What’s 40 feet long, looms above people’s heads, and contains exotic fish and mermaids? The aquarium at the aptly named Dive Bar! For nearly a decade, this ironically upscale Sacramento watering hole has drawn nightly crowds in large part for its huge 7,500 gallon saltwater tank above the bar. This serves as a unique performance space for the fabled sirens of the seas, who are now being illuminated by elektraLite eyeBall Outdoor fixtures.
After the massive Titanic themed aquarium was built and installed by Carmel Valley based Tenji, Inc., Dive Bar’s management called upon Jay Ingram of local aquarium maintenance and design firm Aquaticbox to maintain it. “The aquarium was amazing, but its original lighting system was flat and felt like fluorescent office lighting,” Ingram recalls. “It didn’t have character or depth to what a possible underwater scene should look like.”
Ingram initially tried remedying the situation by adding PAR38 LED lights (22k, 12k and 6500k) to create sunlight shimmers, darker spots, and blue areas in the tank for a bit of change and drama. However, he felt that it was still missing the right extra “something” to make this delightfully kitschy vintage spectacle truly mesmerizing. “Seeing that this aquarium is essentially an underwater performance stage, I suggested to Dive Bar that we put in some proper theatrical lights that could actually change colors,” he says.
The management team agreed, and Aquaticbox turned to Jeff LaPell at Jacksonville, Florida based Stage Lighting Store, who shipped out half a dozen IP65-rated elektraLite eyeBall Outdoor fixtures for the task. Ingram then spent a couple of evenings mounting the water-resistant Quad (RGBW) fixtures above the front of the tank at various angles based on the scenery and show action within. A laptop was also added to control the lighting fixtures, which are programmed via DMX.
The end result was stunning. “Previously, there was depth and character to the scene, but now it’s absolutely living and breathing,” Ingram enthuses. “We haven’t even really geeked out with the programming yet, but one side of the tank can be white while the other end fades to blue—then the blue slowly turns red, while the white fades to black, and so on. The lighting can work with the music playing during performances, whereas before the lighting was just static. It’s all very dramatic now and a huge overall improvement.”
With the new elektraLite fixtures being remotely controllable, one of the other benefits is that the venue no longer has to manually swap out bulbs for various occasions. “In the past, when my client has wanted to implement a bit of color for holidays or special shows, I’ve had to crawl over the tank and beams to access 11 separate fixtures,” he shares. “Now, with the eyeBalls, we can easily program the colors from the main floor for Christmas, New Year’s, Fourth of July, and other holidays. When the Sacramento Kings win, the lights can be purple for the rest of the night. When Halloween is here, we’ll be able to do some really dramatic effects, such as make parts of the tank be totally dark, and have the lights brighten and fade as the mermaid swims by. It will look fantastic, and best of all, no one will have to climb up there to change anything.”
Ingram notes that Dive Bar’s management, customers, and mermaids alike have all been “wowed” by the difference that just six compact LED fixtures have made: “Dive Bar has really stepped up its tank with the elektraLite eyeBalls, and everyone is thrilled—including me—with the look and life that they’ve brought to the place.”
“The lighting system we installed above the Dive Bar tank is one I am extremely proud of,” adds Rachel Smith, Dive Bar’s head mermaid. “Jay, our tank man, Shane, our maintenance man, and I conceived of a light show that would bring even more magic, mystery, and visual impact to our nightly mermaid shows. The system is set up in such a way that our mermaid performers can run it themselves before each show, and the change of lighting in the tank is a visual cute to our audience and patrons that a mermaid show is about to begin. The color options of the lights are fantastic. We are now able to tell the story of a whole day at sea, from early morning sunrise through deepest night. And we have the versatility to program light shows for special events, holidays, and themed performances. We have had many patrons and fans online tell us that the lights add so much to our shows; they are an added aspect that no other underwater performance venue has!”
A powerful fixture in a compact body, elektraLite’s eyeBall Outdoor features seven 12-watt quad LEDs consisting of a red, green, blue, and white component. The quad LED uses diffraction lensing, eliminating “rainbow” color spots, which are typical when individual LEDs are exposed in lighting a cyc or similar background. By mixing color internally, the eyeBall Outdoor’s sophisticated diffraction lensing system provide true, blended, single-color output. Because of this, the white is perfectly blended and balanced, so as not to emit a blue-white so often seen in LED fixtures.
For more information on Sacramento’s Dive Bar, visit www.divebarsacramento.com. Aquaticbox and Stage Lighting Store can also be found online at www.aquaticbox.com and www.stagelightingstore.com, respectively.