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Diary of an Automation Junky Our latest musings and updates, along with any information we think you might find helpful. Enjoy!
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Paramount Theatre: Case Study

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The Paramount Theatre in Aurora, Illinois, includes automation in everything from their weekly film screenings to their exceptional theatrical shows. Technical Director Jason Pikscher embraces the flexibility of Creative Conners’ state-of-the-art fleet of Stagehand controllers, Spikemark software, and machines.

Pikscher says, “We use a Creative Conners Deck Chief system to control our roll drop every week for our Classic Movie Mondays. We show anything from ‘Casablanca’ to ‘Home Alone.’ The Deck Chief and roll drop are fixtures in our theatre.”

The Paramount Theatre also uses turntables of all sizes with their Revolver kit. “Right now it’s doing great in ‘Mamma Mia,’” Pikscher says. “It’s driving a turntable weighing just over a ton, plus another ton of scenery, plus 30 actors. I would say it’s easily driving 5,500 pounds like a champ. We even did a 30‑foot turntable for ‘Les Mis’ and were closer to 8,000 pounds with no problems.”

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Because Spikemark does all the calculations for positioning and speed with a few inputs, dictating positions and writing cues is quick and easy. “Because it’s a revolve, the math could get too complicated if I had to figure it out myself. It’s easier to just drag it with Spikemark or the Showstopper Consolette and say, ‘OK, they want to go counterclockwise’ and set the time and speed. As opposed to trying to subtract 363 degrees from whatever position I’m currently in.”

As the primary Spikemark programmer, Pikscher is able to program quickly and efficiently during load-in and tech. Once the show is programmed, a crew member can take over running the show during rehearsals and performances. Pikscher says, “It’s pretty intuitive. You can quickly figure it out as you go. We’re able to program 25 cues in 10 minutes. I can’t ask for much faster than that in the world of automation.”

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The Paramount Theatre amazes audiences time and again with its technical wizardry. The payoff happens every time a set-piece “magically” moves across the stage. For “A Christmas Story,” the theater’s Pushstick controlled the 1939 Packard. Pikscher says, “It worked like a charm.” They also used a Pushstick to drive a two‑story rotating house. Pikscher is very impressed with how quiet and fluid it was. Most importantly, the audience experienced a great opening moment of the show, where a main character says “The house on Cleveland Street,” and a two‑story, 29‑foot‑tall, 45‑foot‑wide house moved downstage 30 feet without any effort at all.


This is the second in a series of case studies we will present to show how Creative Conners automation can be used in a myriad of venues and applications. We’ve collected examples of churches, theatres, and schools that have incorporated our Stagehand controllers, machines, and Spikemark software in unique ways to solve unique problems. Stay tuned for more.

-Until next time… Make it Move.

Fairhaven Church: Case Study

Fairhaven Church Automated Screen

Fairhaven Church in Centerville, Ohio, wanted to reflect something old and something new in their newly-designed chapel. The staff wanted an elegant and traditional aesthetic while enhancing the space’s functionality with technology – including Creative Conners automation. Their chapel hides a large LED screen in a narrow pocket in the ceiling. The screen weighs almost 1500 lbs. and is raised and lowered with a Creative Conners Smart Chain Hoist.

Chapel Construction

Fairhaven’s Ministry Services staff member Ryan Adams, who leads operations, says, Fairhaven has long been committed to an intergenerational ministry that values the expression of worship in a variety of styles while maintaining a singular scripture message from our pastor. In order to accomplish this we wanted a space that had a traditional look – interesting wood, stone, and glass – so it is very clean and beautiful. But we had to integrate technology so it could serve as a video venue as well.”

The automated video screen provides the best of both worlds. The screen’s movement is seamlessly integrated to feel natural. Adams says, “At the beginning of service, the screen is part‑way down – high enough to see the words and graphics that are displayed. During the greeting time, we drop it down to about six feet above the stage, so that it’s right at eye level. It’s almost like someone’s standing on stage when the pastor starts his message.”

Fairhaven Church Spikemark Automation Desk

By automating the screen, Fairhaven Church preserves the excellent quality of their gear without sacrificing the look of the room. “We’ve tucked all of the technology into areas that don’t draw attention to it,” says Adams. “You often have to compromise – if you want quality technology, you end up sacrificing aesthetics. In this case, we are able to get technology that integrates into the chapel’s design so that it doesn’t stand out, which really makes it brilliant.”

