The Spin - November 2018
In our last edition, part 2 of our special effects series, we explored the means to provide ambiance through uplighting. Adding strategic color to any event takes the mood to another level. In this edition, we're exploring another use of lighting, and this one involves motion. If you really want to get the a dance floor rocking, it takes more than just a thumping beat. Visual stimulation goes a long way to entice and invite someone to the dance floor that may otherwise opt out. There are way more types of lights out there than we have time to discuss here, so in this edition we'll concentrate on a common set of fixtures.
Part 3 - Motion Lighting
Derby fixtures have been around for a long time and are very popular with DJs. They use multiple lenses, mirrors and moving lamps to create a very wide throw of focused color beams, while the fixture maintains a static position. Most use an RGB set of LED lamps, but as the beams cross they mix into other colors. This is best observed when a haze or fog is present. These lights are great for all dance floors because of their coverage.
PAR (or Parabolic Aluminized Reflector) Lights started way back, as these were first used in the theater for stage lighting. Over the years the lights have changed, but the basic principal of a reflector dish to focus the light has remained. Unlike the halogen fixtures that produce an enormous amount of heat, the new LED bulbs make it much safer and compact. The term 'PAR' has become synonymous with wash lighting in the DJ business, and fixtures from Chauvet or American DJ for example are fixed with a beam emitting at about a 25-35 degree spread. Just two or more units provide enough output and coverage to 'wash over' the dance floor creating a very colorful and festive atmosphere. Combined with the ability to chase the music with sequences and color changes, it has become a staple in DJ lighting packages for medium to large sized events.
Lasers are intensely focused optical beams, they can cover a large room very easily, and depending on the features, can provide a light show all on it's own. They benefit from a haze or fog to expose the narrow beams as they travel around, and can rotate colors. Almost always used with other lighting effects, they are more of a compliment to a larger show than a stand alone. You can get combo lasers where in addition to the laser lights it offers some other focused beam to fill out the show, similar to the one shown above.
Adding a dose of rapid fire flashes of bright light can really complement a high-energy party. Used heavily during the disco era, strobes aren't quite as popular as times gone by, but still have their place. Used sparingly and in bursts, they can really add flavor to the dance floor. The older xenon gas type bulbs are giving way to COB LED lamps, which provide stability and long life, whereas in older fixtures the bulbs could be easily damaged if not handled properly.
This is where the effect of motion really stands out. If you asked any DJ what lighting effect makes the biggest impact, nearly all will say moving heads. Why? Because of their versatility. Higher end units combine many features that give you a very wide range of effects, from gobo to prisms to strobes to narrow spots to wide spots, and on and on. On top of that, they are completely programmable to achieve 360 degrees up, down and all around. They can act as subtle white spot lights for highlighting the first dance in a wedding, or they can put on a wild and crazy light show on the floor, walls or ceiling for a kicking dance party. Combine moving heads with a haze fog machine and suddenly you have your own private night club. These usually rent for more than the other effects because of the expense and pre-event programming, but in the end it is well worth it.