• DJ Lighting - The Complete Evolving Guide

    DJ Lighting - The Complete Evolving Guide



    Introduction:
    I've started this little guide in order to help people when it comes to putting together their lighting setup. It's more often than not, when someone is getting ready to buy or upgrade their DJ equipment, they don't know where to start or what to buy when it comes to lighting. It is my hope that this little guide will help those people who are looking to start or expand their curent lighting gear to make the right decisions, leave a little more educated, and feel a little more comfortable when it comes to making decisions about the perfect gear for them.

    I am going to make this guide as unbias as possible. The purpose of this is not to promote one company over another nor push a single product, but to educate people better on what to look for and leave the decision making to them. There are plenty of places on these forums for discussions about particular companies and fixtures if there are questions.

    I. Budgeting

    So you're wanting to get some lighting for your DJ gear. Maybe you're wanting to expand on the lighting you already have. The first question you need to ask yourself is "what is my budget?"

    This is the single most important part of the process because you need to know what you can afford or what you want to spend on your system. Lighting costs can add up very quickly depending on what types of fixtures you want to get for your setup. There is one axiom to the world of lighting though: you get what you pay for. Allow me to elaborate on this for a moment...

    There are many many companies to choose from when it comes to lighting. Some are more well known than others, and there is usually a reason for this. There are companies out there which sell replica or similar styles of lights as most major companies, but more often than not, these fixtures are of lower quality build and have issues which shorten the life of your light. This is one major reason why, when choosing lights, cheaper is almost always never better. Yes, you can spend $60 on that imitation kinta, but does that fixture have a duty cycle that will burn up the light if you keep it on more than 15 minutes? Is that fixture built with cheap parts which will break from being moved around from venue to venue or even just from being turned on? These are things you always want to ask yourself when looking at fixtures you consider purchasing because this is an investment and you will want the most for your money. You do not want to have to replace fixtures ever couple months because they keep breaking on you, which is why I tell everyone when it comes to buying lighting: stick to reputable companies who have a good standing within the industry. If you invest in cheap lighting, don't be amazed when you see your investment in pieces over a short amount of time.

    That being said, it's time to decide how much you're wanting to budget for your lighting. Now I've seen requests for help come in all shapes and sizes. Everything from the teenager wanting to spend no more than $200 on his gear to the full on company that wants to spend $20,000. Of course, you can't expect much with a budget of $200, however, sometimes it's all you have to work with.

    Some things to consider when budgeting for your lighting: there is more expenses than just the lights themselves and all will need to be added in depending on what type of setup you're building:

    Fixtures
    Truss or Tree Stands
    Truss Clamps
    DMX Cables
    Power Extensions
    DMX Controllers or Relay Systems
    Dimmer Packs
    Replacement Bulbs and Fuses

    All these things, even the little things, add up the total cost of your system, so you need to figure out how much you want to spend before going hog wild and buying lights because before you know it, you will have spent your whole budget only to find out there were still a few things you needed. If you don't know what most of the stuff above is, don't worry, we'll cover all of that in this guide so you know what everything is.

    II. Truss & Tree Stands
    So you want to start buying some lights, great! But first you need to figure out what exactly you're going to hang them from. There are many many different ways to present your setup, and it's ok to be creative, just make sure that it looks good. Things like cable management are very important, especially if you do events such as weddings where you want a clean looking setup that will look nice in pictures instead of being an eyesore. So there are quite a few options you have to choose from. We'll go over most of them with an explanation of the benefits and disadvantage to each.


    Tree Stands - The tree stand is the most basic stand. It usually consists of tripod legs with a telescoping pole and 2 to 4 "branches" for mounting your lights. A lot of DJ's choose this method because of it's simplicity when it comes to setting up, and often use multiple tree stands for their lighting. What is nice about a tree stand is that a single person can usually raise the lights up by themselves, which in a lot of cases, is a necessity if you work alone, however, most tree stands aren't rated to carry as much weight as truss and you're limited on space for lights. These stands are great if you are looking for something that sets up quickly and are doing it all yourself, and if you need lighting in smaller places. It's a preferred method of hanging lights for house parties due to being able to fit into smaller areas where larger truss won't fit.


