There seems to be an commonly-held opinion that, as a mobile DJ, all you do is turn up, play some music, get paid and go home. This probably explains why any DJ who charges a decent rate for a decent service gets overlooked in favour of ‘Dave’s Dodgy Disco’ who charges £50 a night and all the Stella he can drink.
Any professional mobile DJ knows that playing tunes is just a small part of your job. You’re a master-of-ceremonies, a human jukebox, you control the mood, act as a message board and are a part-time controller of drunk people. So, with this in mind, at what point do you have the chance to put on a spectacular lightshow?
Some effects will actually come with their own, dedicated controller. Smoke and other atmospherics traditionally come with some form of handheld remote but, increasingly, lasers and some other lighting effects are also coming with their own separate controllers. This is all-well-and-good but what about the rest of the lightshow? In this series I am looking at the different types of ‘aftermarket’ controllers you can purchase to take control of this essential part of your show.
First off…”Simple Controllers”
These are the easiest to use, most affordable type of controller and are very popular with mobile DJ’s who want some control over their lights but aren’t yet ready to go down the programming route.
For a long time the ACME CA-8 controller (pictured left) has been a popular choice for use with the legendary Dynamo/Dynarock scanners and, later, with the ACME LED range (including miracLED, impossibLED and Matrix). This simple, 3-button controller gives you just enough control to give the impression of an intelligent lightshow without the need for any programming. This works by controlling the fixtures inbuilt lightshows. One button will change the programme, another will adjust the speed of the programme and the third will blackout or strobe the units. This is a great, low-cost way of ensuring your lights behave themselves (and won’t go crazy and start strobing during the first slow-dance).
Unlike a full-on DMX512 controller, these simple controllers are normally fairly limited in the range of lighting effects they can control. The most popular controller of this type on the market (Acme CA-8) for example is ONLY compatible with around 50% of ACME’s lighting effect range and no other of lighting brands are supported.
American DJ have recently released their own, wireless controller, the UC3 RC, which offers a greater level of control than the CA-8 and is compatible with a lot of ADJ’s latest lighting effects and lasers. However, this controller (like the CA-8) is only compatible with one light manufacturer so if you have a lightshow with a mixture of lights you can end up with a whole array of a simple controllers (not so simple afterall).
This is where DMX controllers come in…
Coming Up – Part 2 : DMX512 Controllers
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