Stagehand Apprentice DC


Congratulations on your purchase of the Stagehand Apprentice DC motion controller from Creative Conners, Inc. The Stagehand Apprentice DC brings the excitement of automation to theatres of all sizes. Combining the motion controller and motor drive into a compact package, The Stagehand Apprentice DC eliminates the clutter and complexity of other automation systems.

This manual will direct you through:

  1. Unpacking

  2. Installation

  3. Powering Up

  4. Operation

  5. Troubleshooting

If you need help along the way contact us by email (, online ( or by phone (401-289-2942 x2)

What’s in the box

Inside the box you should find:

  1. Stagehand Apprentice DC Motion Controller

  2. Locking IEC Power Cable

  3. (4) 10-32 Rack Screws

If any of these items are missing or damaged, please contact us immediately for a replacement.

If you purchased any accessories (cables, adapter, or hardware), those items are packaged separately.

Stagehand Apprentice DC Features

The Stagehand Apprentice DC brings the same power and simplicity of our Stagehand line, but now includes the added features to drive your favorite DC Machines. Let’s look over all these flexible features.

Rack Mounting

The Stagehand DC comes in an easy to install 3U rack mountable enclosure

1 - Forward and Reverse Jog Buttons

Press and hold, then turn the speed knob, to manually move the motor

2 - OLED Status Display

A two-line display shows handy, at-a-glance info. It’s OLED which makes it easy to see backstage in the dark.

3 - Knob

When used with the jog buttons, the knob will adjust speed from 0%-100%. It doesn’t like to be spun super-fast, slow and steady is the best method. The knob is also a button that can be used for network configuration.

4 - Mains Power Indicator

The power indicator glows when the circuit feeding the Stagehand Apprentice DC is energized.

1 - Input Power

The Stagehand Apprentice DC requires 120VAC single phase input power. This means plug it into any standard wall outlet and you have all the power you need for your Stagehand Apprentice DC.

2 - E-Stop

The Emergency Stop signal from a Showstopper 3 Base or Hub is sent over a 5-pin XLR connector. Inside, the Stagehand uses a SIL3 safety relay and redundant force-guided contactors to remove power from the motor when the Emergency Stop is activated.

3 - Motor and Brake Output

Power for a motor and brake is transmitted through a 5-pin + Ground rugged rectangular industrial locking connector.

4 - Fuse Protected Motor Output

The easy to access fuse holder installed on the back of the Stagehand, and the included 5mm x 20mm 2.5A fuse alleviates the worries of a dangerous circuit overload.

5 - Signal

If you are familiar with our other stagehands, you may have noticed that the Stagehand Apprentice DC does not use our typical signal cable. Instead the Stagehand Apprentice DC has just one encoder connection that uses a 8 pole M12 connector. This Stagehand Apprentice DC also has no limits and no rules. Since these Stagehands are being used in a rotational application, limits are neither necessary nor practical. However, it is important to note that these Stagehands cannot be repurposed for either linear or hoisting applications.

6 - Ethernet

All Stagehand motor controllers communicate with our Spikemark software over Ethernet with a standard RJ45 CAT5 cable. The connection can be fortified with a Neutrik EtherCon shell for improved mechanical latching.

Persistent Position

Our older Stagehands originally required a battery backup to maintain encoder position data through a power loss. However, we never loved this solution. Wouldn’t it be better if the Stagehand could remember the machine’s position without a battery? Yes, we thought so too. We developed a nifty feature in the Stagehand firmware that will record the encoder position to flash memory and then read that position if it loses power. This bit of engineering obviates the need for a battery backup in the Stagehand Apprentice DC.

Pro Tip: Persistent Position writes the encoder position to flash memory after the motor has stopped moving for 30 seconds, or when the e-stop is activated. This prevents spurious, frequent flash writes which can wear the memory prematurely. However, that also means that if you lose power mid-move, or before 30 seconds has elapsed at the end of a move, the recorded position will be wrong and you need to manually reset position within Spikemark.

Pro Tip: All Stagehand controllers can take advantage of Persistent Position. If you have older Stagehands, update their firmware to the latest version to take advantage of this great feature.


The Stagehand Apprentice DC is designed to mount in a standard 19” vertical equipment rack and uses only 3U of rack space! Use the included 10-32 rack screws (qty 4) to fasten the controller into an equipment rack.


After the Stagehand is installed, it is time to power it up and get your machine spinning. Below are all the connections that you will need to make and their respective wiring details.

Input Power

The Stagehand Apprentice DC requires a 120VAC Single Phase input power via the included Locking IEC Cable. Below the IEC connector is a built-in 5mm x 20mm fuse box, outfitted with a 5A Fast-Acting fuse.

