There are many ways to make a stage. From sandbags to servo-motors, people have been using machinery to operate scenery on stage for more than 500 years. Surprisingly, the most common method of doing this today is not all that different than it was 100 years ago.
Most stage rigging is accomplished by using steel counter-weights. These are loaded into carriages (“arbors”), equal to the amount of weight of the scenery, hanging from pipes (“battens”). This allows a flyperson to move the scenery using a rope (“purchase line”) with relative ease. When used properly, these rigging systems produce fantastic performances and they are very safe in trained hands. Much like a see-saw, when the loads are in balance it is easy to move from one position to another. However, we all received an early physics lesson on the playground when an older sibling jumped off the see-saw unexpectedly, and we crashed to the ground. Counterweight rigging behaves the same way. If loaded improperly or used incorrectly, it can be incredibly dangerous. So much so that many school districts, insurance companies, and others have banned the use of counterweight rigging by K-12 students.
In response, a number of companies began selling automated machines to operate scenery. These can range from $15,000 to $50,000 each, placing them outside of the budget of most K-12 venues. Such machines are extremely capable but are similarly complex to operate. They must be serviced and maintained regularly in order to maintain reliability, which is often not possible for smaller districts with limited resources.
CounterMate was designed specifically for K-12 theater automation. The arbors are sealed, meaning there is no counterweight to manipulate or adjust. The controls are simple and intuitive, with accurate and repeatable “spikes” (another term for a preset trim) just as if you were using spike tape on a purchase line. They cost only $7,000 each, and they run on typical 120V 20A wall plugs. Both the controller and electrical components can be replaced in minutes in the unlikely event of a control problem.
For new construction, a loading bridge is not required ($70,000 savings or more!).
In most cases, your existing rigging system can be re-used. Multiple patents pending.