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USITT 2014, Booth #1229 Made it Move!

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USITT 2014, Booth #1229 Made it Move!

Sometimes when we tell people in our every day lives that our business is theatrical automation, there is a blank inquisitive stare and a pause which we quickly fill with phrases like “we make scenery move” and “have you ever seen a show where something on stage revolves?”  Not that we mind.  We understand it’s a niche market, but it makes for a comfortable and exciting attendance at the annual USITT Conference & Stage Expo where not only does everyone know the term “theatrical automation” but an impressive number of attendees want to talk to us about how to automate, and how to do it well.  Our team (Gareth, Royal, and Ryan) couldn’t decide if they felt like rock stars or kids in a candy shop at last week’s Conference & Expo in Ft. Worth.  Probably a bit of both.

From Thursday morning’s mad running of the bulls, er…students, who charged the doors of the Expo eager to be first to swipe the swag to the final packing of crates Saturday evening, we didn’t stop talking , listening, and showcasing our equipment and our passion for automation. Expositions are in fact a grown-up Show & Tell, and we were happy to showcase the components of our tried and true system, adding a couple of newcomers to the line up.

Our Spotline hoist made its conference floor premiere with well deserved attention not just for the snazzy rig with orange rope, but also for its applications like flying chandeliers or rigging elevators without counterweights.  Plus, with the tensioner accessory, it can be used as a deck winch. (Take a bow, Spotline).

Also making their Stage Expo debut were the Stagehand Pro, Deck Chief, and Curtain Call, as well as new features in Spikemark that were lots of fun to play with live in the booth.

Enthusiastic technicians numbering over 100 convened to hear Gareth, Loren Schreiber, and Michael O’Nele talk about PID loops.  Loren Schrieber explained the wide use of PID’s in industry (ever use cruise control in your car?) and their essential existence in automated scenery if one is to achieve precision and speed regulation. But jumping into PID’s is not something to be taken lightly, and a little guidance can make all the difference. Michael spoke to this point, effectively relating his experience of Gareth guiding him through tuning a motor for the first time, and correctly configuring the drives in a Stagehand motor controller.  Using an oscilloscope, a motor, a PID controller, and a webcam, Gareth illustrated very clearly how the adjustments to the PID loop changed the electrical waveform while simultaneously observing change in the motor’s movement. It was very rewarding to hear that for some attendees this session solidified their previously piecemeal knowledge of PID’s and left them more confident to harness their use in future.

One of the most impressive moments at the conference came in the sheer volume of attendees to our Basic Machine Design session.  Over 200 people filled the room, with more turned away at the door when the room reached capacity. Adopting the role of true Southern Gentlemen, Gareth and Royal shuffled seats off the stage and into the audience to get attendees as comfortable as possible for the educational session. Although you can buy machines for theatrical purposes, and most theatres you work at will have some machines in stock, this audience clearly keyed into the fact that you still need to know how these machines work and how to build your own machine.  It’s not uncommon for your stock machine not to work with the design specs. Show of hands, who has been asked to build a very tiny deck winch?

Royal and Gareth’s session focused on the deck winch, the most common theatrical machine. They guided the audience through building one of these standard workhorses, slide by slide, from initial concept to sizing the motor and gear box, right through making the drum and frame.

Additionally, the audience got a good lesson in torque and horsepower as well as feedback sensors (after all, who wants motion you can’t control?)

Since there are always more questions than can be answered in a 1 hour 15 minute session, Gareth and Royal left the audience with information on suppliers, a reminder to make use of Alan Hendrickson’s Mechanical Design for the Stage, the link to our own motor calculator, and an invitation to keep in touch with Creative Conners.

As the Stage Expo ended and the dismantling of the booths began, a silent round of applause could be felt in Creative Conners Booth #1229.  To the attendees who took the time to connect with us, thank you.  You made us feel like rock stars. We hope to see you again soon.

Might we suggest May 12 in Chicago for USITT Presents, “Moving on Cue, Automation with Creative Conners.” This will be another opportunity to share our knowledge and passion about theatrical automation.  And we won’t have to explain what we do for a living.  Bonus!

Announcing Our Next Level Gear!

Safe and easy vertical lifting with Spotline hoist

We’re proud to introduce a new line of products, designed to meet the automation challenges of the most demanding productions. Our customers have asked for more features to tackle complex effects, and we’ve packed that functionality into new gear that takes your scenic automation to the next level!

The new lineup includes our Stagehand Pro AC, the completely redesigned Showstopper 3 system, and our Spotline hoist, for safe and easy vertical lifting. Let’s take a look at the highlights:

Stagehand Pro AC

Automation for motorized scenery

This Stagehand is all new, and we’ve focused every improvement toward the power user. We started at the circuit board level, with a redesigned motion controller, new firmware, better reporting and expanded inputs and outputs. The Pro is our first Stagehand with redundant brake control for vertical lifting. Industrial clamping connectors, streamlined cabling, and optional rack-mounting brings the Creative Conners brand of modular automation to touring productions, corporate events, and large performances.

Find out more.

Showstopper 3

Image of Showstopper 3 Base emergency stop and cue controller

We’ve completely redesigned our Showstopper system, and you’re going to love the improvements! Redundant self monitoring emergency stop circuits create an industry-leading combination of robust reliability and ease-of-use. We’ve separated the emergency stop components from cue control for increased modularity and expanded capabilities.

Find out more.

Spotline Hoist

Vertical lifting made safe and easy

Professional level improvements don’t end with control. In concert with the Stagehand Pro, our Spotline hoist combines a production-ready and versatile machine designed for vertical lifting with the integrated and intuitive safety features you’ve come to expect from Creative Conners. Dual brakes, engineered load-rating, and a show-ready speed of 36″/sec make Spotline the industry leader for safe and easy lifting.

Find out more.

The Finished Spotline Hoist

Creative Conners Spotline hoist front image

Exciting news: We finished up our first Spotline hoist today, and it’s shipping out today to Webster University to be part of their automation inventory.

The Spotline has a redundant Mayr brake on the load side to complement the brake built into the SEW Eurodrive gear motor. The attached electrical panel is for field-testing the brakes. The drum is aluminum, 8″ diameter and made in our shop on our CNC mill. The Spotline will lift 500 pounds at 36 in/sec.

Now that we’ve finished the first one, we are going to spend some time optimizing the engineering for production work, and you should see the official product rollout in early summer. If you’re interested in pre-ordering a Spotline (maybe before your fiscal year ends?) drop me a line at


Creative Conners Spotline hoist

Creative Conners Spotline hoist



Spotline Hoist Testing


Last week we started testing our new Spotline hoist. Royal assembled the drum pieces, put the machine together with the Mayr redundant brake, and bolted the machine to the floor. After doing a little rigging and adding 500 pounds of weight, he hit the switch and let it rip. Here’s a video:


And here’s a video close-up of the machine:

Keep an eye out around the end of April for the official new-product announcement!

More Drum Cutting!

Creative Conners drum machining for Spotline hoist

I promised to keep everyone updated on the progress of the drum manufacturing for our new Spotline hoist – here’s a short video of the grooves getting cut on our CNC Mill. The 4th axis spins the drum and the table moves the drum to cut the groove in a helix. Pretty neat, huh? Enjoy!



Drum Cutting Video

Creative Conners Spotline Hoist fabrication video

Here’s a quick video showing part of the drum cutting process for our new Spotline hoist. Royal has an 8″ piece of aluminum tubing chucked up on the Tormach CNC mill, and he’s using the 4th axis (the horizontal spinning) to cut slots for the spokes of the hub.

You’ll see more updates on the hoist development throughout March.



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