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Pushstick Clearance Sale!

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Pushstick Clearance Sale!

 

We have a gently-used 2hp Pushstick rental winch that we are releasing into the wild. List price for a new 2hp Pushstick is $13,995, but you can add this beauty to your inventory for just $9,995! And if you want to pile-on the savings, you can get a Pushstick Starter Kit with this winch for $17,995 or our Pushstick Add-On Kit for $16,495. So if you’d like to give this great piece of gear a good home, call us at (401) 289-2942 or email me at ian@creativeconners.com.

 

Gareth’s Interview in Lighting & Sound America

Our very own Gareth Conner was interviewed by Lighting and Sound America for the January issue of their monthly “People Worth Knowing” feature. (It’s on the back page if you have a hard copy)

You can read the article in full-color by checking out the very cool LSA web-based magazine by clicking here. (registration required, but totally worth it)

If you haven’t received your issue yet, here’s the transcript of the interview:

 

People Worth Knowing: Gareth Conner

Gareth Conner is the founder of Warren, Rhode Island-based Creative Conners, which has carved out a unique place in the industry as a supplier of scenic automation for markets other than Broadway. Below, he discusses the company and its services, and where he hopes to take it next.

Lighting&Sound America: When did you start Creative Conners?

Gareth Conner: In 2004. I started working at Mystic Scenic, in Dedham, Massachusetts, in 1996; I was in their automation department. After a while, I wanted to do more with automation. I had the idea that we could create a system that could serve the regional theatre—the places where they always have a closetful of gear and a Rube Goldberg system of switches and knobs where any time they want to do automation they’re basically starting over. My thought was, if you could buy the control portion and use your own gear, then you could make it work.

LSA: This is an unusual approach to this market segment.
GC: Everyone else was interested in Broadway, and I was aiming at schools and regional theatres.

LSA: So what did you do?
GC: I pitched the idea to Mystic, but they are a scene shop and didn’t really want to be an automation manufacturer. So I quit my job, double-mortgaged my house, and started the business.

LSA: How did it go at first?
GC: It was definitely a slow build; the phone didn’t ring much for the first six months. Luckily, at that point we got our first couple of sales, and we’ve had a nice steady increase in customers.

LSA: What is your product line?
GC: Our flagship is the Stagehand motor controller, which, tied to Spikemark software, is our big seller. We also have two machines, Pushstick, for basic automation, and Revolver, for revolving effects. The bulk of our business involves selling control systems for machinery our clients already have. They may already have a revolve system, and, with our products, they can use them in a new way.

LSA: Isn’t automation a tough sell to smaller companies and school theatres?
GC: We chose early on to make our products modular. You have to keep it universal. We made many choices, including taking on control protocols that are easy to use among many technologies and picking connectors for the boxes that can be found anywhere.

LSA: Did any particular project put you on the map?
GC: I don’t think there was one breakthrough sale, although we’ve had a few milestones. For example, we sold a turnkey system to Geva Theatre in Rochester, New York. We’ve done some work with ShowMotion, providing custom machinery for the Broadway shows Good Vibrations and Jersey Boys. We did Manipulation with Centerline Studios, which was recently staged Off Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre.  It’s interesting—we’re not like a traditional automation shop. We don’t go directly to the producer; we supply gear to the scene shop.

LSA: How big is the company?
GC: There’s just three of us—myself; Ian Donahue, my sales guy; and Royal Marty, my engineer. We’re all theatre guys. There’s also my wife, Emily. These days, she’s mostly a full-time mom to our two kids. But she has been key in terms of support. She does our books and helps in terms of big-picture design-making. We met at the Alley Theatre, where she was working as a stitcher in the costume department, and I was a draftsman.

LSA: Where are you looking in terms of new markets?
GC: We recently did a large job in Korea, on a show called 200 Pounds Beauty. It’s a musical and had been done in Seoul, and was going to tour around Korea and Japan. A company there called Show Tech Line bumped into us online and called us—about two weeks before they needed to load in. We sold them controls, and I went over to help them install the gear.

LSA: Do you want to be more international?
GC: We’re still trying to drive deeper into our basic markets. From a product perspective, we’ve done a good job of making automation less mysterious and more approachable. We’d like to grow into an ETC for automation. I’d like to make it so ubiquitous that buying it would be like buying a Source Four.

 

Spikemark Tip O’ The Month – Time Delay

For our January Spikemark tip, we’re going to discuss a common situation when writing cues: You want two cues to be linked, but you need a delay between the completion of the parent cue and the start of the child cue. For instance, you need a prop wagon to travel onstage, wait 15 seconds and then travel offstage. Your first instinct might be to write a Time Link to Cue #1 with a delay of 15 seconds, but Time Links are triggered from the start of the cue, not the completion. With a simple Time Link between two cues the wagon would move offstage 15 seconds after it started moving onstage regardless of how long the onstage move takes.

