How to Use a DMX Controller

Written by george n. root iii
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DMX lighting, also known as intelligent lighting, is becoming increasingly popular in the theatre and live music fields. With DMX lighting, a technician can control several dynamic aspects of an intelligent LED-based light, including changing colour, dimming, movement and even changing the kind of pattern the device radiates. DMX lighting will allow you to chain several similar devices together on one channel and get them all to perform the same function.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • DMX programmable light control board with at least eight individual sliders for control
  • 2 LED-based intelligent lighting devices
  • 2 6-foot DMX cables

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    How to Use a DMX Controller

  1. 1

    Set the dip switch for channel 1 to "On," and then set the others to "Off." Do the same for the other intelligent light. Find these switches on the back of the intelligent lighting devices. Look for a series of small white switches set against a red background. Each of these switches will have a number designation ranging from 1 to 256. Off to the side of the red background you should see the word "On" and an arrow pointing either up or down. These white switches are referred to as dip switches; these control what channel the intelligent lighting works on. You should have now set the intelligent lighting to communicate with slider number 1 on the DMX board.

  2. 2

    Connect one DMX cable to the DMX board to one of the intelligent lights. It does not matter which light you use.

  3. 3

    Plug a second DMX cable into the "DMX Out" port on the first intelligent light and into the "DMX In" port on the second DMX light.

  4. 4

    Turn on the DMX lights. They should blink once, remain on for a second or two and then turn off.

  5. 5

    Turn on the DMX board. All the indicator lights should blink once, and then the board will go dark. If the button marked "Blackout" is lit then press that button to turn off the indicator light. Make sure all other indicator lights are off as well.

  6. 6

    Begin using the sliders, starting at slider 1, to get the intelligent lights to operate. Check the user manual for the intelligent lights to see how many channels they occupy. If it is a four-channel DMX light, then it will occupy channels 1 through 4. Experiment with the sliders to see how each affects the functioning of the light.

Tips and warnings

  • Until you learn how the DMX board works, always keep the channel intensity indicator at maximum. As you become more familiar with DMX controls, you will find interesting ways to use channel intensity to change the lights.
  • DMX cables are simply standard microphone cables. Purchase the best quality to get the best results.

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