DJ Lighting Techniques: What You Need To Know

DJ Lighting

If you’re a mobile DJ, it’s your job to control the mood at any given event. A big part of the mood is controlled by lighting. We’ve put this post together with some important things to consider when planning the lighting for your upcoming event.

Lighting and Fixture Placement
If you have a limited lighting rig, place the majority of the lights behind you so they light your back and the dance floor. If you have extra fixtures, you can also light decor elements, walls and the ceiling. Only then do you need to start worrying about adding anything that points at yourself as a performer.

The YouTube video below shows an exaggerated case where the lighting operator switched from using all lights behind the performer, to only lighting from the front. It produced a dramatic deflation in the momentum that the DJ was building.

In this particular example, the DJ apparently annoyed the lighting guy who eventually got his revenge by pulling this “prank”.

Use Colour

Colour is an easy way to add energy and emotion to your DJing. You can use a basic colour wash like a SlimparT6 or you can use something like the FXPar9 that has colour wash and other FX built in.

Add Moving Fixtures

Moving lights are another tool that you can use raise the energy of your event. Moving Lights (or Intelligent Lights) provide an advanced array of visual effects like colour, gobos, pan, tilt, strobe, prism, and more. These fixtures enable you to have a long event without your audience seeing the same look twice (which is the mark of a creative lighting designer).

Some examples of moving lights that we carry are R2 Spot, R2 Wash, and our Helicopter Q6.

Strobe Lights

Strobe lights are absolutely essential if you’re DJ’ing an EDM based event. You can either use dedicated strobe lights, or you can use lighting fixtures that have an adjustable shutter speed which can achieve the same effect.

The clip below is from a smaller show that we provided lighting for. You can see how the strobe lights add a great deal of energy to the climax of this song. These aren’t dedicated strobe lights, we just adjusted the shutter speed on our R2 Wash and R2 Spot to achieve the same effect.

(This video is also a great example of how backlighting can work to hold the attention of the audience while building suspense)

A word of caution: Don’t over use strobe lights. Focus on using as an enhancement, but not as the main feature.

Haze and Fog

The importance of haze or fog (atmospherics) cannot be over stated. Atmospherics make a big difference on how a DJ and their lighting is perceived. It may seem obvious, but you cannot see lighting until it has something to hit. By adding haze or fog into the air, it allows you to fill the air with light, instead of just the walls and floor. This provides a much more immersive experience for the audience.

Sound Activated, or DMX controlled?
Most DJ lighting will have three modes: Sound activated, DMX controlled, and program mode. Most DJs will either do sound activated or dmx controlled lighting for their set.

Sound activated lights can produce stunning effects automatically timed to the music. All you need to do is adjust the sensitivity knob at the beginning of your event and these fixtures will take care of the rest. If you have a large number of fixtures, you can set the sensitivity differently on each fixture so they will produce more dynamic effects in how the lights interact with each other during your event.

DMX controlled lights require an operator to pre-program the lighting equipment and create a dynamic, creative light show for your guests. The operator also needs to run the lighting console for the duration of your event. This is certainly the most labour intensive option, but it is also the best way to achieve great results that you cannot achieve with sound activation mode. Many DJs have had great success touring with their own lighting technician. This allows them to work together on a consistent basis to improve their performance throughout the tour.

Program Mode allows you to simply choose a colour/effect chase on the fixture and it will go through the same order of effects all night, repeating until you change the setting manually or turn the fixture off.

GigBAR 2 DJ Lighting Kit

All In One Kits
All-in-one kits or “easy bars” can be effective and require very little attention during an event. If you’re looking for an easy solution where you can set up your lights, turn on “sound activation mode”, this is an easy way to achieve that.

Be warned, in exchange for simplicity you will be sacrificing creativity and variety that a multi-fixture lighting rig will give you.

In terms of an all-in-one kit, we love the Chauvet GigBar2, we think it gives you a good amount of versatility, while also being very easy to setup and manage during the event.

GigBAR 2 DJ Lighting Kit

Rent or Own
This is the struggle of every DJ. How do you balance the amount of equipment that you need to own vs how many events do you do.

If you plan on using a piece of equipment less than 10 times per year, it makes more sense to rent. Renting gives you the distinct advantage of always getting to use the newest equipment which is well maintained and tested between every use. It also means that you don’t require an entire garage to store your equipment between events. Leaving your equipment in storage for long periods of time without maintenance or proper heat/humidity control can be harmful to your equipment.

If you’re working as a DJ every weekend, it obviously makes more sense for you to own your own equipment. You can get well acquainted with it and make sure that you’re using it to it’s full potential.