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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 / 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 / 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!



Peter Veal Joins Creative Conners

Peter Veal has joined Creative Conners as our Director of Business Development. Peter double majored in technical theater and mechanical engineering at Pepperdine University (ultimately dropping the engineering, much to the chagrin of his parents). Now at Creative Conners both areas of interest can be satisfied.

Before joining Creative Conners, Peter worked in positions ranging from props master to technical director. Eventually he moved into an air-conditioned office and behind a desk to work at Rose Brand. After years of explaining flame-retardancy and how to “rope a track” his time in the land of drapery ended. He met new challenges at Miziker Entertainment where he was a project manager for a top-secret project in China (probably not the one you’re thinking of).

IMG_9572 (2)

Peter will focus his time at Creative Conners on you, the customer; making sure we build the right system for your show, putting together estimates, ensuring you have all the documentation you need, and just checking to see if you are having an awesome day. He loves getting students excited about all things tech. If you are part of a high school or university and are interested in having an automation seminar, give him a shout. He is based in Los Angeles and is excited to spread the “Make It Move!” mantra to the west coast.

The Countdown is On!

T-minus 10 days.

Not to summer vacation. Not to the unveiling of the latest tablet. Not even to the summer release of Expendables 3 starring the best action film actors. Of the 1980’s.

No, we at Creative Conners have another countdown going. Tomorrow begins a 10 day countdown to our 10th birthday. You can call it an anniversary, but c’mon, doesn’t the word “birthday” connote superior images of festivities, laughter, and presents, not to mention cake? Yes, we plan to have all of those things. Like children, we believe in celebrating our age, embracing the milestone, and having a party.

If you are lucky enough to be in Rhode Island on Saturday June 28th, please drop by the shop between 1pm – 4pm. If you are a distance away (and we know from our shipping records that most of you are quite a distance away) don’t worry. We’ll be celebrating this milestone in our “ten months of being ten years old” campaign. Look for swag & sales, retrospection & new products. All part of the fun. All part of showing our gratitude.

After all, 10 years of success doesn’t happen without the confidence and support of our customers, colleagues and collaborators. It’s that confidence in our commitment to high quality scenic automation that has carried us through the first 9 years, 11 months, and 21 days. But who’s counting?

Tick. Tick. Tick.

Automation Gear in Action, March 6 – 8 at SETC Convention

We love automation.

We love sharing our expertise in automation.

We’ve even written a limerick about our scenic automation.  (ya srsly. read on.)

We’ll be sharing this enthusiasm in just TEN DAYS at the 65th Annual Southeastern Theatre Conference Convention  March 5-9 at the state-of-the-art Mobile Convention Center in Mobile, AL .

Visit us at our booth for hands-on experience with our gear during exhibition hours March 6th & 7th 10am – 6pm, as well as March 8th 10am – 1pm.

If you aren’t already registered, you can download the onsite registration form which will admit you to all workshops, festival performances, keynotes, exhibits and general social events. Top on your list, however, should be our “Diary of an Automation Junkie” session 9am – 10:15am on Friday March 7.

Why should you attend our one hour session?

In case the limerick alone doesn’t convince you, consider that along the humorous and educational tour of Gareth Conner’s largest blunders in automation, you will learn the principles of automation beginning with “How do I make this thing move?” right through basic explanations of torque, horsepower, a winch system, AC vs. DC motors, PLC’s, and ending with a full overview of the architecture of our popular motion control system.

Illustration of 1/4 Horsepower

You’ll find yourself picking up knowledge critical to the implementation of scenic automation in your productions, and also practical tips such as:

•Grounding matters.

•Don’t buy everything that you can build.

•PLC’s are better than knobs, but not as good as you wish they were.

•Limit switches are better than spike tape, but not as good as you wish they were.

We encourage you to peruse the full schedule of events via SETC’s interactive schedule maker which allows you to customize your own schedule and sync it to your phone or calendar. And brace yourself for some powerful networking opportunities as the convention will gather more than 4,000 actors, design and technical professionals, theatre educators, students, university representatives, and commercial exhibitors.

We look forward to seeing you there.  And now, as promised, our automation limerick.

There once was a stagehand named Gareth,

Whose automation received goodly merits.

Attending his session

Does give the impression

To ignore his sage words would be careless.




2011 Week 10, 11, 12 rollup

It’s been a few weeks, let’s see if I can remember the highlights…

North Carolina USITT

I had great time in N.C. In Winston-Salem, I gave a quick demo of our Stagehand controllers and SpikeMark software to a group of people attending the USITT Professional Developer Workshop on automation. The group was a mixture of college professors, tech directors, and students and they all seemed to appreciate the demo.

