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Updating Stagehand Firmware

Stagehand firmware – we update it for a reason, so should you!

Every Stagehand Controller has a Stagehand Card inside, listening to Spikemark and talking to the VFD.  These cards require firmware running on the microprocessor to function the way we expect – every now and then we update the firmware with new features and bug fixes.  Firmware updates for any Stagehand motor controller or Stagehand Mini^2 are distributed and installed through Sprikemark.  You can see what hardware and firmware version your Stagehand is running from the Hardware pane in Spikemark. 

Below is a list of Stagehand Control Cards and the Stagehands they can be found in.
  • Stagehand 1.x
    • Stagehand AC/Classic
    • Stagehand DC
    • Stagehand Mini
    • Stagehand OEM
  • Stagehand Bipolar
    • Stagehand Pro
    • Stagehand Mini^2
  • Stagehand Unipolar
    • Stagehand Apprentice
    • Stagehand Pro V3
    • Stagehand Servo
    • Pushstick Mini
    • Spotline Mini
You can find the current published versions of Firmware here (https://creativeconners.com/products/software/)

Have no fear if you see “unknown” next to the most recent firmware – the fix is very easy.  Instead of opening the show file directly by double clicking, open Spikemark from the Start Menu, then open your show file from the File menu.  Once the show is open and all Stagehands are connected you will see all the correct info.  If you still see “unknown” after starting Spikemark from the Start Menu it probably means that Spikemark was installed under a different Windows user and the only way to learn what firmware is installed is from the face of the Stagehand Controller.  The current firmware is also displayed on the Stagehand Card at boot-up.

Any Stagehand that requires updated firmware displays a Cloud icon.  Updating the firmware only requires you to click the “Update Motor Firmware” button.  If the update button is not available, or if you are rocking REV10 firmware or you will need to complete the update manually.

Here’s how: (Huge warning: This does not apply to Stagehand FX’s! You cannot update your FX firmware and if you try, you will ‘brick’ it and you will need to send it back to us for a new firmware installation.)
  1. Download the Stagehand Updater here.
  2. Download the firmware file(s) you need
    1. Stagehand 1.x – REV19
    2. Stagehand Bipolar – REV31
    3. Stagehand Unipolar – REV50
    4. Stagehand FX – REV5
  3. Unzip the Stagehand_Update folder to your Desktop
    1. The folder will have 5 files in it – they are all required to be in the same directory as the Stagehand Update.exe application
  4. Release the E-Stop
    1. The Stagehand cannot be in an E-Stop state to update the Firmware
  5. Connect your computer to the Stagehand, either directly or through a network switch
  6. Run Stagehand Update.exe
    1. Enter the IP Address of the Stagehand you need to update
    2. Select the proper firmware firmware file
      1. IMPORTANT NOTE: Pushing the incorrect firmware file to the Stagehand will require a trip back to the factory to restore
    3. Press the UPDATE button
      1. A few new windows will flash on the screen
  7. After the process is complete, the newly updated Stagehand should reboot in about 30 seconds.
    1. During reboot, it should display the new firmware revision number. And that’s it, you’re now running the latest and greatest firmware revision.

Automation, Programming

Just a quick post to point out a cool new feature in SpikeMark — Input Actions.

Before Christmas, one of our customers had a specific need. They do a lot of performer flying systems and build incredibly complex cue link sequences to achieve realistic flying effects. Sometimes a winch needs to be temporarily removed from the show for a cue or two. If a performer misses a pickup, the motor needs to be disabled and the automation tech will drive the winch manually to get the actor back on spike. They have built their own hardware to make it easy to switch between automated control and joystick control, but SpikeMark wasn’t playing nice.

In an automated cue link sequence, SpikeMark wants to see every motor involved in the cue load the cue information before executing. This is obviously done for safety, if the cue isn’t fully loaded SpikeMark doesn’t want to crash scenery. In the performer flying scenario, the operator KNOWS that it’s OK to run the cue sequence, in fact disrupting the link sequence causes a lot of trouble. What was needed was a button that could be pressed to temporarily deactivate a motor and let the rest of the show carry on as if it didn’t exist. So… what to do…

Just after Christmas, another customer had a  show with a triple ring turntable. Each ring would be running in a cue and at an actor-driven moment in the  show, the middle ring needs to decelerate and stop. If you tried to use “Stop All Cues”, all 3 rings would stop. The stop point is actor driven, so there’s no way to write an automated link. What was needed was a button that could be pressed to abort a single motor out of a cue sequence.
So.. what to do…

A new feature called Input Actions

If you have a  Stagehand FX, you can now use the inputs to trigger global actions. The first two actions that have been created are:

  • Deactivate Stagehand

    This action will take a motor out of all cues until the input is released without affecting cue links.

  • Soft Stop Stagehand

    This action will abort a Stagehand by taking the programmed deceleration rate immediately without effecting other motors running in a cue.

Input  Actions can be added to any FX input and multiple actions can be attached to a single input, making some cool effects possible. Below is a screenshot:

If you have ideas for more Input Actions, let us know because I’d love to make this feature even more useful.