Wireless DMX systems are getting affordable. At outdoor concerts this summer, On Stage Lighting gave up “control by wire” and got to test the Zero88 ZeroWire system. This article looks at the features of a cheap WiFi DMX solution.
What is a WiFi DMX controller.
A wireless DMX512 control system, in this case using ethernet over a standard IEEE 802.11b Wifi network over the “free for use” 2.4Ghz radio spectrum. Radio DMX has been around for a while and, let’s face it, in a world full of cables the ability to run a few less is low on the list for many shows. But there are times when linking up an entire DMX system using cables is not so attractive.
The ZeroWire also integrates closely with the new generation of their consoles the Frog 2 and Leap Frog 48/96 (maybe more about this desk in another article).
What does the Wireless DMX bit?
Most systems, including the Zero Wire, start with two boxes. One transmitter and one receiver that need an electricity supply and connect using a standard 5 pin DMX 512 XLR. Plug your DMX controller into the transmitter, connect the receiver to your kit and off you go. The ZeroWire is configured as either a transmitter or receiver via a PC application which also sets up the “networking “ parts your closed wireless system.
Do I need to set DMX addresses in the Wi Fi box?
No, the wireless boxes just sends/receives one universe of DMX values. As long as the boxes are set up to network together, then the system is pretty much as “plug and play” as you can get. The wireless DMX can also be sent to multiple receivers in a system – great if you have 40 HuugeSpots ™ dotted around the grounds of Buck House.
What kind of range can I use this lovely DMX signal?
Well, most manufacturers say about1 Km. Zero88 claim to have done tests up to 5 Km and tbh, we didn’t try it much more than 100m. But hey, how often do you program moving heads that are 5 Km away? I would definitely need to wear my glasses.
The range of these wireless DMX thingys seem pretty good. Because they systems use a standard Wi Fi signal, you could pimp your network with an “off the shelf” Wireless Access Point (WAP).
Is wireless DMX reliable?
You could have problems in situations where a “normal” wireless network is a bit sketchy or where similar radio spectrum transmitters could interfere with your system.
The only problems we had during the shows were with the “back up” DMX cable from the Front Of House position. Perhaps someone stuck an umbrella through the cable during a break in the rain!
Great, where do I buy one?
The Zero88 system we tried in a field – sorry, grassed organic performance space – worked. Plug it in - it just worked. That’s pretty much all you need to know.
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Rob is a Lighting Designer and Moving Light Programmer and currently Senior Lecturer in Technical Theatre Production at Bath Spa University in the UK. He is also the Editor of On Stage Lighting and runs workshops in stage lighting practice.
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