How Much Is Enough Gear?

DJ Set-Up

By Stu Chisholm, “The Complete Disc Jockey”

I’ve lost a bit of weight recently. By making a few adjustments to my diet and sticking with them, I’ve thus far shed nearly 80 lbs., enough to have gotten back into the striped shirt pictured on the jacket of my book, “The Complete Disc Jockey,” the photo taken in the mid-90s. Concurrently I’ve been performing a top-to-bottom overhaul of my DJ business, and here, too, my mantra has been, “leaner, smaller, better.” In the past, my strategy was to overwhelm, bringing a DJ booth, sound system and light show that was the party equivalent of “shock and awe.” I wanted guests to know that I was serious even before I even turned my system on!

Yet over the course of my 35 year mobile career, I realized that there were some events where such excess is not required or just plain silly. One such event was for about 50 people, and the entire stage could barely hold a small banquet table. I had to improvise! Instead of the lavish double-depth table I normally used, I brought in a cube-shaped console I kept on hand as back-up, and plunked it on top of the amp rack normally hidden beneath said table. This gave my rig a podium style look, with a footprint of roughly 22” X 22”, and allowed me a little bit of room to move. With a hastily applied black drape, it wasn’t pretty, but the show went on. Soon after I built a façade for it, and in lieu of the massive truss and moving mirror intelligent lights of my big light show, I packaged together a “lighting pod,” consisting of four basic lighting effects; a wash light, strobe, mushroom and starball. Lifting it onto a crank stand took two people, but once it was plugged-in and a low voltage control cable attached, it was ready to roll – a savings of about 40 minutes of set-up time! This became my most popular package for over a decade.

THAT WAS THEN, THIS IS NOW

Since the dip and rebound of the recession, one thing changed and one thing remained the same. The latter is that the majority of my clientele still doesn’t need or even want a gigantic entertainment package! The change, in fact, is the industry trend of blending-in the gear with the décor, making it unobtrusive, while at the same time improving sound and lighting utilizing the best new technology available. Message received.

Starting at the top, then, my vision for a new console is something that I can carry into a venue in one hand. While laptops don’t weigh much or take up that much space, I’ve noticed that their mounts do! The nifty platform used to raise the computer above the mixer is bulky, so out it goes! Instead, I’ve opted to use a tablet. More importantly, it’s a ruggedized tablet from DAP Technologies, able to be viewed in direct sunlight and immune to the rough-n-tumble of life on the road. Next up: the controller and mixer. I could’ve gone with two individual units, but instead have opted for the Pioneer XDJ-Aero. It’s unique in that it offers a wireless LAN hook-up to the tablet, allowing me to save its single USB port for my ultra-tiny, high-speed Touro hard drives.

The final console component is, of course, a microphone. I’ve opted for the Sennheiser Evolution G3 Vocal set, the size and weight savings centering around substituting the usual steel box receiver with the smaller micro-diversity unit usually used for video cameras. I’ll be mounting this all inside a custom case, with an “upstairs/downstairs” type of architecture, keeping my hard drives and wall warts for all of this below the work surface. I may also opt to incorporate a Bluetooth folding keyboard, since being a touch-typist makes the on-screen virtual keyboards a nightmare for me and my fat fingers.

LIGHT WEIGHT

By far, the heaviest and most time-consuming portion of my system has been the lighting rig. Even the small “pod” takes two people to lift into position, and several minutes to connect all of the cables. To lighten up the lights, I’ve retired the pod in favor of two Chauvet GigBar IRCs, a small 4-in-1 lighting system controlled with a wireless remote or footswitch. Easily hand-carried, set up is as easy as placing the unit on a pole, raising it into position and plugging it in – a significant time savings as well! (The second unit is for larger rooms.)

Lastly, even the best systems require back-up, since in our business, failure is not an option. For this task, I’ve opted to sacrifice a chunk of music storage for the incredible ability to have a full production console in about the same space as two iPhones: the GoDJ by Monster, best known for their fine audio cables. With a 12-hour battery life, it won’t even need a wall wart, and can also serve as my main console for smaller jobs, such as my summer Car Cruise events.

Looking ahead now, the next thing to put on a diet is my output section. What new speaker technology has emerged to make bigger sound with smaller, lighter weight units? Stay tuned as I research this and all the other facets of my complete business overhaul “from the ground up.”

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