A Chat with the Chauvets at NAMM

by Kevin M. Mitchell
in Company Q&A
Berenice and Albert Chauvet at NAMM 2017
Berenice and Albert Chauvet at NAMM 2017

Crossing Over to the Brighter Side of Event Lighting

It’s Friday at the NAMM Convention, and the separate Chauvet Professional and Chauvet DJ booths are filled with people. That the company is having an active day at an M.I. convention is not surprising. What puzzles me, though, is the number of visitors who walk from one booth to the other.

“Aren’t ‘DJ’ and ‘Pro Lighting’ two separate worlds, and never the twain shall meet?” I ask to the company CEO, Albert Chauvet.

Smiling broadly, Chauvet explains that there has been a great deal of crossover between segments of the DJ and Pro lighting markets in recent years. A growing number of customers, he explains, use products from both Chauvet DJ and Chauvet Professional on the same projects.

The majority are lighting professionals whose focus is on events like corporate meetings, conventions, retail and branding experiences, civic ceremonies and similar affairs. Some are former DJs who moved into event production in response to market changes. Others are traditional production houses who have carved out a profitable niche for themselves in the pro market by adding event lighting productions and rentals to their services.

The Chauvet DJ side of the company’s booth at NAMM

Intrigued by this development, I chatted some more with Chauvet’s partner, vice president Berenice Chauvet, to get her take on this fascinating crossover trend. This Q&A follows.

PLSN: How would you describe the “event” market that Chauvet DJ is tapping into?

Berenice Chauvet: The “event market” can be defined as public or private events that require multiple production elements far beyond what a typical single mobile entertainer can provide. These can include professional lighting, larger-scale truss rigs, and staging. It is basically a small to medium-sized production addressing primarily the corporate event market and larger, sophisticated affairs.

The popularity and high visibility of EDM, festivals and televised shows has caused a surge in the demand for lighting productions from people who want to emulate those looks and experiences at their own local events. Case in point: the corporate event market is growing by leaps and bounds, because it’s more critical than ever for companies to brand and present themselves in the best light during product launches, meetings and seminars, in a mediatized world where everything is a photo op and visuals take center stage.

Search “giglogs” on YouTube, and you will see a trend of up-and-coming “production” professionals who have transitioned from traditional DJ services to focus on a variety of events and functions. These small to medium sized productions yield larger revenues than the traditional combination of a few effect lights coupled with some wash lights in a one-man DJ/emcee show.

The “Event market” also includes independent LDs and rental houses seeking to tap into the steadier stream of revenues from event lighting.

The NAMM booth separated 'DJ' and 'Professional' products, but many LDs use both in the same gig.

What does this market evolution mean in terms of new products?

The event market offers the opportunity to serve a client with a larger budget and higher expectations of quality, in a larger venue. Chauvet DJ seeks to tap into this demand with lights that are brighter and more robust, with more control options and greater color consistency than typical mobile lights. They also have to be camera friendly.

Our new EVE series, including ellipsoidal- and Fresnel-style lights, as well as the upper echelon of our Chauvet DJ Intimidator moving heads are specifically conceived for that market.

Battery-powered and wireless fixtures are also important to event producers. Although most large or upscale events require a DMX console, wireless, remotely controllable fixtures save power, time and thus money, for instance as perimeter lighting. This is the driving force behind our battery-powered Freedom series fixtures, which have been, remarkably, used, for instance, at Tiffany events and the Macy’s Jingle Ball in New York. Add an IP outdoor rating to this, such as in the Freedom Par Quad-4 IP, and you have a winner in the race to capture the hearts of customers in this growing and lucrative “event” market.

Chauvet DJ booth at NAMM

Is there any overlap between Chauvet DJ “event” products and Chauvet Professional?

Absolutely. This is why we refer to most of these products as the crossover range of Chauvet DJ; but the seasoned lighting professional is able to identify differences and decide based on functions, specs and features needed to meet the specifics of each application and budget. At the end of the day, our customers are business savvy. They are looking for value (which means features, versatility, dependability and quality all rolled into one) in order to make the most profit while still being able to stand behind a product and a production that they know their customers will love.

Chauvet at NAMM 2017

How does this “cross-over” lighting compare to standard mobile DJ products?

Typical mobile fixtures, as the name indicate, prioritize mobility. Affordability is also key. Our Chauvet DJ “cross-over” products also take these into account but include “pro” features, brighter light sources, and more control options.

More specifically, they incorporate features that clearly differentiate them from a standard mobile product. The first one is MET/UL approval by a third-party laboratory to verify that it meets or exceeds electrical safety standards. It also means the product can be permanently installed. Another distinguishing feature is the locking power input and output cables. This prevents the fixture from accidentally coming unplugged. The third feature, found in our larger fixtures, is a quick-connect hanging bracket which can be affixed or removed without the use of any tools. A fourth is the combination of both 3- and 5-pin DMX connectors [assuming they physically fit].

