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Spikemark Tip of the Week

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Spikemark Tip of the Week

A common question we get here at Creative Conners is how to build a multi-step cue. We will look at two possible scenarios and explain how to achieve the effect using Spikemark.

The first scenario: A turntable rotates slowly at one speed and then at a certain point,  without stopping, the speed changes and the turntable continues at the new speed until the cue ends. This is actually pretty simple to pull off. The trick is to write two cues that overlap, and when the second cue starts, it will smoothly take control of the turntable. Let’s take it step by step. Cue #1 rotates the turntable at 1 revolution per minute with a target of 720 degrees. The second cue rotates the turntable at 2 revolutions per minute and also has a target of 720 degrees. Cue #2 is linked to Cue #1 with a position trigger, so that when the turntable hits 360 degrees Cue #2 will start. When cue #1 runs, as soon as the turntable hits 360 degrees cue #2 takes over, speeds up the revolve, and completes the cue. Cue #1 never completes since it is superseded by cue #2, but that’s OK, Spikemark simply moves on to the next cue.

Our second scenario: A wagon tracks upstage towards a wall and when it gets near the wall, the wall bi-parts, allowing the wagon to travel through. The problem with this scenario is that you don’t want the wagon to crash into the wall panels, and you don’t want the walls to open until absolutely necessary so that the movement looks slick. The solution here is three cues. Cue #1 has a target that stops the wagon before it gets to the wall (in case the wall does not open). Cue #2  opens the wall, and can be driven with a position link to of cue #1. Cue #3 moves the wagon through the wall and can be triggered with a position link that references the wall opening once the gap is wide enough for the wagon to get through. The trick is that cue #3 is triggered from cue #2 before cue #1 finishes, so it looks like the wagon has one fluid motion towards it’s upstage target.  If something goes wrong, and the walls don’t open, the trigger point for cue #3 is never reached and cue #1 stops the wagon short of a collision.  Pretty neat, right?

By the way, multi-speed cueing is explained in the Spikemark manual on Page 103. That chapter has a lot of info about complex cue creation and I urge everyone to check it out.

Creative Conners Overview Video

As promised, the new Overview Video is now up on YouTube and on the website. You can see it here.

This video is a quick and easy way to see what the Creative Conners automation system is all about. We show what components make up the system, how easy it is to hook up and what cue creation looks like.

So if you’re telling your friends how great the CCI gear is, tell them about the video and they can see for themselves!

All Hands On Deck

Just a quick update on what’s going on at the shop this week. If you saw my post from 2 weeks ago, you’ll remember that we have a lot going on this month. Well, the talking has ended and the work has started. Gareth spearheaded a big push to get most of our stock orders out the door and now we’re starting with the custom hydraulic work for Einstein On The Beach. We’ll have a video of that for next week.

When I say ‘We’, I’m not including our Product Engineer, Royal Marty, who had his nose repaired this week and is at home trying not to sneeze. He’ll be back full time next week when things really get moving around here. It will be nice to have him back. Get well soon, Royal!

We expect to put our Product Overview video up on the CCI website on Monday or Tuesday. I’ll let you all know when it’s up. Have a great weekend!

The Video Shoot

Today we stepped outside our comfort zone. We hosted a video shoot here at the shop.

For a while now we have been looking for a better way to describe the Creative Conners system to people who are either new to CCI or new to automation in general. We have tried diagrams and experimented with interactive web sites, but we found that the best way was to just describe it, usually over the phone.  But that system requires people to call and ask. So we decided to make a video, starring yours truly that covers what components make up the system, how they tie together and how Spikemark works. In 4 minutes or less.

So we wrote a script, found a videographer, gathered some gear, cleaned up the shop a bit and shot video for 3 hours. We’ll edit it down next week and we’ll let you all know when it’s live. We think it’s going to be great and we can’t wait to get it out there.

It’s been a lot of work, but it’s been fun. Building automation is what we do and we love it. But as Gareth likes to point out, sometimes life gets a lot more interesting when you’re doing new things.

Shop News

Things have been moving along pretty well here at the new shop, so we’d like update our blog readers on what we’ve been up to and what’s coming up in the next few weeks.

In October, we shipped new gear to Asolo Repertory Theater in Florida. They got a new winch, a refurbished winch and a control system. We also sent a control system with 2 Stagehand AC’s and an FX to Kansas City Rep. They’re a new client with CCI, so here’s a big “Welcome!”  We did some custom work for Mystic Scenic Studios, and shipped a couple of FX’s to Walled Lake Western High School, who are doing a chandelier trick for Phantom Of The Opera.

In the middle of the month, Gareth flew off to the Midwest to speak to the students at Purdue. Gareth always comes back from the talks with crazy energy after spending a whole day with super-smart and engaged students.

We also had a bunch of rentals, most notably Coastal Carolina University who rented a Revolver for the month to add to their existing inventory of CCI equipment.

We’ve got some good stuff coming up in November, too. Michigan State University has purchased their first control system. (Another big “Welcome!”)  We have more custom interactive exhibits to build with Mystic Scenic. And speaking of custom work, we’re going to be doing some cool stuff for Daedalus Design and Production in NYC as they tackle a new tour of Einstein On The Beach.

We sold our first Revolver Starter Kit to Two River Theater Company (Wow, 3rd big “Welcome!”) in NJ so that’s on the docket for early November. And lastly, we’re close to finalizing some orders with Syracuse Stage and Dallas Theatre Center that should fill out November quite well.

November is also the time for us to build more stock. We like to have a certain number of products sitting on the shelf, ready to go. It’s a more civilized way to build things and our customers are happy when we can ship ‘Same Day’.

Of course, there’s much going on at Creative Conners that’s not directly related to building awesome products for our awesome customers. Gareth has started rebuilding his inventory control software that keeps track of our parts, assemblies and products. Now that there are 3 of us in the shop, it needs to be a multi-user system, so Gareth is taking this opportunity to build something in his favorite programming language, Python.

Royal Marty, our new Product Engineer, has been bringing his dog George to work this week, so we are now a 4-mammal shop. We asked George to solder up some OEM boards for us, but we got that tilted-head quizzical look that I usually give Gareth when he asks me what my next blog post is going to be about.

In the marketing department, we had a good week, sending out our fancy new brochures to all of our current and prospective customers. If you don’t get one by mid-next week, it means you probably aren’t on our mailing list and you can fix that by dropping me a note at Finally, next week we’re filming a video that will give newcomers a nice overview of the Creative Conners system. I’ll let you all know when the video gets posted.

That’s it for now. Thanks for listening!



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