Universal Studios Japan, Universal's newest theme park, opened last March on a 140-acre waterfront site along Osaka Bay in the Konohona ward of the city of Osaka. Visitors here will discover the usual movie-based attractions, such as Jaws, E.T. Adventure, Jurassic Park, WaterWorld, Terminator 2: 3D, Back to the Future, The Lagoon Show, and Backdraft, all from Universal's Orlando and Hollywood parks. These can be found sitting side by side with new attractions created expressly for the Japanese market, including Universal Studios Motion Picture Magic and Snoopy's Sound Stage Adventure.
Universal Studios Motion Picture Magic, a 10-minute look at film scenes from Universal's archives, is hosted by Steven Spielberg (in a special film segment shot exclusively for this attraction), and housed in a 380-seat theatre that recalls the movie palaces of the 1930s. “The challenge with this attraction,” says Donald P. MacLean, who served as technical manager for the media attractions group during the construction of the park, “was moving from a 70mm format to a digital-based projection system.”
To do so, the attraction uses QuBit, a digital recording, storage, and playback system made by QuVIS in Topeka, KS. This digital system provides a high-quality image, and avoids such problems as scratches, dust, or fingerprints that would accumulate on film over time. “The QuBit playback is of HD quality,” says MacLean, who adds that the images here are projected at 1,920 × 1,024 pixels per frame. The QuBit images can be blown up to large sizes without loss of resolution or pixelation. In this case, the images are projected on three screens, made by Stewart Film Screens in Burbank, which measure a total of 90' across.
The theatre itself has an unusual interior design, created by Richard Bluhm, art director for the attraction. When guests first enter, the theatre is lit only with dimmable fluorescents by the Japanese company Matsushita (all of the dimmers are also by Matsushita Electric). The lighting for the attraction was designed by New York-based Matthew Levesque.
Control is by the Anitech Systems Media Pro 4000 Lighting Control Module; there are no moving lights in this attraction. (USJ attractions with moving lights, such as Snoopy's Soundstage, with its Rosco gobo rotators and High End Systems Cyberlights®, are controlled by Rosco/ET Horizon systems.)
Additional lighting in the Motion Picture Magic Theatre includes 24 ETC Source Fours (hung on the balcony rail) with Gamproducts breakup patterns as house lighting and curtain warmers.
“At first you see the theatre as it would have been in the 1960s,” explains MacLean. “It is like an old movie palace that is run down and has been painted beige.” Once the film starts, things get more interesting and there is a UV changeover in the lighting, which takes the interiors back to their faux 1930s origins and the audience is carried back in time as the film starts to roll.” All of the walls and set pieces are painted with UV paint and lit with 36 new Wildfire 600W UV spots and dimmable UV fluorescents from Japan.
“The walls reveal a multicolored Art Deco pattern in blues, reds, greens, and yellows,” explains MacLean. In fact, the pattern was created offsite, with the white-light version painted first and the UV painted over it. It was then hung as wallpaper in the theatre, which also has a surround-sound system by Matsushita.
The film for the attraction was created by BRC Imagination Arts in Burbank, CA, in association with Universal. “They did a lot of preplanning and offline work with the films,” explains MacLean, noting that one of the challenges was designing the film to span the three screens, which have 12" spaces between them. To avoid projecting into these voids, 12" mullions were superimposed on the film. “You are always looking at three images, either one image repeated or a large image on the entire width, such as a rocket blast in Apollo 13,” he adds.
At the end of the digital film presentation, Steven Spielberg invites the audience to join him in the movies as the center screen flies up and reveals a film set. The audience walks “through” the screen into a post-show area that includes trailers for upcoming Universal films, prop displays, movie posters, and a gift shop.
BRC Imagination Arts also worked on the Woody Woodpecker's Animation Celebration attraction at USJ, incorporating Electrosonic's patented Holovision® process, which allows Woody Woodpecker to escape from his animated cartoon world and enter the real world, wreaking havoc live onstage in an animation studio.
Stage 22, a themed soundstage also found at Universal Orlando, has a new look in the Osaka park. Here guests get a behind-the-scenes look at the sets and props of The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas, a film that was very popular in Japan. California-based LD Tom Ruzika, who did much of the lighting design in the park, lit Stage 22 with a combination of 150 ETC Source Fours and Source Four PARs, controlled by an ETC Lighting Playback Controller.
The audio track for Stage 22 is run on a Roland AS hard-disk playback unit, with digital video playback via five Alcorn McBride DVM2 machines, which play a three-minute preshow video with interviews, and are also used for video stations in the attraction itself, with excerpts of films showing the scenes with the sets in which the guests are standing.
