Regardless of how many strobes, fog machines or LED cans you have, the lighting effects in your nightclub will only be as good as the lighting software you use to sequence and sync them. If you have cheap, ineffective software you will get the kind of Mickey Mouse effects which will definitely lose you business and credibility in the long run. Dee jays will notice… hardcore clubbers will notice… and eventually the word will be out that your club is nothing special.
Software for lighting is what allows you to program every sweep of the spotlights, every blast of the air horn and every wave of flashing LED floor panels. It is what can give your dance club that super cool, 22nd century vibe or make your patrons feel like they are at an all-night rave. When poorly done, it can also make your dance club feel like a middle school dance. So it is not something to be ignored.
Lighting Software 101
In case you are not very tech savvy, I want to give you a quick low down on lighting software. Lighting software, put simply, is the program you install on the computer that helps create the visual effects for your club. Often this computer is located right in the deejay’s booth.
Not so long ago, it was possible to avoid having this kind of elaborate software. LED lights could be controlled by a dedicated DMX box or boxes and you just avoided the whole software lighting and coordination angle. The limits on dedicated DMX controllers however, and the increasing complexity fo dance club lights and effects, have made software for lighting your nightclub a must. (For more on DMX controllers, see How to Use a DMX Lighting Controller in your Bar or Nightclub)
What does the software do?
DMX 512 Software for lighting allows the user to create light show sequences (“scenes” in the deejay/DMX protocol jargon). Have you ever been at a club and just as the deejay slips from one mix into another, lighting suddenly changes and starts doing a completely different effect?
Well, those effects that are special to particular songs are called “scenes.” Scenes are groupings of particular effects in a particular sequence. In many clubs they are used for not only a general dance theme, but for particular songs or types of songs. So, for example, in the YouTube video below you can get a sense of how one of the very best DJ’s around brings the crowd into frenzy, in part, through the use of lighting.
Notice especially how the use of lights complements the effects. It is not just about a repetitive strobe. The deejay (or, more accurately the lighting software operator/programmer) often submerges the crowd in darkness or varies the location and intensity of the light. Sometimes the light flashes at the outer reaches of the hall like far away lighting, sometimes the tone of the strobe changes to watery blues, and then, as the music swells, the strobe comes back to the center of the floor with a blinding flash.
A good deejay like this can control the frenzy of clubbers and help to pack your establishment.
Sound to Light Settings
The other feature that is vital for a night club, especially for one where the software LED interaction is important, is the feature called “sound to light.” This allows the lighting software to sense the beats, rhythm and volume of whatever mix happens to be playing at the time and to coordinate your scenes with these parameters. So the strobes will flash in rhythm to the mix, picking up pace as the rhythm speeds up. The software LED connection also means that if you have an LED dance floor or wall display (like the Wall Equalizer I mention in another post), you can get them both to interact with the music.
How Difficult is it to Program Software for Lighting?
The command language, or DMX 512 Protocol as it is known, seems a bit daunting at first. However, most people can probably get a basic feel for it in a few days. This doesn’t mean that you will be able to become Benny Benassi overnight, but it does mean that you can start programming scenes and beginning to get a feel for it.
If you have a knowledgeable deejay, they actually may be able to help you figure out how to program scenes. If your deejay is your regular or if he works with a complete crew, he may even do the programming on his own. Although if you have several visiting deejays, you may need to either bone up yourself or get someone that can help coordinate things with the deejays.
For more about club deejays, see DJ Lighting.
How much does DMX 512 Lighting Software Cost?
A solid DMX 512 Lighting Software package will usually run you around $500 just for the software. That is no small sum if you are running things on a shoestring budget, but if you want your dance club lighting to have a cutting edge feel, it is a necessary expense.
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