Any Questions? Call us 401.289.2942

Meet Our Interns: Part 3

Home » Archive by category "Creative Conners Business"

Meet Our Interns: Part 3

Every component of our system requires a litany of skills to develop and build. Our staff has a mix of engineers, programmers, theater technicians, and machinists. We bring in interns with diverse backgrounds and training as well. Our last 2017 intern is a perfect example of solid mechanical know-how, theater experience, and engineering training.

Meet Danton

As a senior studying Mechanical Engineering at the University of Virginia, Danton Wein’s interest in scenic automation evolved before high school, where he was a light and sound board operator along with being a part of the stage crew. That interest continued at UVA, where he works in the Theatre department as a carpenter and welder. Danton’s has also worked at UVA’s Heritage Theater Festival but realized that working at Creative Conners would provide a much deeper knowledge of scenic automation than just building a show.

Since UVA uses Creative Conners’ gear exclusively, Danton has known our products for some time. When the UVA’s shop foreman advised him to apply for an internship Danton says “I gave it a shot. I emailed Gareth, interviewed, and landed a position a week later.” We hope all his job searches go so smoothly.

Danton’s skill set was a great match for much of the fabrication and milling work we do and we were glad he joined us.

What’d You Do This Summer?

Each morning kicked off with a team meeting, where everyone touched base about their projects and Gareth laid out the day’s game plan. Then he would work with the crew, helping with projects and working independently. Danton is most proud of one particular project – designing and building a custom machine for a TV studio. He built a lever that pneumatically actuates and opens and closes a door.  The geometry and cylinder mounting involved were tricky but a challenge that Danton was excited to overcome. He says the experience of working directly with Gareth Conner on design principles, from initial concept to final product, was invaluable. “I’d never started from a completely clean slate drawing board to design concepts, using actual modeling in CAD,” says Danton. “Seeing it done was awesome.”

The studio project consumed a healthy chunk of our summer production schedule and Danton leapt right in. When he finally saw his project on screen it was rewarding to know that his work was on display.

Welcome to Rhode Island

Danton’s most surprising revelation was how welcoming the Creative Conners team is. He would make jokes and references that the crew would understand immediately, and he bonded with the team quickly. Coming to RI from Richmond, VA, ten hours away, Danton knew absolutely no one, and the friendships he formed helped him feel at home. He says, “It was amazing to me how much I fit in and how great of a team is here” Living in Rhode Island had its charms. “I’ve spent a lot of time hammocking in Colt State Park enjoying the gorgeous views. I hadn’t lived this close to a coastline before.”  It turns out that the smallest state in the union is a pretty cool place to spend your summers.

After graduation, Danton is considering a master’s program in Mechanical Engineering. After that, he looks forward to a bright career in the theater automation industry, for which his Creative Conners internship helped him prepare. We know we will be seeing him again doing bigger and better things (maybe even with us).

Meet Our Interns: Part 2

We want to expose every intern to what it takes to build a show-ready automation system. They not only work with the mechanics but with the electrical components, electronics, software, even the shipping and logistics. It is more than engineering,  CAD work, machining, or coding – we bring all those skills to play every time we take on a project. Our second intern is a perfect example of the melting pot of technical skills and theatrical interest that we love to see.

 

Meet Ross

After high school, Ross Berry’s passion for robotics led him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Robotics Engineering from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he is now a senior. Robotics, Berry says, is a combination of the computer science, mechanical engineering and electrical engineering majors. “In high school,” he says, “I was getting into robotics club, and I was also getting really into theater. The two passions lived side by side until I found a way to combine them.”

At WPI, he further discovered that his path for robotics overlapped with his interest in theater, where he enjoys scenic work, lighting and sound. Instead of just knowing how to design electrical systems well, Ross says, “Robotics teaches you to take the knowledge you have designing electrical systems and to integrate that into software.”

 

Okay Google – Find “Creative Conners Internships”

Ross’s interest in Creative Conners started in the spring when he was researching internship opportunities. Ross stumbled across the website (Google is good). It was a perfect match for what he wanted to pursue. After e-mailing Gareth Conner his resume and an explanation of why he wanted to work here, an interview was set up and shortly thereafter an offer was made. Ross was a good fit for us and we were a good fit for him, sometimes it’s just that simple.

