Stage Lighting Tools

DMX Dip Switch Calculator – Work It Out For Yourself!

Many intelligent lighting fixtures and effects use LCD displays and complex menu functions to allow setting to be changed. Although now less common, even on cheaper fixtures, setting DIP switches to a binary DMX address is still required. But do you really need a Dip Switch Calculator?

Many stage lighting iPhone apps include  a number of DIP Switch Calculators.  Be we don’t need them!!!

Digital 4u2 has flagged up the future release of some new lighting design software and has released a free Dip Switch Calculator as a taster. The calculator is particularly useful as it can be used to work out the DMX Dip Switch settings for High End fixtures including the Trackspot. High End fixtures use a different system for setting their dip switches. Although now quite old, the Trackspot was built to last is still quite common. The Dip Switch Calculator also gives switch settings for “standard” binary DMX addressing.

How do you work out binary dip switch settings without a calculator?

I have to confess, I have never used any of the dip switch calculators on the road. The only thing I can guarantee that I will have on me, anywhere in the world, is my head (and a sharpie).

BTW I am so bad at maths that I only know my 6 times table. And then only if I convert the number to Avolites 72-way dimmers first.

Faced with an 8 or 10 way Dip switch, even I can manage to set it correctly, following a few simple rules. If you understand binary already, it is even easier. If you don’t, it doesn’t matter.

What do the dip switches set?

Setting a DMX address require 8 switches. Lighting fixtures use standard DIP Dual In lin Package (Thanks to John pointing out acronym error) -the little box with the switches. 8, 9, 10 or more switches. Sometimes the extra switches have other functions, sometimes not.

Where do I start?

The first thing we need to work out is “where is the switch for binary 001?” Some Dip Switches have each one numbered 1,2,3 etc. but this does not mean that “Switch 1” is marked number 1. The “switch 1” we need is the “least significant bit” – like the units column in decimal numbers.

The second import thing to note is “Which way is ON?” Again, some Dip switches are marked with an ON position, but beware, this does not always mean that setting switch 1 to ON gives you a binary of 001. Helpful eh?

What next?

Turn all the DMX DIP switches to OFF.

Looking at the picture, you will see that I have put “switch 1” on the right. This is the way that I set Dip Switches because it make sense to me. The units column in decimal numbers are also on the right – 1000s, 100s, 10s, units.

Our DMX Address going to be 099. The next thing we need is to count back along the switches to find the largest number that is still less than 099. It is easy to remember that the numbers of the binary “columns” start at 1 and double each time -512-256-128-64-32-16-8-4-2-1.

64 is our largest number switch before 099, so that goes ON. Looking at the next column, 64 +32 is 96. Still ok, so set switch 32 ON.

96 + 16 (the next switch) = 112 so we can’t switch that ON. 96 + 8 = 104 and we can’t add 4 either. The next switch is 2. Switch 2 ON gives us 98 with one more to go. Switch 1 ON makes our 099 DMX start address.

Now only another thirty fixtures to go.

There are quite a few free Dip Switch Calculators around the web. Tell us your favourite or how you work out DMX address settings. Do you know the theory behind the weird High End Trackspot Dip settings?

Let us know in the comments section below.

  1. Rob

    Thanks for pointing out that error John – now amended. Not sure what was going on when I wrote that.
    A less common use for the switch package (less common in lighting, anyway) is DIL – Dual In Line.

  2. Tim Jones

    thanks for posting that,,, i didnt realise dip switching was that easy 😉
    its been a great help

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