DMX Stage Lighting Systems

If you have any experience of stage lighting you have probably used the DMX512 protocol to control your lighting rig. Apart from being able to control your dimmers, DMX lighting control is at the heart of intelligent lighting, moving lights and accessories. This article explains the basics of a full DMX stage lighting system while busting some of the myths surrounding DMX lighting control.

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An Overview of DMX.

DMX XLR connector
Image by VeldaZ

Digital Multiplex (DMX) was developed as a standard digital theatre lighting control which replaced the older analogue systems that were used to control the dimmers in a stage lighting rig. Despite the advance in use of ethernet networking at the top of the professional lighting industry, DMX is still the best answer for most lighting control applications. DMX had the advantage in that a total of 512 (hence the name DMX512) dimmer channels could be controlled using only a 2-core and Ground signal cable. The other plus point to DMX was (and still is) the fact that a signal cable could be daisy chained from one DMX unit to the next and the next until all the lighting equipment was connected by one single chain of signal cables. This is particularly important when controlling moving lights as it minimises the cable required.

How does DMX work?

This article was originally called “DMX Stage Lighting Systems – Get Them To Talk” but, apart from being a bit of a lame title, this actually misses the point of the serial DMX signal. Unlike modern networks, DMX lighting fixtures and their controller do not all “talk” to each other. (If you would like a DMX system that does, take a look at our RDM DMX article)

When a DMX Lighting Control talks – everyone else listens!

Information about each “DMX Channel” (in the old days, a dimmer number) and it’s level (0 – 100%) is transmitted down the DMX “Universe” cable and each DMX stage lighting fixture, moving light or smoke machine listens for it’s own part of the signal stream and ignores everything else. The signal is then transmitted over and over in “packets”, giving a regularly updated stream for the rig to obey. The lighting console recieves no information in this one-way street.

In order for all the DMX stage lighting fixtures to have their own part of the signal stream, each one has it’s own “address” which is set on the fixture using buttons or switches. If a dimmer channel has a DMX address of 001 then it listens for the 001 part of the DMX signal then obeys the “channel level” value, 75% for instance.

Once all intelligent lighting fixtures, dimmers and accessories are connected up and “addressed” the lighting desk can control each part of the rig indiviually using their own unique DMX address.

Masters of the Universe

Back when we only controlled dimmers using DMX, life was simple. 1 DMX Channel = 1 Dimmer No. Then we started to use more complicated fixtures, moving lights and intelligent (?) lighting that needed more than 1 DMX channel per fixture. This means that fixtures are assigned a DMX “start address” which is the first channel in a sequential batch that the fixture listens to. If your fixture uses 6 DMX channels and you set it to a “start address” of 001 then it listens to channels 001,002,003,004,005 and 006. Your next free address for another fixture is then 007 because if you set it to 006 then the “channel overlap” would create a conflict of control. Setting fixtures to the same start address can be useful some circumstances and is a common method of DMX fault finding.

With many DMX moving lights requiring the use of 20 or more channels, those 512 don’t look too many now, huh? A few moving lights, 100+ Dimmers, Strobes and a couple of smoke machines and you’ve run out of channels already! The solution to this problem is to connect and address some of your equipment on a second DMX “universe”, a different signal stream with even more cables. Many lighting control desks have more than one DMX output these days and the principles of fixture addresses and channel numbers apply to this, and subsequent, universes. The first DMX channel on a second universe is also 001 and each DMX universe is a totally separate stream, independent of each other.

Myths busted about DMX stage lighting systems

  • It does NOT matter which order you connect up all the fixtures in a DMX chain, so long as they all have a signal going to them.
  • The DMX cable chain should NOT return to a create circular control signal loop. (If your lighting desk has a DMX IN connector, leave it alone!)
  • A DMX signal cannot be split into two using a Y-cord. A DMX splitter/buffer (somestimes called an Optisplit) is required.
  • If does not matter which order your fixtures are addressed in just as long as they are unique and don’t overlap. Make sure you find out how many DMX channels each of your fixture uses for control.
  • A DMX chain will usually work without a termination resistor although it is recommended by the equipment manufacturers and can solve some tricky problems with a complex rig. Here is a good article on why you should terminate your DMX lines.
  • The “DMX received” indicator on a piece of equipment does not neccessarily mean that all is well with your DMX signal.
  • You can set two pieces of DMX equipment to the same start address on the same universe without problems. They will both do exactly the same thing , however.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of how DMX stage lighting systems work. A good book on the use of DMX systems is Practical DMX available at Amazon or read our review of some other good DMX books.


148 thoughts on “DMX Stage Lighting Systems”

  1. I’m working on a synchronized music and light show and have the 06 PC DMX lighting control system. Last year i used it with 100,000 christmas lights and now i want to add 60,000 led lights. Will i need additional dimmers? I already have 15 4 channel dimmers and 40 single channel dimmers.
    thank you!

  2. Welcome,

    Wow, that’s a lot of tiny lights.
    Dimming genuine LED lights can only be achieved using specialist technology and they cannot be plugged into your usual dimmers.
    If your synchonised show requires live control of then you might be better to use traditional incandescent christmas lights.
    If you are technically confident enough, you could buy/make/modify a DMX controlled switching system that just switched the power to your LED circuits, rather than dimming them.
    It is sometimes possible to change the settings on more advanced stage lighting dimmers to achieve this but it requires a knowledge of dimmer technology to make sure your don’t ruin the LED transformer or dimmer.
    I assume you wish to use LED lights for colours/brightness?

