ILLUMINATING AN EVOLVING TREND
“Do you offer uplighting?” a bride asked me in 2008. “I’m sorry, we don’t”, I replied. After turning away several brides who were interested in adding uplighting to their DJ packages with us that year, I decided to investigate whether I should invest in it for my DJ company. At the time there were only two or three dedicated uplighting companies who offered high-quality uplighting in the Boston area. A couple of other DJ companies I knew of also offered it. Joe Toto’s Groove Entertainment was clearly the best of the bunch. Back then there weren’t even a lot of battery-powered, remote-controlled LED uplights to choose from on the market. Fixtures were $400-$500 each, so very few DJs had made such a heavy investment.
Did I really want to drop $12,000 or more on another possible fad? The game show system I bought back in the ’90s, with its massive podiums, microphones and buzzers, was never as popular or “in demand” with my clients as I had hoped it would be.
Karaoke also peaked for a while and then faded for us. The “props, costumes and games” DJ phase had also given way to the classier DJ style now widely preferred by most of our clients. Would uplighting also come and go as just another passing phase? How much should you be willing to invest when the public demand may end in a few months or a couple of years?
There is yet another factor to consider whenever the public creates a demand for any new service that DJs will be offering: The inevitable DJ pricing war that will soon follow cannot be overlooked. This can hurt any new product when cheaper versions of a higher quality product eventually become available and thus allow anyone to “buy in” for little investment and start offering a lower price than those who’ve invested in the more costly real thing. After a while, low-end product will also “water down” the public’s image of the product overall. “Oh yeah, we saw uplighting at a party last week at the Elks and it wasn’t very impressive.” Maybe it wasn’t real uplighting, or it was being poorly applied. A red light bulb “pointed up” from the floor is not uplighting.
STATE OF THE ART
There’s a skill and an art to decor lighting. Being a DJ, I was not fully aware of this, even after I purchased our first 20 uplights. Luckily, a former bride of ours with a degree in theatrical lighting design called me a couple of weeks after I did her wedding and asked about a job with us. She has helped to educate us over the past 18 months and now manages our new uplighting division. Our uplighting business has grown to over 100 wireless remote uplighting fixtures and 6 talented, degreed, professional lighting designers on staff.
The buzz created by pictures of our uplighting posted online has been spreading, and we routinely get emails from DJs all around the country who ask what type of lights we use. All of the photos in this article are samples of our uplighting, which was “The Knot 2012 Best of Weddings” pick in Boston this past January.
If you’re a DJ thinking about adding uplighting, I’d suggest spending time to research all the available uplighting options and then buying the very best quality lights you can afford. Next, become as good at creating room ambiance with light as you are at creating excitement and energy with music. Hire good lighting techs and pay them well. Most DJs have felt the frustration of how everyone thinks they’re a DJ and that anyone can do what we do behind the DJ table. Don’t apply the same mistaken logic to lighting design. Most folks think that plunking lights around a room on the floor is also easy. But buying the least expensive lighting fixtures available and then putting them down “wherever the plug is” will not have customers beating down your door to reserve your uplighting services.
The familiar names in the DJ lighting industry (Chauvet, American DJ etc) are now all on the uplighting bandwagon and before long uplighting will probably be offered routinely by most DJs, floral decorators and even by sound companies. In greater Boston, even local function venues are suddenly adding various levels of uplighting. A couple of hotels have outdated, dangerously hot, plug-in par 38 cans with colored gels randomly strewn around the room. I recently counted three such lights in a hotel function room of 180 guests! The bride had told me she didn’t need our uplighting because uplighting was “complimentary” at the hotel. Their excuse for “uplighting” was worth exactly what she paid for it. All three gels were a different color and the lights were continually being knocked over by the guests all night with nobody from the busy staff even noticing or resetting them. A friendly word to venue managers: Please stick to food and beverage.
A local country club has just installed permanently wired, plug-in LED uplights as their only permitted uplighting option, charging roughly the same as a dedicated uplighting service might charge. They told a client of ours that it would be a $200 surcharge if they wanted to use a different uplighting source. But a busy banquet manager with an uplighting remote doesn’t have the time or the skill set to change the uplighting for a dramatic effect to accompany each formal moment all night. As a result, the unsuspecting client gets far less value for their money than they would hiring a dedicated uplighting service. Although I imagine a DJ with great multi-tasking skills could operate the uplighting and also DJ/MC an event, we prefer to use a dedicated uplighting designer and let our DJs concentrate fully on their own duties. The two employees work as a team and our clients rave about the results.
The Gear We Use
The best products we know of in Americanmade uplights, by ColorMaker (www.colormaker.net), are fairly expensive to buy.
Twenty battery-powered, wireless LED fixtures (PX250-60/D1210) with a pair of hand-held remote controllers (CM-T10PRO) and a couple of 10-bank battery chargers (BT10Bank) are currently priced at close to $14,000, with shipping from Florida. These uplights have 60-degree dispersion and, if properly applied, will really color a room as if you’d just painted it.
Less expensive par can LED plug-in fixtures don’t look the same to us. The light dispersion width of most par can or round shaped uplighting units seems to be much narrower (30 degrees or less) by comparison and that makes a big difference in coverage.
A dark room being lit with inexpensive, narrow-dispersion uplighting fixtures tends to look like it has multiple thin candle flames applied at 10-foot intervals with dark walls between them. Inexperienced uplighting techs will often place the fixture right next to the wall. Although this certainly decreases the risk of tripping somewhat, it will also create a white “hot spot” at the base of the wall rather than the continuous, rich color of an uplighting fixture that has been placed and angled (focused) correctly.
DJs in the New England area should feel free to contact me if you’d like to use our top-rated uplighting & designers at your events at a specially discounted professional DJ courtesy rate. Check out our photo gallery at www.getuplights.com. MB
Filed Under: Issue #141, Lighting
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