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Paramount Theatre: Case Study

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Paramount Theatre: Case Study

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

-Until next time… Make it Move.

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

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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

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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.

 

Spikemark Goes Greek with New Periaktoi Feature

Spikemark 3.1.11 Screen Shot

Screen Shot of Spikemark 3.1.11 with New Periaktoi Scenic Elements

 

Spikemark 3.1.11

Our latest release of Spikemark scenic automation software adds a new visualization option for rotating scenery in the Stage Model Viewer. Scenic elements can now be shown as Periaktoi (pronounced “peh-ree-AKH-toy”) to more accurately represent multi-sided spinning walls. The update is free and recommended for all users.  As always updates will not affect existing show files.

Automation operators will find easy access to the new Periaktoi feature, named after the traditional Greek three-sided rotating columns. You need only add a Revolver machine to the virtual stage model, then select “Periaktos” and number of sides from the Schematic side bar control. Gareth notes that “this feature is in addition to the previous option to show rotating scenery as turntables, and tracking scenery as walls or wagons.”

The new Periaktoi feature emerged from a specific request. This fall, long time automation customer Mystic Scenic Studios was contracted to build and automate the set for the October Adobe MAX conference, and they felt their automation operator needed a more realistic representation of a pair of three-sided rotating walls. Additionally, because images are continually projected onto the walls, the video production company for the show enjoyed the benefit of accurately experimenting with cueing off-site, simply running Spikemark in Simulator mode.

Other Improvements to Spikemark in 2014

In addtion to the Periaktoi feature, Spikemark has seen updates throughout the year to increase its versatility, robustness, and user friendliness.

•Drag and Drop features enhanced.
•Meters added as a valid position unit.
•Auxiliary output switching added to allow for improved hydraulic lift control.
•Active time linked cues completely sever when “Enable All Links” box is unchecked.
•Best of all, Spikemark was made free in January 2014.

Click here for full release notes on all versions.

Spikemark is the brains of our automation system, and pairs with one of our Stagehand motor controllers (Stagehand Pro, Stagehand Classic, Stagehand Mini, or Stagehand FX). We believe it is an intuitive and powerful interface to control all moving scenic elements. Spikemark’s full Stage Model Viewer allows the operator to see a real time 3D visual representation of the stage in Simulator or Live mode. The Simulator mode allows users to experiment, design, cue and run all of the automation in a show without connection to any Stagehands or motors. Download it now, and have fun with the new Periaktoi feature!

Refined Revolver Machine for Turntables

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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!

 

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