A Basic Course in DMX
DMX is the universal method for controlling theater and intelligent lighting throughout the world. "DMX" stands for "Digital Multiplex Signal". It is sometimes called DMX 512, because it can be used to control up to 512 channels. A DMX controller should be able to control any DMX light, and any DMX light should be able to be controlled by just about any DMX controller. DMX was developed to create a universal standard by which all lights could communicate, instead of having each manufacturer develop their own signaling methods which would be useless with other equipment. These days, Lights, Dim Packs and Fog Machines can all have DMX compatibility which allow them to be linked together with XLR or DMX cable and operated from a single controller.
This is the back of a typical DMX light. The "DMX In" is where the signal comes from the controller and in to the light. You would run your first cable from your controller to this input.
The "DMX Out" is where you would use your cable to link out of this light, and plug into the input of the next light. Eventually all of the lights will be linked together in this fashion.
You can use a 3 pin DMX or XLR cable to run your lights. XLR cable is the same cable that you use for microphones, but this type of cable should not be run more than 100 feet.
(Some more advanced intelligent lights will use a 5 pin cable instead of a 3 pin. Convertors can be purchased to go from 5 pin to 3 pin within the string of lights).
On the back you will also see the "DMX Address". This allows you to set a specific address to each light, so you'll be able to communicate with each light independently. It's just like a street address for a house.
You will see pin numbers listed. Each pin number corresponds to a specific binary code.
The white switches themselves are technically referred to as "Dip Switches". They are "turned on" by moving them down, using a small object such as a pen to reach the small switch.
Here are the binary codes that correspond to each pin number. A simple way to figure out your binary code is to start with 1, and then double each number as you go. Starting with 1, then 1 + 1 = 2, which is the next number. Now, 2 + 2 = 4,which is the next number, and so on.
The controller will decide how many channels are assigned to each fixture. For this example we are using our "DMX Operator", which assigns 16 channels per fixture.
Using our knowledge of binary, the address for the first fixture is 1, so we would push down the first dip switch on the first fixture and we would be finished. Since each fixture is assigned 16 channels, we would then add the number 16 to our first fixture address to aquire our 2nd fixture address, which would be "17". To get 17 in binary code, we would push down the 1st dip switch (1) and the 5th dip switch (16) to get a total of 17.
For our third fixture, we would add 16 to our second fixture total of 17 to get a total of 33. This can be addressed by pushing down dip switch #1 (1) and dip switch #6 (32) for a total of 33.
Finally, for our 4th fixture, we can add 16 to our total again, to get the number 49. To get 49, we would depress dip switch #1 (1), dip switch #5 (16) and dip switch #6 (32) for a grand total of 49.
You also can integrate our Dim Packs into your DMX system, addressing it just as you would a light to create 4 banks of independtly controlled par cans or other stage lights. This allows you to operate your stationary lights in concert with your intelligent lighting. You can use our non-dimming pack to operate motorized items, such as mirror balls, artificial flames and dj lights. Plugging a motorized item into a dimming pack can destroy the item, so you need to be sure to use a non-dimming pack for motorized items.
Our dim packs and some of our newer lights have a digital display instead of a dipswitch, allowing you to merely punch in your binary address instead of using dip switches. Some systems are starting to use "remote addressing", allowing you to set the fixture address from your controller.