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Teens Learn Scenic Automation at Detroit Country Day School

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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!

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!

Top Ten Reasons to Find Us at USITT This Week


Here’s why you should hightail it on over to  USITT’s Conference and Stage Expo in Fort Worth and see our automation team.

10. Get SWAG.

9. Learn all you’ve ever wanted to know about PID Loops Wednesday at 1pm.  Don’t worry, they will start with explaining the acronym and work right up to applying this knowledge to unmanned space flight (or for lack of time maybe just to your automated scenery).  Click here for the full schedule and location.


Stagehand Pro

8. See our usually reserved and hidden-in-the-wings Stagehand Pro handle the glare of the spotlight on Friday 4:40pm on USITT’s Innovation Stage.


7. See Ryan’s new haircut. And ask him about his addiction to Samoas®, a.k.a Caramel Delites®.


6. Ride on the 3′ mini-spinner powered by the Revolver.

5. Cozy up to words like speed reducer, horsepower, torque, output gearing, drum size, unmanned space flight and more at the Basic Machine Design Session Thursday 2:45pm.  Click right here for the full schedule and location.


4. Find out if these three popular desserts are Vegan: Thin Mints®, Swedish Fish®, Oreos®. (Hint: Ask Royal, it’s a topic near and dear to his heart. Kind of like the Samoas® are to Ryan.)

3. Lose yourself in the acreage of our biggest booth space to date, complete with four machines to monkey around with, and take the quiz to find out which machine you are.

2. Experience wireless automation control from a tablet. Then ask if you can try to beat their score on Three’s.

And the top reason to visit our brilliant Creative Conners team at Booth 1229 in USITT’s 2014 Stage Expo and Conference at the dazzling Fort Worth Convention Center is…

1. MORE SWAG! After all, we brought it just for you.


“That’s a big motor for a 3′ Turntable!” and Other Revelations at SETC 2014

If you walked by our booth last week at the SETC Convention in Mobile AL and wondered why we had such a big motor for a meager 3′ turntable, we’re glad you asked us about it.  Surely our explanation made it all clear: The size-of-my-breakfast-table mini-spinner is merely a scaled model for demos, but the full sized Revolver machine is designed to rotate a real-life-no-doll-scale-move-the-whole-set turntable.

Unscrewing Revolver Crate

Perhaps you were one of the people who took advantage of having a ride on our mini-spinner, which made for a fun break if you were tired of carrying around swag and trading business cards.  And we hope you enjoyed our swag, candy and travel mugs.

Newest Swag: Insulated Travel Mug

Actually we know you enjoyed the travel mugs. Royal and Gareth could hardly keep up with demand for our newest swag, and it made us happy to know that SETC attendees enjoy a hot beverage as much as we do.

Among the attendees who stopped by the booth to chat and pick up a mug were many high schools interested in automation.  That’s no surprise considering Les Miserables is the most successful musical ever produced in schools.  According to there are over “2,500 productions of the Les Miserables School’s Edition scheduled or being performed by over 125,000 school children in the UK, US and Australia.” I believe “les miserables” can be loosely translated as “theatrical show using a turntable.”  Loosely.  Kind of an idiom, you know.

By the way, a 2 week rental for an entire Revolver Kit costs just $1,100, plus shipping.

Overall the convention was a great time. We’d like to thank Esthere Strom, SETC Events Chair, for arranging our booth and our automation talk.  And hats off to the entire SETC team.  They did a great job integrating the Educational Expo, Commercial Exhibitors, and Job Fair into one seamless event.  Most notable were those charming Southern Belles roaming freely throughout the convention.

Southern Belle

In this day and age of online shopping and text based communications (both of which we enjoy as much as you do!) events like this remind us of the pleasure of a personal chat with like minded theatrical professionals.  And we’re ready to do it again in Fort Worth with the same mission: Give away more travel mugs and candy.

Come see us at Booth#1229 on March 26 -29 at USITT’s Stage Expo.  Our booth space will be 4 times the size of our SETC booth allowing us to showcase four machines, two full Spikemark demo stations, plus room for the queue of people waiting to ride the mini-spinner.  Can we take you for a spin?

Creative Conners at SETC 2014


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