Although we didn’t have a booth at the USITT show in Charlotte, I swung down for a few hours and met up with some of the guys from Vortek (now part of Daktronics) in the hotel lobby.

Rentals, rentals, and more rentals

I don’t know if it’s the reduced rental prices or just a flurry of automated productions, but there’s a constant stream of rentals coming and going. Mostly Revolver rentals, but some winches too, heading out across the country to high schools, colleges, and regional theatres. The increase in rental activity is motivating us to hone our rental system a bit. Historically, we’ve done a lot more sales business than rentals so our workflow is tailored more towards making new equipment than renting existing gear. But we’re fast learners and have spent the some time over the last couple weeks getting our check-in, prep, ship-out cycle tuned to the new demands. We’ve also had to grow our rental inventory a bit more to meet the rental orders, but I think we’re at the proper inventory levels… at least for now.

New video clips

Santa Fe Opera and Mystic Scenic Studios sent in some videos of our gear in action. Take a peek at our gallery for the latest clips.

See you next week!

2011 Week 9 recap

North Carolina Trip Approaching

As I mentioned last week, Jack Miller from University of North Carolina School of the Arts was kind enough to invite Creative Conners down to the Professional Development Workshop to demonstrate our system as part of the Stage Automation class. The workshop is two days of training that takes place in Winston-Salem prior to the USITT conference that’s happening later in the week in Charlotte.

School of the Arts own one of our systems already, so the plan was to just show up and demo our SpikeMark software and Stagehand control using their equipment. However, it turns out that I am going to meet with some other companies after the workshop and need a way to demo the system in a hotel room/lobby setting. As you can imagine, lugging 5HP winches around isn’t ideal for this scenario. In the shop, we have a bunch of little 2-axis rigs that have miniature motors but full Stagehand-OEM control boards. We use these as testing units to test new software features and simulate larger shows on a workbench. If a theater encountered a bug, or anomaly while running a show, we like to load their show file and recreate the environment using these miniature motors for simulation and the log files as a guide. Since these test units are compact and powered from 110vac, I figured taking one of them with me to North Carolina would both allow for a little more gear to play with during the PDW workshop, and let me to show off the software and control during a hotel lobby sales pitch. So we spent a little time this week tidying up one of the test units to be presentable and getting it fitted into a Pelican case for air travel.

Web Site Status Report

Ian has been working hard on the next version of the Creative Conners web site. There is no visual difference to the new site (yet), but he’s been making good progress in retooling the backend to make it easier to add our full catalog of products to the site and move it one step closer for online ordering. Why is this so important? Well, it turns out that we sell a lot of products, like over 100 different products. But, if you looked at our site you might think that we sell maybe a dozen. Our price sheet for 2011 lists everything, but that’s hardly an effective marketing tool. With the new site, there will be almost no friction for us to add all of our products, and any new products, to the online catalog. Ian’s pushing to get the first iteration public by March 18th which is an ambitious goal. Like all “simple” software projects, it’s grown a little more complicated since we started in January Smile

The other pain point of the site that we are working on is developing more learning tools. The first step is to get a little more explanation on the site about how you can make scenery move. Basic explanations of winch tracks and turntables with clear diagrams and helpful tips would do a lot to ease anxiety for TD’s facing their first automation project on a tight timeline. Catherine, the technical writer who revised the SpikeMark manual, is turning her keen eye toward this challenge and I can’t wait to see how it develops. Her initial sketches and outlines look great!

I’ve been pitching in on the coding for the site whenever possible. Writing code is one of my favorite things to do, though finding useful blocks of concentrated time can be challenging. For any other fellow geeks out there that are interested, the new site is being built with ASP.Net MVC. We use Microsoft’s .Net framework for developing SpikeMark as well, so it’s convenient to keep using some of the same tools for web development. Some of our other internal tools have been written Ruby on Rails, but I’ve personally grown a little less excited about both Rails and Ruby. I imagine at this point in the post, my last reader has fallen asleep so I’ll stop waxing poetic about programming languages and platforms.

Have a great week!

2011 Week 8 recap

Pretty quiet week here at Creative Conners.  A few bids went out, but nothing shipping.  We spent our free time continuing to build up stock in order to hit our 2nd quarter goal of next-day shipping on all control products and working on the next version of the Creative Conners site.

