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Choose Your Multi Tool

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Choose Your Multi Tool

We’re firm believers in the right tool for the right job, but sometimes the best tool is the one in your pocket. After a recent discussion in our office about what is the best multi-tool (or what I like to call the technician’s third rail) we posted a Facebook question to see what our fans preferred to use. Our office was primarily Leatherman territory, but we did have a variety of makes and models.

Below is a breakdown of the responses we received from our not-so-scientific Facebook poll.

Multi-tool Brand

Specific Model

Some of the outliers were “Call Gareth” and a threat to beat up all the respondents and take our lunch money.

The Purest Multi-tool

My personal favorite came from our own expert machinist, Mark. Mark’s favorite multi-tool was a good metal file.

He can use it forward, backward, and upside down – and right or left handed. It can cut, shape, and smooth a variety of metals. He can use it by hand or with a lathe. It is the purest definition of a multi-tool.

Multi-tool Machine

In the world of automation,  the Spotline hoist is the multi-tool machine. We’ve seen it fly set pieces (with one or dual pick points), power an elevator, and converted to a deck winch. It won’t fit in your pocket, but any theatre that has one is always a step ahead during tech week.

Our Spotline hoist with optional deck track tensioner

Did we miss your tool of choice? What do you carry on every load-in and strike? Do you find a particular tool better for your automation needs? Let us know in the comments.

Until Next Time…Make It Move

 

 

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

 

UMBC: Case Study

When the University of Maryland, Baltimore County built a beautiful new theatre arts building, they included Creative Conners’ scenic automation to ensure that their students used the latest technology – and that their productions were technically top-notch. Technical Director Patrick McGovern regularly uses his Pushstick, Stagehand controllers, and Spikemark software to give students of all levels exposure to and training in automation.

McGovern says, “We can teach our automation operators, who may be acting majors, the safety aspect – to watch the cue and be ready to hit the E-stop. With our design and production students, we can go down another couple of levels and talk about what the gear is actually doing while we’re hooking it up. We love it.”

UMBC’s theater students take full advantage of Creative Conners’ state-of-the-art gear as they explore automation and learn how it can enhance a performance – and inspire future technical creativity and success.

“We now have a bachelor’s degree dedicated to production and design,” says McGovern. “In our advanced stagecraft class, the students complete a three-week automation lecture and a hands-on project, where they hook up the system and send a wagon across the stage. A graduating student is even looking at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ Stage Automation program.”

With Creative Conners’ commitment to supporting our customers regardless of the project, students and directors are empowered – even when they’ve hit a bump in the road.
“Last year,” McGovern says, “we hooked up a hydraulic scissor lift. I had a bit of trouble getting a string pot to talk with the encoder through our system. I gave Creative Conners a call – and you set me straight. I was just missing a simple part. The great outcome was that we bought the scissor lift and all we had to do was a little motor modification and teach the drive how to talk to it. Once we did that, it was easy peasy.”

Paramount Theatre: Case Study

Les Miserables2227

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.”

Les Miserables3915     Les Miserables3884

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.”

ACS-350

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.

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!

 

 

2015 in Review

Creative Conners 2015 Year in Review

As 2015 winds down, we wanted to take a few moments to review some of this years highlights. It’s been a heck of a year. Thanks to you, our customers, (both loyal returning users and first-time automation newbies) we’ve provided some very cool gear to theaters , scenic studios, and event producers all over the United States (and our Canadian friends as well).

We are proud to have been a part of some amazing projects. It’s remarkable what something as simple as a turntable can add to a show. Our friends at The Geffen Playhouse and the Atlantic Theater Company made good use from their Stagehands and Spikemark to power their turntable for “These Paper Bullets.” And Mystic Scenic created an awesome reveal for the new Cadillac CT6. South Coast Rep made excellent use of their stock of Creative Conners’ gear when they need ed synchronized scene changes during “Of Good Stock.”

 In 2015, we also found new ways to reach out and share what we love. Circuit & Gear PodcastOur Podcast, Circuit and Gear opened up a whole new way to get into our heads and see how we work. We’ve received great feedback and are eager to share more of our addition to automation in the coming year. We also added a new staff member just for you west coast automation junkies. Peter Veal is our Business Developer and is making house calls to theaters all over Los Angeles and southern California (or in one case, Ohio). Wherever you need us, we can be there.   This has also been a busy year of new products and updates to existing products. We’re working to make your scenery automation life a bit easier. With the Rhody , you have all your control, power, networking and e-stop needs in one convenient case. We’ve updated the Showstopper 3 and Stagehand Mini^2 to metal enclosures – it seems like a little improvement, but refinement makes your show run more smoothly. And we’ve continuously improved Spikemark – squashing bugs and tweaking code to enhance performance.  

2015 has seen some amazing custom projects come through our doors. We love it! Bring us your wacky ideas and let’s make them happen. For Candlelight Dinner Playhouse’s “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,” we’ve made a car fly . We designed, engineered, fabricated, and aided in the installation of an awesome packaged lineset hoist – we called it “The Flyman” – for a cruise ship. And we created a heck of a large Sunroof Trap & Elevator for the renowned Steppenwolf Theatre . Each of these projects required a partnership with the end user and our team to make it happen. Our customers are some of the best in the world.


Most importantly, as we wrap up this year, we want to say Thank You to all of our customers, vendors, fans, and friends. You all have the most interesting, creative, zaniest ideas, and we are ecstatic that you choose us to help you make them a reality. Thank you for a fantastic 2015. Let’s have an even better 2016! Make It Move!


Let us know what you need from us to make your automation dream come true. Do you have a brilliant idea that you would love to see us create? Is there a burning question you have about motors, winches, or wire rope – give us a shout and let us help you get your show off the ground, revolving, or just plain moving.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time… Make It Move!

P.S.

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

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

 

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!

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