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Fairhaven Church: Case Study

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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.

 

 

Uplifting Marjorie Prime

Last month’s production of Marjorie Prime at Center Theatre Group featured some pretty heavy lifting under the set. We were happy to provide the automation for that heavy lifting, and coordinate with our good friends at Stage Machines for the hydraulic muscle. Center Theatre Group is no stranger to automation, and have used their Fisher (FTSI) gear regularly. However, the automation in Marjorie Prime would require hydraulics, and that could not be controlled easily with the FTSI gear they own.

Mimi Lien’s set design (a stark, “soul-erasing beige”, assisted living facility 50 years in the future) requested the automation of one large stage platform (traveling 42″), a sinking refrigerator, and a small sliding set of steps. No problem. In the video you’ll see our initial scissor lift mock up, testing at load-in, and the full set in motion. Read on below the video for further description of the process.


The gear line up:
Four scissor lifts
One 10 hp hydraulic pump (that’s right just one)
One custom 10hp drive
One flow divider
One small hydraulic scissor lift
One small pump
One Stagehand Mini
Two Stagehand AC Motor Controllers
One PC laptop with Spikemark installed
Celesco and Unimeasure Encoders
Cables as necessary

After a site survey in sunny Los Angeles at the Mark Taper Forum, the next step was to tackle the largest component, the vertical automation of the stage platform. Working with Stage Machines, we decided to do a mock up of the design for a piston flow divider consisting of one master cylinder and four slave cylinders that could be controlled by a single Stagehand Mini.

With one piston doing the work, and the other pistons mechanically joined together, the exact amount of oil would go into each lift’s cylinder to produce completely level lifting and lowering even though the weight of the platform would be unevenly distributed. Satisfied with the results, production began on those components.

Production of Custom Flow Divider by Stage Machines

Production of Piston Flow Divider at Stage Machines in Warren RI

For the sinking refrigerator, a small hydraulic scissor lift powered by a Stagehand AC was placed beneath the unit. And the sliding steps were rigged to an existing FTSI winch controlled with a Stagehand AC and some help from a custom set of adapter cables.

All the gear was shipped to and installed by Center Theatre without problems. Nice job, everyone!

Special thanks to Assistant Production Manager Kate Coltun, Stage Carpenter Emmet Kaiser, and Assistant Technical Director Chad Smith. We’re looking forward to working with you again!

Refined Revolver Machine for Turntables

Revolver  2014 - cropped

When you’re talking about a friction drive, more surface contact is always desirable. And give that our most popular machine, the Revolver, is a friction drive for edge driven turntables, we talk about it a lot. Recently that talk turned into a very real refinement for the stock product, resulting in better engagement between the friction wheel and any drive ring as well as easier access for maintenance.

Responding to the need from new customer Stage House, our fearless product engineer, Royal, experimented with relocating the bearing plate on the Revolver. Previously mounted above the 3″ friction wheel, the bearing plate was moved below it to offer 3/4″ additional contact between it and the turntable drive ring.

This change necessarily meant the encoder would shift up to maintain proper alignment with the drive ring, but did not compromise the Revolver’s slim 9″ height profile. In addition to the improved contact, which insures less slippage, the bearing plate relocation makes maintenance much simpler, specifically when the friction wheel needs to be replaced. Seeing how well this worked for the Stage House job, and always looking for product improvement, we decided to make the change permanent for the stock machine. The last change to the Revolver was in 2011 when it was improved with a spring loaded suspension mount for the encoder (New and Improved Revolver Encoder Mount, Oct. 2011).

Revolver PartsOf course many things remain the same. The 5hp friction drive still comes prewired to connect to the Stagehand Classic motor controller, and has a maximum rim speed of 36″/second, but can be over sped to achieve a rim speed of 72″/second. It is available for purchase at the same $20,000 plus shipping, or rental at $200 / week plus shipping and prep. While all purchased Revolvers will now have the new raised friction wheel, Revolvers from the rental stock will see the improvement gradually as their wheels need to be replaced, at which time the new frame will be swapped in allowing for the altered bearing plate placement. And the above picture of all the pieces required to build a Revolver remains humorously accurate.

Many thanks to Tony Lamecker from Stage House for working with us on this!

 

The Monster Tour Raises Standard for Hydraulic Lift Control

The Monster Tour, August 2014. Performers on hydraulic lifts in front of tracking video walls. Photo: New York Times.

