Clear Vision

 

 

 

Nestled between a golf course and a sports bar, SoCal's 20/20 is an upscale, attractive, and technically unique superclub

By Dawn Schloesser

Montebello, California’s newest superclub has all the typical trimmings of a huge, expensive, glitzy adult playground. It’s the details – push-button control, uniquely advanced systems integration, extensive use of LEDs, floor-to-ceiling windows, and an entertainment director in a romantic kind of love with his systems – that make 20/20, a Markus Sound & Lighting installation, incredibly special.

“Kind of West Hollywood”
When patrons walk through the 20/20’s main entrance, they immediately enter a tunnel of color-changing lights. At the end of the tunnel waits a quiet lobby (shown here), where they can sit on ultra-modern purple leather couches and watch one of the plasma screen TVs, the first of many throughout the club. But it’s only when they pass through the lobby and onto the main level, with its two bars, huge dance floor, and spectacular light and video show, that they fully experience the magic of 20/20.

Club manager Mo Dianat describes 20/20’s environment as “very state-of-the-art, high tech.” The two-story, 30,000-square-foot club is one of the main attractions in the Quiet Cannon entertainment complex, which also houses a golf course, country club, and a 250-room Hilton Hotel. The club’s capacity is around 1,200, but when you factor in Q.C.’s (the smaller sports bar and club that is attached to the second floor of 20/20), and a VIP room, the number hovers around 2,000. “The goal of club management,” said Markus Audio and Lighting’s Gary Hagen, “was to create something that competed with the kind of West Hollywood, high-end places like The Factory. To draw in the upscale dance crowd that expects high quality lighting systems and great sounding audio systems.

“Q.C.’s was the ‘big club,’ back in its day,” Hagen continued, noting that Markus Audio installed a JBL sound system when the club was built six years ago. “But in this current age of superclubs, it couldn’t compare at all,” he said with a laugh. “Now it’s considered the cozy little room.”

“We Hate Windows”
Just prior to the new year, Markus specified, designed, and installed all the sound, lighting, and video systems in 20/20, and upgraded Q.C.’s lighting system to include a Hog 500 lighting console. The company maintained the existing JBL system in Q.C.’s, because it worked well for the smaller venue.

20/20, though, needed speakers that were bigger and louder. The installers went with EAW Avalon Series speakers, simply because, Hagen said, “They’re tough, they’re rugged, and they just sound great.” Markus specified eight EAW Avalon DC2 three-ways as the dance floor main speakers, plus eight DCS2 subs, which can be used for live sound.

Upstairs in the mezzanine, the volume of the music drops considerably, allowing for conversation. “But there are speakers all around you up there as well,” Hagen said. “In that upper deck area, there are 20 JBL Control 26CT ceiling speakers. The Avalon system is pointing directly at the dance floor.” While the Avalon speakers “sound great right about of the box,” Hagen said that one of the major challenges to this project lay in reducing reverberation. “There’s a lot of columns wrapped in perforated stainless steel. It’s a beautiful club, but it certainly gave us a lot of reflective surfaces. Plus, one end of the club is floor-to-ceiling windows. There’s a large staircase that leads up to the mezzanine, where you can look down and watch what’s happening on the dance floor. There’s a giant wall – probably 45 feet high – of windows. Now, obviously, audio guys, we hate windows.”

However, Hagen said he was able to work with the general contractor to find solutions that would not compromise the aesthetics of the club. “We had a lot of support from the club management to work with the contractor and help decide surface materials, angles, things that helped the sound immensely,” he said.

He explained that they were able to alter right angles just slightly, so that “visually, it doesn’t look like it, but, audibly, when the sound waves hit it, they don’t bounce directly back at you.” Acoustic treatments that blend in with the walls further reduced sound reflections from the window. “Back in the club, [the fabric] doesn’t look any different than the walls. But that allowed us to absorb some of the sound waves back into the windows, so they didn’t bounce back out onto the dance floor,” he said.

A major component of the new system, for both 20/20 and Q.C.’s, is a BSS Audio Soundweb system, which links all three club environments, including the V.I.P. room. Hagen explained: “The sound systems can operate independently, as three different rooms, or any one of the rooms could take control over the other two and send music in there. If you didn’t have a DJ playing in Q.C.’s, but you had one playing in 20/20, you could pipe the music in there.” The Soundweb is made up of 9088 processors, plus 9010 remote control units in the rack room and DJ booth. “It’s a pretty amazing control system,” Hagen said. “The rack room looks like the deck of Star Trek.”

Just Waiting For A Club
Rack room aside, a futuristic vibe permeates the entire club. Hagen described the club’s ambience as “post-industrial, with lots of stainless steel.” It was Hagen and Dianat’s willingness to experiment, to take chances and try unique video and lighting concepts, that created the “out-of-this-world” atmosphere 20/20 visitors enjoy. “Most of our designers and engineers have a theme park background as well,” Hagen said of Burbank-based Markus Audio and Lighting. “We are show-based people. We tend to take things from the approach of putting on a show.”

