The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Culture > 6 years as a technical officer at the Okuma Auditorium


6 years as a technical officer at the Okuma Auditorium

Kenichi Tamatani
Okuma Auditorium Technical Officer・Tatsu Sound Ltd.

Okuma Auditorium

I have been working as a technical officer at the Okuma Auditorium since October 1, 2007. I remember my first visit for discussions in early September when it was undergoing renovations and thinking it was an amazing auditorium keeping its elegance of long history while being fitted with the latest equipment.

During the discussions, I panicked when I heard that the technical officers were to offer technical support for everything, sound, lighting, and visuals. This was because we had only done sound effects and had only a little knowledge in lighting, but had no idea at all in regard to visuals.

Like the Okuma Auditorium, community centres had permanent building management staff, but there were 1-2 technical officers for the stage, sound and lighting respectively, with their work being fractionalized. There were also visuals, but the work was only playing videos and connecting computers. So anybody can do that work.

The visual department in the Okuma Auditorium has a hi-spec projector, and videos taken in the auditorium, or random videos, can be transmitted to campus facilities with video equipment at the push of a button. To understand this button operation took a lot of time. Fortunately, in regards to visuals, Waseda Portal Office staff members were in charge and I got by with no problems. I understood the sound system in about half a day, but for the lighting, I had to study hard.

October 1, 2007, the day I started work, was the opening day of the newly renovated Okuma Auditorium which was built in 1927. That year also marked the 125th anniversary of the foundation of Waseda University, and there were many events centered around Anniversary of the University Founding on October 21st. Starting with the “Waseda University 125th Anniversary Celebratory Noh” (October 2), the first event at the newly renovated Okuma Auditorium, there was a continuation of 125th anniversary events around that time, with major performances such as the solo musical “YAKUMO” (October 11), Ken Ogata’s solo performance “Shirano” (October 17), Homecoming Day / Tomon Festival (October 20-21), kabuki performance “Kanjincho” (October 28), and the Waseda Festival (November 3-4). For that reason, I had no time to familiarize myself with the equipment and had to proceed with the performances without knowing what I should be doing. Someone from the Planning and Construction Division told me, “It’s all right if it doesn’t go completely as planned, so try various things. I want you to quickly know what you can do.” So I played with the equipment while reading the instruction manuals in my free time, and I think it took me about one and a half months to understand everything. After that, the technical officers, auditorium management staff and Waseda Portal Office staff shared information amongst each other, and worked to put the information in writing. Several revisions have since taken place, but recently I have felt that now is the time to review the whole process.

Master control room at the Okuma Auditorium

The sound situation around me

I also do other work in the sound industry other than working at the Okuma Auditorium, and in the past 2 years I have entered the big stages such as domes and arenas on many occasions. In these places, there are 4-5 sound companies alone that are involved. A stage may be covered by a single company, but even if one company is commissioned to cover everything, the work is fractionalized into those who set up the speakers, system controllers, and operators. This fractionalization method was introduced overseas several decades ago, but has only recently been introduced in Japan. While increasing the number of staff has its disadvantages (personnel, transport and accommodation costs), I believe that the merit of reducing an individual’s workload is more important. About 20 years ago, even in Japan, one person would have to perform several tasks such as setting up the speakers, tuning the system, and operation. Even today, for concerts in community centres, while there are times where 2-4 people must carry out multiple tasks, this is gradually becoming fractionalized.

The progress of sound equipment has been amazing. Due to digitalization, sound is transmitted via optical fiber cables and LAN cables, efficient amplifiers are on sale, and compact and powerful line array speakers have become popular.

A recent topic in the stage sound industry is the problem of frequency conversion in wireless microphones. With the propagation of terrestrial digital broadcasting and mobile phones, use of the current A/AX band will be terminated from March 31, 2019 (the wireless microphone B band used in the Okuma Auditorium will still be able to be used.) In the future it is planned to successively convert frequencies to the 700MHz, 1.2 GHz, and 2.3GHz bands, but wireless microphones for the new frequency bands are still at the research and developmental stage. It is strongly demanded that the new wireless microphones be of the same sound quality and stability as current wireless microphones.

My thoughts of Waseda students

I have worked as a technical officer at the Okuma Auditorium for six years and my impression of Waseda students is that almost all of the students are polite and have passed on a good tradition to their juniors.

By becoming a technical officer, I come into close contact with the students, and, I have started to think that I would like to be involved in circle performances as a member of the sound staff who is involved in the actual productions.Not for personal financial or self-satisfaction reasons, but if my technical involvement could usher in a new phase in the good and old traditions of the university and circles, and by having the students adopt even just a few things, or even start a new tradition, I would be very pleased. I fully understand that it is important for students to keep up traditions inherited from their seniors, but the needs of the generation are changing, and I think that sometimes they need to display more of a challenging spirit.

A good opportunity for students to demonstrate their challenging spirit is at the Waseda Student Culture and Arts Festival held every June. For about one week at the Okuma Auditorium, the Ono Auditorium, and Waseda Gallery, various student circles put on performances and exhibition, and this year on June 7-16 at the Okuma Auditorium, about 20 performances such as dance, music, comedy acts, and movies were staged. Last year, professionals were called in for the sound and lighting, but this year, centred around students from the Waseda Hoso Kenkyukai (WHK), students were in charge of lighting, sound and visuals, making students more independently involved. Because it is a student-centred event to the end, in the future I want it to remain as a festival of the students, by the students and for the students.

The Okuma Auditorium was designated as an important cultural asset of our country on December 4, 2007. To have this kind of building at your university, and be able to use it, are a privilege not available at other schools, and I want all students to take full advantage of this opportunity, and I want them to be proud of it.

Over these six years there have been personnel changes, and I have become the longest-serving veteran. I feel pride in being a technical officer at Waseda University and the Okuma Auditorium, the important cultural asset, and will continue to be active in the future.

Kenichi Tamatani
Okuma Auditorium Technical Officer・Tatsu Sound Ltd.

Worked in the sound industry from April, 1990. Since then, had been accompanying many concert tours of singers for 16 years.
In February 2007, entered Tatsu Sound Ltd.
In October 2007, started his current position as Okuma Auditorium technical officer.