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Royal’s Big Race

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Royal’s Big Race

It’s been 2 years in the making, and the big day is finally upon us. Our very own Royal Marty is competing tomorrow in his first half-Ironman triathalon. He’s been training many hours each week and his dedication has been admirable. The race is the MascomaMan in New Hampshire. There’s a 1.2 mile swim, a 56 mile bike ride and finally a half-marathon (13.1 miles).

Good luck Royal!

 

Big Demo at University of Maryland

 

On August 19th, Gareth and I are heading down to The University of Maryland for our biggest demo ever! Jon Shimon and Mark Rapach, from the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center are putting together a complete Creative Conners setup for the demo and everyone is invited to come and see in-person the machines, control and software that make up the Creative Conners system.

Among all the fully-functional gear that’s going to be on display will be a Pushstick deck winch with a working track setup, our Revolver running one of UMD’s turntables, and a couple of Stagehand FX’s running some pneumatic rigs that Jon has come up with. Additionally, we’ll have 2 working Spikemark setups, so you can see for yourself how easy it is to cue, run and edit your show.

The demo starts at 9:30 with a comprehensive overview of the system, how it’s set up, and how to use Spikemark. Then we’ll have some lunch and turn the gear over to the attendees to write cues and ask questions. If you’d like to attend, let me know at ian@creativeconners.com. Space is limited, so don’t wait to RSVP. The demo is free and lunch will be provided.

 

Rainbow Stage Revolver Video

Our good friends at Manitoba Theatre Centre lent their Revolver Starter Kit to Rainbow Stage in Winnipeg for their production of The Buddy Holly Story, Chris Thomson, the TD at Rainbow Stage sent us this video of the scenery in motion. The set designer is Sean Mulcahy. Thanks for sending this in Chris!

 

 

Google Time At The Shop

image of Jon Haupt working on Arduino programming

This year we hired a couple of summer interns, and they both got interested in pursuing some side projects on their own time. Gareth thought this was awesome and spent whatever time he could helping them with the projects, and this blossomed into our newest shop policy of what we call “Google Time”, based on the policy that Google used to have of allowing their employees to spend 20% of their week on their own projects. On Fridays (after the Friday Shop Lunch, of course), we work on anything we want, as long as the work is at least tangentially related to the kind of work we do here at Creative Conners. The idea is to learn new skills without the pressure of producing a finished product by a certain date that’s a high enough quality to send to a paying customer. As with most people, there’s never enough time to learn new things, so we’re hoping that setting aside a specific time each week to focus on new skills will help make it happen.

As a technology company, we always want to continue to be innovative and push the limits of available technology, and the best part of working at Creative Conners is that we get to create new products using these technologies. During the development process, we do software and firmware programming, machine design, 3D CAD, CNC machining, electrical and electronic design as well as a slew of sub-disciplines, and having as many people as possible digging their hands into those areas makes us a better company. It all comes down to the old adage that a sharp tool cuts better than a dull one, and if everyone is keeping sharp on the available tech, then we make better products, in less time.

So here’s a rundown of what’s being worked on:

Jon Haupt jumped right in with a project he’s been thinking about since before he started here in May. He’s experimenting with embedded programming using the Arduino platform with the hopes of getting a network-enabled projector dowser communicating with Dataton Watchout. He’s also started dabbling in iOS programming and thinking about bringing the CCI Motor Calc to your iPhone.

Kody has been designing a new wrench for our Tormach CNC mill, using Solidworks for the design and SprutCam to produce the CNC files. He’s also putting together a design for CCI cycling kits, and if that happens, don’t worry, I’ll post a picture of the team in all our glory.

Tom has been working on a remote control car that uses 2 Arduinos, each with an XBee module for radio communications. One Arduino is hacked into a PS3 controller and the other is on the car. Tom feeds the signal from the analog sticks on the controller to an Arduino, which communicates over the air to another Arduino that drives and steers the car.

Royal is learning Python, and hopes to build a web-based training log using the Google App Engine for the framework.

Gareth has spent most of his Friday afternoons helping out with all the projects, but he’s also carving out time to improve inventory software which means more web programming like ASP.NET, HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

As the Sales and Marketing Manager, my focus has been less tech-based. I’ve been studying copywriting, since it’s the thing I know the least about, and I’ve also been studying Google Analytics, SEO and AdWords, so that I can better understand what’s good and bad about our communications and the website and make changes based on metrics and not just gut feelings.

We’ll post more pics, videos and screenshots as the projects come along. If you do anything like this where you’re at, let us know what you’re working on in the comments.

 

Creative Conners Now On Instagram

 

Well, better late then never. We got ourselves an Instagram account yesterday and we’ll be posting pics from around the shop, so if you’re interested, you can find us at http://instagram.com/creativeconners.

 

Awesome Berkeley Rep Scene Change Video

 

Our very good friends at Berkeley Rep put this video together last year to show everyone what it’s like backstage during really complex scene changes. The show is Chinglish and they’re using a bunch of CCI gear and and a fair amount of human power too, and they’ve really got it down to a science. You can read all about it on the Berkeley Rep blog here.