The tunnel of lights at the club’s entrance exemplifies this, as do the 144 additional Color Kinetics iColor DMX LED fixtures that fill the club’s arch ceiling, creating a rainbow effect.

“You’ll see what look like little pipes coming down from the wall, eight-inch long cylinders that are sandblasted out,” Hagen said. “The I-color fixture is actually mounted inside each of those, so the whole tube kind of glows. It’s really cool.”

While this approach to lighting has never been used before in a nightclub, Hagen said he had used the products on other entertainment projects. “Our president, Jim Markus, who is also our chief designer, has just been looking for a [club] project to [use them], looking for somebody with the budget, and somebody who is willing to take the plunge and go for something that nobody’s done before,” he said.

Go Blue
Sure, the club looks awesome, but perhaps even more importantly, its systems are “incredibly easy to use,” Hagen said.

For instance, the Colorkinetics LEDs, which Hagen described as one of the showpieces of the club, are integrated with both the lighting and video systems. Control of both systems can shift from the lighting designer to the DJ, depending on who’s available to work the system.

Audio
24 - JBL Control 28T background speakers
20 - JBL Control
26CT ceiling speakers
8 - Crown Macro Tech 3600 amps
8 - EAW Avalon DC2 three-way speakers
8 - EAW Avalon DCS2 Subs
7 - Crown MT2400 amps
4 - Crown Com Tech 810 amps
2 - BSS Audio Soundweb 9088 processors
2 - BSS Audio Soundweb 9010 remote control units
2 - dbx 482 Driverack processors
2 - JBL SR4732X three-way speakers
2 - Technics SL1200MKII turntables
1 - Aphex Aural Exciter
1 - Aphex Dominator 2
1 - Crown ComTech 410 amp
1 - Denon 2600F CD player
1 - EAW JF200ie two-way speaker (DJ monitor)
1 - Rane MP44 DJ mixer
1 - Shure UHF Wireless mic
1 - Technics SLP 09 five-disc CD changer

Lighting
144 - Color Kinetics iColor DMX LED fixtures
48 - Opti Pars
14 - High End Systems Studio Spot 250’s
13 – 18-inch half mirror balls
12 - American DJ DP20 DMX dimmer packs
8 - American DJ DMX Unipacks
8 - Color Kinetics Color Blasts
8 - Elation Barrel Techs
6 - Altman UV705 400-watt UV floods
4 - Color Kinetics C-200 LED fixtures
4 - Juice Box 2 power distributors
2 - American DJ Branch 4 DMX splitters
2 - Reel FX DF50 hazers
1 - Color Kinetics MultiSynch playback controller
1 - Flying Pig Systems/HES Hog 1000 lighting console
1 - GLP Patend 1200
1 - High End Systems F100 Fogger
1 - High End Systems Power Cue Store DMX playback controllers
1 - iMOPS power supply
1 - Mobolazer ML10/250 GreenBlue Laser w/ Sc-1 Liquid Sky effect

Video
18 - R.E. Smith CAS24 RS485 code-activated switch
17 - Inline IN1130 CAT5 VGA receivers
16 - Fujitsu 4209 42-inch plasma flat screen TVs
6 - Inline IN1124 CAT5 VGA transmitters
2 - Panasonic PTZ dome cameras
2 - Panasonic PTZ camera controllers
2 - R.E. Smith ASC24 RS232/RS485 converters
1 - APC CS200 UPS battery backup power supply (for computers)
1 - APC PS700 UPS battery backup power supply (for AV system)
1 - Dell computer
1 - ELO 1525L 15-inch LCD touch screen
1 - JVC 3900 Super VHS video cassette recorder/player
1 - Inline IN3264 VGA distribution amplifier
1 - Inline MSX1616 RGBHV switcher
1 - MediaMation Audio-to-MIDI converter
1 - MediaMation ShowFlow computer system w/ custom script
1 - Panasonic 6500UL LCD Projector w/ long throw lens
1 - R.E. Smith RS485 Opto-Isolated 10-port hub
1 - 15-inch Samsung 570TFT LCD monitor 1 - Sony DSS receiver
1 - Stewart 16' x 9' motorized screen
1 - Toshiba SDK600 DVD player

“If the DJ comes in and doesn’t really want to mess with the lighting system,” Hagen explained, “he can touch music mode, and the ceiling is now tied in to specific frequency bands that come out of the DJ mixer. As the music is pumping and pumping, the ceiling is acting exactly in the right tempo to whatever the music is doing, without the DJ thinking about it,” Hagen said. “Our goal was to do something really cutting edge, to do something that was very integrated, very high end, yet making it as simple as a touch of a button to operate everything.”