  3. hey

    im surposed to be hireing equipment for a school production and it was suggest we use DMX cables and LED stage lights so we can mix colors im not very informed on these things so i need your help. DMX cables do they have to go through a dimmer because the dimmer we have at our school is not controlled by DMX cables but with another dimmer with cables that have i think 8 or 9 pins in them not sure hwat they are called. but if so can you suggest one. LED stage lights are they just like regular stage lights but can be controlled by DMX to mix the colour and can you possibly suggest a good company to hire from in the uk that also have moving light
    thanks much appreciated

  4. Hi Muzzy

    Just to clarify – LED stage lighting does not need any dimmers. All the LED fixtures need is power and a DMX signal, they dim themselves. If your dimmers are connected by 8 pin DIN cables, then your system is using analogue control, not DMX. Check to see if your desk does not also have a socket marked DMX too. If not, you could get round this by hiring a simple DMX desk to control the LED fixtures and the cable to connect them.

    If you are only controlling simple LED PARS or Battens, you could evn get away with using a simple manual conventional desk. It depends on how much control you need. If you are also looking at moving lights, you will need some kind of moving light controller.

    There are loads of good lighting hire companies in the UK that have LED kit as well as moving lights. It depends where you based. Give your local lighting hire company a call and they will be able to help you with which cable/kit/control you need.


  5. Hiya!
    My school has a old lighting system that connects via 8-pin DIN. We are hoping to purchase some DMX lights very soon. But, we need some way of controlling DMX lights (possibly some moving heads as well) & our original lights. Can we buy a DMX mixer and convert the output to
    DIN? Can we buy a mini DMX mixer for just our DMX lights?
    We have a tight budget – as we are a school.
    Please Help!

    From Andy

  6. Hi Andy,
    If you are planning to use DMX fixtures in the future, you can indeed buy a DMX lighting controller and then convert a DMX signal to analogue lighting signal (the 8-pin DIN).
    To convert the DMX signal for the new lighting controller for your old lighting system, you will need a Demultiplexer or DEMUX. Some dimmer systems use a positive (+ve) analogue control signal, and some negative (-ve) so make sure that buy a DEMUX that is compatible with your dimmers. eg. if the dimmmers are made by Strand, they will need a 0 to -10v (negative) signal.
    Some DMX to Analogue converters can output both type of analogue control signal.

  7. hi do you have any idea how the person above used dmx to control his xmas light display? computer controling my display is somthing i am wanting to do this christmas but i seem to be struggling to get hold of suitable technology! any ideas are very much apreciated, thankyou

  8. Wayne,

    Although I don’t know for sure, Griselda mentioned DMX dimmers and I presume that these were used to control the intensity of “normal” decoration light strings (with additional “load lamp” if required).

    The problem was that conventional stage lighting dimmers can’t be used to feed LED christmas lights.

  9. Yes you can control led rope lights with standard dimmers but you must use a load lamp If you do not the leds do not go fully off this is due to the very low current of led
    The dimmers leak a few mili amps They dim well also
    I to am trying to use DMX and a computer to drive christmas lights 30 channels to date
    I am finding normal stage lighting software a nightmare to program Christmas lights to music one step at a time then back to start again each time
    Some people do not use dmx but a system called lightarama as it is better for this job
    I think we need some special DMX software can anyone help
    Mike Shrewsbury

  10. Hi It Mike again FIRE RISK
    The LED rope Lights MUST BE MAINS DIRECT and not have transformers or chase function boxes in. The wave forms from dimmers WILL cook the transformers and even the dimmers
    They must be 230v static sets and all will be fine

  11. Hi Mike

    Thanks for pointing that out. As usual with transformed mains, it all really depends on the type of transformers. I have worked with cheap 12v transformers (with MR16 dichroics) that were supposed to dim but they have lasted a few minutes before being fried.

    I wouldn’t recommened that anyone attached domestic equipment to stage lighting dimmers unless they really understood what they doing.

    Re : Your timed music show – have you looked into the various sync control systems to fire your cues; timecode etc? A common way of sync-ing stage lighting control.

    Thanks for visiting.

  12. Has anyone come across dimmers that do not work But work fine with a cross in the DMX data wires ie pins 2/3 This has the effect of inverting the data
    Have now made up a short cords Male female plugs with cross in
    The item in question is a Soundlab 3pin XLR Barrel scan Nightclub Disco light
    Tried this as last resort before item went in skip Have herded of this fix from someone else but I had never come across it
    Will play some more and report back

  13. Hi Mike

    You have an interesting problem and I don’t really know the Soundlab kit in question. If you find that a hot/cold swap makes your fixtures work completely – great. I suggest that the “fix” does work in the way you think it does.

    I am not a DMX boffin, but I can tell you that hot/cold swapping the data lines (pins 2 and 3) does not invert the DMX signal. Being a digital DMX signal, changing the “polarity” (for want of a better word) does not mean that a 255 signal suddenly becomes 0 or vice versa.

    Early Martin disco equipment, such as the Robocolor, was built with pins 2 and 3 inverted and most of this kit was made DMX compatible (-ish) by either resoldering the connectors internally or using a hot/cold swap jump lead to feed DMX into the fixture.

    Another problem with dimmer or other attribute inversions on intelligent lighting comes down to the way the fixtures interprets the DMX signal. Many intelligent lights see a DMX signal of 255 as “dimmer open” or “full” with 0 being “off”. But this is not always the case.

    Occasionally, the set up of the controller and the fixture are different – meaning that when you push up a fader, the fixture fades out. Colour attributes of both RGB and CMY fixtures can also vary in this way, depending the the manufacturer. The solution in this case is either in the fixture set-up, controller patching or personality file used.

    Let us know how you get on.

