Easy on the Eyes: Symmetry and Your Light Show

July 12, 2017 by Jordan Nelson

“This article contains excerpts from the author’s books The Essential Guide to Building a Mobile DJ Light Show and DMX for Mobile DJs. For more great info on lighting for the mobile DJ, be sure to check them out!”

The quest to have the greatest light show is never ending for some DJs. Month after month, year after year they pour hundreds and thousands of dollars into the newest fixtures, trussing, and controllers in an effort to blow their client’s (or maybe just other DJs’) minds. But is bigger always better? Sometimes a simple rearranging of the fixtures you already own is all it takes to create an eye-catching light show.

The human eye is naturally drawn to symmetry; it loves efficiency and order. Take a pair of objects, throw a third somewhere in the middle of them, and our eyes naturally point to and focus on that object. If you’re purposefully trying to draw attention to something (a head table or a sculpture), this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But at an event, especially a wedding, the DJ should never be the focus of the event. Unfortunately, many DJs think so little about how they set up their lighting that their lighting tripod or truss can quickly become eye-catching in all the wrong  ways.

At the same time, most DJs feel that the only way to stand out is to grow their light show even bigger, confident that will make them unique. So what do they do? They rush out to buy even more lights in an effort to be different, filling their lighting stands with an odd, mismatched menagerie of fixtures of every type. You’ve seen it before; A single moving head on the table, a light bar on the speaker stand, or 2 different effect lights on each side of the tripod. Instead of improving their light show, however, it simply clutters it. As much as it pains me, here’s a picture of one of my light shows from 6 years ago when I was a junior in high school. 

 

4 different lights, all mismatched and hung at different levels. It could be worse, believe me. But it also could be better, and constantly striving to be better is essential if you want your business to thrive.

 

So what’s the solution? The great news is you don’t have to rush out and buy  10 more lights than your other DJ friends. In fact, you can probably vastly improve your setup with the lights you already have. The answer is symmetry.

Like I mentioned earlier, the human eye loves symmetry. It gives people a feeling of comfort and order, like everything is right in the world. Maybe it’s because humans are symmetrical; you’ve got 2 hands, 2 legs, and 5 toes on each foot (well, usually). Regardless of the reasons, we enjoy when things match. So do the same with your lights! How? Do things like buy your lights in pairs or sets of 4. Instead of buying one par or moving head from one company and then waiting to buy one from another, buy a pair of the same. Buy a matching set of effect lights that are proportional in size to the rest of your lighting. Additionally, always make sure you set up your lights symmetrically. Space your lights evenly on your T-bar or truss, and make sure they hang at the same level. Also make an effort to set up your lighting stand centered behind your booth or the dance floor. This helps to once again not draw more attention to the equipment you use than to the clients or crowd. In the picture above, if I had simply put 2 wash panels on the T-bar, one on each end with an effect light in the middle I would have had a simpler and cleaner looking setup with less work! Talk about a great trade off.

Remember, using lighting professionally is not about showing off your cool toys, but about creating moods and atmospheres. Try out different lighting set ups and configurations and see what works best for the equipment you have! Ask friends, family, and other vendors to compare the before/after and give you their opinions as to what looks more professional. At the end of the day, having the biggest slew of lights isn’t what makes a DJ stand out, it’s how they use those lights that sets them apart.

BONUS TIP: While this article focused mostly on lighting, the principle of symmetry is applicable to your entire setup! Spacing your speakers evenly across a room, making sure your tablecloth is straightened, and centering your facade or booth in front of your table are just a few ways to create a symmetrical and eye-pleasing DJ setup.

This article contains affiliate links. The author receives a small percentage of product sales made through the links above.

Jordan Nelson Jordan Nelson (24 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: Mobile DJ Business