LBX8 DMX Lights

A DMX lighting system offers you a way to control a lighting set-up from one controller, so all lights for a production can be controlled by one operator. DMX, which stands for Digital Multiplex, lets you control various aspects of each light in your DMX chain, such as intensity, color temperature and more. DMX512 (Digital Multiplex with 512 pieces of information) is the globally recognized standard for DMX protocol and was originally developed by USITT (United States Institute for Theatre Technology) in 1986. This quick guide will go over how to set up your lights to work within a DMX system. First thing, a few things you’ll need:

Equipment Needed

DMX LED Lights – Choose the LED lights you want to control via DMX, make sure they have DMX in and out ports. You can also use tungsten or fluorescent lighting instruments, but for this guide we’ll be using LED lights since they’re a bit more ubiquitous in today’s industry. Lights without DMX capabilities can still be used but will need a DMX dimmer.

DMX Controller – A controller to control parameters on each specific light in your DMX chain. The controller can be a physical device, or software based.

DMX Cables – You’ll need the proper DMX cables to connect your controller to your lights. The DMX512 Standard requires all DMX cables to be a minimum 24 AWG with 5-pin XLR cable connectors. When purchasing look for cables specifically designed for DMX512 systems. Regular 3-pin XLR cables (often used for audio) will not work properly and may damage your DMX equipment. In some cases, you’ll also need an DMX terminator to prevent signal reflections in long signal chains.

Setting Up Addresses for Your DMX LED Lighting System

The first thing you need to do when setting up your DMX light chain is to figure out how many channels each light will need for it to function properly. This is referred to as a light’s personality.

Each light in your DMX chain lives in what’s called a DMX Universe. Each universe consists of 512 channels, which are assigned individually or in groups to a specific LED light depending on your DMX light’s personality. A DMX light’s personality is basically what the light is capable of. Some DMX personalities are small, consisting of basic functions such as intensity and color, while other personalities can be large depending on the capabilities of the light and could contain many channels for advanced applications.

Depending on the requirements of your production, you’ll need to assign a proper DMX personality to each light so that your DMX controller can properly control your lights. Once you’ve determined your light’s personality, you’ll know how many channels each one will need and are ready to start assigning addresses to them. Depending on your DMX controller and LED lights, setting up the addresses for your lights may vary, refer to the product manual for specific instructions. For this explanation we’ll use a 4-channel light, meaning the light we’re using has 4 channels we can use to adjust various functions of the light. Your DMX light will typically have either DIP switches, rotary knobs, or a digital interface to allow you to input DMX addresses.

The first channel you assign to your first light in your DMX chain to is known as the light’s starting address, followed by the number of channels needed based on its personality. For example, on your DMX light set your starting address to 1 and your DMX controller will see your 4-channel light and set channels 1-4 for its use. For the next light in your chain, your starting address will be 5, because the first light in your chain is taking up the first four channels. For the third light your starting address will be 9, following your first two lights that both have 4 channels each. Complete these steps for every light you have in your chain. Long DMX chains may require the use of a DMX terminator at the end of your signal chain to eliminate interference and transmission issues. If you want to have multiple lights perform in tandem, simply set the starting address of all DMX lights to 1, now the first four faders on the controller will control all lights connected to your system at once.

Now that you’ve set up your lights to work in a DMX lighting system, you’ll be able to control all your lights from one spot with ease. Using your DMX controller, you can also set up different scenes and cues for your lights to recall at any time giving you total control over every aspect of your lighting setup. Setting up a DMX system is a must for any production where lighting is a central focus, as the control and precision you’ll get with a DMX lighting system will elevate any production. Ikan offers a wide selection of DMX compatible LED lights that are easy to set up and integrate into your production space.