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How To Build Your Perfect Lighting Setup

It's easy to forget how important good lighting is to a live performance - until the house lights accidentally switch on, or the stage lights blow a fuse. Lighting is a huge part of how we consume live events - whether we're at an underground rock show, or the Metropolitan Opera. DJs and set designers alike rely on proper lighting to visually enhance and refine their productions. We've luckily come a long way from the 1600s, when stages were lit by candles and chandeliers! Today's performers can choose from an endless variety of sophisticated lighting gear. It's never been easier - or more affordable - to dazzle audiences of any size.

The Basics
Stage lighting isn't only for DJs and touring musicians. Virtually any live venue can benefit from a professional light setup: lecture halls, theaters, churches, conference halls, clubs, museums, etc. And depending on the setting, lighting can be simple - with only a few units - or it can include a complex network of strobes, lasers, and other effects. Regardless of size, every lighting system includes controllers, stands, mounts, cables, and the lights themselves. Think of lighting as the visual equivalent of a PA system.

Spotlights
Lighting - like speakers - come in a huge variety of size, function, and power. Spotlights are the quintessential stage light, found in venues of every size. Traditionally, spotlights were aimed and operated manually, but nowadays most can be operated and focused remotely. Spotlights are especially useful for highlighting individuals onstage, or for projecting powerful, moving ovals of light at live shows. For example, the ADJ FS-1000 is a more traditional halogen "follow spot;" while the Chauvet DJ Intimidator Spot 355Z IRC is a 90-watt "intelligent" model, which means its head movements (and focus) are controlled remotely. The Intimidator is notable for its use of LED lighting, which requires far less power and generates virtually no heat, making the stage a more hospitable place.

PAR Cans
PAR cans - short for "parabolic aluminized reflector" lights - provide "flat" light, and do not move in the way spotlights do. (They can, of course, be manually adjusted). Par can lamps come in five different sizes, which project different size pools of light: very narrow spot, narrow spot, medium flood, wide flood, and extra-wide flood. For colored light, a color "gel" can be laid over the lamp. Or, a PAR might combine several small LED lights, capable of changing color without the use of gels. The Chauvet DJ SlimPAR Q12 is a great example: with 12 quad-color LEDs, and dual USB and infrared remote control compatibility.

Other Lights
For performers looking for a little more panache, Sweetwater also carries a variety of lasers, strobes, and other exciting effects. Strobe lights are known for their blinding, pulsing flash; the super-lightweight ADJ S81 LED II boasts 21 LEDs and 130-degree projection. While a spotlight shines a single oval light, lasers shoot out hundreds of thin, rotating beams of light. The Chauvet DJ Scorpion Storm FX RGB, for example, has 100-degree coverage, and comes with 255 lighting patterns built in. Other lights offer a more subtle ambiance: the ADJ Black-24BLB is a black light tube fixture, great for mood lighting in clubs, bars, and restaurants.

Controllers and Interfaces
There are three main ways to orchestrate and direct lighting fixtures. First, hand-held remote controls are model-specific, and allow users to adjust lights from a distance. For example, the Chauvet IRC-6 can adjust strobe rates, color, intensity, etc. with the click of a button - but only for certain Chauvet models. "Controllers" offer a second way to orchestrate light shows - take the ADJ DMX Controller, for example. Controllers look (and act) like mixing boards, and take DMX channels as inputs; the ADJ model can control up to 192 DMX channels. (DMX cables connect light fixtures to controllers and interfaces). Interfaces are a third option; they link DMX lighting fixtures into USB, so you can direct your lights with a computer. The ENTTEC DMXIS is a renowned lighting interface, ready to plug right into ENTTEC D-PRO2 Universe software.

Stands, Clamps, and Accessories
Even the most elaborate lighting fixtures can do little good if they're not wisely and securely installed. Stands like the ADJ Portable Lighting Tripod Stand offer a portable way to hoist up and stabilize light fixtures. Clamps like the ADJ Dura Clamp, or the Chauvet DJ CLP-05 Heavy-duty C-clamp, latch lights onto trusses and stands - whether they're 10 or 100 feet above an audience. The CLP Heavy-duty C-clamp, for example, can handle a load of up to 110 lbs. Sweetwater has everything you need to build your perfect light setup. We even carry extras like fog machines - check out ADJ's Fog Fury 1000. Whether you're an iconic venue, or a DJ just getting started, we can help you captivate any audience.

Questions about Lighting?

Questions about Lighting?

Or call us at (800) 222-4700

Questions about Lighting?

Sweetwater's Sales Engineers are regarded as the most experienced and knowledgeable professionals in the music industry, with extensive music backgrounds and intense training on the latest products and technologies. They are available to offer you personalized product advice any time you need it.

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