Sound-Activated vs. Intelligent Lighting

Chase Jewell Light Show

By Chase Jewell, “Sound & Lighting Tutor”

The biggest question I get asked a lot by mobile DJs just starting out is, “What dance floor lighting do you recommend I get for my DJ setup?”

Well, that is a very simple question that has a very VERY complex answer. Why? Because the answer depends largely on how skilled you are as a lighting technician, and what types of events you do.

Your Choices

The major lighting manufacturers that most mobile DJs buy their fixtures from all produce both sound-activated and intelligent lighting fixtures with DMX programming. The big names in our industry are American DJ Lighting, Chauvet Lighting, and Elation Lighting.

Sound-activated lighting is the easiest to set up. This is your “flip a switch and forget it” option. On the other hand, intelligent lighting with DMX programming gives you more control and allows you to change lights on the fly.

Personally, I prefer intelligent lighting. Along with the fixtures I also use American DJ Lighting’s “myDMX 2.0” software and “MyDMX Buddy” (a DMX hardware dongle designed to work with myDMX 2.0 software).

Weddings & School Dances

For weddings, most couples will prefer a minimalist set-up for dance floor lighting. An all in one fixture such as the Stinger from American DJ Lighting or the Swarm 5 FX from Chauvet and a couple of moving heads or scanners should do the trick.

For school dances, kids are into a full nightclub style experience so you’ll want to give them a light show that includes several wash lights and UV lights along with multiple scanners, moving heads, and a couple of moon flower effects. You’ll also want to use a haze machine so you can make all of the light beams pop. I use Inno Pocket Spot from American DJ Lighting, the Intimindator Roll Zoom 350 IRC from Chauvet Lighting as well as multiple UV bars from various manufacturers.

Truss, T-Bar, Your Table, or the Floor?

I highly recommend that you NEVER place lighting on your table or on the floor. It just plain looks bad and fixtures belong on truss or a t-bar. These options allow you to aim your lighting properly and with even distribution. They will also give you better wire management.

The benefit to trussing over a t-bar is that it can handle more lights, it’s expandable, and it looks amazing – especially when it’s warmed with an uplight or par can.

You can pick up a t-bar and truss from any DJ-oriented lighting manufacturer or retailer.

Wire Management

For wire management I use a combination of gaff tape and Velcro straps to tie-up loose wires and ensure that my entire setup is attractive in appearance. I am a stickler for presentation and I hope you are too.

In Conclusion

Whatever lighting options you decide to go with, know that your clients are always the ultimate decision-makers. On occasion you might find a wedding couple that wants a full nightclub style light show and a school dance client who is only willing to pay for a minor set-up; however, most of the time you’ll find it’s the other way around.