Title means "Quietness", "Comfortable Sound" and "Excellent Acoustics"

Nagata Acoustics News 03-08 (No.188)
Issued : August 25, 2003

"Toki Messe" Convention Center Opens on Japan Sea Waterfront in Niigata

by Ayako Hakozaki

Toki Messe
On May 1, 2003, the new, large-scale convention center named Toki Messe opened in the Bandaijima section of Niigata City, where the mouth of the Shinano River meets the Japan Sea. ("Toki" is the name of the Japanese crested Ibis, a bird native to the area). The Port of Niigata serves the international commercial shipping industry and is a major Japan Sea port. Container vessels bearing goods to and from other Asian port destinations can be seen daily along the Port of Niigata waterfront. Toki Messe was conceived to create a focal point in Niigata City for international exchange and gatherings and to support the promotion of the trade and manufacturing industries with ties to this port city and the Japan Sea coastal region.

<< Overview of the Convention Center Complex >>

The new Toki Messe complex includes the publicly funded Niigata Convention Center and a hi-rise tower named Bandaijima Building that was built with funds invested by the private sector. The convention center occupies three wings, one housing an International Exhibition Hall, one designed for international conferences with a Main Hall, an International Conference Room and medium and small conference rooms, and the third wing designed as an atrium space.

The main occupant of Bandaijima Building is the Hotel Nikko Niigata. The tall building also houses the prefecture-run the Niigata Bandaijima Art Museum and an observation deck that provides excellent vistas of the Japan Sea. The Convention Center and Bandaijima Building are situated in a linear relationship and connected to one another by a 350 m, (1,148 ft)-long, elevated esplanade along the entire length of the complex. The overall project planning and the architectural design of the Convention Center are the work of the architectural firm of Maki and Associates.

<< Acoustical Plan for the Convention Center >>

In this facility, the rooms requiring acoustical design included the Exhibition Hall, the Main Hall, the International Conference Room and the medium and small conference rooms. Because of the Exhibition Hall's large floor space, the requirements for this room included not only functionality for large-scale exhibitions, rallies, tournaments and conventions, but also the ability to use the space for large-scale entertainment events that generate large sound volumes.

As a result of the Exhibition Hall's intended uses, the sound isolation of each of the center's halls became a major consideration of the acoustical design. By implementing an anti-vibration, sound isolating structure for the Main Hall, we achieved the dual benefit of effective sound isolation characteristics between this space and the adjacent Exhibition Hall as well as between the Main Hall and the International Conference Room located on the floor above the Main Hall. We also considered the sound isolation requirements in designing the Exhibition Hall's deployable, sound isolating room divider. The divider separates the Exhibition Hall into two halves. Moreover, when one half of the Exhibition Hall is used for an event that produces large sound volumes, the half that is closer to the Main Hall conference facility can serve the dual purpose of foyer and additional sound-isolating buffer zone. In addition, because each of the facilities connects directly to the open-air space of the esplanade, our acoustical design planned for complete sound isolation boundaries around each room.

<< "Wave Market", the Exhibition Hall >>

The Exhibition Hall's dimensions measure 130 m. (426.5 ft) long x 60 m. (197 ft) wide, with an average ceiling height of 22 m. (72 ft). When the entire hall is used, it accommodates as many as 10,000 people. Given this room's large dimensions, our acoustical design prioritized controls to prevent excessive resonance and damaging echoes. To these ends, we set a goal of achieving an average sound absorption coefficient greater than 0.30 (at mid-range frequencies).

In order to provide the Exhibition Hall with appropriate surface strength, the lower sections of the walls are exposed concrete. However, the upper sections of the walls and the hall's ceiling are finished with sound-absorbing material in order to control the resonance level in the room. In addition, because the Exhibition Hall has a rectangular shape, we needed to address the possibility of flutter echoes produced along the lower portions of the walls when the hall is used for music events. The solution we designed is portable sound-absorbing curtains that can be set out along the concrete portions of the walls when needed.

<< "Snow Hall", the Main Hall >>

The Main Hall measures 38 m. (125 ft) x 30 m. (98 ft), and has a 7 m. (23 ft)-high ceiling. It is designed for all types of conferences, banquets and receptions, with a flat floor and movable chairs for seating. When the seating is set up in rows (theater style), it accommodates an audience of about 1,000 persons. It has six simultaneous interpretation booths. The hall can be divided into two separate rooms using partitions of double thickness that enable the two separate rooms to be used simultaneously.

In keeping with its intended purposes, we designed the Main Hall to have a resonance with an average sound absorption coefficient of 0.25 - 0.30 (at mid-range frequencies). Because the walls of this hall form a rectangular shape, we designed the lower portions to have a zigzag shaped surface in order to prevent flutter echoes, and we installed ribbing and rock wool walls at the upper portions of the side walls for sound absorption.

