How to Use a DMX Lighting Controller in your Bar or Nightclub

A DMX lighting system can help you take complete control of the bar or nightclub’s atmosphere. If you have a dance club or want to host live music on a regular basis, having a DMX controller is a must. Being able to match the lighting effects to the music being played enhances the customer experience and can make your nightclub the kind of place where customers line-up on weekends.

What will you need to make this work:

A Quality DJ with Some Understanding of DMX LED

If you want to have the kind of dance club that is packed to the rafters every weekend and that can afford to charge the kind of high door prices that make the trouble worth it, then you have to hire experienced and tech savvy deejays. When people pay door charges for dance clubs they expect more than some strobe lights and a disco globe—they expect a show! Anything less and they won’t bother coming back.

A deejay that knows his or her way around a DMX LED system can provide dancers with the kind of light and sound coordination they expect. A quality deejay will know how to pace things so that the mix of songs during the peak dance hours (11 pm to 1 am in most places) really hits the mark. In addition, they know how to work the DMX controller to coordinate sound effects like air horn blasts and visual effects like colored LED beams, roving spotlights and low lying fog. DMX controllers can also be hooked right into the dance floor so that not only the LED canisters dance to the beat, but the LED paneled squares of the floor itself flash in pattern to the rhythm.

This mix of technical knowhow and musical intuition is not always easy to come by in one individual. Where many club owners go wrong is in viewing the deejay as either not a professional or as thinking of him or her as just a part-time employee. Deejays should be thought of as integral parts of your bar—almost in the role of what were once called “entertainment directors.” Your main deejay should be in on meetings about promotions and bookings and you should try to make the deejay feel included in the entertainment related decisions.

Often the deejay will have helpful input as to who to book or how to enhance your clientele’s overall experience. They will have direct contact with the clients and sense what is working and what is not.

Especially when you are first getting things going, having a deejay that can also operate a DMX Lighting Controller is critical to your success.

DMX Controller in DeeJay Booth

Photo Courtesy of Noobx

For more about DJ lighting, see DJ Lighting.

An Experienced DMX Controller Operator

As soon as possible however, you want to get a DMX controller operator to help your deejay create a complete dance experience for your clientele. Although there is a lot that an experienced deejay can accomplish, you really need someone whose primary area of expertise is DMX controllers. A DMX lighting expert will pre-program the lighting effects that you and your deejay agree will work best. In coordination with your deejay your DMX lighting operator will create particular effects in particular spots during the night.

Don’t be fouled. Programming a DMX controller is not as easy as just pressing the “light to music” button and letting the DMX controller do its thing. Your DMX controller actually has to be taught how to control the lights and what functions to perform. Your DMX lighting operator will actually go through the use of recorded lighting settings and carefully use of a joystick to show the moveable lights how to and when to move.

For more about getting the right software program, see Lighting Software for Your Bar or Nightclub.

The Right Equipment

Of course, you will want to make sure you get the right equipment. DMX controllers can range in price greatly. You want to be sure that the controller you have will do what you want it to. One consideration for example is how many channels you will need. If you have overhead lights, strobes, beams and that’s it, that is one thing. But if you have special lights behind the deejays booth or an LED light paneled dance floor, that further complicates matters. A DMX 512 controller will have 512 channels and is able to control up to 32 fixtures.

You have a couple of choices when it comes to DMX controllers: dedicated DMX lighting and computer based controllers. Dedicated controllers are kind of old school and very limited in their capabilities. PC based DMX controllers are definitely the way to go when it comes to DMX controllers, because of the far larger memory storage capabilities.

As far as cost goes, a lot will depend on how complicated a set up you want. In most situations the typical machine will work for you—which can usually be purchased for less than $1000.

Filed Under: Bar / Nightclub DesignBar / Nightclub Lighting

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