Nice work Berkeley Rep!

 

Chinglish (The Set Changes) from Berkeley Repertory Theatre on Vimeo.

 

First Look At The New Showstopper Base

Creative Conners Showstopper 3 Base

It’s been a big year already for the continuing development and improvement of our product line. In March we released Spikemark 3, and in May we introduced the Spotline hoist and the Trickline actuator. As we advance our machinery offerings, the surrounding components in the CCI system require new capabilities and enhanced safety features. After 9 years, it was time for our key control products to take the next evolutionary step forward.  Gareth and Royal began redesigning and reengineering the Showstopper and Stagehand product families several months ago. The  official roll-out will be later in the summer, but we wanted to take this opportunity to give everyone a look at the latest prototype and start talking about where the product line is heading.

The picture above is the prototype for the new Showstopper 3 Base. Our current Showstopper combines e-stop functionality with cue control in one consolette.  The new Showstopper 3 system splits those functions across two devices.  The Showstopper 3 will have a Base that supplies the 24VDC e-stop signal to the Stagehands.  Cue control will be handled by a separate console accessory that plugs into the Base through an accessory port, and into the Spikemark PC via USB. This new design will allow for increased safety, capacity and flexibility. Let’s look at some of the goals that drove the redesign:

  • The #1 design consideration was increased safety of the e-stop circuit. The Showstopper 3 system has a redundant, self-monitoring e-stop circuit. The redundancy is implemented through the use of a dual-channel safety circuit. If either channel fails, the system will continue to engage the e-stop, and it won’t allow the system to come out of emergency-stop condition until both channels are functional again. Internally, we are using a SIL-3 rated safety relay.
  • We wanted the Showstopper system to be able to power more Stagehands than the current system. With the current Showstopper, there are 6 outputs, but if you’re running a remote and a hub, you only have 4 remaining outputs on the console. With the Showstopper 3, there are 8 outputs.  Remotes and hubs will be handled through separate accessory outputs, with 3 accessory outputs per Base.  Also, most new Showstopper 3 accessories will be daisy chain-able. The Showstopper 3 Hub now includes an e-stop button that can act as a remote. Additionally, the accessory connectors have enough pins for future feature implementation, like sending identification signals to Spikemark.
  • We chose to have 3 accessory outputs with the intention that you could have 1 accessory channel for permanent remotes & hubs, 1 accessory channel for the cue console that will be placed near the Spikemark computer, and 1 accessory channel that can be used for a roaming e-stop remote if you want to quickly jack in and wander around the stage with a wifi tablet pc.  Of course, you are free to mix and match accessory ports however you like, but that was our working concept through the design process.
  • We wanted to reduce the cable clutter at the operator station. Because the new Showstopper 3 Base is rack-mountable, it can be placed off of the desk and a Showstopper 3 Console can be run from the Base to the operator with just a single accessory cable. Additionally, rack mounting will improve touring and storage setups.
  • The indicator light system has been reworked. If the entire system is working, the green ‘ready’ button will be lit, but if the system is stopped the green light will go out and the red ‘engaged’ button will light, but only on the accessory that activated the E-Stop, helping the operator identify the source of the emergency stop.
  • The new Showstopper 3 Console will have new motor jog functionality, a much-requested feature over the years that we are excited to be including in this product update.

This is a big step forward for the Showstopper system, and it’s the first time that Creative Conners has broken compatibility with an existing stock product line, a decision that we did not make without serious consideration. I’d like to take a moment to cover the compatibility issues:

  • The New Showstopper 3 system will not be compatible with the current or any previous Showstopper products. This is a true break, with a new electrical and electronic architecture and different connectors. Technically, the current Showstopper Hub can be powered by the new Base, but since the Hub does not include the new safety features, we do not recommend including a Showstopper 2 Hub in your Showstopper 3 system.
  • The new Showstopper 3 system will work with all existing Stagehands, and the Stagehands currently being redesigned. The output is still 24 volts through 5-pin XLR.
  • When the new Showstopper 3 system becomes available, we will phase-out the existing Showstopper system and accessories.

Although there will be some cost increases, Creative Conners will continue to make complex automation accessible to everyone while advancing the product line and wherever possible, bring the products in line with emerging industry standards.  One of our core principles is to make “products for which the easiest way to use them is also the safest way.”  The new safety features inherent in the Showstopper 3 are an affirmation of that commitment to our customers and the theatrical automation industry.

Please don’t hesitate to post any questions right here, or you can email either me or Gareth at ian@creativeconners.com or gareth@creativeconners.com.

Creative Conners Showstopper 3 Base

Long Reach Long Riders Charity Ride

Long Reach Long Riders logo

 

Our very good friends and long-time customers Loren Schreiber from the University of California, San Diego and Bill Meyer from Cal-State Fullerton have recently completed this year’s charity ride for the Long Reach Long Riders. The LRLRs raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and Behind The Scenes, and we were more than happy to join the many sponsors who made this year’s ride a success. Congrats to Loren, Bill, and all of the other Riders on another year of giving back to the community!

 

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