Strobe lights have been a disco mainstay since at least the 70’s. So popular are they that there is even a breakdance move named after them, strobing. In this post I will try to offer some advice about buying and setting up your nightclub strobe lights.
Strobe Lights Basics
Strobe lights are not that complicated in themselves—they are just a light that flashes on and off. Even with this seemingly simple technology, however, there are a number of technical distinctions between types of strobes that will make a difference for your bar or nightclub. What should you look for in strobe lights?
Power and Durability
First of all, you want to make sure that your strobe lights have the umph! to handle what you are asking of them. Many amateur deejays, for example, will carry little portable strobe lights with them to gigs. These 20 watt flashers really don’t do much for a club unless you line your ceiling with them. No professional club is really going to go with one of these kinds of systems.
Obviously these mini-strobes lights are just not going to cut it. In fact, I would not even consider these to be real strobe lights. That’s why I call them strob lights without the “e” because they really don’t do it for a professional. You definitely need more than strob lights for your establishment.
How much power is enough? Unless you have a very small space anything less than 500 watts is just going to look meager even to those standing right under the unit. Your best bet for your average sized disco is to get a pack of 800 watt units that will really flood the space when you are looking for that overwhelming kind of effect.
It is not that you are going to be using this kind of effect all the time, but that you want to have it for when you want it. In addition, cheap $20 units of the mini-strobe light variety that DJ’s use really don’t last that long.
If you have a top flight disco, you will have to make sure that everything works together in conjunction. That means that strobes, lights and your DMX controller must be able to work together to create synchronized and programmed effects. This is yet another reason why the mini-deejay variety of strobe lights just won’t cut it. Most of these mini lights have manually controlled strobes—which means that you have to turn a dial on the back to get them to flash at a particular rate.
If you are lucky, you can at least find one of the less expensive strobe lights that will react to music and flash, if not in tempo to the music—at least when the music is on.
Really, however, what you want is a strobe that you can program to flash in the way that you want them to flash. In other words, a good strobe can be programmed to create sustained, blinding flashes at climactic moments or medium rapid flashes during build up, or even the rat-tat-tat of a machine gun fire like sequence to mimic sudden drum exchanges or intros. (Think of the bridge section of Phil Collins “Air of Night” that was so popular in the 80’s—a perfect spot for a choreographed strobing.)
Unless your club is called Club Strobe and that is what you want to be known for, you should try to make your strobe lights just one weapon in your arsenal of lights. Use it in conjunction with your eliminators and lasers and beams not in competition with them. For more on ceiling lights see Nightclub Ceiling Lights.
Which naturally brings us to versatility. A good strobe will not only be able to flash at different intensities and at different rates, but might also be able to create other effects as well. If you get one of the newer top flight LED strobes, not only will it be able to act like a strobe, but also like virtually any other type of club light you need. They can literally switch on a dime from strobing to beaming. These can be great all in one tools and when combined with the help of a DMX controller can take your club to the next level. (For more on DMX controllers check our article How to Use a DMX Lighting Controller in your Bar or Nightclub ).
Colored Strobe Lights
You should also consider other functions for your strobe lights, like creating moods through colored filters. The strobes light need not be limited to whites. With just a few colored filters, you can thoroughly change the mood.
Tip from the Pros: And one final thought about how you might consider incorporating strobe lights in your club. Don’t forget merchandizing—especially if you have a club that caters to a younger demographic. If it fits into your overall club brand, you might consider selling little handheld strobes or accessories inside your club or give them as parting gifts. Little pen strobes provide a cool souvenir for your clientele and can double as an advertisement for your club if you are smart about placing your club name. They can definitely pay for themselves, if used correctly.
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