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Thread: A DJ's Guide to DMX Lighting

  1. #1
    DMX Will's Avatar
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    Default A DJ's Guide to DMX Lighting

    By the way... This article is a) not copied from anywhere else and is written by myself (Will Perkins of Virtual Sights). b) This article is not to be copied from this web site or any other I might choose to display it on without prior concent of myself. You can contact me via email (see www.virtualsights.co.uk for info). Anyone found copying this article will have legal action taken upon them. Thank you.



    Due to popular demand....

    DMX is a control protocol (built up from the old AMX) used in theatres and other venues where lighting control is essential, as you may have noticed, its widely spread these days into mobile discos and even controlling standard lights in bigger function rooms and venues. The way DMX work is as follows....

    You have a controller (or lighting desk) that can control up to 512 channels (hence the long name DMX 512). This controller is then connected to your lights (or "fixtures" as they are more wildely refered to) in a daisy chain-like way.

    You have two types of light:
    - Generic Lanterns
    These are bog-standard normal lights that are dimmable (standard theatrical lanterns) which also include Par Cans and pin spots you sometimes see on roadshows. To be controlled via DMX these lanterns must be plugged into either a DMX dimmer, or switchpack.
    - Fixtures
    These are the DMX lights (or dimmers/switchpacks - basically anything that reacts to a dmx signal) that react in accordance to the DMX level the channels they are selected to "listen to". Many fixtures have more than one channel. If you take for example a moving head it may have 5 channels:

    - Pan (Ch1)
    - Tilt (Ch2)
    - Colour (Ch3)
    - Gobo (Ch4)
    - Dimmer (Ch5)

    So a different channel on your desk controls each of those parameters. (examples in brackets above). In order to get the lights to do what you want, you first of all have to address them, which involves "setting their addresses", you do this by setting the first channel number on each fixture (done by the means of dipswitches or a screen).

    Once you have set the first channel number on the fixture the channels the fixture then reacts to would be as follows

    (if you set the first channel to be 17)

    - Pan (Ch17)
    - Tilt (Ch18)
    - Colour (Ch19)
    - Gobo (Ch20)
    - Dimmer (Ch21)

    You are then able to control each function through the fader on the desk.

    I'm afraid the above probably doesn't make much sense, please question me in a reply if anything isnt clear. But I'll carry on....

    Connecting up your gear.... DMX is connected using both 3 pin and 5 pin XLRs, fixtures use 3 pin, and so will the desk you choose, so the cables are nice and cheap. You run from the DMX out socket on your desk to your first fixture (in socket) then from the "out" socket on the same fixture you run the next cable to the next fixture's "in" socket, and so on and so forth until you get to the last fixture (which unless you are using a terminator, shouldn't have anything plugged into it's "out" socket).

    You can address two or more fixtures to the same channels, however they will both do the same thing (providing they are an identical fixture) which can sometimes be helpful.

    You then need to programme your lighting desk/controller so the lights keep doing stuff, i recommend you setup 6 chases like this:

    3x Fast chases for high BPM songs/sessions
    1x Intro/Chilling/Quiet no dancing (very slow moving beams etc)
    1x Slow dance chase (slow moving, pinks, blues etc)
    and
    1x very fast, for dance tracks etc.

    Most desks allow you to swap between chases very easily and quickly providing your programme well, if you need help on that side let me know when you come to using a controller.

    Which Lights/Fixtures To Buy?

    As always i recommend:

    - Acme Winners (Scanner)
    - Acme Rovers (Barrel)
    - Acme Pumas (Moonflower style)
    - Acme Falcons (Moonflower style)
    - NJD Datamoons (Moonflower style)

    I also highly recommend the Stairville DMX Master (a cheaper re-brand of the Chauvet DMX-55 I have previously recommended to DJs), as it has everything your going to need, and I swear by it for the smaller discos we do -
    http://www.thomann.de/gb/stairville_dmxmaster_i.htm

    If you need further information regarding DMX lighting systems, I'm just A PM away

    By the way... This article is a) not copied from anywhere else and is written by myself (Will Perkins of Virtual Sights). b) This article is not to be copied from this web site or any other I might choose to display it on without prior concent of myself. You can contact me via email (see www.virtualsights.co.uk for info). Anyone found copying this article will have legal action taken upon them. Thank you.

    Last edited by DMX Will; 20-11-2007 at 10:31 PM. Reason: Change of controller to a considerably cheaper re-brand, added copyright notices
    - Will Perkins
    Virtual Sights - Professional DJ and Technical Services
    www.virtualsights.co.uk - 0800 8600 195
    Covering the entire south east and further.

  2. #2
    Shaun's Avatar
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    Topic pinned.

    Thanks Will, very informative and should prove to an extremely useful guide to our members.

  3. #3
    Have a disco's Avatar
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    yes very interesting will remember this for the future

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    Thanks. I'll study this page later. Here's what I was going to ask Click Here

    So could I controll my 4 Abstract Twister II's and my two Moving Head Lights with this controller ?

    DMX-50

    What about when I get a couple more strobe lights?
    Last edited by Gaz; 01-11-2006 at 12:34 AM.

  5. #5
    scoopd's Avatar
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    Will-Happy New Year first of all!
    I was just wondering if I can get my Acme Barrel Rovers(4) to do different colours using my basic controller and the dip switch configuration?

  6. #6
    DMX Will's Avatar
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    Scoopd,

    Which controller are you using? You can do this providing your controller will allow it. The lights are more than capable.

    Happy New Year!

    Will.
    - Will Perkins
    Virtual Sights - Professional DJ and Technical Services
    www.virtualsights.co.uk - 0800 8600 195
    Covering the entire south east and further.

  7. #7
    scoopd's Avatar
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    Default Acme Barrel Rover

    Will,
    It's the ACME CA-8 http://www.decks.co.uk/products/ligh...ng_control/ca8

    Thanks.
    It just seems pretty pointless having 4 great lights all doing the same thing?

  8. #8
    DMX Will's Avatar
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    A CA-8 controller is not a DMX controller im afraid. It's simply a controller that the Acme and iSolution lights allow to keep in sync with each other and thus does not support the lights doing different things. If you want your lights to do different things etc, you will need to purchase a proper dmx controller such as the Chauvet DMX-50 (I reccommend)
    - Will Perkins
    Virtual Sights - Professional DJ and Technical Services
    www.virtualsights.co.uk - 0800 8600 195
    Covering the entire south east and further.

  9. #9
    pulsemobiledisco
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    Quote Originally Posted by scoopd View Post
    Will-Happy New Year first of all!
    I was just wondering if I can get my Acme Barrel Rovers(4) to do different colours using my basic controller and the dip switch configuration?
    Have you tried setting dip switch 10 to on on all but the master unit, this may give you the effect you are looking for.

    Sam

  10. #10
    scoopd's Avatar
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    No but I will give that a shot.I have checked the price of the Chauvet and it comes in at 195 is it worth it for just 4 Barrel Rovers?

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