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.



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    Chase Jewell has been in the DJ world for 15 years, starting in clubs and bars then moving on to mobile events.

    From the beginning, he’s always had a fascination with pro-audio and lighting gear.

    Starting when he was a child at his church, Chase learned audio mixing and lighting skills. He’s been studying sound and lighting ever since then – learning the ins and outs of every new piece of equipment that could possibly make his performance better.

    His mobile DJ company, Jewell DJ Solutions, serves all of Indiana and some of Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois.

    Chase can be reached c/o His website is: You can get social with him on Facebook or Twitter.

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