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What’s That Noise? Tech Support to the rescue!

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What’s That Noise? Tech Support to the rescue!

Automation Tech Support NoiseAt Creative Conners, we all know what it’s like to be in a technical rehearsal that isn’t going smoothly. Some days nothing can go right. Other days, there may be one persistent issue that you cannot work out of your show. We hate it. We know you hate it. That’s  why we make sure that if you are having a rough night with our automation gear, we are standing by to help you wring out the system – and get on to whatever the next headache will be. Day or night we pick up the phone and give you the tech support you need.

When our friends at the Actors Theatre of Louisville were having trouble with their recent show, we were there to help . The Actors Theatre’s technical director, Justin Hagovsky, told us they were having some trouble with two Pushstick winches they’ve owned for about a year (beyond the warranty period – but that doesn’t matter, a show was hanging in the balance). We took a look at his Spikemark show file and the show log, and with a bit of back-and-forth conversation decided that the most likely culprit was his Stagehand controllers. We sent him two new controllers and he returned the misbehaving units. All seemed well in his world… until the next night’s tech rehearsal.

The machines were almost perfect, but they occasionally did not finish a move completely – they would miss their mark by three-quarters of an inch. Also, there was an awful sound as one of the winches completed a particular move. We helped him tune his machines to tighten up that missing three-quarters of an inch – it was as easy as walking his tech staff through the process of tuning the motor to get a complete and smooth motion. One more problem solved.

The awful noise problem was new to him and us. A few more rounds of telephone tech support and emails did not get rid of the noise. They double checked to see if there was a physical obstruction in the path of the scenery. Nothing seemed to solve it and the noise persisted. What made it worse is that when they tried to duplicate the noise, it sometimes mysteriously disappeared and other times it was back in full force .

The day before the opening night, when the director was staring daggers at the automation guys and an audience was but one day away… the problem was solved. Here is the e-mail we got the morning after his opening night.

We ran [the Pushstick cues]  a dozen times and then within the whole scene shift sequence. We could not get any faults. We go into tech in the afternoon and sure enough, the noise is back. After a few short mumbles under my breath and the director giving me that same old look, the head of the sound department starts playing the transition music simply to mess with it […]. As I’m walking over to my operator to figure out how anything is different from the morning, I hear the sound that I’ve been desperately seeking to get rid of and I’ll be damned if it isn’t a humming/buzz noise built into the very end of the transition music sound cue. Anger consumed me when I (and the director) discovered this. 

So, there was definitely tuning needed from the Wednesday tech so we messed around with ramp speed until we felt good which was all it needed. But the two hours [spent troubleshooting on] Thursday morning was just good practice. Everything worked out great in the end. We had a perfect opening  … Thanks again guys for all the help. I hope the next time we are in touch is when I am able to buy some more gear from you. Cheers.

We were glad to hear it. If the noise was due to our equipment, we would have been working on it every minute he was working on it. Here at Creative Conners, we stand behind what we build. We stand with you as you do your work. And we stand by when it’s show time.

Until next time… Make It Move!

P.S.

If something like this happens to you, here are three keys to keep in mind.

  1. Don’t panic or make rash decisions; trust us, this will only make matters worse.
  2. Start with the simple things and work towards the more complicated (is everything plugged in and turned on?).
  3. Lastly, if you have paired your own machine to Creative Conners Stagehand controllers, have you auto-tuned the motor? Most people don’t but it can be a lifesaver. Take a look at page 20 of the Stagehand manual.

 

Come work in scenic automation

As you may have noticed, we are incredibly busy churning out some of the most-loved automation gear in the business. It’s great to be popular, but if you love automation, we could really use your help! Come be a part of the biggest little automation company, in the biggest little state in the union.

Creative Conners is actively seeking automation junkies for the following positions:

Machinist/Metal Fabricator

  • Manual milling and turning
  • CNC machining
  • Welding
  • Machine assembly

Electrical/Electronics Fabricator

  • Control panel assembly and wiring
  • PCB assembly and soldering
  • Cable assembly and soldering
  • Troubleshooting with ‘scope and meter

Programmer

  • Embedded systems programming in C/C++
  • Windows programming in .Net (C# or VB.net)
  • Web development in Python
  • iOS programming
  • Some PLC programming is handy

Please send us your resume or contact us for more information at: careers@CreativeConners.com.

The Devil is in the Details and the Details are in the Documentation

4729801304_d50a7c1daeIt doesn’t matter if it’s called a spec sheet, operations manual, or technical handbook; the information provided by a manufacturer detailing the quality and operation of their products is essential for protecting your performers, staff, audience, and facility. You, as the consumer, ultimately have the burden of determining if the equipment is suitable for your needs – so it behooves you to make sure the documentation spells out exactly what can and cannot be expected. Here is the first of three simple but critical areas you should be familiar with in your equipment’s spec sheet.

Standards & Regulations:

Know what regulations and standards are applicable to your gear. Lighting, audio, scenic automation –heck even the chairs in your venue – should meet some basic regulatory standards. The standards will vary depending on the equipment, but PLASA (a leading entertainment trade organization) has created some thoroughly detailed standards for the most commonly used theatrical equipment. For scenic automation gear like Creative Conner’s Spotline hoist, the ANSI E1.6-1 Power Hoist Systems standard should be met. We have engineered the Spotline to meet this standard for overhead lifting and we’ve had a third party engineer review our products to ensure that it is up to snuff.

You should be able to find pertinent information regarding which fire test, electrical code, overhead lifting capabilities, and other criteria your gear does or does not meet. If a particular standard or test is not listed in the documentation, don’t assume that the gear satisfies those standards. It’s worth a call to find out if the manufacturer has had a third party engineer review their drawing or if a lab has conducted testing to satisfy the standards you need to have met.

Like with so many things in life, the devil is in the details and the details hide in boring paperwork. If  a vendor can’t or won’t show you the documentation, find someone who will – it’s not worth the risk. You can download all of the Creative Conners manuals and drawings on our website. If you ever have any questions about how we’ve engineered our products, give us a call – we want you to know what you’re getting.

Until next time… Make it Move!

 


Peter Veal is the Director of Business Development at Creative Conners. He has led a strange and varied life in many realms of live entertainment. Feel free to reach out to him with any questions or comments at peter@creativeconners.com

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