The Monster Tour, 2014. Performers on hydraulic lifts in front of tracking video walls. Photo: New York Times.

In his May “Songs to Spectacles” article for the Washington Post, Steve Knopper gave a wonderful prologue to the summer concert season, summarizing the humorous and humble beginnings of the modern concert special effects industry. From the 1980’s antics of rigs with forklifts and “delightfully primitive…old-fashioned levers” to a full take over this century by “computers and robotics”, Knopper suggested this year’s season was poised to “blast into high gear with the latest and greatest in digital innovations.” It’s as though he knew we would do something awesome with computer controlled hydraulics.

Rihanna

Rihanna rising on hydraulic stage lift during The Monster Tour, 2014. Photo: Jeremy Deputat

Our friends at All Access Staging Production in Los Angeles were eager to up the ante in their control of  hydraulic lifts on The Monster Tour (Eminem / Rihanna).  Controlling hydraulics with a computer can be tricky, but with our own latest and greatest controller, the Stagehand Mini2 (that’s “mini-squared”), we were able to offer them reliable repeatability, and easy synchronization of three hydraulic stage lifts as well as two tracking video walls. In total the lifts would be used roughly 12 times during the 50-song show, amassing more than 20 cues including video wall movement. “The Monster Tour” opened at the historic Rose Bowl on August 7 to wildly positive reviews, and the show itself opened with Rihanna rising first on one lift, then as profiled on billboard.com, Eminem emerging on another lift “strapped to a stretcher à la Hannibal Lecter.” Those crazy kids.

It all happened rather quickly. The three-city tour lasted just two and half weeks in August (although it was able to entertain almost 250,000 fans thanks to the massive venues.) We ourselves only had three weeks of preparation for our part in the stadium scale production designed by Tribe Inc. to “match the epic nature of [the] two iconic artists.”  Our task was to control the two 4′ x 8′ platforms (each comprised of two stacked scissor lifts) which could completely collapse below stage level or elevate 6′ above. From the same computer screen, the automation operator would also control two 8′ x 24′ tracking video walls.

Debuting our Mini2 on this job, we took full advantage of its programmable outputs which give it a versatility well matched to the nuances of hydraulics. For example, since there would be six scissor lifts in this production, each set of two would only require a single case with one Mini2 and two valve power supplies. And the entire six lift system would only need one pump.

Click here to view a system diagram of the components used.

When we aren’t using our open shop space for corn hole or pallet jack skating, we routinely build, rig and run numerous automation set-ups for both custom and stock products. Nailing the specifications of this hydraulic job required just that. We borrowed a single acting scissor lift and old Feller Precision proportional valve from our local buddy Stage Machines. Although none of the parts in this test rig except for Spikemark control software would be the actual components in the tour, it did show that we could meet the technical spec of the job, namely that a proportional valve could be used on a single acting lift all connected back to our Spikemark control software.

After testing was complete, the Mini’s along with the other components were speedily built and shipped to the All Access shop in Los Angeles for their shop test. At this point, although the units had shipped, and Gareth himself was about to get on a plane bound for L.A., a problem arose that was easily corrected thanks to some key features of the Mini2. The necessary addition of a solenoid locking valve programmed to fire when the lift speed approached zero was merely plug and play due to the Mini’s auxiliary outputs and ability to have firmware changes made via Spikemark. Really, it’s like the Swiss Army knife of automation controllers.

Gareth’s travels to L.A. insured the shop test of the lifts went well, and he returned to L.A. the same week not just to keep racking up those frequent flyer rewards, but to assist with on-site cueing after the lifts were loaded into the rehearsal space at the Sports Arena. Taking advantage of the proximity to our Rhode Island shop, he and Royal later joined the crew for their NJ shows at MetLife Stadium. They offered back up as well as direct support for the automation operator. Again, the show was executed very well. Video walls tracked, lifts glided up and down, and of course there were pyro, lasers, smoke machines, and very talented musicians anchoring the entire production.

Backstage-in-NJ-1

Backstage at The Monster Tour, MetLife Stadium, NJ. Spikemark software is partially visible on the center computer screen. Photo: Gareth Conner

We were pleased to offer our technical assistance with the motorized video walls and stage lifts, all moving at the push of a button with an accuracy to .050″. Contributing to a part of the visual extravaganza at a Rock-and-Roll show reminded us how spectacle bolsters the music and the artists in a way that heightens the entire experience for the audience. Specifically heightened to 6′ above the stage on hydraulic platforms.