Both older, more traditional worshippers and younger millennials feel at home in the chapel. Attendance is growing, and they’ve hosted numerous events and weddings in the space. Adams says, “With weddings, we don’t usually need technology in that room, so we can just slide the screen right up into the pocket, and nobody even knows it’s there. It just gives a sense of a traditional, very classical-looking chapel. We couldn’t be happier. It really is a great space.”

Finished Chapel with Screen


This is the first of a series of case studies we will present to show how Creative Conners automation can be used in a myriad of venues and applications. We’ve collected examples of churches, theatres, and schools that have incorporated our Stagehand controllers, machines, and Spikemark software in unique ways to solve unique problems. Stay tuned for more.

-Until next time… Make it Move.

 

 

See you @ LDI 2016

 

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It’s that time of year…

The leaves are changing color, the school year is in full swing, and entertainment techs are heading to Las Vegas. LDI is around the corner and we are prepping to go. Come and check us out.

We’re at booth 1259

Look for the orange truss – you can’t miss it.

We’re looking forward to catching up with some old friends, meeting new ones, and showing off some new gear. You can register for a free exhibit hall pass by following the link below.

Click below to get a free exhibit hall pass on us.

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Come for the automation stay for the light show.

 

 

Decisions, Decisions – Buying versus Renting: Part Duex

Often you don’t have a choice whether to buy or rent – those decisions are made by someone solely concerned with dollars and cents. Here are a few bits of advice to make sure your theatre is not being pennywise and dollar dumb.

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If you are using your automation gear for a show that you do often (every year or even every few years), an outright purchase will usually save you money. You save on shipping and you ensure that you are never without the equipment you need when you need it. One of our customers recently realized that their annual rental of two Pushsticks  for the last 5 years would have paid for the purchase of the same equipment if they had seized the opportunity sooner.

If you are on the fence and are considering a purchase of Creative Conners’ equipment but need to test drive it first, we can apply a portion of a rental to your purchase of the same gear immediately after your rental period has ended. This way you are assured that the kit you rent is the one you want to own.

If you have the available capital or  a budget surplus – bite the bullet and buy the gear!  A budget surplus will be eaten up by some other department if you don’t claim it. Plus, Creative Conners’ gear can open up design possibilities that positively affect every element of every show. If you only rented when you could have easily bought, you’ll be kicking yourself by the start of your next show.

Lastly, because Creative Conners’ components are plug-and-play operable, consider at least owning a Stagehand controller and a Showstopper emergency stop. You can rent the winches, hoists, or other machinery on an as-needed basis. When you need a Pushstick, Revolver, Spotline or another one of our stock machines, a rental will still be necessary. You also open up opportunities to build your own home-brewed machinery and you won’t need to worry about the front-end control or software.

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If you have a project that is on the fence about automating the scenery, give us a shout and talk through your options. If nothing else, you can pick our brains and chat us up for ideas on how to get it done and how to fit it into your budget. We love talking about all things automation and seeing what imaginative ideas are floating around in your heads.

Until next time… Make It Move!

Decisions, Decisions: Buying vs. Renting – Part One

Do you hate wasting money as much as we do? There is no feeling that irks most of us more than realizing that your budget is too tight and you have to start trimming effects from your show. Whether it’s lighting, sounds, scenic or (say-it-ain’t-so) automation, every show has a budget that is too small and artistic ideas that are too big. You have two obvious choices when it comes to automation gear: you can rent it or buy it (or you can also make it yourself, but that’s a blog post for another time).

Let’s examine a few pros and cons for both options…

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Pros

  • Lowest initial investment – A short term rental will always be less costly than an outright purchase.
  • Faster turnaround – A rental order can leave our doors in a few hours if you are in a jam and we have the gear available.
  • No maintenance needed – We prep, test, and maintain each component of our rental inventory so you always receive ready to use gear.

Cons

  • Freight costs are doubled – We have to ship it to you and ship it back. Twice the fun!
  • Less time to set up and experiment – If your rental arrives just before your load-in, you won’t have much time to play with it before it has to be ready for rehearsals.
  • Rental inventory availability – Our rental inventory is large but not infinite. There is always a slight chance that when you need a piece of equipment our shelves are bare. Make sure you call early to book the gear you need.