Ruzika, principal designer for the Ruzika Company, started working on USJ in the fall of 1996. “It was a five-year project for The Ruzika Company,” he says. “Our basic scope was to serve as a team of designers with Universal's in-house staff of designers, which was headed by Dietrich Juengling as principal designer, with Lonnie Alacarz and Matt Levesque as associate designers. Joining Ruzika from his office were John Sofranko, Michael Finney, Shawn Whitaker, Stephen Boulmetis, and John Martin, with Mark Matzkanin joining the team for the opening-day ceremonies.
“Our initial scope included providing site surveys of all existing attractions and facilities at both Universal Studios Hollywood and Florida.
“We documented existing lighting conditions for everything that was going to be recreated for Japan,” Ruzika explains. “We then provided a master plan for all lighting at USJ, including documentation standards, equipment standards, potential schedule timelines, and coordination with the Japanese contractors and equipment suppliers.”
After establishing the basic standards for the park lighting, Ruzika prepared initial “basis of design” statements for all attractions, shows, and parkwide lighting. The Ruzika Company also helped to develop facility infrastructure, such as power requirements, lighting catwalk positions, control room rack requirements, and potential heat loads, among other issues.
“Somewhere during this period of work, Universal brought on its team of lighting designers and then we ‘merged’ both teams into one team to cover the entire park,” says Ruzika, whose design team was eventually responsible for designing and supervising the lighting for 21 restaurants, 23 retail stores, five guest-service facilities, and six attractions (Jaws, Back to the Future, Backdraft, ET, TV Production Tour, and Stage 22).
“We jokingly call the attractions ‘bus and truck’ versions of Universal Studios,” says Ruzika, referring to the attractions that were previously produced either in Orlando or Hollywood. “We produced over 500 pages of drawings for schematic design, design development, and eventually final design,” Ruzika continues.
All of these drawings were then re-drawn by the Japanese contractor teams into sekozu drawings, which were reviewed, redlined, and revised onsite as the attractions took shape. In recreating the older attractions, the art directors were able to fine-tune them so that Ruzika could jazz up the lighting designs as well.
“ET is still ET,” he explains, “but we were able to increase the amount of lights, adding Rosco gobo rotators, and four High End Systems Cyberlights for color and rotating ‘laser-cone’ effects.” Other changes include six Optikinetics Ltd. Gobo Pro projectors used for moving light projections and swirling light effects in the redesigned preshow area for Back to the Future.
In Jaws, an extensive lighting plot was added for the killer shark sequence in the boathouse. “In Florida, there are a few PARs and ellipsoidals,” explains Ruzika. “In Japan, we now have over 100 instruments and an extensive cueing system that helps the eye focus on what's going on.” For the overall exterior site lighting, a system of Japanese high-intensive metal halide spots with color filters now adds a moonlight effect to the nightscape of Amity Island.
The Hollywood Magic Lagoon show now has a massive lighting system controlled by two Flying Pig Wholehogs®. The more than 1,500 theatrical fixtures at USJ include many ETC Source Fours modified for Japanese requirements, and a number of Altman StarPars. “It was like taking an out-of-town tryout, and then having the resources to make the lighting the very best possible for the Broadway opening,” says Ruzika, who had the chance to relight attractions that were originally created for Universal Studios in Hollywood and Orlando.
“For the numerous retail, restaurant, and guest-service facilities, we worked very closely with Universal's interior designers and art directors to create exciting new spaces that were illuminated to the Japanese standards of high lighting levels, but still with artistic flair and creativity,” says Ruzika. “We used as many Japanese-manufactured fixtures as possible while using many international fixtures for decorative fixtures and custom fixtures. All lamps were Japanese.” There were literally tens of thousands of architectural lighting fixtures on the project.