In addition to building stock and working on the web site, I’m starting to prepare for my trip to North Carolina.  While we won’t be an exhibitor at the USITT Expo this year, I will be demonstrating our system at a pre-conference class hosted by North Carolina School of the Arts.  The class will take place on March 8th and will run 45 minutes, just enough time to show how to setup a motor and write some cues.  I’ll be bringing swag with me for anyone who attends Winking smile

2011 Week 7 Recap

Spring is teasing us with a preview this week.  The weather in beautiful Barrington RI has been warm and sunny, can’t wait for the “real” Spring to arrive.

Building and shipping

We sent out:  the rest of the Stagehand motor controllers for an 8-axis rental package to Savannah College of Art and Design, a little rental to Purdue University, and finished the orders for both UConn and the Long Wharf Theatre.

Testing for LaJolla

LaJolla Playhouse is a long-time customer, and they were reporting trouble with a few of Stagehands not tracking encoder position properly.  On Tuesday, we received 3 Stagehand OEM Boards to examine and stress test.  One of the boards had a blown encoder chip and would not register any encoder counts at all.  The other two boards showed no signs of trouble.  After replacing the single blown encoder chip, all 3 units were tested for 48 hours of constant cycle-testing and performed without a hitch.  While it was good to find a fault with one unit, it’s not so great to be unable to reproduce any fault in the other 2.  That means that if problems persist when these circuit boards are put back into service on stage that the troubleshooting will have delve deeper in environmental issues like grounding, electrical interference, etc.  Ugh!  Those problems are pretty rare, but can be a real pain to hunt down.

New Video from Geffen Playhouse

Matthew Carleton and the gang at the Geffen Playhouse took advantage of our $250-discount-promo by sending in a video of their automation in action on stage.  There’s a turntable and several traveler panels all moving in slick, coordinated motion.  After a quick edit, I posted it on our YouTube channel, but you can see it here too:

Geffen scene shift

More Revolver Rentals

Cushing Academy in Massachusetts is renting a Revolver for a turntable in their upcoming show, so Friday was spent prepping one of the newly-returned rental Revolvers to go back out.  I’m not sure if our lower rental prices are directly responsible, but I am happy to see that we are keeping our rental inventory out on the road almost all the time now.  We’ll see if the trend continues, but so far I feel very encouraged!

Have a great week!

2011 Week 6 Recap

Great week here at the shop, busy pushing a lot of gear through the pipeline.

McGuire Scenic wraps up another car show

The good folks at McGuire Scenic finished another successful car show this week using a combination of rented Stagehand control and turntable machinery that was built in-house by the scene shop.  If my counting is accurate, I think that makes 3 events in two months with similar gear.  Those guys must be doing a great job!

Savannah College of Art and Design

We shipped the first installment of an 8-axis rental package to the Savannah College of Art and Design.  The gear isn’t due on-site until the 18th of Feb, but we had a couple of units sitting around the shop and so I wanted to get them to the school a little early.  It’s the first rental for the SCAD, and they will be integrating some of their own machinery with our Stagehand control so hopefully a few extra days will give them a little more time to sort out any integration issues and insure smooth load-in.  I believe that they are building a bunch of roll drops for a new production, and can’t wait to see some clips of the scene changes.

Skunkworks project

Even though the week was filled with production work, both for existing orders and to fill the stock inventory, I couldn’t help my mind from wandering about a new accessory that we really really need to make.  We’ve got a box of prototype parts sitting on the shelf now for a Creative Conners Ethernet switch that I think will be a great addition to many shows.  Nothing earth-shattering, but a lot of nice touches to make network connectivity a little more bullet-proof backstage.  More on that when I get some time to play with the hardware in the coming weeks….

Have a great week!

2011 Week 2 Recap

Things got a little snowy here this week in sunny Rhode Island.  We only saw about 8” of snow here, but most of New England got a bigger helping.  It was still enough to shut down businesses and schools for a day.  Despite the short week, we managed to squeeze out a few more orders while enjoying the winter storm.

PLASA Membership

We are proud to announce that Creative Conners is now a member of PLASA, which has merged with ESTA to form the leading professional organization for folks like us that make products and serve the entertainment industry.  My personal interest in joining PLASA is to be involved with their work developing standards for theatre technology.

University of Nevada Reno

We put the finishing touches on Pushsticks and Stagehands for the University of Nevada Reno.  It’s great to have another school using our gear and we wish them great success on their upcoming production.

University of South Dakota class coming up in February

Gareth Conner (that’s me) will be traveling to the University of South Dakota in February to teach a one-day class on stage automation.  The class takes place on Saturday, February 5th in Vermillion, South Dakota.  We’ll have some motors, control, software, and a bunch of fun stories.  If you’re interested in attending shoot us an email.

That’s it for this week, looking forward to week #3.

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