Will Code for Food

Early in the summer, Ross focused on electrical work, and then shifted into programming and coding. “Initially,” he says, “I worked a lot with prototyping changes to the Stagehand motion controller. Then I worked on improving our internal supply management program, and upgrading the Stagehand firmware.” Although he knew C and Java coding languages coming into this internship, Ross is proud of the Python knowledge he has acquired over the summer.

Ross was impressed with the range of experiences his internship offered. “Gareth gives all of the interns a broad taste of everything that happens.” His favorite project to work on was the web development experience he gained upgrading in-house supply software, Off the Shelf. “After working on Off the Shelf for a while,” cites Ross, “I think I’ve gotten much more efficient. It was really cool learning a variety of new skills.” He has also done lots of trouble-shooting on equipment and rentals needing to be repaired and checked.

Each day, Ross’s learning process was different and new. “Going in, I reviewed a bunch of tutorials to get up to speed. Gareth gave me easier projects at first, then ramped me up to more advanced stuff, offering his help whenever I got stuck.” He was never on his own but we don’t babysit either. Ross stepped up big time and several software projects benefited greatly from his work. Our internal supply software has never been zippier and some of Ross’ Stagehand coding has already been incorporated in recent updates.

A Nice Short Commute

Originally from Easton, Massachusetts, Ross commutes to the Warren, RI, office of Creative Conners. His internship has further developed his passion for theater and robotics, giving him cutting edge-experience that will propel him to the next level of success at WPI and beyond.

Ross was great to work with this summer. As the school year starts and he dives back into campus we know the past few months were smoother for us because he was here. We hope he had as much fun as we did working with him.

See You in St. Louis

It’s almost time for USITT 2017 in St. Louis

 

We’ve got new gear to show off and friends to meet. Come on out and say hi. Check out the Floorpocket, Stagehand Apprentice, redesigned Revolver and Pushstick and more. We’re looking forward to seeing you there.

We’ll even get you in for free. Just use the link below to register for a free expo floor pass.

Make sure you use Promo Code: CC1315

 

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!

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.

CCI USITT (1 of 14)

  • 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!

 

 

Rigging the HP Discover Flip Door with a Pushstick Winch

For most who attended HP Discover in Las Vegas this year the appreciation was on the technology showcased for business and government customers. But let’s not forget that a dramatic entrance, such as the flip door used by  HP CEO Meg Whitman, had some fun technology of its own.

Our friends at Production Plus built the door and tasked us with rigging the automation for it. Much like the progressively detailed studies an artist develops before the final painting is created, the flip door rigging saw its share of iterations, three to be precise. You can see each one in this video, and read more about them below. And yes, that’s Herbie Hancock’s 1983 “Rockit” in the background, just for fun.

The first wooden mock-up came together quickly and established the core design to meet the criteria. In that design we decided to use a Pushstick winch to raise and lower the door, rather than mounting a motor at the hinge which would have required a custom machine. By using the winch and rigging the door exclusively to the surrounding wall they built, we saved both time and money.

Built and rigged in a day, the wooden mock-up showed that a winch line would nicely raise and lower the door, even if the orientation did give it a rather drawbridge like quality.

The second mock-up, also built in a day,  grew to full size, sported a steel frame, and brought into the design two critically placed sheaves. Our Turnaround Sheave took the lines from the winch and guided them each to a custom sheave which changed the line in two directions. These three turns of each line precisely positioned them to lift the door with as little friction as possible.

Pushstick Winch, Turnaround Sheave, and Custom Sheave on the Flip Door Steel Mock-Up

Custom sheave (left) and Turnaround Sheave (right) guide the winch lines on HP FlipDoor.

 

With testing complete at our shop, it was time to pack Royal and the rig for Production Plus’ shop outside of Chicago to test it once more on the actual flip door. By automation rigging standards, it was a relatively simple packing list: Stagehand ACTurnaround Sheave, custom sheave, cables, power distro, showstopper, turnbuckles, toothbrush, toothpaste, and PLSN to read on the plane.

A similar process took place outside of Chicago. And when we say outside, we really do mean al fresco. The flip door and its companion wall outgrew the shop space and required set up in the parking lot. Once the wall was built, only fifteen minutes was necessary to mount the sheaves, run the cables, adjust the turnbuckles, and connect the winch & electronics. With a beautiful Midwest sunset for a backdrop and a fork lift bracing the wall, the flip door rigging looked good. Time to pack for Las Vegas.

