Whether you're stepping into the world of lighting design, looking to step up your theatre lighting effects, or just a mobile DJ wanting to offer something more, DMX lighting can be both exciting and intimidating at the same time. What does DMX mean? Is programming difficult? Do I need DMX control for my lighting? What's a universe? Surely there's a lot to go over if you're just looking into DMX, and the information can often be overwhelming. At the same time, technology has afforded the opportunity for everyone from churches, to clubs, to private businesses, to offer something above and beyond the "set it and forget it" method.
1. DMX Lighting Puts You In Control
If you've ever simply used sound active, you know that the show is decent, and units today are highly responsive to their surrounding sound. You also feel that there's something missing. While built-in programming offers a variety of options, it's not always what you want. And once a light is on, turning it off requires turning off power, which means you'll be waiting for the unit to restart before you can reactivate your light show. With DMX programming, your lights remain powered up, and you control when the lights are active, where they go, the colors they show, how bright they are, and so much more (dependent on the light's DMX capability). Response to your DMX control is almost instant, and you'll feel secure knowing exactly what they're going to do next.
2. DMX Controller Software Makes it So Easy
If the first thing that crosses your mind about DMX is lighting is the need for a massive lighting board, we've got great news. DMX software has all but come full circle, whether you've got a few fixtures, or a few hundred fixtures. Control all of your lighting direct from you laptop! If you're just looking to get a feel for DMX software, ADJ's MyDMX Buddy is a great piece of hardware for beginners. MyDMX Buddy gives you 1/2 of a universe (or 256 channels) to work with, so make sure to account for all of the channels that your lighting uses. If you're looking for something that gives you room to grow, we recommend either ADJ's MyDMX 3.0, or Chauvet Show Xpress for the best mix of versatility and simplicity. Both of these units also allow you to expand to multiple universes once you've become a DMX pro.
3. DMX for Beginners Is More Affordable Than Ever
For the DMX lighting beginner, there's a common misconception that controllers and controller software canb expensive. But did you know that you can get a simple controller for as little as $50? While less expensive units like these are designed to control simple uplights or 3-channel effect lighting, there are inexpensive options like the Chauvet DJ Obey 40, which allows you to control 12 fixtures that use up to 16 channels each. DMX software, as mentioned before, runs as little as $99.99, with more versatile software interfaces starting around $300. It is true that the professional-grade hardware and software controller can get quite pricey, but the options for DMX beginners are more affordable than ever before.
4. DMX Control is Easy to Learn!
We're not saying that you're going to figure it out in 5 minutes, but once you've got the basics down, it's all uphill. The hardest things to learn about DMX lighting are the most basic points. Universes, channels, daisy-chaining, are all just big words with simple meaning. Programming isn't a computer term in this case, but a technical term for design. There's no code to learn, no typed commands (with the exception of highly advanced lighting design), no DOS window to use. In fact, the technology today has become more user-friendly than ever, so once the bus starts moving, there's no stopping how far you can go.
Tips and Tricks
For the beginner, here are some simple points of knowledge to know as you begin to dive into DMX lighting
- DMX means Digital Multiplex, and is a standard for digital communication and lighting networks.
- Each run of DMX cables connected (with lights), can handle 512 channels of DMX, or one universe. If you need more than 512 channels, you'll need to expand on your hardware.
- One lighting unit can be on the same channel of control as another light, and they will do the same thing. This saves room in your universe for more lights.
- We do not recommend having two different lights on the same DMX channel, since different lights have different operation on each channel
- While 5-pin DMX lighting is a professional standard, most entry-level and intermediate level lighting uses 3-pin DMX, which is cheaper.
- Our manufacturers always include DMX control specification and channel configuration in their manuals
- Our manufacturers also indicate how many channels of DMX a given unit uses (if applicable).
- You can control non-DMX units with DMX using a power pack, which reserves channels to deliver power to plug-in lighting.