<< "Marine Hall", the International Conference Room >>

International Conference Room
The International Conference Room has a floor area of about 650 sq. m. (6,996 sq. ft) and also has a flat floor and movable chairs for seating. It seats about 550 people when the chairs are set up in theater style. This hall also has six simultaneous interpretation booths. We designed the resonance in this hall to meet the same criteria as for the Main Hall, that is, an average sound absorption coefficient of 0.25 - 0.30 (at mid-range frequencies).

Since the floor plan of the International Conference Room is an almost perfect circle, our acoustical room design incorporated the use of convex surfaces along the lower portions of the hall's walls in order to impede the occurrence of sound focusing. In addition, for the upper portions of the walls we again implemented a zigzag shaped design, and used a combination of ribbing and rock wool to achieve a sound-absorbing interior structure.

<< The Convention Center's Sound System Planning >>

by Katsuji Naniwa, M&N Sound Projects

♦Because the Main Hall is a large, rectangular space with parallel opposing walls, our sound system planning took into consideration the need to prevent the echo phenomena associated with rectangular spaces. Therefore, we used a dispersed placement approach as the basis of our design, installing 76 loudspeaker units across the entire ceiling.

Each loudspeaker has its own driver and, by setting specific groups of the speakers to have the appropriate delays of several milliseconds, we achieved excellent clarity of amplified speech throughout the hall. We also eliminated "booming" phenomena through the use of equalizers. In addition, in order to mitigate any echoes that might occur when free-standing loudspeakers are used in the hall, we designed the sound system so that the ceiling loudspeakers in the rear section of the hall will be used together with the free-standing loudspeakers.

The Main Hall's mixing table and other sound system equipment are all digitally operated. This provides the greatest ease of use, enabling the sound system to be readily adapted to numerous hall configurations, such as various locations for a stage, division of the hall into two separate halls and set ups with different sizes and quantities of free-standing loudspeakers.

♦ For the nearly circular International Conference Room, we anticipated the same potential detrimental echoes as for the Main Hall. Our strategy again used dispersed ceiling loudspeakers as the basic design. In this hall, we installed 24 units of 2-way loudspeakers to provide for both amplified speech and video/DVD screen presentations, plus a number of woofers for amplification of low-register sound. Additionally, we implemented the same approach as in the Main Hall to accommodate the addition of large-scale free-standing loudspeakers, so that the sound system uses the ceiling loudspeakers together with the free-standing equipment.

The contact information for Toki Messe is: Bandaijima General Planning Company at +81-25-246-8400. The website URL is http://www.niigata-bandaijima.com/english.

The Value of Industry Group Training Tours and the Invaluableness of People

by Makoto Ino

Since the start of 2003, I have participated in a numerous training and seminar events organized by hall-related industry associations. The kinds of groups that host and attend these events in Japan include associations of public multipurpose hall and concert hall administrators, managers from private companies engaged in hall operations, theater design and construction consultants, architects, stage equipment manufacturers, and other professionals with similar interests.

Because these training/observation tours and lecture events attract a broad cross-section of individuals representing both the public and private sector, and people in managerial, "hands-on," and technical capacities, as well as equipment manufacturers, each gathering becomes a venue for sharing information and knowledge. Listening to the perspectives and opinions of people engaged in related industries and with experience in diverse roles increases our mutual understanding of each other's challenges, needs and constraints. In addition, these events provide us the opportunity to tackle and resolve technical issues of mutual concern. One such issue addressed this year was establishing safety rules and methods for hanging moving lights and loudspeakers from electrically powered, vertically adjustable stage batons.

<< Hall Technical Staff Bring Insight and Debate to Project Planning >>

Understanding how a person's area of specialization influences his views on project planning decisions is becoming increasing valuable on theater and hall projects because these projects' planning and construction phases now often include representatives from each technical area of stage design and production in the decision-making process. For example, when the New National Theatre project was under construction in Tokyo (1992-1997), a group of hands-on theater professionals, including directors, musicians, stagecraft artists and technical experts in stage lighting and stage acoustics came together to debate what the requirements should be for a theater that would house their future dramatic and artistic creations. The members of this group were articulate people in their 30s and 40s, with passionately held views about their respective crafts, and they wrestled with each other's disparate opinions about not only the theater to be built, but also about what the content of performances should be.

In these discussions, the clash of ideas came from the different professional perspectives, the different previous theatrical experiences and the different creative imaginations that the specialists brought to the table. For example, stage lighting typically shoots from the audience seating area towards the stage, while loudspeakers are placed at the front end of the stage or proscenium facing towards the audience. In addition, from a room acoustics perspective, reflection panels are also essential equipment. During the process of gaining everyone's approval for the physical location and visual appearance of these different stage-related elements, the strongly held views of what was necessary and important for one specialist's area inevitably collided head-on with the needs of another person's specialty.