  14. Hi Rob
    Mike again
    An update on this SoundLAB pin 2and 3 cross thing
    It is now become even more interesting
    Some months ago i purchased off e bay a pair of identical 4 port standard generic lighting dimmers
    On test one worked fine but the other had no DMX sync led on but worked in local test mode OK
    I went back on Ebay and the words said Sold as seen
    I said to my self Mike you have been had again
    Have been hunting the web for a circuit diagram with no success
    But guise what. Thease dimmers are made by SoundLab
    Can you gues the next bit Yes with the Pin 2/3 crossing cord in the input it works fine
    Have opened both dimers up expecting to fine a simple
    wiring cross on the input plug to PCB wiring but no it is soldered direct to PCB The units have no link options on th PCB,s
    At the moment I am at a lost to explain
    ALL Units are as new looking
    Crossing the data Pin inverts data bit 1,s to 0,s and 0,s to 1,s
    ie Data 1 IS pin 3 {+pin) high +5 v and pin 2 (-pin) at -5v
    A data 0 is pin 3 (+pin low -5 v and pin 2 (-pin) at +5v
    Each bit is use to make up a 8 bit word to give 256 brightness levels for each in channel in turn
    As a final prof I put the reversing cord on the input to 4 other working dimmer of differing makes and sync is lost as you would expect
    This problem cannot be unique to me NEED REPORTS FROM OTHERS PLEASE
    I will try to get to bottom of problem and report further

  15. Hi Rob again
    Have been looking for any ref of problems with DMX
    and SoundLAB for days. Have at last found ref to the very same problem. A bit hard to understand but!
    In the last line the same FIX but not explained very well This is dated 2006 how many good lighting units and dimmers have gone for scrap since then. See link


  16. Hi Its Mike yet again
    Think I understand it all
    DMX 512 standards call for a 5 pin plug to be used Pin 1 earth pin 2 data neg cold .Pin 3 hot pos 4 and 5 are not often, but are for return data from dimmers etc
    Some kit now often uses 3 pin plugs for cost and also mic leads can be used BUT SHOLD NOT as IN audio Pin one is also conected to plug outer in dmx it is not and can give probs in big rigups if used
    Most 3 pin makers use the same pin out as in 5 pin (1to 3)
    BUT some say its 3 pin AND as sutch in the audio world PIN 2 is the hot or pos and pin3 is the cold.
    I think SoundLAB is one of these makers. If ALL KIT in rig is SoundLAB all would work fine Mix kit PROBLEMS start
    This would mean the 1 unit I have that works with no cross cord is the odd one out now! It may be modified in some way to make it standard.I will investigate this new idea ASAP
    See this new link It the same but more up to date than the last one and explains all well
    Think a DMX rigger needs in his tool box a 5pin to 3 straight shot male/female patch cord
    and 3 pin to 3 M/F crossed cord two off
    . As after a soundlab the cross must be taken out
    to get back to normal
    Sorry for so much info in one day. Hope it is of interest

  17. Hi Mike

    I did a search and found some references to DMX hot/cold swapping for Soundlab kit (like I said, not really familiar with it myself). Your information will be a great help to anyone else searching for an answer. A quick Google didn’t seem to find anything much like a user manual though.

    A few of the disco manufacturers followed this DMX pin configuration, particularly early Martin kit ( particularly the Robocolour as I mentioned). All the lighting companies that I have worked with have, as well as 5-3pin / 3-5 pin jumper cables, some specially marked hot/cold swap jumpers to solve this problem.

    But to be honest, we don’t really use that kind of kit anyway. Thanks for your work and for letting us know your findings.

  18. Hi Rob
    Just to sum up. Even SoundLAB equipment can be found wired to both standards
    The only saving grace is that if You look at the XLR plug diagram by the plug,it shows the pin out polarity.However even this is not foolproof. Have a dimmer not as diagram

  19. Hi
    Just purchased a soundlab package.8 Par 56 cans on 2 T bars with 2 x IEC blocks for the lights into bulgin coonector to the controller. Fine so far but I have no contol over it as it either chases at different speeds of sound activates. This is OK but I need to isolate some of the lights for dimmer purposes. What do I need to do this?


  20. Hi Mark

    Sound to me like you need to take external or manual control in some way
    What sort of controller is it please Is it a dimmer unit with programed chase function and sound to light.
    The main Question is Has it got a DMX input
    If it has got DMX in then you could use a laptop computer
    with DMX software and a DMX interface to convert USB to
    DMX protocol
    I use a unit made by a firm called Afterglow This firm also provide the software. Popsoft DMX control 2.9
    With this software you can do any think you like If you can get your head round the software fully
    Manual fade of any channel via on screen faders and mouse
    Automatic lighting changes set in time and/or with sound or manual triggering

    Sound to light disco style With manual override of any channel (Sounds like this is what you may need)

    Lighting displays set to music. Programed by hand
    Lighting displays are what I am currently working on. Now having more success with the software a bit hard to understand at first
    Maplin also do a unit as a kit with software
    Or you could use a small DMX Dimmer control console as a better option maybe. Not sure of sound to light function on low cost console units
    This is more in Robs line I think
    Over to you Rob

  21. Mark/Mike

    Mike has pretty much hit the nail on the head. If the controller only does sound to light chases, then you need to split out a few of the PARs to another supply.

    The simplest way to do this would be a 13A to IEC cable, plugging a PAR into a wall socket. No dimmer control but…

    You can get small dimmer units or a single channel “followspot” dimmer for a bit more control. It sounds unlikely that you would need much in the way of a DMX console controller – 8 PARs is good for lighting a band or a dancefloor but you don’t usually need complex control.

    Sorry, missed this comment. Thanks Mike, I am always pleased to see OSL readers helping each other.

  22. I am new to DMX. I have a small musical group I am considering using the Led Lights controlled by DMX(dmx-512). I am planning on using at least 8 led light units, each unit has 4 channels. Channel 1 (Blackout/Strobe/Dimmer. Channel 2 Red. Channel 3 Green. Channel 4 Blue. My question is on the controller how many channels do I need to controll this system to have an effective system for chase programs on these units

  23. Hi Al,

    It depends on how fancy you need your chases, but even just 8 DMX channels will give you some flexibilty. Half your LEDs set to DMX 001 and half to DMX 005 will mean you can flip-flop chase between two sets of LEDs.

