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New Machine: Curtain Call Winch!

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New Machine: Curtain Call Winch!

Curtain Call traveler winch
Big news today – We are extending our machinery line-up with the addition of the Curtain Call traveler winch. It’s a 1hp machine designed to mount directly to the batten or truss that holds your traveler track, and of course it’s powered by a Stagehand AC for plug-and-play compatibility with Spikemark. You can read all about it on the website by clicking here.

Email me at ian@creativeconners if you have any questions about Curtain Call. And if you subscribe to the LSA email news, keep an eye out for our ad.
 

Here’s the official press release:

Creative Conners Introduces New Curtain Call Traveler Winch

Creative Conners, Inc. is pleased to announce the release of its new Curtain Call machine, designed specifically for traveler tracks. Compact and tough, this latest addition to the Creative Conners stable of electric winches provides live performances with an affordable and elegant option for automating traveler curtains.

Curtain Call will join the Pushstick winch and Revolver turntable friction drive in the company’s line of machines, offering a comprehensive solution to theatres, schools and scene shops looking to automate all aspects of their scenery.

“Our customers have had a lot of success using our Pushstick winch to rig their travelers, but it was a little bit overkill. Curtain Call will do the same job, but it will be cheaper and smaller. Since it mounts to the batten, it won’t be on the floor freeing up valuable wing space,” says Gareth Conner, Founder and President of Creative Conners.

Curtain Call employs a 1-HP SEW Eurodrive gearmotor within a steel frame and uses a v-pulley loop to move the track haul line. The frame includes 1.5″ pipe for easy mounting with cheeseboroughs to either pipe battens or box truss. By mounting to the batten or truss, there won’t be any ropes or machines on the deck, and the traveler can be flown out.

Curtain Call comes ready to plug into a Stagehand motor controller allowing for seamless integration with Spikemark scenic-automation software from Creative Conners.

Creative Conners, Inc. is located in Warren, RI and makes scenic automation equipment for live performances. For more information, please visit www.creativeconners.com or contact us at (401) 289-2942 or by email: sales@creativeconners.

Spikemark, Pushstick, Revlover, and Curtain Call are trademarks of Creative Conners, Inc.

Position Scale and Max Position Error

 

 

In the early days of theatrical automation (the 1980’s and 90’s – not the Greek era), most of the control gear was designed for manufacturing, which leaned towards set-and-forget programming. When scenery companies started making more sophisticated products, the idea of Position Scale was introduced to make cueing feel more ‘real world’. But Position Scale is an abstraction, and an imperfect one at that, so we’d like to take a minute and explain what Position Scale is and how Position Error is affected by it.

Internally, the Stagehand has no idea about Position Scaling, the Stagehand only deals in raw encoder counts. We hide raw encoder counts most of the time in Spikemark, and let the operator describe movements in terms of real-world units by establishing a simple ratio between encoder counts and real-world units. We refer to that ratio as Position Scale. Whenever Spikemark sends a command to the Stagehand that involves position data, it multiples the on-screen value by the position scale to compute the raw encoder counts that the Stagehand requires.

This works great 90% of the time, but the abstraction leaks a little bit when discussing Max Position Error. Position Error is the difference between desired motor position and actual motor position. This is calculated several thousand times per second. There will always be some amount of Position Error since the world is an imperfect place, but the software allows the operator to set at threshold for what is ‘normal’ position error and what constitutes a real malfunction. Max Position Error is a setting which is the line in the sand between normal operation and ‘oh boy, we have a problem’. The ‘problem’ could be a disconnected encoder, a physical obstruction, or some other failure. Like every other position parameter in Spikemark, we display this value in real-world units, not raw encoder counts. So you set this value to be something sane like 10″, or 3″, or 4 degrees. A value that makes sense for your rig (eg. “if my wagon is ever more than 3″ off during a move, it probably hit a screw in the track”).

Internally the Stagehand uses the LM628 motion chip from National Instruments. This chip has a 16-bit register for storing position error. That means it can store position errors from -32,767 thru 32,768. So… when setting aMax Position Error, the value can’t exceed the raw encoder value of that range. Therefore, when Spikemark calculates the Max PositionError it has to limit the product of Position Scale * Max Position Error to some value that equals less than 32,767. The higher your position scale, the lower the allowable value for Max Position Error, because after the ratio is applied the final raw encoder count value can’t be more than 32,767.

In earlier versions of the firmware, we had a bug where max position error was being incorrectly limited to 4 significant digits, so the max position error was 9,999. We fixed that bug and opened up max position error to the full value of the 16-bit register, but that was only done in the past few years so you may need to upgrade your firmware if you are running anything lower than rev-10.

So now you now more than you thought was possible about Position Scale and Position Error. If you have additional questions, feel free to email us at support@creativeconners.com. Thanks for tuning in to this month’s Spikemark Tip!

 

Tool Time With Creative Conners

Our customers sometimes ask us what we recommend for a basic tool kit. We think about it, and then try to remember everything, and then recite a list off the top of our heads, which isn’t the best way to do it. So we decided to put our tool kits together, take some pictures and tell you a little about what we like. Because we like tools.

We’re starting today with Gareth’s setup. He describes this as the kit he would put together if he needed to work on either control or machinery, but didn’t know exactly what.

IMG 0073

He’s got a great selection here. On the control side, he’s got the Fluke 117 multimeter, which has 2 nice features: The screen is backlit, so it’s great in a dark theater, and it also has an ammeter, for checking current. Also check out his probe assortment- they don’t take up a lot of room and they improve the quality of his life.

He also carries a full soldering kit with a mini Pana-Vise clamp. He’s tried to get by with the smaller (and cheaper) standalone irons, but when it comes to soldering encoder wires, a full setup is the way to go. It’s heavier, but Gareth decided over the years that the extra weight was worth it.

He’s got a couple of custom items, too. There’s a brake testing light, a couple of limit jumpers, a 24volt wall adapter for bypassing the Showstopper and even an Ethernet crossover adapter. With these, he can reduce the control down to the minimum to help troubleshoot.

In the lower right is a Gareth classic- the pipe-style vise grips. The ends work like regular grips and he can also grab pipe or (when it comes to that) machine shaft.

The orange bit case has a right angle driver with ratcheting 1/4″ & 5/16″ sockets so you can use with screw & allen bits or chuck up 1/4″ drive sockets. That little driver is a life saver when working in cramped machines where the last set screw is stuck between a rock and a hard place. Then there’s the usual assortment of wrenches, pliers, nippers, nut drivers, allen keys, and a flashlight.

Rounding out the kit is the red bin, which he keeps stocked with small mechanical parts like master links and keys.

That’s Gareth’s kit. But we want to know about what you guys keep around. Is there a special tool you can’t live without? We want to hear from you, and we want to see your setups. Take a picture, tell us what you got and email it to me at ian@creativeconners.com. If we get anything good, we’ll post it here. And who doesn’t like to look at tools?

 

Stagehand Sale!

Stagehand AC

 

If you received our January email newsletter, you saw that we’re knocking $250 off our awesome Stagehand AC Motor Controllers during the month of February, so if you’ve been thinking about grabbing one, now is the time. They’re in stock and ready to go, so give us a call at (401) 289-2942 or email me at ian@creativeconners.com and we’ll hook you up.

If you didn’t receive the newsletter, you can sign up in the footer of our website. The newsletter is a great way to keep up with Creative Conners, and find out about sales, news, and Spikemark tips. Don’t miss out!

 

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