Motor and Brake

Power output for both the motor and brake have been combined into a single IRC - 21mm x 21mm (3A) 5P+G 600V/16A Female socket. The motor and brake connectors are available from several manufacturers and suppliers. Refer to the following diagram for details. The pins for their matching motor cables are Han E style, with the motor output connecting to pins 1 and 2 and the brake output connecting to pins 4 and 5. The Motor output will be 0-24VDC and the Brake output can control an electro-mechanical brake at 24VDC.


Connecting the encoder using a single 8 pole M12 Connector. Compatible connectors are available from a variety of suppliers.

Encoders connected to the Stagehand must be equipped with differential line drivers to be compatible. Encoders are powered at 5VDC, please confirm your encoder is 5VDC compliant.

Like stated above, this Stagehand Apprentice DC has no limits. Only use this Stagehand for applications that have no over-travel risks.


To communicate with Spikemark and run cues in a show, the Stagehand needs to be connected to a network. Located on the back side of the Stagehand, the Ethernet input will accept a CAT5 network cable with either a traditional RJ45 plug or a RJ45 plug with a Neutrik Ethercon shell installed (Mouser Part #568-NE8MC-B). The Ethercon shell is an XLR housing that slips over a network cable to provide additional strain relief and a positive-lock connection that makes it preferred backstage.


The Stagehand requires a 24VDC Emergency Stop signal from a Showstopper in order to allow power to flow to the motor and brakes. Internally, the Stagehand Apprentice DC has a redundant, self-monitoring circuit to ensure that power will be removed from the motor and brakes instantly if the 24VDC Emergency Stop signal is interrupted. Before you can move any motor, you must connect the Stagehand to a Showstopper Base with a 5-pin XLR cable. The 5-pin XLR cable is not a DMX signal, but rather it was chosen as a convenient cable that is prevalent in many venues so you should always be able to find a spare cable when needed.

Below is the pin-out for the Showstopper Emergency Stop input:


Once all of your connections are made, either by plugging in a pre-wired Creative Conners machine or by wiring up your own machine, the next step is to test the basic machine functions with the Stagehand. The first time you apply power to your machine should be done without a load attached.

Manual Operation

Before you can write complex cues in Spikemark, let’s make sure the machine runs fine when jogging it manually using the buttons and knobs on the face of the Stagehand.

  • Release the Emergency Stop button on your Showstopper

  • Press the Forward Button.

  • While holding the Forward Button turn the Knob Clockwise slowly. The brakes should release, if your machine has brakes, and the machine should begin to move. The Position Encoder counts are displayed on the Status Display. The counts should be increasing in positive value, if not the motor and encoder are out of phase and you’ll need to rewire either the motor or encoder. See the troubleshooting section for more details.

  • Gradually rotate the Knob counterclockwise until the machine stops.

  • Release the Forward Button.

  • Press the Reverse Button.

  • While holding the Reverse Button turn the Knob Clockwise slowly. The brakes should release and the machine should begin to move. The Position Encoder counts are displayed on the Status Display. The counts should be decreasing, if not the motor and encoder are out of phase and you’ll need to rewire either the motor or encoder. See the troubleshooting section for more details.

Understanding the Status Displays

The two-line alphanumeric display on the Stagehand motion controller uses OLED technology to make it easy to read backstage without a distracting backlight. It also has excellent viewing angles, making it easier for you and other operators to see status information at a glance. The Stagehand is primarily used through our Spikemark software, but it is handy to have some bits of information displayed on the Stagehand faceplate for those times that you are working onstage near the machinery and not sitting in front of a computer running Spikemark. Also during shop setup, load-in, and strike you may not have Spikemark running and need to manually operate the Stagehand. The following list explains the information that you can glean from the Stagehand display.

Network Connectivity

When sitting idle, the Stagehand will display its IP address on the bottom line and whether the Stagehand is actively connected to Spikemark. Connected means that the Stagehand has an active connection with a Spikemark computer, Disconnected means that the Stagehand is not actively communicating with Spikemark.

Encoder Position

If you press either the Forward or Reverse jog button, the Stagehand will display the direction it is traveling and current speed as a percentage of full power on the top line. On the bottom line it will display the Position Encoder counter in raw encoder counts. Inside Spikemark the position data will be shown in scaled units, such as feet or inches, but on the Stagehand the raw encoder counts are displayed since the Stagehand isn’t aware of Spikemark’s Position Scale. The position information is helpful when testing equipment in the shop prior to load-in. You can use a Stagehand to power up a machine and confirm that the encoder is working properly by watching the counts increase and decrease when running forward and reverse respectively. If counts decrease when running forward you know that the motor and encoder polarity are mismatched and should be rewired before attempting to run cues.

