DMX or "DIGITAL Multiplexing SIgnal" is the standard communication protocol used in the event lighting industry. If your light has an LCD display and a few buttons it is likely DMX compatible. To be clear, DMX only refers to the ability to control the lights from a remote lighting board. Utilizing the Built in controls programs available in most fixtures is not considered "DMX" Control. (With possible exception of master/slave operation done without controller)
Step1-Understand Basic Terminology
Understanding Basic DMX terminology can go a long way. here are a few terms
(Note-will update these key words soon-accidently published before completed)
Step 2-Understanding your Equipment & System Design.
Not to be over looked, but Perhaps best left for another blog topic "How to choose your equipment"
Understanding the basic functionality and options of your equipment is key. The Users quide should outline all the available control options and settings that are available to you. User guides can be very basic , so understanding terminology can be an important key to a stress free experience.
Plan you your design On paper first making sure to include fixture location, address & Channel settings. Do a "dry run" mentally referencing the lighting board as needed to make sure you are able to do what you want. Remember to keep this simple, often things dont need to be complex as you think they do. The more complex the controls the more room for error when using. One can always change (address of) individual fixtures later if it turns out they could benefit from it.
Step 3-Set up & Testing.
With your plan in hand here is the order of operations.
-Connect fixtures-Run power and control cables. Best to connect and test one fixture at a time starting from controller .(you can run wires prior just dont connect Control cablels)
-Select DMX operating mode, usually a blinking led will indicate a signal is present.
-Set Fixture address. Generally done using arrows on the LCD screen, but sometimes one must use the dreaded dip switches.To make setting dip-switches easy have no fear, one can download an APP for your phone-then all you have to do is enter the address you want and the app will show you how to set the Dip-Switch.
-Set Channel Configuration. Most fixtures will have multiple channel options, such as 1, 3, 4, 8. The more channels the more control options available to you. Remember more control options does not always mean more complex. Having more options on each fader and reduce the number of faders needed. See fixture user guide.
-Confirm operation. Before moving to next fixture its a good idea to test the fixture. (See trouble shooting below for help)
Step 4-Programming and Use
and now for the fun part
Programming will vary greatly depending on the lighting board used, the lights and over all complexity of the setup/design. Programming does not have to be complex. In small or simple applications one can simply use the light board faders directly without any complex Programming. For more complex applications its best to refer to the owners manual for information on how to program.
Once everything is working, Sit Back Relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor. Controlling the Lights during the event Can be a rewarding experience and well worth the effort.
t is important to remember that Setting up DMX Control is not for the faint of heart, Sometimes its ok to call in the professionals.
Bonus Trouble Shooting Steps (Yay You!)
Ok so you did everything right but its still not working-here are a few tips
If you have a blinking LED (a connection is present) You likely have a fixture or light board setting issue. (dare i say user error lol!) you can confirm by disconnecting "DMX in" cable-the light should stop blinking.
If blinking light is present, double check Address and channel settings on fixture and make sure you are accessing them properly from lighting board. Try Basic settings, like setting Address to 1 and channel to 1 (or lowest possible)
If you dont have blinking LED (no Connection present). Check Dmx mode is selected and all cables and connections leading up to the fixture in question. Make sure nothing is plugged into "DMX out" This can sometimes interfere (More on this later).Connect directly to light board with known good cable if you have to. When "DMX in" of the lighting fixture is unplugged, fixture should be off/dark. If fixture is ON with Control Cable unplugged YOU ARE NOT IN DMX MODE!
Important to note that Connection status LED is independent of and not affected by address and channel settings.
Check manual to confirm specifics of how to determine if signal is present (blinking light is typical but may not be always)
Erratic or Strange operation-Try to establish baseline performance to confirm settings. For example if you move the fader you think should be red and you get green its likely a settings issues.
Often a cause of malfunction is a connected fixture might not be in "DMX" Mode but rather "sound activated" mode as an example. This could cause the "sound activated" signal to conflict with the controller signal.
Another issue can be signal quality. Sometimes a "DMX terminator" is needed at the end of the line. (a small device you can plug into the last fixture of the line) DMX terminators are generally needed when using "cheap" equipment or Improper cabling or line noise is present.
Speaking of improper cabling, DMX cable uses the same connectors as microphone/audio cables. One should always use Cables designed for DMX, as audio cables do not always meet the performance requirements for the Digital signal of DMX.
Cable must be ran "fixture to fixture", One can not use a "Y Connector" to split the DMX Signal cable. Instead use a Powered "DMX slitter." " DMX Splitters" can also help/boost signal integrity when long cable runs are present. (Hundreds of feet)Lastly (and not to be too complicated), line noise could be the culprit. Try not to run your lighting cables parallel to/or close together with audio or power cables. If line noise is still suspected, Using a power strip with power filtering capabilities can sometimes help.