The Flying Pig Systems/HES Hog 1000 lighting console, two Samsung 15” LCD monitor touch screens – one for lighting and one that controls the Dell computer – and an ELO 1525L 15” LCD touch screen monitor for the video/show control system, go a long way toward meeting that goal.

“The touch screens were our way of making the system as simple as possible,” Hagen said. “While it’s a very complex show control, video, and lighting system, we wrote computer programs for everything. Just pushing buttons on the touch screen would make the entire room do whatever you want it to do. You can actually touch the screen to make the room blue, and all of the [High End Systems] Studio Spot 250s and other fixtures would respond to that and go blue. The lighting guy can control the video stuff, the video guy can control the lighting stuff, or the DJ can control all of it.”

At press time, Hagen was training several of the club’s DJs to use the system, although everyone who’s learned it so far has picked up it very quickly. “We actually set the goal for ourselves that a DJ could walk in and run the entire show system, and blow people’s minds,” he said. “He didn’t have to be a trained lighting or video guy to accomplish that.”

The Ferrari
Although anyone can learn to use the system, on weekends and other big club nights, lighting and video control rests in the hands of Tommy Sanchez, 20/20’s exuberant entertainment director.

“I walked into this incredible system!” he said, sounding quite like the proverbial kid in a candy store – or perhaps a grown man in a 2002 Ferrari, the analogy he used. “It’s like walking into a Ferrari and they let you loose with it. That’s what I have, a Ferrari. I love it.”

After his first time using the Hog 1000 lighting console, Sanchez said he was impressed by its capabilities and ease-of-use. “With other systems, there’d be a separate controller [for each lighting fixture]. You’d have to reach across here, across there, to do a show. It’s hard to do that if you want to do a strobe hit here, a sweep there, maybe another program you have. With the Hog, everything’s right there. You just pull up a chair and everything’s within two feet of you. You can change everything, from the gobos to the colors. You can position everything differently in the middle of a program. You don’t need to scroll through [menus]. There’s a button for everything.”

Sanchez particularly liked the ability to alter his light show on the fly. “During a show, while something is running, if you catch an idea, you can start programming it in immediately. You have one program running, and you go, okay, I think this would look better in this color with that gobo, and – boom, boom – two buttons and [it’s done].”

A Dell computer, running Microsoft PowerPoint, allows the club to add graphics, club promotions, and advertisements on any of the sixteen 42-inch Fujitsu 4209 plasma screen televisions, which line the club’s walls, or on the giant 16’ x 9’ motorized screen from Stewart Electronics.

A Toshiba SDK600 DVD player and JVC 3900 Super VHS VCR, plus two Panasonic PTZ dome cameras above the dance floor and under the DJ booth, further enhance the club’s video capabilities. Each of the plasma screens can be addressed independently via the touch screens, allowing users to put a DVD on one, live satellite feed on another, and graphics advertising the club’s different nights on still another. The system is limited, it would seem, only by the controller’s imagination.

Sanchez revealed plans to take pictures of the crowd with a digital camera throughout the night, and then run a slide show on the plasma screens. “I think they’ll enjoy that,” he said. “People just walk by and see everything. They love it.”

At the beginning, Sanchez found it hard to tear himself away from the addictive system. “The first couple of weeks, I didn’t want to leave,” he confessed. “I come in early lots of times just to fool around.”

Whether he’s putting together video sequences or playing with the Hog, Sanchez just wants to entertain. “When people first come in, they’ll look up – they haven’t seen anything like it, either. They’ll be looking up at the ceiling for a while, like, ‘Wow, what’s that?’ I see people looking up like that, and so there I go – I gotta show off a little. I start punching my best shows and it’s fun. I try to impress the people.”

“Absolutely Entertained”
Markus Audio and Lighting designed and built the systems to impress the people, so that they would keep coming back to 20/20. “We took the approach that we want anyone who attends the club to be absolutely entertained,” installer Hagen said.

“We took a theme park approach. You can dance, of course, and have a great time that way and listen to the music. But if you just want to hang out, there are tons of visual things going on around you to keep you occupied. We made it so that you didn’t need to go anywhere else. You can go there, and it wouldn’t be the same thing night after night. There’s so much going on, you can go there four or five times and literally not see the same things happening. Our ultimate intention was to help the client get return customers.”

Soft-spoken Dianat mentioned that the club has some big-name DJs and live acts lined up for the future and that the Wednesday night Salsa parties have been very successful. He also said he was extremely pleased with the installer’s work on the $2.5 million renovation/construction project, of which $550,000 went toward the sound, lighting and video systems. “They really worked hard at it. They spent day and night sometimes on it to make sure it was done right. The whole thing came out unique, the background lighting, the top lighting. It’s a nice, upscale place to go.”

     
Copyright 2002 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2002 TESTA Communications