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A sea of changing colours

Colours from illuminated wristband devices worn by members of the audience differ from one floor level to another at a recent concert played by Ikimonogakari at the Nippon Budokan hall in Tokyo.

Publication Date : 10-02-2014


New innovations for illumination devices at concerts allow the production to control them


The whole audience waved lights of various colours at a recent concert of the popular group Ikimonogakari. Each member of the crowd wore a wristband glow device that had been placed at each seat prior to the show. The excitement rose as their lights shone, frequently changing colours and sometimes blinking to the music being performed on the stage.

The bright bands, named FreFlow, are one of today’s most advanced illumination devices for concert audiences. This wristband style made its debut on a recent tour of the group that ran from September to December.

These glow devices have been developing rapidly, emitting brighter illumination and offering more colours. FreFlow can be controlled wirelessly by concert organisers, and so it can create effects to match the image of each concert.

Concert organisers can vary illumination through a wireless system that allows a range of possibilities such as shifting between continuous lighting and blinking, or coordinating colours across the entire crowd. The device also offers 10 types of colour coding, so, for example, if audience seats at an event are broken into 10 blocks, each block can be illuminated with a different colour.

Hiroki Sekiguchi, an SMC executive, said: “We placed 10 different types of the lighting device in [the seating] blocks [so that each block is illuminated with a different colour]. It was tough work, like planting rice seedlings.”

Hidekazu Ebihara, an employee of Sony Engineering Corp., said, “We illuminated all the audience seats in white at first. Then, we activated various colour patterns until gradually, one by one, everyone there could enjoy them through the whole concert to keep them excited.”

In principle, the wireless control of the devices happens backstage, but during the latter half of the group’s concerts, band members on the stage took charge. They held system controllers, waving them above their heads like magic wands, at the same time changing illumination colours in the audience seats.

The wristband lights that made their debut on Ikimonogakari’s tour produce 30,000 different colours. Meanwhile, FreFlow penlights that have come into use since 2012 are capable of producing 1 million different colours.

The FreFlow devices are loaned to the audience during concerts and collected after each show.

Ordinary penlights that have a simpler mechanism and are commercially available to consumers have likewise advanced in technology recently.

The Akihabara branch of Deranannan sells about 100 different types of penlights. Concertgoers have long enjoyed using battery-operated penlights.

In the last 10 years, disposable chemical lights known as “cyalume” have been a staple at pop idol concerts. They are illuminated by a chemical reaction that occurs inside the product. The devices have become very popular thanks to being impressively brighter than penlights while selling for only a bit more than 100 yen (US$1).

However, chemical lights emit only one colour of illumination, so fans at an idol group concert need to prepare several lights of different colours and switch among them during the concert to match the symbolic colours for each group member. Also, the brightest types lose their light in just five minutes.

“Because the brightness [of these types of chemical lights] fades so quickly, users need more than one over the course of a single song being sung. Fans often consume as many as 100 of them at a single live concert,” said a worker at the shop.

Meanwhile, the popularity of the traditional penlight has seen a recent revival as new and improved types have arrived. They are as bright as chemical lights and able to change colours.

Although they cost several thousand yen each, penlights are still more economical than disposable-type chemical lights.

Surprisingly, paler colours, like pastel blue, are available, and even “black” penlights are sold.

“Sometimes new products are released that light up in the symbolic colours for the individual members of a specific idol group,” said the shop worker. “Some idols deliberately select their colours from among colours available on the market.”


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