In the course of these debates, we learned that the only way to move the decision process forward would be to listen to the circumstances and the needs of our colleagues. Armed with this approach, we became open to understanding the aims, problem-solving methodologies and constraints of each specialty area.

<< Non-acousticians Can Be Acoustics' Strongest Advocates >>

One of the consultants who participated in the New National Theatre project's debates was lighting consultant Mr. Motoi Hattori, of Lighting Company Akarigumi. After the New National Theatre project, I found myself frequently working with Mr. Hattori on other hall projects. On one of these projects, I recall that Mr. Hattori, representing his own specialty field, included in his requirements the unconditional statement that "sound is the lifeblood of a playhouse." His statement caught me totally off guard, as Mr. Hattori was almost certainly giving primary importance to the project's architectural acoustic issues over the requirements and considerations of his own specialty.

Recently, I experienced another similar episode, this time while working on the renovation project of Matsumoto Civic Center with Mr. Kunihiko Ichiki, who served as stage sound system adviser. During this project, I had many opportunities to share ideas and opinions with Mr. Ichiki, who is also the Stage Technical Manager and Sound Chief at the extremely successful Setagaya Public Theater in a residential section of western Tokyo. Mr. Ichiki told me that his theater experience has led him to the same conclusion voiced by Mr. Hattori.

<< Theaters, Acoustics and Low Reverberation Times >>

I understand Mr. Ichiki's views as highlighting the fact that what theaters need is not an "acoustically dead" space created with sound-absorbing designs and materials, but rather, excellent acoustical characteristics within the required confines of a low reverberation time. That is, (and here I enter the realm of as yet un-researched speculation), the delays and distribution of early sound reflections, which are a primary consideration in concert halls with long reverberation times, may also be an important consideration in theater acoustics, regardless of theaters' low reverberation times.

In working with Mr. Ichiki, I saw that he focused a great deal of effort and energy on how amplified sound travels from loudspeakers to reach theater audiences. Clearly, for live dramatic performances, much art and expertise are needed to achieve the correct acoustical balance between amplified sound effects and the non-amplified words spoken by the actors on stage. In this regard, I am reminded of a past project, on which Mr. Akira Honma (of Flick Pro) was commissioned to produce a sound effects CD specifically for use in testing and tuning a new hall's sound system, and I recall how incredibly natural and realistic the re-created sound of a murmuring brook or blowing wind can be. Mr. Ichiki says that when sound effects are done correctly, the audience does not even notice that sound effects have been added to a scene.

<< An Inclusive Approach to the Meaning of "Fine Acoustics" >>

Today's halls and theaters offer a wide range of functionalities, including theater-production sound effects, sound reinforcement for musical works, recording, broadcasting, and film/video/DVD screening capabilities, all of which use equipment and systems inter-related with a venue's sound system. Stated another way, virtually every system and functionality a hall has is linked in some way to the hall's other systems. In addition, it seems to me that the core common denominator towards which all of these functionalities aim is "fine acoustics." The conditions required to achieve fine acoustics may change based on the specific functionality, but the goal stays the same.

In order for the professionals in each specialty area to understand the differences among the numerous specialty functionalities, the first step is to "stand in the other guy's shoes." That is, we all need to listen to the same sounds and share our observations and opinions about what makes certain kinds of sound good or appealing because of our specific technical perspectives. In addition to valuing the opinions of audiences and critics, both I and Nagata Acoustics believe that we need to listen to and value the opinions and critiques of the technical staff and specialists who use sound systems and stage machinery as their tools for creative expression.

In addition, if those of us who are in the professions of acoustical consulting, architectural and machinery/equipment design, and sound system development and manufacturing would openly share our methodologies and approaches to sound system design and installation with the broad range of technical specialists who use these systems, we can obtain these users' valuable input, ideas and criticism. This is one of the greatest benefits I derive from attending industry symposiums and training sessions, and why I proactively make the time to see and hear industry group presentations. Below I will describe the insights I gained from attending a number of these recent events.

<< The Professionalism of Setagaya Public Theater Technicians >>

Setagaya Public Theater is currently one of the most successful and vibrant of Japanese venues, and because of this reputation, it receives the greatest number of requests for observation tours from both the sponsors of other halls and the design professionals who will be engaged in new hall projects. Even project teams or hall representatives from geographically distant parts of Japan make their way to this theater in the Sangenjaya neighborhood of Tokyo, a few commuter stops west of the Shibuya hub train station.

