When the management of the Onyx Room Nightclub in San Diego wanted to overhaul the lighting in their downstairs lounge and dance spaces, they brought in experienced Lighting Designer Ramiro Valenzuela. Having visited the venue and built up a picture of what was required, he evaluated products from a number of manufacturers before deciding on a collection of ADJ fixtures. The result is a versatile system which has impressed the venue’s management and allowed the dance room, in particular, to live up to its full potential.

Located in San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter – known for its rich Victorian architecture, world-renowned dining and diverse entertainment scene – the Onyx Room features local and international DJs. Housed in a building that was constructed in 1910, the club draws its name from the Onyx Hotel which operated on the upper floors from 1911 to 1938. Building on this heritage, the Onyx Room itself has been a part of San Diego’s nightlife since the ‘90s.

With music from hip hop, mash-ups, top 40 and party rock to house, electronic, ‘80s and reggae, the Onyx Room has something for everyone. The club attracts an open-minded, up-for-anything, and incredibly friendly crowd who enjoy the fact that the venue offers both a chic lounge bar vibe early-evening and a late-night dance club atmosphere. Spilt across three separate spaces, the club features a street-level bar area and downstairs lounge and dance rooms. The club’s management recently decided that it was time to upgrade the lighting system in its two downstairs spaces and brought in local Lighting Designer Ramiro Valenzuela to specify, install and program the new rig.

The venue’s basement lounge has a luxurious feel with comfortable seating, a large bar and retro décor featuring intricate coving and hanging lamps. To complement the period fixtures and illuminated coving, Ramiro specified eleven of ADJ’s small, but powerful, Inno Pocket Z4 moving head fixtures. Powered by four 10W Quad LEDs, this unique fixture offers a 10 to 60-degree motorized zoom allowing both wide washes and tight beam effects to be created from an extremely discrete unit.

“The ceiling height in this space is no more than 8-feet,” explained Ramiro, “so regular moving head fixtures were out of the question. So I looked around and found the ADJ Pocket Z4 which has done wonders for the room. It is a great light; ultra-compact but has that zoom feature so I can highlight the whole room with washes but also have the option of a nice beam look to give the space a club feel. What more can you ask for from such a small light?”

Ramiro has programmed slow sweeping movements and subtle color changes to create ambiance in the space while patrons enjoy drinks from the bar during the early evening. Later on, when the tempo of the music increases, more energy can be injected through faster movements and tighter beam angles. However, at all times, the small size of the Inno Pocket Z4s means that they don’t detract from the room’s elegant features and overall ambiance.

Later on in the evening, when the Onyx Room starts to fill to capacity, a second downstairs space opens up which is dedicated to dancing. With a large dancefloor, raised stage and atmospheric exposed brick walls, it is in this downstairs club room that most of Ramiro’s efforts were concentrated during the recent lighting system renovations.

“When I was asked to come in with a new design, I soon realized that the fixtures that were previously in use really weren’t showcasing the room to its full potential,” said Ramiro. “It was a bit of a dark cave, it had no sexiness, and I knew that it would look totally different if I filled it with rich, brightly-colored light.”

To achieve this he chose ADJ’s powerful 18P Hex wash fixtures, each loaded with eighteen 12-Watt RGBWA+UV LEDs. These he installed in three rows, aimed straight down onto the dancefloor, making use of the fixture’s integrated gel frame to position a diffusion filter in-front of the LEDs in order to soften the beam.

“Again, I looked into the offerings from various manufacturers but soon became interested in the ADJ 18P HEX,” Ramiro told us. “As I looked into it further, I saw that the fixture offered UV and Amber, which I knew would be useful, as well as full RGB color mixing. I realized it was a very powerful unit, in fact I was even told that it was too much for the size of room I was working in, but I knew that I could dim it down on the controller and thought it was better to have more than I needed rather than not enough. Using a diffusion filter in the gel frame I was able to get a nice soft spread across the room, so no hard edges, which worked out very well. I programmed some since color chases and pulse effects, which really transformed the room, and also made use of the white LED element to create powerful strobe effects.”

To add movement into the space, Ramiro also specified nine of ADJ’s Vizi Hex Wash7 moving head fixtures. Each powered by seven 15W HEX LEDs, these versatile fixtures offer fast, smooth pan and tilt as well as a motorized zoom function allowing for a beam angle of between 5 and 55-degrees. Hung from the ceiling, interspersed with the 18P HEXs, the moving heads inject energy into the room’s impressive lighting display.

“As the space has a 12-foot ceiling, I needed a fixture that wasn’t too big and wasn’t too small,” explains Ramiro, “and the Vizi Hex Wash7 fit the bill perfectly. They are awesome lights that give me the flexibility of a tight beam effect for DJs sets and a wide wash that I can position to illuminate the stage when live bands perform. Their powerCON mains input and output sockets also help to make cabling nice and easy.”

To add further illumination to the stage area, five of ADJ’s Ultra Hex Bar 12 linear LED fixtures have also been installed. Three of these light the stage from in front, one is positioned dead center, while the final unit is mounted at the back of the stage to illuminate performers from behind. This adds to the room’s flexibility, meaning that it can be used for live performances, dancing, and a combination of the two when dance bands perform!

The room’s new lighting system is completed by an ADJ Asteroid 1200, the spherical centerpiece fixture which offers continuous 360-degree rotation of head and yoke to shoot moving colored beams out in all directions. As a modern take on the classic mirror-ball effect, this was chosen to pay homage to the history of the venue while also providing a focal point to the new light show.

Having selected a variety of ADJ fixtures for this project, we were interested to find out what motivated Ramiro’s decision, “I choose ADJ due to the quality of the products, but also the customer service,” he told us. “I know that if I ever need something, or have a problem, ADJ is a US-based company that is easy to contact and can be relied on. The good value of the equipment also meant that I was able to deliver a lightshow that looks great at a budget that was very affordable for the club’s management.”

Not only were the club’s management pleased by the cost of the new lighting system, they were also impressed by what it can do. The dance room, in particular, has been completely transformed from a dark, unattractive space to a vibrant and inviting place where patrons can let their hair down and dance the night away.

“The club’s management were very impressed,” enthused Ramiro, “their jaws dropped when they first saw it in action! They knew that the space was missing something, but they couldn’t put their finger on what it was. From my perspective, I wanted to give the room sex appeal. I wanted to highlight the dancefloor so that people feel invited, drawn in, to dance – and I believe I’ve done that!”


Onyx Room Nightclub

852 Fifth Avenue, San Diego, CA 92101


Lighting Designer & Installer: Ramiro Valenzuela, Design & Installations (619-454-1722)

Photography: Brian Dowdle

Gear List:
14 x ADJ 18P HEX

9 x Vizi Hex Wash7

12 x Ultra Hex Bar 12

1 x ADJ Asteroid 1200

11 x ADJ Inno Pocket Z4

1x Entourage Faze Machine

See video of the Onyx Room Installation: