July 2016

Without doubt, one of the biggest recent trends in lighting design is the use of truss totems, especially for mobile lightshows. As an alternative to tripods, totems not only offer a practical solution for mounting lighting fixtures but can also act as design features in their own right offering aesthetically pleasing focal points either on stage or around a venue.

The ‘totem effect’ is easy to create, but can be extremely impactful, especially when totems are used in multiples along with creatively programmed lighting fixtures. The basic idea is that you mount a piece of quad truss vertically onto a weighted base plate and then fit a top plate to the other end of the truss. This can then be used to support a moving head lighting fixture sitting on the top plate in a position that gives the light beam a wide field of movement.

Adding a battery powered LED flat par fixture sitting in the bottom of the truss is then what makes the totem into an eye-catching design feature. For some applications, just the bare aluminum truss can be appropriate, especially when an ‘industrial’ look is required. However, by adding white truss socks, totems can be completely transformed into solid pillars of light called a Glow Totem. The DuraTruss range even includes Round Truss Covers which incorporate circular supports down the length of the sock to create a column effect in place of the usual rectangular totem shape.

Other lighting fixtures can also be added to totems to add even more creative potential. I’ve seen LED battens mounted to the front edge of each totem in a light show to provide audience wash / blinder effects. I’ve even seen multiple battens mounted to each totem at zig-zag angles, which can look incredible when pixel mapping is used to run patterns across all of the fixtures.

Another option, especially for larger shows, is to fit the recently-launched Duratruss DT-DYNO WHEEL to the top of your totem. This provides a 3’ wide circular mounting bar which means that multiple fixtures can be attached to the top of each totem. It allows three or four moving head fixtures, hanging down rather than sitting on top, to be mounted on each totem providing a distinctive look and plenty of options for both stage and mid-air beam lighting.

The totem effect can be utilized for lightshows of all sizes, from small mobile DJ setups to large festival or touring concert rigs. For mobile DJs, just two totems – positioned one either side of a booth – can create a neat, professional-looking setup. Moving up from there, adding in another pair – using a different length of truss to add an extra dimension – can create a very impressive mobile lightshow. A real advantage of this type of rig is that it can easily be setup in different spaces. By varying the distance between each totem, the same lighting system can be squeezed in to a tight space or spread out to fill a large stage using exactly the same equipment.

Another advantage of totems over tripods is that they don’t present the same potential trip hazard of sticking out legs. For large parties and corporate events, totems can therefore be positioned around a room – or dancefloor – to create an immersive lightshow. What’s more, thanks to modern wireless DMX and battery-powered technology, it’s now even possible to place lighting totems around a venue without the need to run power or signal cables over to them.

If you’re a DJ who prefers to run your lighting connected Master/Slave using Sound Active or Auto modes, rather than controlled via DMX, the Totem Mode offered by all of the moving heads in ADJ’s Inno series is something you’ll find very useful. It limits the movement range of the units’ pre-programmed patterns so that the light beams are always pointed out towards your audience if they are mounted on totems at the front of a room.

For large churches and live music concerts totems of various sizes are a great way to break up a stage, provide lighting mounting points at varying heights and add to the overall look of the stage. The Duratruss range even features a wheeled base plate – the 24x30WC – which is fitted with locking casters and allows pre-rigged totems to be wheeled on stage quickly and easily during band turnarounds.

On a practical note, always be sure to use an appropriate base plate for the size of totem and the amount and weight of fixtures you’re using with it. There would be nothing worse than seeing your precious moving head come crashing down and there’s obviously a safety concern if the totem is close to performers or audience members. There are a variety of different sizes and weights of base plate available, and the simple rule of thumb is the wider and heavier the plate, the more secure your totem will be. Of course you can also add stage weights or even sand bags on top of the plate for a little more stability – and peace of mind – if you feel it’s needed.

So, whatever type of lighting you’re involved with – from small mobile DJ events to huge concert shows – is it time you embraced the totem effect?

Alfred Gonzales in the National Sales Manager at ADJ USA

 To learn more about the DT-Dyno Wheel, CLICK HERE

To learn more about the 24x30WC Base Plate, CLICK HERE

To learn more about the Glow Totems, CLICK HERE


Event photos © DJ Mike Events 562-805-1012