Emergency Stop

When the Emergency Stop circuit is activated, or unplugged, the Emergency Stop fault message will be added to the flashing fault messages. Any motion that was occurring when the Emergency Stop was detected will be stopped. To clear the fault, release the Emergency Stop button on the Showstopper. Once the fault is cleared, any motion that you wish to execute will have to be restarted. If you were jogging, you will then need to release the jog button and start again. If you were running a cue through Spikemark, that cue will need to be re-loaded and run again. At no time will the Stagehand immediately restart motion after an Emergency Stop fault is cleared, since such behavior could pose a serious safety risk.

Setting the IP Address

When you are ready to write and run complex cues with Spikemark, you may need to assign a new IP address to the Stagehand. Every device on the automation network must have a unique, but similar, static IP address. The easiest address scheme to adopt is to share the first three segments of the IP address and just alter the last segment. We typically use addresses that start:

The last number can be any value from 0 – 255, but no devices on the network can share the same value.

To set the IP address of the Stagehand:

  • Press the Knob. The Knob serves double-duty as a typical rotary knob and a button (much like a car stereo knob).

  • The SET IP address screen will be displayed just like the picture below:

  • There is a blinking cursor on the display, turning the knob will scroll the cursor through the various fields. By turning the Knob, scroll over to the last segment of the IP address which is 32 by default.

  • Press the Knob to select the last segment and make it adjustable.

  • Turn the Knob to set a new value.

  • Once you are happy with the new value, press the Knob to accept the value.

  • By turning the Knob, scroll over to the OK and then press the Knob to set the new address and return to the primary display screen. If you want to cancel the changes you made to the IP address, place the cursor over CANCEL and press the Knob.

Setting the Subnet Mask

Stagehand Apprentice DC also allows you to set the Subnet Address. To unlock the subnet menu simply press and hold the jog wheel until the display shows the Set Subnet screen. The default subnet of should suffice for almost everyone, though if you are integrating the Stagehand and Spikemark with show control systems you may need to adjust the Subnet.


Common Challenges



When running forward, the encoder position decreases. When running reverse, the encoder position increases

The encoder and motor have electrically inverse polarity. You need to either change the motor wiring or the encoder wiring.

Re-wire the motor to match the encoder polarity:

  • Swap two power legs on the motor by swapping the wires on Pin 1 and Pin 2 inside the motor plug.

– OR –

Re-wire the position encoder to match the motor polarity:

  • Swap signal A with signal B

  • Swap signal /A with signal /B

I’m trying to jog or run the motor, but nothing is happening and the status display shows “SET IP” or “SET SUBNET”

The motion controller is in IP/Subnet Address setting mode, which happens when the knob is pressed (either intentionally or just bumped in passing). Confirm the IP or Subnet Address is correct and turn the knob until the cursor is blinking over the word CANCEL and then press the knob. The motion controller will now be in normal mode and can operate the motor again.

The motor operates great with the manual jog controls on the Stagehand but will not operate from Spikemark

  • Confirm the Stagehand is connected to the Stagehand Network with a CAT5 cable

  • Confirm the IP Address and Subnet Address are set correctly

  • Confirm the IP Address of the Stagehand matches in Spikemark

  • Confirm Spikemark is in LIVE mode

Motor won’t run in cue

  • Confirm the Stagehand is connected and clear of any faults

  • Tune the motor within Spikemark, see the Spikemark manual for details.

Technical Support

If you get stuck, we’re here to help. The best way to get in touch with a tech expert is via email - even during normal business hours - because most days we are spread around the shop and may not be near the phone. There’s someone in the office from 8:30a-5pm EST Monday - Friday and will return an email or phone call quickly. After hours (honestly when most tech support issues arise) we have a crack team monitoring email and voicemail who will respond quickly to help get you moving.


Physical Specifications





Stagehand Apprentice DC

5 ¼”


9 ½”


Shipping Specifications

8 ½”

22 ¼”

14 ½”


Electrical Specifications



Input Voltage

120VAC 50/60hz single phase input

Integrated DC Regenerative Drive

Minarik DC20-12/24-4Q

Max Input Current

5 Amps

Max Motor Output Voltage

24 VDC

Min Motor Output Voltage


Max Motor Output Power

1/4 HP

Min Motor Output Power

1/40 HP

Brake Output Voltage


Emergency Stop Input Voltage


Emergency Stop Input Current


Position Encoder Input


Control Input

10Base-T Ethernet


Overview Drawing

Wiring Diagram

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