Cutting the Cord on Uplighting – By Jim Weisz

January 15, 2013 by Dan Walsh

BATTERIES INCLUDED: ANOTHER WAY TO MAKE PAINTING WITH LIGHT A LITTLE EASIER

It’s Saturday afternoon and you have a wedding tonight. In addition to providing DJ services, the client has hired you to provide uplighting. For their particular venue, you know you’ll need to set up 19 lights. As you sit on your couch trying to psych yourself up for the task that lies ahead, you dread the thought of being down on your hands and knees for an hour to an hour and a half putting down lights and taping down cords. Slowly a smile crawls across your face as you remember that was the past…Now your lights are totally wireless. So, there won’t be any time down on your hands and knees tonight. In fact, you’ll have your entire room of lighting set up in 20 minutes. That means you can enjoy another 30 minutes of relaxing on your couch before you head out for your wedding. The wireless life is nice.

CHOOSING YOUR FIXTURE

Just about every lighting manufacturer has a battery powered option these days. So you’ll want to do your homework on what each manufacturer offers in terms of features. Over the course of a couple weeks, I looked at what each vendor had to offer and compared features and specs. Some were easy to rule out early on, like the lights with a short battery life or a low lux output. Other features were harder to sort out. Did I need wireless DMX? Did I want the light to have both white LEDs and amber LEDs? Or could I get by with just one or the other?
After spending all that time researching the options, I kept coming back to the same light: the CUBE 5 from Eternal Lighting (www.eternallighting.com). While it was the most expensive light I considered, it also had the best specs and features out of any light out there. When buying equipment for my DJ company, I try to buy the best possible components, so I know I am adding a quality piece of gear to my system. It also saves me money over time, since I don’t have to upgrade nearly as often. With that said, I’ve been fortunate in realizing a good ROI on the lighting aspect of my business. If lighting had been a smaller part of my company, I might have considered a different fixture to recoup my investment faster.

BENEFITS OF GOING CORDLESS

Seems like this would be pretty self-explanatory—the lights don’t need to be plugged in, end of story. But there’s a lot more to the benefits of wireless lights than just saving time. Obviously a huge benefit is saving wear and tear on you. If you have a roadie or someone who sets up your lighting, wireless isn’t going to be a huge benefit in this regard. However, if you are a solo act and have to set up all your gear, including lights, this can be an overlooked benefit.

Say it takes you 45 minutes to set up your sound system and 90 minutes to set up lighting. You’ve already done close to three hours of physical labor and the event hasn’t even started yet! Surely you will be much fresher if you spend 20 minutes on setting up lights , rather than 90 minutes, not to mention that wireless lights are significantly easier to set up.

While the lights will cost you more up front, you will save money on supplies over time. One expense you won’t have, at least for your lights, is gaffers tape. Also, many of the wired lighting options come with cords that aren’t that aren’t very flexible and can be difficult to tape down. So you might need to buy replacement cords, which you wouldn’t need with wireless lights.

It is important to note that even though the lights are wireless, it doesn’t mean they have to lack versatility or programmability. In addition to the power aspect of wireless lights, you can control all of your lighting with the push of a button if you choose lights with built-in wireless DMX. I recently added a controller to my system so I can make my lights do some cool things during the dancing portion of the evening. My CUBE 5 lights also have the ability to control the other lights in my system. So I can assign one light as the master, pick it up and change the color of the entire room in just a couple seconds.

SELLING POINTS

Having wireless lights can be very appealing to your client if they want lights in a place that doesn’t have power, like to illuminate an outside balcony at a venue, or to light up pillars without power outlets on them. Having a battery-powered lights will make your lights stand out to prospective clients who are looking for these kinds of solutions.

Wireless lights can also be appealing to the venue, because you don’t have any cords to tape down. Even if the other vendors are using the most expensive gaffers tape available, you aren’t using any. So there’s no chance your tape can chip or peel their paint or have any effect on their carpet or flooring. For venues concerned with keeping their facility looking very nice, this is a reason they would probably want you at their venue with your battery powered lights.

SO, WHY NOT DITCH THE WIRES?

It may seem like battery powered lights have no faults, but they aren’t perfect and there are some cons to going wireless. One such con is the fact that you have to charge the lights before each event. Some lights have a battery life of 10-20 hours, depending on what settings you have you’re using. However, for my peace of mind, I charge my lights before every single event. This means unpacking, putting on my charging station, charging overnight and then repacking them. It isn’t very time intensive—I estimate it takes about 10 minutes for the whole process. But it is something that obviously needs to be done.

Since you will be charging the lights at your home or office, you will essentially be incurring the cost to run the lights. How much will it cost, exactly? That would depend on how many lights you have and how much you’re using them. I’ve only had my battery powered lights for a few months, so I haven’t noticed a difference in my bills yet. I would imagine I won’t see a huge difference, but maybe I will notice it in peak wedding months. However, I do write off a portion of my home’s utilities for running my business out of my house. So I would of course get to deduct more if my bills increased.

Transporting battery powered lights may take additional space too since they are usually bigger than traditional wired lights. So instead of fitting 6 lights in a container, I can only fit 5. Obviously one less light per container isn’t a huge deal, but it is nice to be able to fit as many lights as possible in a container. In addition, battery powered lights typically weigh more than wired lights, since they include the weight of their onboard batteries. My wireless lights weigh about a half a pound heavier than my wired lights. That isn’t a lot, but it adds up to several more pounds per container of lights.

As technology continues to advance, I think we’ll see wireless lights get smaller and become even more economical. Sure, traditional wired lights will remain the least expensive option for the foreseeable future. But if spending slightly more means gaining the flexibility and convenience that wireless technology offers, doesn’t it seem like a good move? If your ROI on doing uplighting is high enough, it very well might be worth it.

 

Jim Weisz has been a DJ since 1999, primarily serving the wedding and school markets. Originally from Chicago, he relocated his thriving DJ business to Dallas in 2003. He used his company’s web presence to effectively to re-establish his client base within a just a few months. Jim is a seminar speaker and also writes for MobileBeat.com on web issues. He can be reached at jim@discoverydjs.com.
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Filed Under: Issue #147, Lighting