Buying

 

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  • Opportunity to train staff and students outside of show time – Owning a kit means your staff can become expert users and technicians.
  • Equipment is available for multiple shows every season & every year – Why not automate ALL your shows?
  • You can tweak, customize, adjust, or hack your gear to your heart’s content –  Push your gear to your creative limits.

Cons

  • Initial investment is higher
  • Longer lead-time – Plan on 3-4 week before your order ships.
  • Requires storage space when not in use – make sure you’ve thought about where to put this stuff once your show is over.
  • Maintenance – Dig into that manual or give us a call because you will need to make sure your gear is properly cared for.

It can be difficult to see a clear winner when considering performance automation. While you may only need the equipment for one show, you may be better off investing in a system to use in more shows and as a training tool for your staff or students. Imagine how impractical and wasteful it would be if you rented your entire lighting kit for every show. For the very same reasons you may want to build up stock of lighting gear, many theater are building up stock of automation gear. But our rental option means you don’t have to forgo automation entirely if the funds aren’t in your budget this year (or next).

In the next post find out how you can stretch every budget dollar as far as possible regardless of if you rent or buy.

Until next time … Make It Move!


 

Meet Our Team: Mike Wade

About a month ago we added Mike Wade to our staff at Creative Conners. Mike is our new Director of Technical Services. That means he will focus on technical support, custom project engineering, and user education.  When you’ve got a question about how to get your gear up and running or you are stumped trying to sort out a tricky bit of Spikemark programming – Mike is the guy to call. On top of that, Mike will be joining Gareth as the co-host of the Circuit and Gear podcast.

Mike’s history with Creative Conners goes back to being our guinea pig to test the original Stagehand prototype. He is an expert in dealing with all aspects of theatrical productions – so take advantage of him joining the team.

Mike most recently served as the production manager at the Atlantic Theatre in New York. He brings years of experience working with commercial scene shops, corporate events and several off-Broadway and regional theatres (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Roundabout Theatre, Daedalus Design and Production, is a brief rundown of his pedigree).

Mike_bio2Because he is based in New York City, Mike serves as our liaison to our Broadway and other New York customers. He’s available for on-site consultations and oversees many of our custom installations. He has already overseen the successful installation of automated variable speed chain hoists for Fairhaven Church in Ohio.

He is available by phone at 401-289-2942 or by e-mail at mike@creativeconnesr.com. Give’em a shout when you find yourself in a automation pickle and need some help.


Meet Our Team: Sylvia Bagaglio

We’re not just automation junkies at Creative Conners. Our expertise runs deep – theatre, mechanics, art, octopi. One of our newer team members is Sylvia Bagaglio. Sylvia describes her job at Creative Conners as Electromechanical Assembler. Whether wiring circuit boards, performing quality control checks on Stagehands, or wiring a new Pushstick deck winch, Sylvia’s wide range of professional experience is put to good use. Get to know a bit more about Sylvia and how she works…

Sylvia hard at work

What did you do before coming to Creative Conners?

I’ve had lots of really interesting jobs. I worked in a fabrication shop for a while, and did some really cool retail installations. If you ever need a mosaic made out of jelly beans…

I don’t even consider that one of the weirdest jobs I’ve had. I worked for a “Peter Pan” [show] and we had a two‑man, larger than life‑size crocodile puppet that constantly needed love, because it was built for a stand‑alone show, and they decided to tour it. It was supposed to look like it came out of a kid’s closet, so it was made out of pajamas and clothespins, and the like.

I worked for a very high‑end lighting designer at one point, like a really frou‑frou designer. I’ve had a lot of experience interacting with higher‑end visual artists.

What skills have been useful in your work here?

I keep taking jobs where I have to do math. It’s really amazing. I thought I got away from that.

Honestly, this might sound weird, but I think the fact that I have little tiny paws for hands has been really useful, because having very dexterous, small fingers has been really helpful for assembling all those little tiny parts that have to get put together.

Were you a Lego kid?

I still have Legos. My new addiction is Metal Earth; little tiny, laser-cut metal models. They’re super tiny. You have to put them together with tweezers.

What do you do when you’re not here?

