Midnight special: Heat Beat treats bands to a big-time lighting system in a club-like atmosphere


The underground live music club scene in Osaka, Japan, has brightened up thanks in large part to the opening of Heat Beat. Last spring, Snow Brand Milk Products (one of the 10 highest-grossing food companies worldwide) opened the club in the basement of its own building.

LD Richard "Scooter" Oi, who was brought in to consult on the lighting installation, explains, "They built this building for their company from the ground up, then they built the club into the bottom of it, which is great because it's connected to all the underground walkways in Osaka. It's convenient and people can get there easily."

Conceived as a live music hall rather than a dance club, Heat Beat holds a maximum crowd of 1,000 people standing, yet it's been outfitted to produce high-level concerts for any musician at a reasonable cost. Because Heat Beat is a rental club, anybody can rent the space and the lighting equipment. So while it hosts its share of big-name musicians, young artists can also use the hall's lighting to create a fully produced show.

"It's probably one of the coolest, most beautiful little clubs I've ever seen. It's all done in wood and brass--just stunning," Oi says. "The stage, which is equipped with a hydraulic system, is at one end and there is a little bar all the way at the back. At the other end, there is another bar, and the FOH sound board is on the floor on a riser. The lighting console is up in its own room with some spotlights for the band. They put in every bit of technology they could find. There are more than 100 moving lights, tons of PAR cans, all the best audio. I was really impressed with the amount of effort they put into the place. It's an LD's dream--if you're with a small tour in Japan, when you get to Osaka you've got a great club to work in."

Besides the moving lights, Heat Beat features sophisticated consoles and scene-simulation software, all permanently installed in the mid-sized hall. Oi worked with Japanese lighting company Stage Instruments Inc. on the installation. LD Yoshi Matsumoto of Stage Instruments explains how he approached designing Heat Beat's lighting system. "The hall size is 270 sq. m (1,592 sq. ft.) and the stage size is 12m (40') wide by 6m (20') deep by 3.8m (13') high. This space is not big enough for the same kind of lighting as an arena-sized hall, so we planned it differently."

The company's first step was to choose the number and types of moving lights it wanted. "After comparing several kinds, we chose the Galileo 575W, made by SGM Electronica in Italy," Matsumoto says. "We needed a smaller lens diameter and a smaller body size to make audiences feel the spaciousness of the hall. Because the distance from the lights to the stage is not very far, we thought another important requirement would be the mirror's smooth movement. After installing the Galileos, we are satisfied with the mirror's smooth, quiet movement, even at a very slow speed. Plus, we can also use them in fixed positions like PAR cans. We also added compact-sized halogen lamp mirror scans, which harmonized the moving lights with the conventional lights."

The mirror scan Matsumoto mentioned is the SGM Victory, which Oi says is a small and simple moving-mirror instrument. "It doesn't have many bells and whistles--for instance, there are no rotating gobos--but Heat Beat has them all lined up from one end of the stage to the other," Oi says. "They're pretty cool for what they do, and because it has so many of them they are a viable tool."

Matsumoto says the company wanted to have a variety of lighting fixtures available in the club. "These fixtures also add interesting, individualized effects to scenes. We mainly use moving lights but we also have more than 200 compact-sized conventional lights with small 4.5" lenses, to vary the looks and in case the operator does not have enough time to program moving lights."

"We installed the moving lights just below the ceiling, above the audience's seats," Matsumoto continues. "Our concept is to make the entire hall the stage itself. Spotlights from the ceiling make the audiences feel they are part of the show. Audiences can enjoy arena-like shows in a club environment here because Heat Beat combines the advantages of both a club and an arena."

Because more than 2,500 DMX channels are needed to control all these fixtures, the company took great care in planning the entire control system. "We planned two parallel systems for all types of operators: The simple system does not involve many moving lights while the high-level system includes the newest technologies for maximum operation," Matsumoto explains. "Because we usually do not have enough time to program scenes, the main console board has many sub-master feeders to play back cues soon after programming. The other 192-channel preset board has been linked to the main board through ethernet. The simulation system using CG also is linked to this system. As a result of this, operators can use many types of systems and choose a programming style to suit their needs."

Oi had met Midori Sasai of New York City-based Atlantica Manhattan Design, which represents the club's owners, at LDI a couple of years ago, where he recommended Compulite's control systems. "They were among the first to buy one of the new Compulite Sabre consoles, and they installed one in the club," Oi says. "The desk is equipped with CompuCAD and the WYSIWYG program, and ethernet is hooked up to provide DMX flow through the conventional board as well. The club has a Japanese operator running the moving lights from the Sabre; touring LDs can run the conventional lights. That was more for the benefit of touring LDs who don't know how to run a Sabre, because you can actually run everything off one. Compulite made it as user-friendly as it could."

As a veteran concert LD well-versed in programming and operating most of the control consoles the industry has to offer, Oi did the initial setup and programming and gave the house LDs a few pointers. "I really appreciate the product manufacturers and the lighting designers who gave us advice," Matsumoto says. "Now it is possible to edit data off-line and edit, program, and operate the real show from a remote location through the telephone line. This is the new era of lighting. Most Japanese think moving lights are too complex and require too much time to be practical, but this system enables you to reduce design and programming time. I am proud of this project, because it is one of the highest-level lighting control systems in the country."

So far, the club has successfully stimulated the music scene in Osaka by inviting many regional acts to play there as well as international performers, who have so far included Dio, Wu-Tang Clan, Mary Black, and Motorhead. Now that Heat Beat has achieved its initial goal of filling the void for mid-sized clubs in Osaka, Snow Brand plans to open the same type of club in Tokyo, Hokkaido, and New York City in the near future.

Until then, Heat Beat will continue to set a new standard for concert lighting in Japan. "The high caliber of the artists they're bringing in from all over the world has made a smaller, live music venue into something special," Oi concludes. "The folks at Stage Instruments Inc. are all professionals, and the boss was right there, getting dirty with everyone else. It was nice that they invited me to be a part of their little group. A lot of LDs are going to have fun in there because when you're in Japan, you usually just have to deal with whatever you get. But here, there is a lot of completely functional equipment you can get really creative with. They mounted everything on custom trussing, so there are all these cool circles for LDs to play with."

Owner Snow Brand Nishiumeda Development Co. Ltd.

Concept and design AD Melco Inc.

Lighting system design Yoshi Matsumoto (Stage Instruments Inc.)

Lighting programmer Richard "Scooter" Oi

Sound design Kenji Motegi

Lighting equipment

Moving lights (46) SGM Galileos (48) SGM Victorys (8) Studio Due Stratos HRs (10) Fly Trichromas

Conventional lights (42) CDE PAR-64s (8) CDE PAR-36s (10) Strobo 1.5kWs (104) cyclights (border)

Spotlights (72) COM-05s (22) COM-12s (33) FI-05, 12s

Control System HB-1 memory control system 3,000-channel moving control system 512 channels conventional dimmers CG simulation system Compulite Sabre desk Crescit Software Inc. CompuCAD Ethernet system with NSI, Fujitsu, NEC, and Acer equipment