Building Your First Light Show Part Three (Moving Heads)

August 2, 2017 by Jordan Nelson

This article is part three in the author’s mini series on building your first light show. Week one covered using wash lighting and week two covered effect lighting. Make sure to give those a read!

Alright, so by now you’ve started to build up an effective and professional looking light show. You began by creating your rig around a solid base of wash/flood lighting and followed that up with an effect light or two to add some movement and excitement. For many DJs, this is the extent of the lighting they need or want. But what if you want more? Where do you go after  you’ve added wash and effect lighting to your light show? One way to greatly expand the capabilities and options available to you and your clients is to add moving head lights.

Moving heads are, as their name implies, made up of some type of movable head containing the light source and optics that is contained inside a yoke attached to a fixed base. Moving heads can be hung from truss or T-bars like any other light or set atop flat surfaces like truss totems. The light from a moving head is usually projected as a spot and often through a gobo, which shapes the light into various patterns and shapes. The vast majority of moving heads are DMX controllable, which is essential for unlocking their true potential. Normally they are priced a bit above both wash and effect lighting, although many manufacturers are selling entry level fixtures that are well within the budget of most DJs.

So why moving heads? For one, the effect of a moving head is very different from wash or effect lighting. It has many more parameters of control such as pan and tilt movement, a shutter (for strobing), gobos, and even the ability to zoom the light in or out. Instead of simply projecting a bunch of colored dots that rotate in the same plane of motion repeatedly, a moving head adds complexity and variety. A moving head also can serve specific purposes, such as spotlighting a grand entrance, adding texture to a blank wall, or acting as a wash light. Moving heads are not as common as the other types of lighting used by DJs, so simply owning and using them effectively can set you apart from others in your area. They should always be used in pairs, as a single moving head can look quite odd in your setup. Just as with the other lighting types we have discussed, comparing specs among potential lights you may purchase will help you make an informed decision for your business. First and foremost, what is the brightness (lux) rating of a particular moving head? Remember to compare the values at the same distance (usually measure in meters)! How many gobos (patterns) does the light have? How many DMX channels can you control? Does it have the ability to zoom?

Here are a few recommendations for great beginner moving heads:

American DJ Inno Pocket Spot ($249) – The Inno Pocket spot has been a small moving head staple for mobile DJs since it was introduced. It’s compact and simple to use, with the only negative being the relatively weak LED light source. Also comes in white (pearl) for those elegant events!

Chauvet Intimidator 155 ($399) – This is my moving head of choice! While it comes at an increased price, the large increase in brightness and great built in programs make the upgrade worth the cost. I’ve handled events both large and small with these babies without a hiccup! Plenty of channels for control.

American DJ Focus Spot Two ($699) – A newer product line from ADJ, the focus spot two is on the higher end of this list, but still comes in at a GREAT price for a moving head. This is especially true when you consider that this light has rotating and replaceable gobos, auto focus, and a 75W LED! If you find yourself doing larger events often, this would be the moving head for you.

Should you make the jump to using moving heads? As always, that depends on your business model. For the DJ looking to take their services to the next level and offer their clients the next level in control and customization, moving head lights can give you the edge you are seeking.

Jordan Nelson Jordan Nelson (16 Posts)

Jordan Nelson is the owner of SLC Mobile DJ in Salt Lake City, UT. A native of the tiny southern Utah town of St. George, Jordan began his mobile DJ journey as a junior in high school in a similar fashion to many other DJs, with a pair of cheap speakers, a dual CD mixer, and a few sound-activated lights. After traveling to Salt Lake to attend the University of Utah, Jordan completely revamped his business and invested heavily in sales and master of ceremonies training, turning his $400/event company into a $1,200/event company in under a year at 22 years old. Jordan is currently a pre-med student at the U while he continues to run his successful business delivering high-quality entertainment to couples, schools, and corporations along the Wasatch Front. He developed a strong passion for lighting and lighting programming during his early years and has written 2 books for mobile DJs on the subjects. When he is not spending his weekends at weddings and events, you can find him at the local gun range or hiking with his beautiful wife.


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