A common question I’ve encountered regarding scenic automation is: “Can it be operated from a light board?” The quick and dirty answer to that questions is “No, it can’t.” Now, of course the technology is such that someone could make it operable from your lighting desk, but that is not the way Spikemark works (or safe automation works).
If you think of your automation system as another design element – like lighting, audio, or projections –it becomes easier to realize the need for a separate control system and operator. If your sound board operator is supposed to monitor the audio levels and make sure that cues are executed at the exact moment a “Go” is given – shouldn’t your moving scenery have a live person ensuring that performers are on their marks and the movement paths are clear when they take the “Go?”
Our Spotline hoist is designed for vertical lifting of up to a 500 lb. piece of scenery. can move that 500 lb. load at 36 inches per second. Let’s assume a scenic piece is hanging 30 ft. above your stage floor. You can do a rough back-of-the-envelope physics calculation to find out that this scenic piece has the same potential energy as a 15 lb. bowling ball balanced on the top of the Chrysler Building in New York (Potential Energy of both objects= 21 kilojoules).
All that being said, wouldn’t you want someone watching to make sure that bowling ball did not fall from the top of the Chrysler building? Instead of having the bowling ball watcher also running your lights or sound, they should be given the sole duty of making sure that ball is not going anywhere unexpected (especially if there are people underneath). This is the same reasoning behind having a distinct scenic automation system and operator – someone should have “eyes on” the piece of scenery and have the ability to stop it if need be. If your moving lights lose their positioning, it may be bad for your show, but it usually won’t be a life-safety issue.
This is why we have easy to learn and use Spikemark software for human interfacing of all your automated scenery along with a dedicated emergency stop device, Showstopper 3. Creative Conners uses best practices to make sure your show goes on – but with the necessary safety measures and desired user-friendliness .
P.S. There are cases where it is acceptable for your scenic automation to run from a show controller. Theme parks and museum exhibits are great examples of these occasions. Creative Conners automation gear can cooperate with a show controller if and when it is appropriate. For most theatrical performances, it is not appropriate.
Until next time… Make it Move!
Peter Veal is the Director of Business Development at Creative Conners. He has led a strange and varied life in many realms of live entertainment. Feel free to reach out to him with any questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org