What specifically draws all of these hall professionals to Setagaya Public Theater and what do they seek to learn from its success? Do they focus on the theater's operations, on how it structures its arts administration activities, on its architecture, or on its machinery, equipment and other installed "hardware?" Since I have attended many of these tours, I can share with the reader that the visitors seem only to care about the "hard" physical aspects of the theater that they can see and touch. When I attend these tours, I often wonder if the visitors are really listening to the explanations provided by the theater's staff member who guides them through the facility, or if the words may be reaching the visitors' ears but their import not being retained.

In my opinion, the key learning that a visitor to Setagaya Public Theater can gain is the realization that the theater's technical staff are a main reason for the theater's success. This venue's technical specialists display total mastery over the venue's hardware. They maximize its use, they plan around its capabilities, they raise the funds they need for these and other production purposes and they implement their plans and ideas. Another venue and other people might install the same hardware and systems as Setagaya Public Theater, but it is questionable whether the other venue would reap the same success. In my opinion, it is a long, possibly impossible, "stretch goal" to expect such success if the starting focus is solely the construction of a hall or theater and installing the right machinery, equipment and systems.

<< Two Setagaya Public Theater Technicians Lead New Projects >>

Setagaya Public Theater also serves as an excellent incubator for talented technicians. Two of the theater's former technical staff, Mr. Kenji Toyoguchi and Mr. Masato Kishi, are each now helping to establish the excellent reputations of other halls. Mr. Toyoguchi now serves as Sound Chief at Kitakyushu Performing Arts Center, which I visited at the beginning of July on a JATET (Japan Theater and Entertainment Technology Association) observation tour.

Mr. Kishi is Center Director of the new YCAM (Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media), scheduled to open in November 2003. YCAM's mission is the creation of contemporary, cross-genre and multimedia works that have both high artistic merit and entertainment value. For more than a year before YCAM's opening, the center's management has already recruited and engaged the local community and multimedia artists in YCAM's planning and activities. When I attended the viewing of a video tracing YCAM's accomplishments and milestones to date, the room was full of admiration and compliments. I am sure that YCAM's already strong and rapid success, in advance of its opening, is due in no small part to Mr. Kishi's leadership, which is, in turn, based on a solid foundation of technical expertise and experience.

<< Public Hall Management Staff Are Another Key to Success >>

If the success formula for theaters lies in the blending of human creativity and expertise with the theater's "hardware," and the success formula for concert halls lies in whether the instruments (including the concert hall) and the performers (conductor and/or musicians) meld into one organic, creative entity, what is the formula for a successful, public (usually multipurpose) facility? On this topic, I heard a persuasive argument presented by Mr. Sachiaki Mano, Vice President of the Stage Management Union of Aichi Prefecture, at the 10th Aichi Stage Technicians' Seminar held in mid-July.

According to Mr. Mano, public halls need the additional critical element of permanent technical theater management staff over and above consultants specializing in stage, lighting and acoustics technologies. The roles and responsibilities of a public hall's technical theater management staff include: mediating between the technicians hired or belonging to the groups that rent the hall and the hall's own technical staff to ensure that safety standards and regulations are met; serving as an advocate in support of rental groups' special requests to a hall's technical staff (provided no legal or safety regulations are breached); and proposing solutions and workarounds when the need for compromises arise.

<< Theater Technicians' Safety and Legislative Remedies >>

In connection with the professional status and accreditation of technicians engaged in the broad and growing variety of technical theater-related occupations, the chronic lack of qualified professionals is gaining attention. In particular, this lack is viewed as related to the issue of safe handling and operation of the now prevalent large-scale stage machinery, an issue of current concern among professionals in the theater and entertainment industry.

In 2001, the Japanese government passed a new law concerning the government's role in promoting the arts and culture in Japan. (In Japan, the arts and cultural affairs are within the purview of the Ministry of Education, Sports, Science & Technology, often represented by the acronym "MEXT.") In 2002, the Diet (Japanese parliament) passed a companion law on the setting forth the fundamental direction for governmental involvement in the arts and cultural activities. In addition, the Japan Council of Performers' Organizations is presently researching the details for a proposed law under the working title of "Theater Operations Law." For the immediate future, therefore, the approach seems to be to develop legislative solutions to some of the issues facing theaters and theater operation. Whether the new legislation will have a positive regulatory impact on the availability of excellently qualified stage professionals remains to be seen and is an area that should continue to be watched closely.

<< In Summary >>

Whenever I attend a seminar or a tour and demonstration of a hall's or theater's functionalities, I always leave the event with new insights and questions to ponder. In my opinion, this provides good evidence that the opportunities are endless for creative thinking and new ways of interpreting sound. I wonder if my readers would agree.

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Nagata Acoustics News 03-08 (No.188)
Issued : August 25, 2003

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