    Don’t forget that LED chases can flip between colours, not just turn on and off. Take a look at DMX Control for LED Lighting

  24. I have a strand DMX stage lighting system in my school. There are four dimmers (if thats what they are called) with six channels on each. So thats 24 lighting sockets on the stage ceiling. We have a strand 100 controller. I need to get that to work with the lights on the ceiling. There are all sorts of options on the dimmers, like ‘curve’, ‘DMX Address’, ‘Minimum Level’. Would you be able to explain how to do this, very basicly please?

  25. Tally

    Assuming your lighting sockets in the ceiling are correctly connected to the dimmers, you just need to make sure that the DMX addresses are set to 001, 007, 013, 019 and that the 100 is connected using the control cable. And there is power to the system.

    The other options on your dimmers control do what they say they : “curve” – dimming type, usually set to linear or similar. Mininmum level – a setting for the lowest possible dimmer output to preheat the filaments of the lamps.

  26. How should I connect it all up together, And in what order? I have all ready tried everything you said but it still won’t work with the controller.

  27. Tally,

    If your system is a complete installation (which sounds likely) are you sure that you actually need to connect up the control cables? Some installed systems are hardwired with control cables that are already connected but not obvious. If not Desk DMX Out -> Dimmer 1 -> Dimmer 2 -> Dimmer 3 Dimmer 4 -> using the correct cables, usually 5 pin XLR. It doesn’t really matter which order you connect them up.

    You haven’t really given us much info on the other variables of your system that “doesn’t work”.

    Is there power to the dimmers?
    Can you connect a lantern directly to a dimmer?
    Are you socket outlets attached to the dimmer via patch cords?
    Have you tried getting the dimmer to output using “local” control? (many dimmers have a facility to fade channels up without a desk) and did it work.
    Have you definitely got power to the desk?
    Have you read the Strand 100 User Manual??

    It might seem like a lot of obvious questions
    but there are loads of reasons why you can’t get your lights on when you push up a fader, most of them unrelated to DMX.

  28. Hi! I am trying to learn the basics of DMX Lighting in time for a conferece we are holding at church. I already understand the basics and that’s largely due to a little bit of hands on experience and a LOT of reading from this very useful site!! :-)

    I am trying to makesure I have the basic building blocks clearly understood in my head and there is one little point I am struggling to understand. Please help if you can:

    I understand that it doesn’t matter which order you connect your DMX fixtures into the serial sequence. I als understand that they all receive the same signal and just “listen” for their own part of it. I also understand that there is no information flowing into the lighting control desk – it is all flowing out. So, when you set up your fixtures and plug the DMX cable into your desk, how do you tell each fixture which channel to “listen” for? I am trying to understand this on a very practical level. Is there a button on the side of each fixture? Is there a sequence when you are setting the desk up so that you plug them in as you assign them? Please help me to understand!!



  29. Hi Matt,

    You are right to assume that the “addressing” of each DMX512 fixture is done at each unit – either using Dip Switches or a menu display and navigation buttons. The “address” is set to the 1st DMX channel in the batch used by the fixture – the “start address”.

    There is no crucial order to set this up, unlike a network that relies on IP addresses and discovery. The DMX fixtures often need power to set them and some DIP switch address setting might need a “reboot” – cycle of fixture power. But it doesn’t matter if the desk is powered of if their is a DMS signal going to the rig.

    It is also not necessary to have the fixtures on or connected when patching up the controller.

    When you think you have a greater understanding of “standard” DMX512, you might look into an extension to this called RDM (Remote Device Management). It’s not “out there” in the industry much at the moment, but it might be of passing interest to you.

    Thanks for your question.

  30. I am starting a new drama team and will be using (8) 56 par cans, (8) 38 par cans and a follow spot. I need to know what would be a good dmx controller to use. I have never worked with dmx controllers before and will need to learn how to use it fairly quickly. I will need to be able to control most of the fixtures seperatly. It will need to be cheap as well, like around 200 or 300 dollars. Any suggestions?

  31. Doug – If you are just using dimmers and a handful of “normal” PAR cans, any cheap two-scene (two banks of faders) “manual” lighting desk should be fine. A fader per channel, these DMX controls usually come in multiples of 6 – 12 channel, 18 channel, 24 etc.

  32. Rob – i’m well aware of the fact that dmx cannot be split using a y adapter, but i have a specific need for a y in my lighting setup. currently i have one controller that may need to be placed in one of two locations, and was wondering if it were possible to have two signal input lines (one of which would be dead at any given time) connecting to the first input on my chain.

    it’s a rather specific need to allow changing the location of my controller depending on the lighting needs on a given night without constructing three tiers of scaffolding to manually change out plugs.

    any input would be great.

  33. Hi Greg. Your situation is common in permanent DMX installations – One desk, two or more possible locations. It is bad practice to leave a spare leg of DMX, even if unused. This is because it leaves an unterminated conductor that could cause signal reflections and general unpleasantness.

    The usual solution is : Control Position 1 (furthest away ) -> Control Pos 2 -> Stage/Dimmers/Equipment. Control Pos 2 has a box with a DMX input socket(to stage) and a flying lead (from Control Pos 1). When the flying lead is unplugged from the input on the box, it allows the desk to “break into” the line at CP2. When you are at CP1, the flying lead is plugged in again.

  34. Hi greg
    It’s not rocket science. All you need to do is have two cables running from your dimmer packs to each of your control positions. One to the main position and another to the other position, preferably underground.Then connect the dimmers to the main position cable when it is at the main position. When you move to the second position just connect the dimmers to your second position.

    If this is too complicated or difficult you can do this:
    Assuming you have a 3pin(or 5pin)female XLR output on your console.That means that you plug in a similar 3pin or 5pin male connector to your console. Right
    So add an extension Xlr either 3 or 5pin male to an equivalent female connector to the dmx male at the main position and run it neatly all the way to the second position whenever you need to.

