Up Lighting is a great way to tie together different elements of your wedding theme using colored light spread through out your venue. Lights can be custom matched to your wedding colors and can really deliver a lot of bang for the buck in regards to decorating. Looking to add up light to your event? Reach out today for a custom consult, or read on below for a little primer on up lighting.
One of the most popular trends in event decor for the last decade has been "up lighting." Up lighting is the use of lighting fixtures to add highlighted splashes of color through out an event space or wedding venue. These fixtures can create almost any color in the visible spectrum and can be calibrated to match the colors of your wedding reception theme. With the introduction of LED (light emitting diode) fixtures in the early 2000's, up lighting became a popular trend and also a popular add on service for many wedding venues, wedding DJs, and wedding photographers. Why? Because it looks great! Be aware however that not all uplighting is created equal. Let's take a look at what up lighting is, how much of it you need for your event, and how to tell the good from the bad.
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Remix weddings uses 100% wireless fixtures for our up lighting packages. Our fixtures are powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery which can provide up to 20 hours of continuous operation. This means no unsightly cords or wires taped down to the floor or the walls of your venue. The fixtures can placed anywhere at your wedding venue and don't have to be within a certain distance of an outlet like conventional wired fixtures. No matter where you want to place the lights, we can make that happen. Most high end wedding venues will require wireless up lighting fixtures, as they do not want cords being taped to the floor, and they want to avoid trip hazards. Most importantly, they want the lighting to look good, and wires are ugly and detract from the beauty of a space. Make sure your up lighting provider is providing wireless lights!
Before advances in LED technology, event accent lighting was done using PAR cans (Parabolic Aluminum Reflectors). These are the same lighting fixtures that has been used in live theater applications for 70+ years. These fixture emit white light that is then tinted or colored using special translucent cellophane filters creating one single color. These old fixtures were wired, and used really high intensity discharge bulbs, so they produced a lot of heat. You were limited to the single color produced by the selected gel placed over the light and they also had to be placed near an outlet.
LED lighting fixtures have fixed the challenges presented by conventional PAR cans. LED fixtures are cool to the touch which mean you don't have to worry about small children burning themselves by touching the fixture. Trust us, little kids always want to touch lighting fixtures because they are on the floor and look really cool! LED fixture also produce a lot of light and use very little energy to do it which is why they can operate for a very long time on battery power. LED fixtures use color mixing of multi colored LEDs to create different colors, so you are not limited to just one color for your event, you can change the whole aesthetic of your event space with the touch of a button if your LED fixtures are networked properly, but we will talk more about that in a minute!
Originally, in the early 2000's, most LED fixtures came with RGB diodes (Red Green and Blue). At the time, other colored diodes were very expensive or just didn't exist yet. Red, green, and blue however weren't the only colors those early fixtures could produce, those were just the colors of the individual diodes inside the fixtures. Additional colors are created by mixing two or more of the colored diodes. I.e. red plus blue equals purple. Depending on how intensely illuminated each RGB diode is, you can create different colors by mixing different amounts of RGB light. This works similarly to how a painter mixes colors on their pallete. With RGB color mixing you can create most colors (but not all), and not all colors can be created accurately. RGB fixtures are still on the market today and are often significantly cheaper than other multi diode fixtures.
So what's with all the other letters? Well as LED technology advanced, new LED's have become available (and more importantly more affordable). The introduction of Amber, White, and Ultra Violet LED's has created lights that offer a full spectrum of colors that older RGB fixtures couldn't produce. This allows lighting designers to produce rich tinted whites and lush amber colors, as well as vibrant purples. Having 6 base colors to mix from versus 3, these newer fixtures have an endless rainbow of color options. When considering up lighting from various vendors it is best to ask what kind of fixtures (RGB, RGBA, etc) they are using, especially if you are hoping for amber colors and pinks, or want vibrant whites that don't look like fluorescent lighting!
A few things to be aware of...First, there isn't a whole lot of standardization in the LED lighting industry so you may hear lights be referred to as Quad (4 diode color mixing) or Tri (three diode color mixing). Second, a lot of venues, equipment companies, and other mobile DJs purchase cheap really cheap RGB (tri) lighting fixtures that they typically offer to include at "no charge." These fixtures however may not deliver the results you want. The other thing to be aware of is that most venues (and a lot of mobile DJs) only provide static lighting, meaning it will stay the same color all night. Remix Weddings uses computer controlled lighting systems so that we can change the look of the venue as the night progresses, and to do that we need DMX!
DMX (Digital Multiplex 512) is a standardized control language for digital lighting that allows for the programming of individual lighting fixtures to create scenes and shows. DMX is commonly used in theaters and event venues to control lighting fixtures. Using DMX allows a designer to change the look of a room instantaneously. You are probably wondering why I am telling you this?