“The best thing about the lighting at Universal Studios Japan is the attention to detail,” notes Ruzika. “Equipment was chosen and designs executed in a manner that would allow for good maintenance, and hopefully, to preserve the original lighting design intent.”Photos: © Kevin Kolczynski Universal Studios Japan Lighting Equipment List (partial) CONVENTIONAL LIGHTS
(39) ETC5° Source Fours
(170) ETC 10° Source Fours
(472) ETC 19° Source Fours
(548) ETC 26° Source Fours
(295) ETC 36°Source Fours
(303) ETC 50° Source Fours
(241) 6" fresnels
(99) 10" fresnels
(4) 14" fresnels (maroon)
(74) PAR-64 spotlights — VNSP (lamp)
(21) exterior PAR-64 spotlights
(8) PAR-64 spotlights (weatherproof)
(384) PAR-64 spotlights — NSP (lamp)
(43) exterior PAR-64 spotlights
(142) PAR-64 spotlights — MFL (lamp)
(141) exterior PAR-64 spotlights (lamp)
(8) PAR-64 spotlights (weatherproof) (lamp)
(148) PAR-64 spotlights — WFL (lamp)
(13) exterior PAR-64 spotlights
(108) PAR-46s — VNSP barndoors
(20) PAR-46 — NSP barndoors
(30) PAR-46s — MFL barndoors
(72) PAR-38s — 100W LSI
(14) PAR-64 spotlights
(63) PAR-20 — Birdies
(12) LSI SB20-00s
(173) Hydrel 1kW underwater fixtures — 125-Ns, 48-VNs
(39) 1kW architectural wet/dry fixtures
(17) exterior PAR-56 NSPs — attachment or PAR-64 lamp)
(30) exterior PAR-56-MFL attachment or PAR-64 lamp
(10) exterior PAR-56 WFLs (attachment or PAR-64 lamp)
(9) explosion-proof PAR spots
(78) High End Systems AF1000 strobes — 44 100V, 32 200V
(8) Star strobes
(9) Egg strobes
(5) ellipsoidal strobes & controllers
(810) Flashworks Pencil strobes
(31) 6" zoom ellipsoidal reflector spotlights
(1) Coemar EHP2500 zoom
(16) 3.5" Q-6-MT ellipsoidal reflector spotlights
(10) Micro Ellipse lights
(5) 1kW scoops
(7) 2kW scoops
(5) mini broad floodlights
(2) Strong Super Trouper short-throw 2kW w/yokes
(13) exterior Strong Xenon Gladiator III w/yokes
(58) one-cell cyc lights
(5) one-cell cyc light
(48) three-cell cyc lights
(12) four-cell far cycs
(10) MR-16 border lights
(3) MR-16 striplights
(5) 8' PAR-56 striplights
(36) LSI two-circuit tracks
(2) 2K 9-lites
(2) High End Systems Technobeams®
(4) High End Systems Trackspots®
(1) High End Power Star®
(45) High End Turbo Cyberlights®
(2) High End Studio Colors®
(57) High End ME50s
(21) High End Studio Color® 250s
(10) Turbo 700 — PC lights
(16) High End Studio Spots® — new CYM version
(7) Coemar CF1200s — hard-edge
(11) High End Studio Spot 250s
(39) Coemar NAT 4kWs
(34) Morpheus S faders — Source Four
(45) Morpheus M faders
(206) Morpheus subfaders
(4) Wybron 1K Eclipse dowsers
(37) Wybron 2K Eclipse dowsers
(23) Morpheus PS6 power supply
(17) Morpheus PS12 power supply for subfader/wet fader
(6) Wybron control boxes for dowsers
(3) Wybron control boxes for dowsers
(41) FlashWorks Pencil strobe controllers
(24) Tornado enclosures for Coemar CF1200 fixtures
(40) Hurricane enclosures for Coemar NATs
(8) Hurricane enclosures for High End Cyberlights
(4) RDS film loop projectors
(21) Wave Lights
(6) Optikinetics K2 effects projectors
(8) City Theatrical EFX Plus 2s
(12) architectural linear striplights
(16) 250W UV floods
(10) 400W UV floods
(12) 600W UV floods
(21) 600W UV spots
(30) 6" Red Beacons — transformer & safety
(12) 12" Red Beacons — transformer & safety
(1) 12" Yellow Beacons — transformer & safety
(18) Kino-Flo CFX-2401s
(211) barndoors — Altman ParStar or OD
(177) barndoors — 6" fresnel-T12a
(40) barndoors — 8" fresnel-T14a, aka 10" fresnel
(86) gobo rotators
(44) gobo rotator controller signal splitters
(97) gobo rotators mounting kits
(36) Top Hats — Source Four 5° ellipsoidals
(150) Top Hats — Source Four 10° ellipsoidals
(1,200) Top Hats — Source Four 10° ellipsoidal — standard
(105) Top Hats — Source Four ellipsoidals — short
(10) Top Hats — 6" fresnels
(24) Top Hats — PAR-64s
(134) Top Hats — Altman PARs
(4) Mole Richardson C-stands
(2) Mole Richardson C-stands
(2) Mole Richardson diffuser frames
(4) Mole Richardson extension arms
(4) single Rosco gobo rotator control adapters
(93) dual gobo rotators
(2) ETC lighting playback controllers
(23) DMX opto splitters
(6) Soundolier control equipment racks — wall mount
(2) MEW substitute control equipment rack — floor mount)
(1) Flying Pig202 Wholehog remote focus unit
(1) Horizon contact closure I/O board
(1) Horizon 24V discrete signal interface — opto 22
(4) Horizon handheld remote focus units