The solution is to write a dummy cue. Say you have Cue 1 that moves your wagon onstage and Cue 2 that moves your wagon offstage and you need a 15 second delay before the wagon tracks offstage. Insert an intermediate cue 1.5, and give the motor in this cue the same target as the completion target of Cue 1. When Cue 1 completes, Cue 1.5 will start and stop immediately, since it’s already at it’s target. Now make Cue 2 a Time Link off of Cue 1.5 with a delay of 15 seconds. The delay will start with the start of Cue 1.5, which is the same as the completion of Cue 1. Now you’re all set.

That’s it for this month. If there’s something you want to know how to do, or if you’ve figured out a trick of your own that you’d like to share, please let me know in the comments or email me at ian@creativeconners.com.

 

On-Site Support Team

Last week we had a theatre that ran into some trouble with their turntable. After a few days of tech support on the phone and late-night emails, we decided it was time to send out our Product Engineer, Royal Marty, to huddle around the gear with the on-site crew and get to the bottom of the problem.

After some group diagnostics, the problem wasn’t with the CCI control, but a stripped-out drive shaft on the sweet turntable machine that they had fabricated in-house. Royal took a quick trip to Grainger and after couple of hours of hand-to-hammer contact the show was back in business.

Here’s the reason I’m telling you this story: We want to let our customers know that we are here to help. Our gear is pretty user-friendly and usually you can set it up and get it running in an hour or two, but if you find yourself in the weeds, we have a lot of experience solving electro-mechanical problems. As most of our regulars know, the first line of defense is the phone, and 99% of issues get solved that way. But if things are going south, tensions are rising at the tech table, and you’re stumped, we offer on-site support as a service. Maybe you don’t have an automation department- and that’s why you chose Creative Conners. If that’s the case, we can play the role of your in-house automation ninjas – just give us a call. We’re happy to help sort out any issue to get your show up and running. We’ve got your back. Like the A-Team. Of scenic automation.

 

Creative Conners is now an ETL Shop!

 

 

Last week we finalized the process for ETL certification and soon our control equipment will carry official ETL labels. ETL is a nationally recognized testing lab, much like UL, and their listing is proof of product compliance to North American safety standards.

By having ETL certification, CCI is now authorized to make listed industrial control panels, which is helpful when the equipment is being inspected by local electrical inspectors.

As an interesting side note, we did not have to make any electrical changes to any of our products to pass the inspection, which is a nice validation of the high quality work we do here.

 

Market Penetration in Regional Theatres

The sales department here at Creative Conners was researching regional theatres and we discovered an interesting metric: Of the 75 theatres listed on the LORT website, 36 are rocking Creative Conners gear for a market penetration rate of 48%. Not bad for a small manufacturing company in Rhode Island. The market penetration might be the result of Gareth’s experiences at The Old Globe and The Alley Theatre, figuring out exactly what a regional theatre automation system should be.

If we can sell  to two more LORT theatres (might happen this month!), we can say that more than half the regional theatres in the US have Creative Conners automation. That would be cool.

The Year in Review

2011 was certainly an exciting year in the history of Creative Conners. We’d like to take a moment and recap the high points of 2011 before moving on to 2012.

It was early summer when Gareth made the decision to expand the company. First order of business was a new shop space, which was found in historic Warren, RI, walking distance from Gareth’s front door. With 3300 square feet, dedicated manufacturing stations, an office and a break area, we now have everything we need to build the awesome gear that bears the CCI logo. We also have room to store our rental equipment, take on custom work and still have room for an energetic mid-sized dog to run wild.

The next big change at CCI was personnel. We added Royal Marty, Product Engineer in August and a full-time Sales Manager (yours truly) in September. Having more people around has really changed the way things operate here. More energy, more people for bouncing around new ideas and more capacity for quick turn-around jobs. It’s a good group of people.

During all this, we hired a marketing team, Tribal Vision, located in Providence, RI. They were great at defining and shaping the marketing goals for the company, consolidating the marketing efforts and bringing fresh branding to the company. But mostly they taught us how to craft our marketing message, something we don’t always think about, but should. During the expansion, they were definitely the fourth man in the shop.

We got our new website up in October. It’s hard to overstate how great the new site has been. Our customers have an easier time finding out about the products, our product line is presented in a clearer manner and it’s a lot easier to update the site.

Of course, we’re still building automation equipment, and business has been good. Besides our usual stable of software, controllers and machines, we now sell Starter and Add-On Kits for Pushsticks and Revolvers. We’ve also done some great custom work.

So, what do we have in store for 2012? At the top of Gareth’s list is the next version of Spikemark. It’s a big job and we’ll keep you up to date on the project as it moves forward. If you have any feature requests, now is the time to get your vote in by emailing me at ian@creativeconners.com.

Royal is starting the research and development for a Stagehand Remote. That’s a project that we’ve been talking about for a while, and now that we have someone like Royal in the fold, we’re going to give it the attention it deserves.

Thanks for staying in touch with us in 2011 and we promise to keep the posts coming in 2012. Happy New Year!

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