Construction of HP Flip Door Frame by Production Plus in Burr Ridge IL

HP Flip Door & Wall Frame with Forklift and Sheaves in Sunset Silhouette at Production Plus

Stunningly vast and cavernous, the Venetian Palazzo auditorium was transformed into a dynamic and inviting space for thousands to celebrate all things HP and IT. As in the previous shop set ups, Royal attached the pulleys while the wall flat, then rigged the rest after the wall was up. Flip door opened smoothly. Flip door closed smoothly. No problems.

Venetian Palazzo Auditorium During Load-In for HP Discover, Las Vegas 2014

Placement of Sheaves on HP Flip Door Wall at Venetian Palazzo Auditorium, Las Vegas 2014

Royal remained on site to run the automation during the show and was able to offer advice on a mobilator giving Production Plus some problems. He adjusted it to run more smoothly and also operated it during the show. It’s handy to have an automation tech in the house.

Many thanks to Doug, Duane and Jacob at Production Plus. We were happy to be involved in bringing the HP Discover event to life. Let’s keep makin’ it move.

Gareth Conner Reflects on Ten Years of Automation Success

If there were a “2014 Theater Technician’s 365 Day Desk Calendar”, June 28 would surely mention Creative Conners. We imagine it would say something like “On this day 10 years ago a new business was incorporated with the mission to provide affordable, accessible and high quality automation equipment to the theatrical industry.” And there’d be a picture of our beloved Gear Guy from our logo, and maybe a mention of turntables or the evolution of computer controlled motion. We’d take it as a reminder that the years do add up, success doesn’t come without patience, and there are important times to stop and reflect.

Celebrating this anniversary had us first thinking about numbers. Initially it was novelty numbers like how many times do we think  Gareth has said the word “Stagehand”, then practical numbers like how much food to cater for the 10 year anniversary party today. But gradually we got a bit more introspective which resulted in this interview with our fearless leader and company founder.

Q: We know it’s been 10 years since the company was founded, but how many years since you first began creating the system?

Gareth: Yes, it was a few years prior. My initial experiment developing a Stagehand control board was in January 2001. I know it was January because it was a New Year’s Resolution I got to right away.

Q: Is automation always on your resolution list?

Gareth: Well, yes frankly it is, although there are other resolutions that sneak in there. This year for instance I made a resolution to run a half-marathon. I guess you could say I like motion of one sort or another (we’ll see how that half-marathon goes!).

Q: In these first ten years of business operations, how many control systems have you sold?

Gareth: It surprised me a bit when I checked the records on this, but the tally of just the Stagehands sold [each Stagehand corresponding to one axis of motion on stage] is approaching 1000.

Q: So there could be, on any one day of performances around the country, almost 1000 pieces of scenery moving under the control of a Creative Conners system?

Gareth: Yeah, isn’t that cool! Also it would include other countries like Korea, Australia, and this fall our gear will premiere in Istanbul. And that doesn’t include the customers using just our machines with their own control system.

Q: How many machines have you sold?

Gareth: We’ve got 130 machines out there moving scenery. We are very excited to have expanded both the number and robustness of our machine line in recent years.

Q: Looking back, what years brought the most changes for the business?

Gareth: I would have to say 2006 and 2011 were quite significant. In 2006 we introduced our Revolver machine, prototyped the hardware for our Stagehand FX, began offering a rental option for our gear, and evolved the Stagehand in important areas like battery back up, the ability to update firmware over the network, and modified it to work with hydraulics which we appreciate on a regular basis. Just this week we got an order for a hydraulic powered lift control to be used on an Eminem / Rhianna concert.

Q: And 2011?

Gareth: Yes, a lot of changes in 2011. We finally made the leap into a commercial space, which we outgrew in a year and moved up to our current space. Prior to that we had a basement / garage based business and collaborated with two other commercial shops for machine fabrication and inventory housing. Setting up shop in our own commercial space afforded the opportunity to increase staff, bring almost all fabrication in house, and do more R&D on all aspects of our gear simultaneously (mechanical, software, and electrical). Plus, in our current 6800sf shop, we have room to do things like rent arcade games for our anniversary party.

Q: How many new products have you introduced since the ramp up in 2011?

Gareth: The company was launched offering one complete automation system consisting of four products. We now offer about a hundred products and services, which include things like stage hardware and education seminars, as well as the core variety of machines and motion controllers. Most of that increase has happened since 2011.

Q: This may be a painful question to answer, but how many units have ever been returned?