    HOWEVER, based on experience take my advice when i say dont do either. It’s better to keep a console wherever it has been fitted. If somebody who doesnt know what he is doing but has only seen you doing it tries to move it and fool around.

    GOD help the desk. I can list a number of unnecessary disasters. Basically whoever designed the installation probably has his reasons for placing the desk their.However if you have to do this then make sure everyone who is anyone knows exactly what to do.

    Better still if you have the budget use wireless dmx. No cables at all. Mail me if you need further info on this.
    Thanks hope all this helps

  35. Well how about right here on ON STAGE LIGHTING. I personally use and trust because i have done large shows using W-DMX a brand from Sweden’s Wireless solutions. They are the pioneers in WIRELESS DMX. You will need one receiver and one transmitter. You plug in the wireless dmx receiver into your dimmer packs and the wirelss dmx transmitter into your console. Power is required for both pieces of equipment and a power cord is supplied. I use the black box S-1 512ch single universe model, but the S-2 can be used for 1024channels and two universes.You can select whichever you want from the site.
    I vouch for these guys because ive used them for atleast 200m+ and i think they can be used for much much more.They are reasonably priced too.Besides these guys are pioneers, so who better.
    I hope this helps ciao

  36. Hi again Matt,
    I just reread your entire chat on this page. Why dont you just visit this
    They are a world class lighting console and control manufacturing company, based in Australia.They have a low end console called the MINIM that is dirt cheap and perfect for even bigger shows than what you are doing. I have used it for over 4 years now and not a single problem has occured.Check it out. They have distributors around the world and they deal W-DMX as well so u can just visit your local guy and get it all.
    Also for more on DMX visit this page by typing it in google

    If you wanna know anything before just email me at
    sharukh_239 at
    with ATTN:SHARUKH LIGHTING QUERY? MATT HERE in the subject line.

    I learnt Dmx by reading this site. Beleive me you will become a DMX guru once u read this site up. It explains everything.

  37. Hi,, this site is really great..
    I want to learn how to address scanners and moving heads?
    how do I know wich address(how many numbers to change) that I should give by when I see one of them?

  38. Ya Sharukh is right. Even I use Maxim M for the past few years and no prob with it. You can handle quite few big shows too with that console easily.

  39. Hi Rob! Need an suggestion. I got an offer from my friend. He’s offering me brand new Coef 1200 DVP Scanners for jus $750. Another leading lighting company reselling Robe 1200 XT Scans (3 years old) for $1500. One more offer for brand new Acme iScan 1200W for the same price, $1500. I’m in deeper confusion to decide which one to buy. Pls tell me which will be worthfull.
    Coef does’nt hv glass gobos and remote focus. Intensity too not up to the mark. I’m not sure whether Acme scans are 100% branded but its good. Robe is the best out of the 3, but its 3 yrs old.

  40. Hi Saravanan,
    I dont know Coef but it comes in the second category of lighting manufacturers(above china below Martin).I dont know how good they are. Robe is definitely your best bet check them properly before you pay for them. Open them up and get a service tech to check them good and proper. Also Bargain a little and doube check with your robe dealer of the cost of new scans of the same model and then bargain accordingly.
    Acme is a Chinese Brand, it is one of the most popular ones and also a very good brand. Its been around for a while and quite good. However again check the price. or
    Acme is a good brand if you arent averse to chinese equipment. However make sure you figure out the exact reason why these are being sold in the first place. You mentioned the seller is a friend, so maybe that should be enough to trust him, get my drift…

  41. Hi Sharukh. Thanks for that comment. The guy who sells acme is not a authorised dealer. So is it possible to get it from any authorised dealer from India.

  42. I have no idea about how to get acme scans.Id suggest you do your research before you trust anybody.Thanks Sharukh

  43. hello there
    I want purchase a pair of Kam LED800s Colour Bar BUT my question is if I want to connect this via DMX converter or DMX USB dongle to my computer using dash light program with their converter.
    1.will I need one DMX controller ?
    2.will I need some kind of adapoter to connect more than one DMX port to the USB dongle

  44. Hi SIA – According to the spec, the LED800s will accept control signal from a DMX controller and are “linkable”. I assume this means that you can daisy chain the DMX signal between fixtures in the usual way – from the 1 output on the Daslight.

  45. Hey,
    hoping you might be able to give me some advice on a lighting problem at my school. its along story but we were told we could use a splitter cable to create two different DMX universes, would this work? and how would we go about doing this? we already have the splitter cables (these are 5 pins cables )

  46. @Andrew

    The quick answer: 1) You cannot use Y-split splitter cables to divide a DMX signal – it causes problems. 2) Splitting a DMX universe (using a proper splitter) does not create 2 different DMX universes – it creates two instances of the same universe.

    What could cause confusion is that older Avolites consoles only had 2 x hardware DMX 5 pin outputs but were modified to output 4 x DMX universes from 2 sockets (using the redundant pins 4 & 5) . A special Y split cable is used to break the socket to 2 5 pin XLR sockets, one for each universe.

  47. Hi Rob, I have a slightly different issue where I’m trying to control a set of DMX RGB LED Downlights with more than one controller. In my example I have a single room wanting a wall dimmer at each end of the room – 1 switch when I enter the room and another at the other end of the room near to my desk. If I wish to change the colour or dim the LED’s then I would like to option of doing so from both locations, but controlling the same lights – in this example 10 x MR16 size RGB LED’s.

    Problem is, my integrator that allows me to connect up to 6 controllers (standard UK wall switch size) can only allow controller 1 to control DMX address 1-4 and controller 2 DMX address 5-9 and so on.

    So, what I’m looking to do is have controller 1 and 2 and evern 3 or 4 if I wish to add more, control DMX Lights/channels 1-4 only.

    Is there some device/splitter that will allow more than 1 input, (let’s say 2 or 4 or 6 inputs from my LED wall dimmers) into only 1 standard DMX output?

    This seems the opposite to most request for splitting the output when I need to split the input. Many thanks in advance.

