Lighting: A Guide For DJs, Part 3

Terry_42 | Read time: 3 mins
lighting Pro
Last updated 5 April, 2018


So now you know how to build your scenes, it’s time to put them together.

In Lighting: A Guide For DJs, Part 1, we introduced the topic, and the idea of “intelligent” lighting. In Part 2, we got as far as programming scenes into our controller. Let’s recap that bit: A scene is simply a snapshot of all the lights you set up via your DMX controller, which you can instantly recall by the press of a button.

So here in Part 3, we’ll conclude by looking at where we go from scenes. Because while scenes are an impressive feature, changing scenes manually all the time would be quite a hassle, which is why we have “chases” (sometimes called “shows”). We’ll talk more about chases today, plus look at buying your first gear. Remember to read the article in conjunction with the video below, as before.


While the basic concept of a chase is explained in most advanced DMX controller manual, using and programming chases can be quite different depending on your gear, so you will have to consult your handbook carefully depending on the quality of this instruction. For example, Elation has a good method in its manuals by showing this as step by step procedures that are really easy to follow; your mileage may vary.

However, the basic concept of a chase is really simple and I show you in the companion video how I set up a chase on my controller. Simply put, a chase is a set of scenes put together, that can be recalled and then play in the sequence you programmed the scenes into the chase.

On most units you can adjust the time each scene will play with a fader or knob and also the fade time (how long it takes to fade from one scene to the next) on a second fader or knob. Some DMX controllers will also provide the option of doing auto switching via sound activation and will either have a built-in microphone, a microphone connector or both. So let us recap the basic workflow to set up a lightshow via DMX:

  1. Adjust each light to you liking for the scene in your head
  2. Save the scene to a scene memory on your controller
  3. Repeat programming scenes until you have enough scenes that you want to put together
  4. Add those scenes to a chase/show
  5. Recall the chase/show to play the lightshow

What to buy

So if all of this has whet your appetite and you’re thinking of getting some geat, here’s what I’d recommend.

Firstly, start out with some simple lights, like an LED bar or an LED RGB light. With the ADJ lights we had on the guides, you can easily remote control them via an ADJ infra-red remote, which is a really ice simple way to begin.

American DJ
The American DJ LED Mega Bar is remote controllable via infra red and is a good place to start.

So when you decide you’d like to go DMX, the first thing to do is not make the mistake of invest in a very small DMX controller. While such units may be simple to use, you will run out of options rather fast. The DMX controller I used for this guide was the Elation DMX Operator II. While it is a more advanced unit and has lots of options, I consider it very beginner friendly, as almost all features are easily accessed by dedicated buttons and the user manual has step by step instructions for all your needs.

As such controllers are relatively inexpensive, I would recommend getting a similar controller as your first DMX controller, as it will be a more future-proof investment and you can control anything from a few fixtures up to bigger lightshows with this unit. Plus, if you run out of fixture spots you can simply add another one for the next section of lights.




Thanks for following. This concludes our very simple beginner light guide, however I may well bring you more advanced light topics also down the line, covering things like light placement, use of more advanced lights and so on. So leave your comments in the comments section and we’ll cover what you need.

• A veteran DJ and Digital DJ Tips’s resident PA and lighting specialist, Terry can also be found moderating the Digital DJ Tips Forum.

Check out the other parts in this series:

Got questions, queries or comments to do with lighting, DMX, cables, daisychaining, or anything else to do with setting up lighting? Feel free to ask away in the comments or on the forum.

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