Many thanks to All Access for inviting us!

(Please scroll down for a complete list of gear used.)

Backstage-in-NJ-2

Backstage view of hydraulic stage lift on The Monster Tour, 2014. Photo: Gareth Conner

 

Complete gear list

Control

Mechanics (by All Access and Fluid One Productions)

  • 96″ Stroke Single-Acting Scissor Lifts (6)
  • Hydraulic Power Unit (1)
  • Hydraulic Accumulators (6)
  • Electro-Proportional Valves (6)
  • Solenoid Lock Valves (6)
  • Friction-drive “Mobilators” (2)
All-Access-Shop-1

New Stagehand Mini2 with a custom valve power supply, hydraulic accumulators, solenoid lock valves, and Atos proportional valves. Photo: Gareth Conner

All-Access-Shop-3

Gareth’s backpack atop a Hydraulic Power Unit (HPU) with accumulators used for testing. Photo: Gareth Conner

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.

Lectern Lift Video Compilation

Theater machinery for lifting lecterns

We just wrapped up the build and installation of a custom lectern lift, and we’ve got the video to prove it! It’s a 3-axis machine; the first releases the lock bars so the lift can lower, the second is the lift and the third axis is the ‘sunroof’. All 3 axes are interlocked, so the operator simply has to hold down the Up or Down button until the sequence is complete. Most of the machine fabrication was done by our good friend Adrian Davidson at Stage Machines. The project was for the TELUS Science Center IMAX Theatre in Edmonton Alberta. Let us know what you think in the comments!


 

Custom Linear Actuators in New York City

Creative Conners linear actuators running Ted Baker props

Last year we did a custom job for Cigar Box Studios for their window display at the Ted Baker store in Manhattan. We made 4 custom linear actuators that came out great and have been running non-stop for about 8 months. Yesterday we found this video of the shop test:

 

Our actuators handle the items that are traveling up and down. Here’s a video that we posted to YouTube last year showing the actuator being tested before going to New York:

 

These actuators are for sale, so let us know if you’re interested in getting a couple for your theatre!

 

Helping Out With A Local School Show

Gareth testing the Arts Alive wagon

We were approached a couple of months ago by Arts Alive Barrington, a local group that promotes arts education in the public schools here in Rhode Island. They’re helping to stage a production of Aladdin for the students at Nayatt School and they wanted our help doing a magic carpet ride, so we said sure and we’re putting together a basic friction-drive wagon. Here’s a video of our test run with Gareth on the unit.

 

And here’s a poster for the show that Gareth saw in the local Starbucks!

 

 

Our New CNC Mill

Tormach crates

One of the many reasons that we are moving to a new shop is because we want to upgrade our machining capacity and we need more shop space for our new Tormach CNC mill. We chose the 1100 Series, and it came in last week. We had it delivered straight to the new shop and we’re going to get it setup as soon as the electrical work is done over there.

Our Product Engineer, Royal Marty, took a week out of our busy fall schedule to go to the Tormach headquarters in Wisconsin to attend a workshop and get up to speed on the machine, and also to make sure this was the right machine for us.

We’ll keep you posted on the progress with the mill, and hopefully post some pics of cool machined pieces.

 

A Winch in a Smaller Package

This week we shipped a custom winch for Daedalus Design and Production for use in the new tour of Einstein On The Beach. The frame measures just 16” x 20” x 10” high and weighs only 80 lbs., which puts it well below our Pushstick winch. It was a fun project and it was nice to have a machine in the shop that one person could carry around!

This winch was designed with a yo-yo style drum, with the cable wrapping on top of itself (like a yo-yo) as opposed to the standard winch drum style where each wrap lays in its own groove. We chose the yo-yo style because the effect didn’t require much travel and a yo-yo drum can be made out of waterjet-cut parts and assembled in-house. The winch is required to move a 2000 lb. wagon along a track at a very slow speed, so we chose a 1 HP motor with a 50:1 gearbox.

Daedalus also asked us to build a double-scissor lift platform that got us back into the hydraulics swing. And as we’ve been discovering almost everyday for the last 4 months, having a full-sized shop and some extra people makes a big difference.

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