    All the Best

  48. Hi Phil – the trick you are trying to acheive is a “DMX Merge” which is a less common beast and is usually an expensive solution to the problem. The trouble with merging is deciding how to read multiple DMX signals and intepret them on an HTP or LTP basis.

    Most installations of the kind you describe that I have seen actually organise themselves at controller level (using multiple instances of a panel that controls the other panels in unison) and the DMX processing is then applied AFTER at one location. I can’t off hand remember any particular brands but I expect your supplier can advise you on that.

  49. Hi Phill,

    Don’t know if you have any budget for what you are trying to achieve but I was down at Zero88 a few weeks back and they were showing me through a system that I think does exactly what you are trying to achieve. It’s designed for architectural lighting and allows control from a wall switch when there is no input from a desk but when the desk is live it over-rides the wall switch. Give Zero88 a call and see if they can help you out. Sadly I can’t remember what it is called!


  50. ** Hi Rob, many thanks for your response. The multi-panel control isn’t really an option as the install is residential, so I’m limited to aesthetically pleasing wall controllers. Great idea though, thanks.

    ** Hi Matt, thanks for the head up Re; the Zero88 controller, I’ll make contact with them to get more details, thanks.

    I personally think that DMX is not the ideal protocol for residential lighting, because it lacks 2-way communication and the control options are limited. It’s something I’m spending some time on as I want to try and find the ideal protocol for RGB LED control. Ideally both local and remote control via a touch screen device. Thank you all for your input.

    All the Best

  51. Hi Phill, I think that you are probably right that DMX is not the best option for that kind of situation for the reasons you mentioned.

    However, LED fixture manufacturers in our business are all vying to get their fixtures into this market and there are compatible “pleasing” offerings from the usual suspects including Anytronics, Color Kinetics and Anolis. I would also look at Artistic Licence too.

    Whether these controllers will do much in the way of multiple slaving, I don’t know. As you say DMX-A / RS 485 doesn’t allow for 2 way communication.

  52. Hey, I’m a complete newbie to lighting control so any help would be appreciated. I’m looking into buying an American DJ Mega Flash strobe light for a few parties I plan to host in the future. Being a larger light, it’s DMX, of course, though it works both with and without a DMX controller.

    I think I’d be fine using it without a DMX controller, but I’d still like to check it out. I have a couple questions concerning DMX in general. What’s the average going rate for a DMX controller? And what’s the cheapest, yet most reliable controller? Also, is a physical DMX controller the only way to control lights? Or would just lighting software (i.e. Freestyler) work?

    I apologize if any of these questions are easily answerable through Google, or have already been answered here. I don’t know the first thing about lighting control.

    Thanks a lot for your help!

  53. Hi John,

    The world of DMX control is a very broad area. It’s a bit like asking what people what car to buy! DMX control is usually done through some form of lighting desk and these can range in complexity from a couple of channels of DMX through to hundreds of channels with lots of extra features. It all depends what you want to do now and what you want to expand into in the future. Do you know how many channels of DMX your fixture uses? That will be listed in the product specifications.

    Software based DMX control is an expanding corner of the market but I know a lot of people (including myself) don’t really like the idea. You need a reliable computer and of course you need a USB-DMX dongle which costs around £80 (although you can get them cheaper as a kit).

    I’d begin by asking yourself what exactly your fixture needs to do, how much control you need over it and also if you are going to buy any other equipment in the future.

    Hope that helps


  54. Hi
    I am looking to put together a small rig for my band and am looking at using LED par cans. I have looked around and I just wanted to double check that when using such fixtures you dont need to use dimmer packs?
    Also I have 2 NJD Spectres and I was wondering what I would need to use them in the same system.
    Any help much appreciated.

  55. Hi Tony,

    I can’t help on the NJD Spectres, but as far as the LEDs go: you definitely do NOT need dimmers for LEDs. Just run a DMX cable out of the back of your lighting desk, into the first LED and then another DMX from that LED Fixture to the next and keep going from there. Then they all just need normal 13A power. Just one thing that’s worth remembering – most DMX from desks are 5 pin but a lot of the input and outputs on LED fixtures are 3 pin DMX. Worth having a couple of converters on hand for the first input and some 3 pin cables on hand between LED Fixtures (XLRs will do for that). If you do need converters then go with tails, not barrels! Don’t forget LEDs almost always have a stand-alone mode too.

    Hope that helps,


  56. Hi Tony, Matt has pretty much covered it (thanks once again, Matt). According to the user manual, the NJD Spectres can accept DMX control and use a 5 pin XLR input and output or, like most of this level of DJ kit, can be set to stand-alone mode.

  57. Hey,

    I’m having problems with my moving heads… to begin with… how do you set the start address per fixture?



  58. Can you tell us some more information – what moving heads are you using? There’s normally a menu system built into each one and you can set it through them – worth knowing how many DMX addresses it uses in different modes – then you can make sure you space your start addresses far enough apart to stop them overlapping. What lighting desk are you using to control them? Some will have the fixture profiles preloaded for lots of common fixtures – some you will have to load and some you may even have to program in yourself.

    Hope some of that helps


  59. He Zama

    Depends what mode it’s in and depends which MAC250 you have. Do you have 250, 250+, 250 Krypton, 250 Wash or 250 Entour? It’s well worth checking out the manual to find out which mode you want your fixtures in – depends whether you want extra fine control or you want to conserve channels. If you have a good lighting desk you can normally load up your fixture profiles from the library and just click next available address – then you don’t even need to knwo how many channels it uses because the desk works it out for you – you still need to know which type and which mode you are in though.

    If you’re still stuck just post which type you have and which mode you are in.