Having said so, the lines are increasingly blurred in terms of quality and longevity in LED products built by reputable manufacturers. You no longer have to deal with the cooling issues associated with incandescent light sources that helped differentiate the pro products from the rest. As the price of LEDs go down, you are able to get as good of a light source across all ranges. So the difference really is in the thoughtful decision of which features to incorporate in each line, taking into account the specific priorities and needs of each market segment, and the resulting price point.

Albert Chauvet and Michael Graham with Chauvet Professional offerings at NAMM 2017

And I’m betting you’re not ignoring the traditional DJ market…

Of course not! We have built the world’s most trusted brand in that market segment. It, too, is continually evolving, where you see savvy DJ re-inventing themselves. They have caught up to the need to offer much more than music services in a world where you can download any music from your iPhone and where expectations at parties are very much influenced by televised productions with all the bells and whistles in terms of lighting.

St. James Theatre in Montreal utilizes Chauvet DJ fixtures permanently installed by XYZ Technologie Culturelle.

What growth do you foresee in the “crossover” market?

Expectations for a total sensory experience at events and venues of all sizes will continue to grow. As technology advances and certain features become more accessible to the smaller rental houses, these mini-productions will only further become the norm. This is not only true for rental though. There are installers for smaller scale theatres in schools and local playhouses who are also catching on to the accessibility of these technologies. So they are installing crossover fixtures from brands like Chauvet DJ into these venues. This “crossover” trend is going to extend beyond the event market to every sector of the lighting industry. It’s a game changer.

How does Chauvet DJ plan to address the future needs of the event market?

Our Chauvet DJ Product Development team is made up of part-time DJs and former event and production professionals. They are the personification of the very market they spend endless hours developing product for.

So definitely we will serve the market by tapping into that knowledge base; but also, Chauvet as a company strives to always be thoughtful and never launch a product that hasn’t received preliminary market feedback from some key players in the industry.

We’re listeners, and we will continue to develop lighting products that meet or exceed event requirements; easier, more intuitive control systems. And keep true to our conviction that talent should never be defined by the size of a wallet. We very much keep the up and coming guy in mind in all we do.

John Farr Lighting Design is using Chauvet fixtures to light special events.

Crossing Over: A Look at Two Event Lighters

John Farr, John Farr Lighting Design

A former touring LD, Farr started his Washington DC area company “to run stage lighting,” but moved into events in response to market conditions. “It became apparent to me that in this area, there wasn’t going to be a huge demand for stage lighting,” he recalls. “Meanwhile, the number of people wanting to bring full production lighting to events of various kinds was increasing.”

Being located in the nation’s capital, Farr has designed for events at high profile venues like the National Air and Space Museum, Embassy of Italy and the National Portrait Gallery. He’s also designed for upscale private parties with guests like Jay Leno. About 40 percent of his business comes from corporate events and 60 percent from private functions.
Farr uses an extensive inventory of mostly LED fixtures, some of which bear the label DJ. “I don’t look at products based on their classification, I choose the ones that best suit my needs,” he says. “Which products are going to help me create the looks my clients expect at their events and give me the best return on my investment. I have pro products from different manufacturers including Chauvet Professional, and I have quite a few Chauvet DJ fixtures, which I uses for washes and uplighting. The DJ fixtures do an excellent job, they last and they’re priced right. Sometimes you have to go with the more expensive product because it’s necessary to do the job, but if you can do the same job with a product that costs less, you have to take advantage of the opportunity.”

For more information, visit Farr’s website at www.johnfarrlighting.com.

Jason Ayala, Jason Blends Design

This much-in-demand lighting designer on the New York event circuit, began his career as a DJ playing at the city’s underground clubs in the early 2000s. He “backed into lighting” after people started asking him to play private parties and bring his own lights. Starting out with basic sound activated and preprogrammed fixtures, he quickly moved on to more sophisticated lights and became adept at programming and running his grandMA console.

“This was back when LEDs were just hitting, so I got more and more into lighting, and pretty soon I wasn’t a DJ, but a lighting guy,” he recalls. “I did light some shows and festivals around New York, but soon events took over. Right now I do 60 percent corporate work, 30 percent private events and only 10 percent concerts. Five years ago, private events were probably over 80 percent of my business, so this shows you how important corporate events have become in my world!”

Word of mouth has led to projects at prestigious venues like the Metropolitan Museum of Art and work for corporate clients like Heineken. As for fixtures, Ayala works with mainly pro gear from Chauvet Professional, ETC, Martin and Elation, but never hesitates to include DJ products in his rig. “This is not the same as the touring world,” he says. “You don’t have the road considerations and you don’t have the giant arena type venues, so the equation is altogether different. Basically, you’re looking for lights to do specific things, because there is a lot of little detail issues with an event, such as lighting a specific centerpiece or unusual scenic element. If you have a fixture that can do that job well and it’s price right you use it, regardless of what its label says.”

For more information, go to www.jasonblends.com.