Well, most venues that provided up lighting, and the lighting provided by other DJs, is often" static lighting," meaning the fixtures will be the same color all night. Remix Weddings however deploys DMX control over our up lighting which allows us to change the whole look of a venue with the push of a button. After dinner, when the dancing starts, we can bring the room alive by changing the color and intensity of the uplighting. You would be surprised how a subtle change in lighting can help reenergize your guests after a big delicious meal. The other upside of DMX control is that we can sync the up lighting with the rest of the dance floor lighting to help pump up the energy on the dance floor and the whole room. Controlling lights via DMX allows us to coordinate the lighting to create a cohesive aesthetic.
Now be warned: Watch out for DJs who tell you they will put their up lighting in "Party Mode" once the dance party starts. If they aren't using DMX control what they are going to do is walk around to each of their lights and switch them to "Sound Active Mode." Basically each light has little microphone inside and the light will react to the level of sound it detects and will do it's own thing in response to that sound. That could mean the light will change color, strobe, or fade up and down. While that sounds cool enough, what you are actually going to get is 16 (or however many lights they provide) individual up lights doing their own thing to the music. Each light will all be changing color to the beat of the music, but it will not be coordinated and every light will be doing it's own thing. This is not what you want, as it is a little overwhelming and visually nauseating to see 16 up lights each doing their own thing. With our DMX controlled, lighting once we start the dance party, the lights will all be synced up so they are cohesively working together to create a visually stunning light show.
One last thing to be aware of when it comes to up lighting units is the wattage or power output of each fixture. Most often these numbers will be presented to you as watts, lumens, and beam angles. Different fixtures will have different light outputs ranging from 2 watts to 20 watts or more (per diode). Fixtures will vary in the amount of diodes that they contain and lights come in various shapes as well (bars, pars, cans, coins, strips, clips, and more). The main thing to pay attention to is the overall output of the fixture. We typically calculate 1 watt as being able to illuminate 1 foot of space on a wall. There by 10 watts will typically illuminate 10 feet of wall, 20 watts can do 20 feet, and so on. There is a specific formula when determining the fixture to use for a specific purpose or space. Using a small under powered fixture to light a big wall will leave you with less than stellar results. That is why it is important to get specifics about those "free up lights" that a lot of venues and other vendors offer as add ons to get you to book. For our uplighting packages we send out an assortment of lighting fixtures of various sizes and shapes so that we can appropriately light the venue and make it look it's best!
Up lighting fixtures are available in a range of prices. Cheap lights (as seen in this photo) can be purchased for as little as $20.00 per fixture. These are corded fixtures (not battery powered) and the optics are individual RGB LED's. This means when color mixing these lights, you see the individual colors separated out. At a distance of 10 feet you get a uniform color, but when projecting on a wall, the 1-3 feet immediately above the fixture will look pixelated or blurred. You won't get a uniform color from floor to ceiling, at the bottom you will see the different colors separated out. We only use premium lights with German engineered optic lenses which blend the light before it leaves the fixture. This creates a uniform color across the projection field, i.e. from the bottom of the wall to the top of the ceiling. This also makes our units brighter by focusing the light in a specific beam angle which is about 15 degrees.
People often ask us how many up lights they need for their event and the best advice I can give is that less is not more. You do not want your up lighting to look like an after thought. You want a cohesive and complete look for the entire space, not just 6 lights thrown haphazardly through the room. You want balance and symmetry to your lighting design. It is better to have too many than not enough. We can always find a place to stick an additional light, they won't go to waste.
So how many do you need? Well if you have a room diagram or floorpan you can send that over for us to review and we can make some suggestions. For a typical ballroom our recommendation is at least 16 fixtures, but if your venue isn't a perfect square/rectangle (which most aren't) then that number could go up or down. Fortunately we have worked at most every venue in WNC so we can easily recommend the appropriate amount of fixtures for most venues because we have probably worked there in the past. For venues we are not familiar with, we are happy to do a site survey to come up with a plan.
Just like floral, good uplighting is an investment in your event. Is it a must have for your event? Not necessarily. Can it create an OMG moment for your guests when they arrive? ABSOLUTLEY! Up lighting can cast a warm and welcoming glow through out your entire venue and can really bring your party to life later in the evening. As we mentioned before, a lot of venues, photographers, and other DJs are offering free up lighting as an enticement to book. Why? Because it makes photos look amazing by adding depth, it makes the venue look fantastic, and it really pumps up the energy of the whole room! Be cautious however when considering discounted or "free" up lighting because it is probably cheap or free for a reason.
Remix Weddings prices our up lighting competitively and we believe that the level of design and quality of lighting we provide is top notch. If you are considering up lighting for your event, please reach out today and let's discuss!