  60. Hello. Hoping someone can help. Strand ACT6 Digital Dimmer. Has 6 lanterns (channels?) and a remote fader control with 6 faders and a master fader. Lights come on. Can adjust them at the dimmer rack, up to 50% but want to use the remote fader. There is no light where it says “DMX IN”. I don’t know whether this implies a fault or whether it hasn’t come on because we haven’t set the menu up coreectly. Desperate. Needed tomorrow evening!

  61. Further to my query of earlier today about a Strand ACT6. I have now found the manual online and it looks as if the remote control is probably not DMX but analogue. In which case could you possibly tell me how I need to set it up? Thank you.

  62. Hi. I run a small amateur drama group, and we’ve just purchased a G018WA SRC-144 DMX controller. None of us has a clue how to use it and the manual isn’t up to much. Is there a ‘Manual for Dummies’ anywhere on the web for this particular model?

  63. Hey,

    Im running a show in which I have 3 LED’s and a few Pars. I’ve sent a DMX cable from stage right to stage left where the board is, and I have no problem running the pars (they’re on separate dimmers) but when i try to control the LEDs individually, I can only run all three at the same time. I’m low on DMX cables. Is there a solution that would allow all three to run individually without affecting the other LEDs?

  64. Hi Samuel,

    It sounds like you have the LED PARs set to the same DMX start address. It’s not an issue of the number of cables, that doesn’t change. You need to set the start addresses differently and tell your lighting desk which one is which. For example, I use some LED PARs that use six channels (you need to know how many your’s use – it should be in the manual or preloaded on your desk, depending on the desk type). My six channels are Red, Green, Blue, Strobe, Effect and something else that I can’t recall at the moment. So if I had three of these running I might start my dimmers at 001, and it I had ten dimmer channels my first LED PAR would start at 011. Then LED2 would start at 017 and LED3 would start at 023 and finish at 029. To set the DMX start address there will either be a display on your LED PAR units or, more likely, dip switches which use binary.

    I hope some of that helps!


  65. Hey
    Thanks for all the info on a Great site!
    I am in a Kiss tribute band, and am trying to figure out how to wire 2 identical (and large) KISS signs using rope lights and DMX.

    The letters: KISS, need to flash on and off, then flash in sequence (i.e. K, then I, then S, and then the last S.) as well as “chase” where the lights appear to be moving and tracing the letters.

    I repair computers, so I am familiar with the concepts of resistance, capacitance, inductance, voltage, and amperage.

    I can see the potential of DMX, but cannot seem to rectify how it can be used to control non-dmx intelligent devices, or devices that are not lights- such as strobes and fog machines.

    One of my ideas was to give the drummer a couple of midi pads which would trigger a sampled explosion sound simultaneously with a single strobe flash and a burst of smoke to simulate the pyrotechnics that no one will let you use since the Great White disaster in Rhode Island.

    I have been to umpteen billion sites, but this seemed to be the best, as you seem to be the most knowledgeable.

    Setting up a bunch of DMX intelligent lights and setting them to react to the music is not difficult, but a Kiss tribute poses its own unique set of challenges.

    The technical complexity that lighting presents mean that a decent light tech would probably cost more than we make. I have one of those multi-pedal midi foot controllers that behringer makes and it would be great if there was a way to program it so it manipulated a DMX board.

    Any help you can give is greatly appreciated.


  66. Hey, I have a Stairville DMX Master controller, and I was wondering what actual use is there for the DMX IN port? Is it so that I could, theoretically, use a secondary controller to override the first for some reason, or?

  67. Pingback: QLC – Linux-powered theatrical lighting. | Open attitude.
  68. hi im from.nepal.till know here there is no any led light but our project r going to install the led light. the stageled from germany r going to do that project. they have given drawing of that project which were to install. we r using 48v as well 24v power supply plus led conveter for the light. but i have no idea about that kind of technology. as well they r using dmx controller as well 10 channel boster. they have given the list of wire to install according to the need. but till im confused that for light they wrote that 2x xwire and 6x 0.5mm2 shielded (busline). what does it mean . is this wire r from dc controlling. so plz do me a favour for that cuz they werer coming this 27 sept before that i have to complete the wiring. so plzzzzzzzzzz do me for that as soon as possible.
    best regards

  69. disco lights that uses laser effects are the best thing that you can buy, much better if you can those hologram generators-:.

  70. this was very helpful!

    though im wondering… now that I have all my lights on the channels i want them to be on…
    how do i make the little sliding controls (lol… i dont even know what theyre called!… is it dimmers or something?… soz im such a noob…….)

    control the different channels?

    am i making any sense?

    tanks a mil… (:

  71. i would like to know if i can connect the cable for the dmx 800w strobe from american dj to my crossover ? thats the only part on my dj system that has the socket where the dmx cable can fit

  72. I want to use some kind of stage lighting under my valance on a model
    railroad. I have a DMX dimmer pack with 4 duplex outlets plus a connection for rope light.This is a Eliminator ED15.15amp max output.
    I have a room 17’x17′ and think the valance lighting would be no more then 200′.I need red,green,blue lights to simulate dusk to dawn effects plus have full daylight.( that makes 600′ total run). Daylight probably taken care of by house lights.
    The question is what lights would work best? Three strings of christmas bulbs old style? Leds? Rope lights. I am in the early
    stages of building the train room. I have a DMX decoder to interface
    the DMX dimmer with the computer.If I need to I can add more DMX dimmers.

  73. We going to start using dmx for our lighting show. We have purchased an elation stage 1 w/ 2 dimmer packs. We have a set of american dj par 64 leds (6 channel), generic par 64 (4 channel), am dj 800w strobe (2 channel), mini pinspots (2 channel), and some eliminators. We do not know very much about dmx and the manual that came with the stage 1 is kinda vague. How do we set the address via dipswitches so that we can control each set of lights. help please!

