Bright Lights, Small Money: Building a Basic Light Show

March 25, 2008 by Mobile Beat

Suggestions for getting a light show up and running on a budgetIn the last ten years there have been major advancements in sound (lighter, more powerful speakers and amplifiers), source material for your sound and video (high-tech mixers, digital media players, DJ computer software and hardware systems); but for anyone interested in DJ lighting the excitement in that arena has equaled if not surpassed the audio/video buzz.

The first major advancement to occur, just before the turn of the century, was affordable DMX lighting, giving those of us without a Broadway show-sized lighting budget digital control of our fixtures; which meant a lot more creativity with a lot less expense in money and time. To put it more succinctly: We could do more than just put our lights on “spin and puke” mode. The second major advancement has come in only the last two years and has really exploded in the last six months: LED-based DJ lighting. As Toby Velazquez covers in the “ABC’s of LEDs for DJs,” (page __ ) there are many reasons to go LED, including reduced electrical demands and heat production, refined control, and much more.

Different Roads to Same Destination

Here, I’m going to show you a few possibilities for building a basic light show, while keeping the cost between $1000-$1500, and using “traditional” halogen style lights along with LEDs. I’ll also show the additional lighting that can be purchased if you stay with halogen lighting. This light show will be equivalent to what my company has used for the last 10 years at weddings and middle school dances. I’m not a lighting technician or even a major gear head, but this is based on practical experience with what has worked and what hasn’t. This level of a light show is perfect for the average mobile DJ to roll out easilyd and be able to set up in about 10 minutes. With these systems, the goal is not to overwhelm the crowd with a lighting array that would rival clubs, but simply to accent what the DJ does with the music and set the right mood for the audience. Once you make the leap into larger events such as college and high school dances, this kind of light show won’t cut it anymore; that’s when it’s time to make the move into trussing, yoke heads, etc.-in other words, more expense and more time for setup and teardown.

The pricing I have based this all on is the MAP (manufacturer’s advertised price) and we have chosen to research this based on the two largest manufacturers in the mobile DJ market, American DJ and Chauvet. I started with suggestions made by the manufacturers and then customized the lists to my tastes and to keep them within the parameters that I had set.

When choosing these lights to compare across the board we tried as much as possible to keep with similar lights from each manufacturer and from each type of technology. Each show was built around a base of par cans and a strobe with control by a non-DMX controller that allows you to run one power cable and one control cable for all the lights when mounted and placed together. We then went with a standard 4000 to 5000 cubic-feet-per-minute fogger, some basic effects lights, including wide-spreading fixtures like the Vue III or a the barrel-based Electra.

Tons more detail on the listed products and other similar models can be found in the lighting chart section of the Gear Book. Even more info, including links to the manufacturers for complete specs, and to dealers that carry the products, can be found at Mall.ProDJ.Com. The four exact packages shown here will also be listed at Mobile Beat’s online Gear Guide at Mall.ProDJ.Com. These are just suggestions-it’s important to rely on a full-line disc jockey equipment dealer to guide you toward the specific products that will work best for you.

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Mobile Beat (1553 Posts)

This is the general editors account for Mobile Beat Magazine and Website. Who reads Mobile Beat online and in print and attends Mobile Beat events? DJs, VJs and KJs to start with, especially those who own and operate mobile entertainment services. They provide music, video, lighting and a myriad other entertainment choices for corporate events, wedding receptions, dances and innumerable other gatherings.


Filed Under: Issues from 2008, Lighting