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Demystifying DMX

Updated: Jun 13, 2020

Demystifying DMX

So you just bought some lights for your show and you want to control your light but what’s with all the buttons and why doesn’t it work when you plug things in?

Don't worry, you won’t need a degree in computer programming. Today I’ll give you a very basic understanding how DMX works and how to set up a basic System.

1. Set up

Let’s imagine you have four wash lights, a controller and four cables.

Your controller has an XLR DMX out. It looks like a mic input in your audio mixer but a DMX cable attaches opposite where female jack is out and male jack is in. (Oh boy here we go … Stay with me… DMX ports are marked in and out).

Your light has both in and out DMX ports.

If you bought DMX cables with your system, use them as they are rated for DATA rather than AUDIO. IF not, you can use MIC cables with few problems until you are using a lot of lights.

Now, run a cable from your controller to a light’s DMX in. Take another cable and run it from DMX out on that light to DMX in on another light. Again to the third light, And again to the fourth light.

Cool … We are set up.

2. The DMX Controller

Don’t worry about all the buttons for now. We will be using the sliders, the a/b switch, and a fixture switch.

I’m including a picture of a standard DMX controller. Yours may look different but the concept is the same.

Each Slider is a channel. In our case we have channels 1 through 8. Using the a/b switch we can access 8 more channels, 9 through 16.

We’ll get into the fixture switches some other time.

3. Setting up the lights.

We don’t need to set up the controller. The controller only sends signals. The lights receive and react to the signals.

Different lights have different functions. The wash lights we chose have four colors: Red, Green, Blue, and Ultra Violet.