Two to Tango

Working in tandem with club architect and interior designer Dawn Batsche, lighting and sound guru Tim Hannum created Houston's Tango. The hotspot opened in May 1997. It took just 47 days of construction and three weeks of design to complete the 10,000-sq.-ft. (900 sq. m) space that holds four bars and two dance floors. "It was a total gut--go in and put a stick of dynamite in the room, then start over," Batsche says.

Major challenges of the project included the construction of the dome structures and the draperies. Both provided a backdrop and screen for the lighting. High End Systems sent Hannum a Studio Color(R) automated luminaire to demo for a couple of weeks, and his crew built a mock-up dome in the warehouse to test the fixture and its positioning. "We wanted to use the Studio Color to illuminate the dome and the dancers, and to shoot through the room, hitting the curtains, the waterwall, everything," Hannum says. So he built the dome and did the test, and ended up using eight Studio Colors around the dome. The base of the fixture fits inside the overhang around the side of the dome, and the head unit on the Studio Color washes the room, lighting up the columns on the way. Two Martin Robocolor 400 fiber heads and 100' (30m) of fiber-optic cable were also used to light the waterwall. "The room is like one big artists' canvas. Anytime, you can paint whatever you want," he says.

One thing that makes the room a blank slate is Batsche's versatile drapery installation. Hannum takes advantage of this by using Studio Colors to project washes onto the curtains. "It's an extremely neutral background for the play of light. You can make the whole room become any color by focusing the Studio Colors on the curtains," he says.

Starting from the bottom up on the main dance floor: Eight diamonds, cut out of the floor with 3/4" Plexiglas covering the holes, provide a dugout to a whole other set of effects. Underneath each diamond-shaped cutout, Hannum installed Techni-Lux blacklight fixtures and Diversitronics 3,000W DMX box strobes. "Of course, the strobe lights rip through all of the skirts of the young ladies dancing on the floor," he says.

The other fixture that Hannum installed, he calls quirky, and claims that everyone laughed at him until they saw the effect. He used eight simple four-lamp spinners. "Old, cheesy disco spinners," he says, "that shoot up through the Plexiglas." Hannum says the play of beams whirling around through the bodies and up onto the dome, especially when there's fog, is like a circus event.

Architectural NSI relay packs, controlled via DMX, switch the spinners, blacklights, and projectors. "Everything I do, I do DMX--dimmer packs, robotic lights, strobe lights--everything converges into the DJ booth," Hannum says. He uses a Doug Fleenor Design splitter amplifier and termination to protect each separate DMX line. From there, it goes into an Elektralite CP-100, which runs everything in the main room.

"To supplement with a little beam action, I used four of my favorite mirror scanners," Hannum says, which are Clay Paky Golden Scan HPEs, because the gobos and prisms allow the operator to manipulate the outcome. For the installation, Hannum tucked the actual mirror unit up into the ceiling. "It was a nightmare to do, but it worked," he says. The result is a clean look because the whole scanner body is not seen. "The only things that come through the overhang between the pods of Studio Colors are the Golden Scan mirror heads," he says. With this setup, Hannum could scan the dome with imagery created by gobos, colors, and prisms, and could also go through the majority of the room projecting big psychedelic images onto the curtains. Optikinetics K1 projectors with 6" oil wheels perched in their 16"x16" openings over the bars create the imagery as well.

In the VIP section of the club, the dance floor imitates the main dance floor and has its own dome. The Red Room hosts a 20" Techni-Lux mirror ball and motor, surrounded by KLS Scatterspots. "Instead of pinspots, I wanted to use something that broke up the beam," he says. He settled on these inexpensive lights that feature a chase effect. Again, there are four diamonds cut into the floor, showing off spinners and blacklight. All of the Red Room's fixtures are controlled from an Elektralite CP-10XT with a separate NSI controller. Tango's lighting programmer is Randy Pfeiffer; Patrick Dierson from Group One programmed the Elektralite units.

All lighting systems are run through the DJ booth and the manager's office from an NSI CP408, a faceplate that controls the scenes, so the operator can change the scene with the touch of a button, rather than dealing with rotary dimmers. The drop ceiling allowed designers to install recessed lighting, so the fixture is not seen, only the shafts of light hitting the tables. High End Systems F-100(TM) performance fog generators with a DMX remote are custom-piped into the main room through a hidden fog distribution system.

"The Studio Colors make the room. Tango was a perfect application for that unit because we had to illuminate everything. The system is so sexy. The lights help to make it sexy," Hannum says.