Gareth: Not painful at all. We have had our share of units that have to get repaired or replaced whether it’s been damaged in shipping, has a faulty bit that escaped our quality control, or just components that wear out over time, but it’s a small number and we work tremendously hard to rectify the situation immediately.

Q: Any products returned due to customer dissatisfaction?

Gareth: None. We’ve never had a customer tell us they didn’t like the product and ask for their money back. Although our system is designed to be plug and play, without on site supervision from us, we have always offered 24/7 customer support to make sure it all goes well, and we encourage our customers to stay in touch.

Q: How many lines of code were in Avista? Spikemark?

Gareth: Hmmm…it’s been I while since I checked those stats. I think Avista had about 30,000 lines and Spikemark, at least the first version, had significantly less. Spikemark is a bit more effecient 😉

Q: What’s on the horizon in the coming years?

Gareth: Specifially we’ve got our new Showstopper 3 just about to launch, we’re experimenting with servo motors, wireless control, and developing more machines like a turtle and a friction drive. Also, to accommodate our increase in demand for touring productions we are developing our own road box (aka “The Roadie”) to house the control gear backstage and in the trucks.

Q: What’s the biggest change for the company?

Gareth: Our initial system provided a way for smaller budgeted theatres to begin doing quality automation. Since then we’ve evolved, along with these customers’ needs, to offer more sophisticated products. As theaters are reaching for more and more complex motion, we’ve pushed to raise the bar on our product line to be ready for them, and also to serve the needs of others who are already there. Because of this we’ve expanded the breadth of our customer base. We initially focused on regional and academic theatres, who are still the backbone of our business, but now we’ve got a range of clients from a two week gear rental to a middle school to a year long national rock ‘n roll tour.

Q: What kind of complex motion do you see evolving?

Gareth: A lot of theatres are interested in synchronizing many elements at once. I think we will continue to see an increase in syncing projection and scenic motion specifically. For this reason we are focusing on more intricate software. There is a need to have more devices on the network sharing position information to achieve this complex motion.

Q: Lastly, is there anyone you’d like to thank for these first 10 successful years?

Gareth: The theatres and production shops creatively integrating scenic motion into their shows are top on the list. It is always fun to see what’s moving on their stages, and we thank them for putting their trust in us to provide their automation equipment. Beyond that, if I were to list everyone individually you would see a comprehensive mesh from early influences in high school technical theatre right up to the incredible collaborators surrounding me in my shop everyday. Among the most humorous to thank would be family like my mother who, to this day, does not understand what I do for a living but offers support nonetheless. After 15 years of calling me a set designer she finally asked just last year, “What do you mean when you say ‘automation’?”

Gareth and Royal (& Sprocket) testing out a wireless friction drive prototype in April 2014.

The Countdown is On!

T-minus 10 days.

Not to summer vacation. Not to the unveiling of the latest tablet. Not even to the summer release of Expendables 3 starring the best action film actors. Of the 1980’s.

No, we at Creative Conners have another countdown going. Tomorrow begins a 10 day countdown to our 10th birthday. You can call it an anniversary, but c’mon, doesn’t the word “birthday” connote superior images of festivities, laughter, and presents, not to mention cake? Yes, we plan to have all of those things. Like children, we believe in celebrating our age, embracing the milestone, and having a party.

If you are lucky enough to be in Rhode Island on Saturday June 28th, please drop by the shop between 1pm – 4pm. If you are a distance away (and we know from our shipping records that most of you are quite a distance away) don’t worry. We’ll be celebrating this milestone in our “ten months of being ten years old” campaign. Look for swag & sales, retrospection & new products. All part of the fun. All part of showing our gratitude.

After all, 10 years of success doesn’t happen without the confidence and support of our customers, colleagues and collaborators. It’s that confidence in our commitment to high quality scenic automation that has carried us through the first 9 years, 11 months, and 21 days. But who’s counting?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Deck Chief Clicks the Shutter for “Love and Information” Rapid Scene Change

———[ SNAP ]——–


———[ SNAP ]——–

———[ SNAP ]——–

———[ SNAP ]——–

"Love & Information" (Note: Back wall is closed during performances.)

———[ SNAP ]——–

 

———[ SNAP ]——–

 

———[ SNAP ]——–

Mule Sheaves Offer 4:1 Advantage, Reduce Machine Travel.

———[ SNAP ]——–

———[ SNAP ]——–

Google+ Google+