Building Your First Light Show Part Two (Effect Lighting)

July 26, 2017 by Jordan Nelson

This article is the second in that author’s mini series on building a beginner light show. Make sure to check out last week’s article on wash lighting if you haven’t yet!

Last week we dove into the subject of wash lighting as we began this mini series on building your first light show. We discussed how wash lighting forms a great base to build your light show on, choosing the right fixtures, and why starting your light show with quality wash lights will give you the most bang for your buck. So where do we go from there? To the DJ that is just starting out in lighting, I recommend adding an effect light or two to your show.

So what are effect lights? Effect lights are fixtures that project an “effect” (such as colored dots, patterns, or shapes) onto a dance floor or other area and normally include multiple colors, strobing, or movement aspects. Effect lights are great for adding another dimension to your light show beyond the simple color spread that your wash lighting provides. Effect lights normally contain, at the minimum, a small internal microphone to allow the light to rotate, strobe, or change color to the beat of music. While there are some types of effect lights that have been around for many years, effect lighting is one of the broadest categories of lighting and contains many fixtures that produce a wide variety of different results.

Take, for example the humble Vertigo (or Mushroom if you go the Chauvet route). This classic lighting effect is simple; inside the large fixture are multiple LED diodes of different colors that rotate clockwise and counterclockwise. The light from these diodes is focused through an array of lenses on the front of the fixture and spreads out into a wide pattern of rotating points of colored light that can cover the largest of rooms. This type of effect is called a moonflower. These fixtures are extremely simple, easy to use, and repetitive. While they aren’t the sexiest lights around, they can quickly and easily add an extra layer to your light show.

American DJ Vertigo Hex ($99)

Another very popular type of effect light is the “combo” light, such as the Chauvet Swarm 4 FX  or the American DJ Stinger II. These lights combine multiple effects, such as a moonflower (similar to the abover Vertigo), small strobe LEDs, a UV diode, or a laser into one housing. This saves space and can give your show more variety than a single effect can afford. Additionally, the added features usually give you more unique lighting programs built into the fixture that can be run automatically.

Chauvet Swarm 4 FX ($149)

American DJ Stinger II ($229)

If you want to branch outside of the moonflower and strobe effect lights, there are other unique offerings from many major manufacturers. For example, the American DJ Starburst and Chauvet Rotosphere Q3 are effect lights that simulate the effect of a mirror ball, while the Chauvet Helicopter Q6 and American DJ Jelly Cosmos are in a unique category all to themselves!

American DJ Starburst ($249)        Chauvet Rotosphere Q3 ($249)

Chauvet Helicopter Q6 ($299)        American DJ Jelly Cosmos ($99)

However, many DJs that are building their first light show are looking for budget options, and luckily there are plenty of them available! The Chauvet Mini Kinta, American DJ Agressor Hex, and Eliminator Katana are all great standalone effect lights.

Chauvet Mini Kinta ($79)      American DJ Agressor Hex ($129)      Eliminator  Katana ($69 on Amazon!)

Whichever effect lighting you choose, you can use the same criteria I describe in last week’s article to compare them. What is the light output (lux)? How many different colored diodes does the fixture contain? Is it simple RGB or does it contain hex LEDs? How large is the fixture? Does it have sound active mode? Can I use it with DMX in the future? At the end of the day, the lighting you choose should reflect the clients you serve, the events  you frequent, and the spaces you find yourself most often. If you do your research carefully, you can create a great lightshow on a budget that will fill your needs perfectly.


Jordan Nelson Jordan Nelson (57 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. 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 $1,500/event company in under a year at 22 years old. Jordan developed a strong passion for lighting and lighting programming during his early DJ 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.

Filed Under: Digital DJing, Lighting for Mobile DJs