the table’, but when we ran the numbers, we just didn’t see how the investment of time and money would pay off in the short term. We think it would be great to increase our visibility, while at the same time getting out there and meeting new people. But we also have to be smart about spending resources.

We figure it would cost at least $35,000 to exhibit at LDI. In rough numbers:  the booth, electrical services, marketing materials, signage and shipping the gear would cost $10,000. We would have 2 people at the show, so airfare, hotel, per diem, and rental car would run another $5,000. Finally, we have to build new shiny gear for the booth (can’t show up with dirty, scratched machinery). We could recoup those costs when we sell the gear, but from a cash flow perspective, it’s another $20,000.

Also, there’s the investment of time. We would be out of the shop for 6 days. Imagine if we could turn off the phone for 6 days and let Gareth and Royal do nothing but develop a new product. There are a lot of new ideas that we want to get prototyped and into the hands of our customers and the biggest thing stopping us is the time needed to really focus on it.

We’d like to grow our catalog of products and increase our sales. Once that happens, we’ll take a look at LDI 2012. Hopefully we’ll see you there.

And so it begins…

Our first parts rack has landed in our new shop… (looks kinda lonely all by itself)

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