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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.

 

 

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

OSU’s City of Angels Puts Showstopper 3 Consolette to Work

automation control
Last fall OSU’s Department of Theatre didn’t just receive one of our first Showstopper 3 Consolettes, they put it to rigorous use right away. In their production of the Tony award winning jazz musical City of Angels  they bravely met the demands of 44 scenes in 26 locations with some slick automation. The resident Technical Director, Chris Zinkon, told us he used 6 winches, 2 double acting pneumatic cylinders, 15 wagons, 12 flying units, and a back wall rigged to move up and down as well as tilt left and right. It took roughly 80 cues to accomplish all of the scenic choreography, and it was all controlled with Stagehands, Spikemark software, and the new Showstopper 3 Consolette.

OSU has been a customer of ours since 2007 so we were eager to hear how our brand new Consolette served them on such a formidable scenic production. Chris praised the pusling go button, backlit keys, and jog joystick of the Consolette, summing it up with “Your controls, machinery, and Spikemark interface were instrumental in helping us successfully pull off a massive production.”

We offer many congratulations to Chris and his crew on a great production, and much gratitude for the kind words. We are thrilled that our gear helped to make the show a success.

Chris was also kind enough to send along video clips of the scene changes which we edited into the short video below. A few clips are a bit rough, but you can still appreciate the incredible scenic choreography. We highlighted it with some 1940’s detective jazz music. Enjoy!

This production of City of Angels was a collaboration between the School of Music and the Department of Theatre at Ohio State University, and played at the Thurber Theatre in November 2014. Directed by A. Scott Parry. Scenic Design by Shane Cinal.

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!

share your automation, #makeitmovecci

Let’s face it, automation is cool. It’s okay to brag. We won’t judge. We know you do amazing things with our gear (it’s why we we make it, after all).

So why not share what’s moving on your stage, tag it #makeitmovecci on Instagram and let us send some free swag your way.

For inspiration, enjoy these automation achievements you and your colleagues have sent us. Click on any picture for more info and make sure to follow us on Instagram!

Many thanks, keep making it move!

Instagram Postcard Front

 

Backstage-in-NJ-1

Backstage at Rhianna / Eminem “Monster Tour”, 2014

Cookie Monster Backstage at Beauty & the Beast, 2014

Cookie Monster Backstage at Beauty & the Beast, 2014

 

Mule Sheaves at New York Theatre Workshop, 2014

Mule Sheaves at New York Theatre Workshop’s Love and Information, 2014

Circular Platform with Access Panels Open at University of Delaware's Faust Production

Circular Platform with Access Panels Open at University of Delaware’s Faust Production, 2014

 

Construction of Stage Lift for Old Globe's Production of Winter's Tale, 2014

Construction of Stage Lift for The Old Globe Theatre’s Production of Winter’s Tale, 2014

Ohio State Production of "Working"

Ohio State’s Production of Working, 2008

Spamalot-Control-Table

Automation Control Table for 5th Avenue Theatre’s Production of Spamalot, 2014

Village Theatre - Tommy

The Village Theatre’s Tommy, 2007

Ford Show

StageHouse Las Vegas Set for the Ford Show

chinglish-video-cap

Berkley Repertory Theatre’s Production of Chinglish, 2013

 

Sprocket, Our Official Blogger Dog

Okay, this one’s just for fun. It’s Sprocket, keeping an eye on cables and keyboards for us.

 

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.

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.

Teens Learn Scenic Automation at Detroit Country Day School

Although Jim Davis, TD at Detroit Country Day School, had approached Royal at USITT in March inquiring about a Revolver rental package, and companion training session for his students many weeks ahead of the date, it wasn’t until close to the event that we realized this would probably be the youngest audience we’d ever taught. Adding to the school’s already impressive performing arts program, Jim took it up a notch to offer a day of scenic automation education for both Middle and High School theatre students. The seminar was coordinated with the installation of a Revolver Kit rental to automate the school’s 16′ turntable for their May production of Seussical, Jr.

Revolver Machine with Seussical Jr. Turntable

Students During Seminar at Detroit Country Day School

In combining the rental package with a seminar Jim insured not only that he had on site assistance setting up the equipment, but also that the automation operator (a high school student) received direct training from us. And by the end of the seminar, the operator was indeed comfortable as he ran the cue to spin his classmates, and eventually ran 11 cues during the show’s 4 performances. And speaking of comfortable, this was our only seminar to date where the attendees were perfectly content to sit on the floor. Ah, to be young again.

In much the same way that Seussical Jr. is a simplified and shortened version of the colorful Seussical the Musical, automation education for teens also needed to be simplified and shortened. Typically our seminar attendees know what they want to move and are seeking technical instruction as to how to automate those movements, as well as a deeper understanding of the workings of available automation control systems. In this case, however, after introducing himself, Royal needed to introduce the concept of scenic automation in general.

Who is this Royal guy?
Automating a Turntable
What is a Hoist Used For?

The students seemed to engage in and enjoy the seminar, and we like to think it wasn’t just because it got them out of crew time for the day. Royal, getting out of his own crew time back at the office, likewise enjoyed his first solo seminar and was impressed with the caliber of the students, faculty / staff, and the commitment to arts education at the school. Through his own prepared presentation, and in answering student questions like, “What do people use turntables for?” and “Was the chandelier automated in Phantom?”, Royal opened their minds to the myriad possibilities that automation offers a production. “Oh, the thinks you can think…”

Many thanks to Jim Davis as well as the students and faculty of Detroit Country Day School who attended the seminar. Congratulations on a successful Seussical Jr. show!

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