We discovered just how Mills Productions uses ADJ gear – including Vizi Spots and Mega Strobes – to give guests the goose bumps, as part of his super-scary Halloween stage setup…
The Holiday season is an important time for DJs – Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year all provide reasons for celebration – but perhaps the most visually stimulating of all Holiday events is Halloween. Lee Mills, the man behind Yakima Country, WA-based Mills Productions, knows that. So we caught up with him to find out how the past month of gruesome gigs and super-spooky shows has gone – and how ADJ has assisted in his nights of mischief!
Lee’s recent events have included a Monster Mash band/DJ event, the Yakima Speedway BBQ and the Naches Valley Middle School Halloween Dance. The Monster Mash was an event held at the Liar (a rock venue in Yakima) that hosted two bands – Vessels and Motion – and EDM-style DJs – Lee Mills himself and Eric Portsman of Cir3 Productions.
“Lighting was controlled from across the room, looking straight on. Elation Professional controls and DMX software were used to facilitate this,” Lee tells us. “Halloween props bristled the stage to give maximum seasonal effect, and fog and UV lighting were an absolute must. All of the lighting control and props were placed in a manner that allowed good use of the stage but also gave a purposefully balanced look.”
Though less of a Halloween-specific event, Lee still used a Halloween theme to create something special at the Yakima Speedway BBQ: “This was a specific DJ event operated by Mills Productions,” explains Lee. “Special lighting was used to present the time of year colors – mostly blacks, oranges and purples – and all the music had a Halloween flavor to it.”
Lee’s third event was a school dance at Naches Valley Middle School – a Halloween gig that he works every year and one of the biggest in his calendar. “I take a lot of pride in the event,” says Lee. “Approximately 200 kids using a cafeteria for the dance and the stage works out to be a 25’ by 40’, separated from the dance floor and elevated by 4-ft.” Lee also incorporated ADJ Vizi Spot LED moving heads, mounting them on truss above his DJ booth and sending powerful color beams slicing across the dancing audience in front. Lee’s company name, ‘Mills Productions’, adorns the front of his DJ booth, and at the school dance it glowed a vibrant orange that really made it pop.
It’s clear that Lee pulls out all the stops for this event, which he describes as, “most time consuming.” While the dance only lasts 2.5 hours, it takes Lee 24 hours of work to setup and break down, resulting in a five-day project all-in-all. “Music is offered up in a wide range of choices and requests from the kids are welcome, for good interaction,” Lee tells us. “Big sound is used, even though it’s not needed, and this gives the big concert look in a small package; lots of props, big video screens, and Global Truss to hold the lights. It’s a sort of a Disney Land look – so many things to see that you just can't do it all!”
The visual elements of Lee’s show aren’t something he has always incorporated, having only recently moved his company into the realms of lighting production. “I feel this transformation has been a very satisfying one. Having the ability not only to take my clients on a journey of sound but one of visuals as well completes the package,” says Lee. “The audience is like a moth to the light; people are naturally interested in pretty twinkling lights, but when those lights can be controlled and patterned, not only to fit the music but also the story being told, the crowds immerse themselves not only in the music but in the mood created by the light.”
While the reaction of audiences seems to be overwhelmingly positive, Lee has enjoyed a confident reaction from clients too, as well as what he calls ‘business expansion’. “There is no doubt the addition of proper lighting to an event is a game changer,” enthuses Lee. “With these techniques, word of mouth business is unstoppable! Clients are happy, they feel the attention has been given to their memory, above and beyond their expectations, and finally they feel a need (like so many do these days) to share their experiences!”
Lee’s setup included Tri Par LED Profiles, Mega Strobes, Vizi Spot LEDs and Galaxian laser effects, as well as Global Truss and a number of other ‘props’. Using ADJ brings pure lighting excitement to the show – with the Tri Par LED Profiles producing vibrant, far-reaching washes and the Mega Strobes going down well with the younger crowds at Naches Valley Middle School. Lee’s ‘space ship’ truss design provides a centerpiece for the stage and a focal point for the audience’s attention, acting as “the source of the light and music.” But just how did he incorporate it?
“The space ship design certainly works for all Halloween related events,” says Lee. “It centers the products and allows building directly from it. All angles ramp from it – sloping upward from the front and sides. It also allows a natural symmetrical balance that is simply beautiful from a human perspective and draws your attention naturally.”
Aside from the ADJ lighting setup and the space ship truss design, Lee also included nine animated props – including witches, clowns and zombies – and decorated the stage with pumpkins, skeletons, rats, skills, coffins and headstones. Foot screens, projection units and Halloween-themed video creations added further visual elements to the stage show.
Creating such an elaborate, albeit effective, production means that Lee really does have to put in the hours: “Planning of these events can take many additional hours!” says Lee. “Five people were involved in the school event setup and take down; it took twenty-four hours, spread over six days due to logistics with the school. We used a 20-ft box truck and a passenger support van.”
Despite this hard work, Lee feels satisfaction when he’s completed an event to the highest of standards. “The Monster Mash event allowed the use of gear and design for a live band effect; while the school dance allowed for the more visual Disney effect,” Lee tells us. “While both were very challenging and time consuming, they offered up the lasting learning effect; giving me the knowledge to further the level of entertainment offered by my company.”
It’s great to see Lee using ADJ to further the services provided by his business – after all, it isn’t just about lighting, but the sound and visual aspects of a show too. As Lee says, “By combining these effects [sound, lighting and visual] we offer up the needed satisfaction that keeps that memory making machine going...”
List of ADJ and Global Truss America products used:
Global Truss America:
- 30x30 base plates
- 10x10 top plates
- F34 9ft segments
- F34 8ft segments
- F34 5ft segments
- F34 4ft segments
- F34 2ft segments
- Universal Junction Blocks
- Tri Par LED Profiles
- Mega Strobes
- Vizi Spot LEDs
- myDMX 2.0
- Nucleus Pro
- Spherion TRI LEDs
- Tri Phases
- Galaxian Lasers