DJ Lighting for Nightclubs
DJ Lighting should definitely be part of your consideration when it comes to your overall club lighting strategy. Clubs that leave DJ lighting to the DJ’s always regret it. Although DJ’s are very knowledgeable about music and tend to get the sound just right, they are neither electricians nor lighting designers and a good DJ lighting system is beyond their means.
In fact, if you want to be a top flight dance club, with state of art sound and a distinctive experience for your clients, then you need to integrate the DJ light with the club lighting. A couple of strobes on T-stands may be okay for a Holiday Inn on Cabo San Lucas but it will not draw lines of well-dressed partiers on Friday night.
So what should you definitely have for your DJ?
A Deejay Booth
To begin, if you really want to have a professional grade dance club, a Deejay booth is a must. This doesn’t have to be something as cool as the spaceship at Fantasia in LA, but it should be a permanent area designated for the DJ. Aesthetically, if you are going to have name DJ’s as part of your club experience, the set-up should highlight the DJ’s location for the crowd. The booth can be emphasized with an LED DJ booth, or with an LED DJ booth background. Both will set off a space that will be the focus of attention for dancers.
I’ve seen lots of different set-ups, including an actual diner booth in one location, but there is one element that the DJ booth should incorporate:
A View of the Dance Floor The bestDJ booths give the DJ a good view of as much of the dance floor as possible. Whatever you do, you do not want to make the DJ so separate from the action that s/he can’t have a sense of what is going on in the club. That is actually one of the things I do not like about the DJ booth at Fantasia—the spaceship closes the DJ off a bit and makes it a little harder to get a feel for the room. In order to give the DJ a real sense of what is going on, you usually need to elevate the DJ booth somewhat as well so the DJ can see over the closest dancers.
Lighting for DJ Booth Don’t forget that the DJ will need to be able to see what he or she is doing. There must be some source of lighting for the DJ booth separate from the house lights. This can be dim lighting, but the DJ booth cannot fade into complete darkness when the rest of dance floor does. Lighting for DJ booths should be constant and bright enough for the DJ to read labels etc.
Access to the club lighting for DJ coordination
Ideally, the DJ booth will also be the location of the DMX controller, so that the DJ can coordinate music and lighting. Controlling lighting for DJ purposes can mean various different things depending on what your particular situation is with your DJ. If you have a regular DJ, they may be able to program the DMX to include the light effects you desire. For example, a regular DJ may be able to master your DJ light system well enough so that they can program the club lights to dim before a particularly atmospheric cut.
If your club is going to have a rotating set of visiting Deejays, then DJ lighting may have to be assigned to someone in your club with a thorough knowledge of your club lighting. This need not be a dedicated DJ lighting specialist who does lighting for DJ performances and nothing else. But it should be someone who knows how to deal with any kind of problem that may come up and that is free during late nights so they can handle the DJ light problems that may come up during performances.
For this reason, you should not choose your head bartender or the head of security for DJ lighting. They will simply have too much on their hands during busy nights to handle their own duties in addition to helping out the DJ. Good positions for handling the light for DJ performances are promotions guys and office manager types that handle the business end of things. Occasionally high end clubs will have a dedicated DJ lighting guy or gal, but few of us can afford this luxury. (If you want to find out more about DMX controllers, see our article: How to Use a DMX Lighting Controller in your Bar or Nightclub.
Tip from the Pros As a general practice, it is a good idea to have visiting Deejays come in before the club opens to coordinate with your DJ lighting guy so that they can work out any kinks. Clubs seem unprofessional when the DJ and the DJ lights guy get into an argument during a performance. This meeting time will also give the DJ a better sense of the club and help you to clarify what kind of a performance you are looking for.
In addition, if you are going to have separate theme nights, the DJ lighting should be varied during these nights. In other words, you should not have the same lighting effects for your Goth night that you do for your 80’s night. A good club will take the time to program DJ lighting effects that are night specific so that your regular clientele will both know what to expect and know that they can go on separate nights and get separate experiences. So the DJ lighting can make your club feel like more than one club, and draw a wider range of visitors.
For more on club lighting, see LED Lighting for Your Bar or Nightclub.
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