Feeding The Need For Speed

by Stu Chisholm

I find myself talking to more and more DJs lately due to the explosion of various online forums, especially those on Facebook. With special thanks to Jeffrey Even Mufson on one such forum, I was inspired to address this week’s topic: the DJ’s need for speed!

Specifically, how long does it take you to get in to a venue and be fully set up, and how long does it take you to vacate?

How Big is Your Rig?

When I first started out, my slow in/out time was something of a joke among my local colleagues. That’s because I just HAD to have every bell and whistle; every new toy; every new light that came along. Soon my DJ rig could fill a theatrical-sized stage! With each new addition came a few more seconds or minutes of setup time.

It’s a little like gaining weight; people don’t suddenly wake up fat one morning, but accumulate an extra fraction of an ounce here, another there, over many months or years. Likewise, an impressive DJ rig will become a huge time hog unless you put it on a “time diet!” There are a lot of ways to do this.

Preparation is Key

The #1 way is preparation. This will directly translate into saved time! The most basic prep is the DJ console.

From the days of the old Gerrard Disco Driver to the Numark CD-Mix 1 and on to today’s consoles from B-52, Gemini and others, having your playback sources and inputs already hooked up to your mixer is a huge time saver!

If your mixer is already hooked up to your processors, amps or other outputs, that can reduce your time even more. The drawback, however, is in weight. I’ve seen some ingenious DJ rigs that have everything built-in, looking a lot like the portable espresso bars that have been turning up at wedding lately, but if the venue has a stage, a flight of stairs without an elevator and/or an elevator that is too small for the rig, you’re going to need a team of roadies! Think about that before consulting with that custom cabinetmaker.

Transporting Lights

Another time-intense item is the lighting. A typical T-bar with several fixtures can take five minutes or more per fixture!

Transporting lights pre-mounted to the bar may save a few minutes, but then transporting them can be awkward and even damaging to the lights.

One of the more clever ideas I’ve seen comes from Colorado Sound N’ Light, Inc. They’re famous for their packaged displays, pre-wired and ready to go. Just place it on a stand, plug in the power and control cables and you’re ready to amaze! Set up is so easy, several of these types of displays can be fielded in the time it takes to put up one single T-bar show. CSL also created another great time saver: the Supertable; a moving palate and sturdy console platform all in one. I’ve used one for more than 15 years now.

Even larger shows using lighting truss can be made more time-efficient by having power and DMX control lines pre-wired, so that fixtures can simply be mounted and plugged-in. A few hours spent in the shop means years of less time in the field.

There’s More to Come!

Next time I’ll expand on this topic, with some tips on how to carry more gear in fewer trips, how your gear can be efficiently packed and unpacked for both protection and efficiency and even how you, the DJ, can pull a “quick change” to be party-ready in a flash!

Stu Chisholm – The Complete Disc Jockey

Stu Chisholm of Stu & His Crew Professional Disc Jockey Service in Michigan, has has worked in several areas of the DJ Universe.

He’s been a radio, mobile, club and roller skating rink DJ in the Detroit area since 1979, and done commercial voice-over work, as well.

Stu has been a keynote and featured speaker at DJ trade shows in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. He is the author of the book, “The Complete Disc Jockey” and is a regular columnist with Mobile Beat Magazine.

To contact him, email DJStuCrew@gmail.com. You can grab Stu’s book at TheCompleteDiscJockey.com.