I read books, and watch movies that are public domain and write reviews about them on a blog called genxpose. Which is great, because the Internet Archive has all kinds of stuff. It’s absolutely free, anyone can have it, and use it, and view it. It’s really simple to download or view on their website. There’s fascinating things on there.

You have an interesting Twitter follower… What’s up with the Octopus? Poctopus?

A couple of years ago, my husband had gotten me this Valentine’s card that has this little octopus. It was holding a heart that said, “I love you a lot.” It was my portable hug. I started taking pictures of him wherever I was traveling. I’d take a picture at the museum, and different places in Europe, or if I’d go to visit a friend of mine from out of town, I’d take a picture with them. That’s sort of how the octopus became a name.

Poctopus

The octopus now has an official twitter account. You can follow his travels on twitter @Poctopus.

Sylvia is just one of the team of tiny paw’d builders, designers and fabricators that help Creative Conners build the automation gear that makes your turntables spin, your wagons travel, and your scenery fly. Give us a call with your next show and Sylvia can add that to the long list of projects she’s been a part of.

Until next time… Make It Move!

USITT 2016 – See You There!

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From March 17-19, we’re headed to Salt Lake City, Utah, for USITT 2016. This annual conference is a perfect opportunity for a little face-to-face time with your friendly automation experts, and for us to meet with you, our loyal customers and stage tech enthusiasts. Swing by our Creative Conners’ booth, #1609, to see the newest gear we have to show. If you’ve got questions about how it all works, we’ve got answers. We’ll even let you take control of Spikemark software and see how easy it can be to program cues and add automation to your show.

If you’d like to schedule a meeting with our staff while visiting Salt Lake City, email us and we’ll find a time to ensure that you have our undivided.

We’ve also got expo floor passes that can get you into the show. Click the link below and we’ll share a free pass – make sure you don’t miss out.

https://www.xpressreg.net/register/USIT0316/start.asp?sc=CC1609&ex=1

Use the Creative Conners promo code CC1609

We can’t wait to show you how to Make It Move!

 

Random Acts of Pizza

This could be your Tech Table

So your stomach’s grumbling and its hours before you get to go home. All you can look forward to is your stage manager giving you a break from this never ending tech rehearsal. And what then? You’ll have to find something to eat at that vending machine by the call board. You know the one… Are you going to have a sticky bun or a bag of chips? The choices are less-than-stellar.

But, maybe you’ll get a surprise. Your friendly automation junkies here at Creative Conners are randomly sending Appreciation Pizza to the technicians that use our gear as a way of saying Thank You. Whether you are buying or renting for the first time or you are pulling out your Creative Conners gear from storage – let us know when you load-in, tech, and strike. Let us know on Facebok, Instagram, Twitter, e-mail, or the comments for this post.

We appreciate all of our customers but thought a bit of an extra special thank-you might be a nice thing to do. We’re not a pizza company so we’re not sending everyone pizzas -it will very much be randomly done.

Now, time to get back to that rehearsal and eat your sticky bun.

Make It Move!

 

Welcome to 2016

You’ve made it through the holidays, and now it’s time to get back to work. We’re right there with you. We have a busy year ahead of us, and we want to give you a preview of what you can expect from your friendly scenic automation experts.

  • Be prepared for new products. We’ve got a lot of fun toys on the drawing board and we know you’ll love them. You’ve already got a couple of spy shots of one, but there are more to come. Check back here often!
  • We have missed seeing your smiling faces, so you can expect to see us in-person this year. Workshops, meet and greets, trade shows – you’ll be seeing a lot more of us.

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  • This year, know that your voice counts, and we are listening more than ever. We want your opinions to be heard. What are we doing right? What should we focus on? What products should be developed to make your world easier? We’re looking to improve – and we can only do that if we know where to concentrate.
Photo credit: Seattle Municipal Archives via Foter.com / CC BY

Photo Courtesy Seattle Municipal Archives

  • Lastly, we understand the stress of tech week and the lack of time to fill your bellies, so we will occasionally be sending our customers “Random Acts of Pizza” to ease the hassle of those late night rehearsals, load-ins, and strikes. Keep watching this blog and Facebook for more info.

Photo credit: Matthew Kenwrick via Foter.com / CC BY-ND

Now let’s get back to work. You’ve got a show to put on and we’ve got your automation gear to build.

Until next time…Make it Move!

 

 

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