    Truss (I-Beam) - An I-Beam truss is the fairly common and most widely used system among mobile DJ's now days. It's a piece of truss, usually measured at 10' in total length across with two tripod stands on either side. Sometimes you will find I-Beam truss that comes with T-Bars, which are simply two bars that mount horizontally on the top of the tripod stand which can hold light loads. The benefit to truss is that it can hold a higher weight loads than tree stands and also has more room for lights, but you give up the ability to raise the system with only a single person because it takes 2 people to raise and can be very difficult if you have a system without cranks unless you bring a ladder and load lighting on after you have it in the air, which can be even more dangerous and difficult. Also, unless you have a trailer or similar method of getting your gear to and from venues, they take up more space than a tree stand, not being able to fit in most cars.


    Truss (Triangle) - Triangle truss is the beginning level of the more expensive setups. Where you can find I-Beams for under one-hundred dollars in some places, triangle truss is a much larger investment. The reason is that when you start looking at heavier duty truss such as this, you're no longer dealing with cheap materials. Proper truss systems need stronger stands, which a lot of the time is made from steel instead of aluminum in order to support heavier loads and the truss itself is usually made from a better grade aluminum which is also thicker. The benefit to using this is the ability to hang heavier loads which I-Beam truss can't hold. The drawbacks are that it does cost a lot more, the equipment is heavier, and it does take up more room.


    Truss (Box) - Box truss is the most common in the lighting industry outside of DJing. You don't see too many DJs using it because of many of the reasons stated above with triangle truss: it's a lot more expensive, it weighs a lot more, and it takes up a large amount of space. Box truss comes in many shapes and sizes, and in most cases, is overkill for DJs unless you have the gear that requires this kind of setup; usually in the form of moving yokes and other heavy lights. The benefit is that there is very little limitation when it comes to what you can put on these systems. They are able to carry a much heavier load than even triangle truss in most cases. It's also worth mentioning that when you start dealing with bigger truss, you're also adding minutes to hours in setup times and you will also need extra help to put these systems together and raise them.


    Arch Systems - Arch systems have been becoming more common with DJs in the past few years. An arch system is, simply put, a series of truss pieces that when put together form an arch. There are many other systems available that fit into this category as well and it's not just limited to an arch, but the more extravagant the system, the higher the cost and the longer the setup. Arch systems are good because they are not only able to hold a good amount of weight, but they are also very clean looking provided you practice good cable management. These systems are also not cheap. In fact, they cost quite a bit more than most triangle systems. Arch systems also have no stands and are at a set height, so there is no raising the truss up other than standing the whole system up at once. One other nice thing about these systems is that they use a lightweight truss which is very easy to setup with a single person as a whole. However with the light truss you sacrifice the amount of weight you can put on it compared to heavier truss.


    Standard vs Crank Stand - I'm going to save you a lot of time and explanation here. If you can afford good quality crank stands for whichever setup you decide to go with, it will be one of the best investments you can make. With a standard stand, you have to raise the truss up with two people manually with either a load of lights on the rig, or raise it and use a ladder to put the lights on. With crank stands, you can load your truss up and send up up with two people in a snap. It will save you a lot of time and aggravation from trying to raise an I-Beam with 150 pounds worth of lights on it manually.


    Conclusion - Some things to remember when buying truss and stands is that, while some may look the same, they may not be. One thing to look at is the weight rating. Two pieces of I-Truss, while they look identical, may not be able to carry the same weight load. Also, while descriptions may say the stands raise 10 to 12 feet, once that truss starts taking weight, stability can become an issue when it's fully extended.
    This article was originally published in forum thread: DJ Lighting - The Complete Evolving Guide started by Mystic View original post
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