  74. Where I do lighting we have four dimmer packs each with a DMX Input. Each dimmer pack has 6 channels with 2x15Amp sockets. We currently use a Zero 88 Lightmaster XLS which has 4 DMX Outputs. I didn’t set it up but currently each DMX Output on the board corresponds to 6 channels on the board (24 channels, 2 preset board). The Lightmaster is getting old and we are getting a new Zero 88 Jester with one DMX Output. How do I use the four separate dimmer boxes (each currently in its own universe) with the 1 output Jester 24/48?

  75. Hey Matt, if you still wanna do that kiss sign you need 4 sets of regular christmas lights a dimmer pack and a dmx controller of some sort.

    Map out you sign on black foam core board… Poke your holes for the lights with a mechanical pencil. Use one string per letter – uses braces rubberbands as washers. Plug one set to each channel… Program away. My band was KISS last year for haloween!


  76. Hi,

    I have just purchased a Chauvet J Six LED moonflower disco light which is a great effect but does not have DMX control. The rest of my set is controlled via DMX and I would like to know if it possible to control the J Six in the same way so i can aviod a separate switching pack? mainly just switching it on and off as part of the larger rig.
    Would a Transcension UP2 controller do this?



  77. hi
    i want to purchase dmx controller. actually i have to control about 3000 leds at a time led is of 3-5V. i am not gettin weather i can use it or not….so please suggest me some ideas to control these leds…

  78. Hey I have a quick simple question. I’m not all too good with figuring out how these kinds of lights work, but basically I wanted to buy some kind of controller that I could use to get the lights in my room to sync up to the music playing from my laptop. I was thinking of using like 4 channels and I’m not sure if I need Solid state relays (SSRS -or what that is). I guess it’s also got to be relatively cheap, but if you could help me out and suggest a product that would be great.

  79. Hello,
    just wondering if anyone can help, working on a production using Chilli Zero 88 dimmers, when the power is @ 0% the lanterns still appear to be on very dimly – but still enough to see in a black out, its not the pre – heat as thats turned off and its quite a new system, any help anyone can give i would be very greatful :)

  80. Hi.
    I just purchased 4 ADJ comscans for my school. We have a zero 88 jester driving 4 zero 88 beta dimmers. I have little idea of how to connect these new fixtures correctly to get full dmx control. Can anyone help?

  81. HI,

    I know nothing about lighting but have been put in a position where I need to find out, and quickly. I need some help.

    1. There is a lag when we turn the dimmers up. The lights do not respond for about 2-3 seconds. What should I do?

    2. What are the chase buttons for/what do they do?

    3. Can someone walk me through programming a few scenes?


  82. 1.Not sure why, might be best to find someone familiar with that controller and check with them.
    2.Chases can be as simple as going through the units and flashing in order, reversing, etc OR can be going through specific scenes programed in. Once again depending on controller.
    3.Depends on controller, again. I would suggest posting the controller your using and hope someone is familiar with it. Locally reach out to the last person to run it, the person that installed it, and call djs and sound rental companies (usually do weddings and events) and see if one of those people will give you a hand. That’s what I did, along with spending several hours with trial and error. Good luck!

  83. Hey, at my school we’re trying to set up the Elation Vision Scan 250(intelligent lights) but I’m confused about the whole address and channel thing. Do the intelligent light channels have to start at channel one? Or can I start them after all the conviniently numbered dimmers at number 85 and continue from there? If I set channel 85 to be a vision scan, do I then make it address one, or 85? For the next channel(86) will the channel become 86? The total number of channels in our board in 100, and we have the manual, it’s just kinda confusing.

  84. Hi,
    I have a strange situation on a small rig, lights only, for a theatre. I’m a new user with the ENTTEC ODE and Luminair system. We have 3 dimmer boxes (Using BUNKER DM4 dimmer boxes 4 channel boxes, 200 W per channel, 2 power-in cables per box connected to two different mains circuits. DIP switch addressing.) Problem: Loss of dimming function on 3 separate boxes at the same time. Channels 3 & 4 of each box failed at the same time. We have 3 boxes in our daisy chain giving 12 controllable channels. Thus Addresses 3&4 of box #1, Addresses 7&8 of Box #2 and Addresses 11&12 of Box #3 all became dysfunctional simultaneously. They would function only a ‘relay’ boxes – the appropriate channels could be controlled in an ON or OFF state but no dimming function. The other half of each of the boxes worked normally.
    So… I connected up the old manual board – same problem – Then I flipped the ‘polarity’ switch found on the back of the Lexsen Scene Setter 1224 unit we have and suddenly control was regained on all channels. (This switch flips leads 2&3 of the three conductor XLR cable).
    Having done that I reconnected to the ENTTEC/Luminair system and everything works just fine once again… control achieved… with the original polarity restored!!?
    Turns out ‘just fine’ isn’t exactly… I am unable to dim in low range – there is a ‘start’ threshold i.e. it jumps in at about 30% now but some dimming control from there on up… very puzzling all-in-all.

  85. Hey Don

    That kind of fault is usually a dimmer/triac type issue, rather than a control one, but the polarity thing is odd. Unusual to have it suddenly happen on all 3 racks at the same time too.

  86. Hi,
    They say that a question isnt stupid if you dont know the answer so here goes!
    I have a number of lighting units, some traditional 250w lamps some led and some lasers too. All of them are DMX 512 but with a different ammount of channels. some have 5 channels and some have 7.
    Given that i would need to address them all according to their amount of channels Can i daisy chain them all together and have them working in unison? If this is the case, would i need a certain kind of lighting controller? Can you recommend one?
    Thanks for that!

  87. Any controller that will output DMX512 will do, what you choose is down to personal preference and budget. You can daisy chain them all together (up to about 30 units in one chain) and have them controlled centrally. If you want to set the start addresses to a particular type of unit identically, they will be controlled in unison which might be easier to work with and require a controller with fewer channels of control (often the number of faders on it). However, the downside is that they will all do the same thing. If not, set all the start addresses to distinct numbers: 1, 6, 11 (for 5 channel fixtures) and control them individually. Or a combination of both approachs – whatever suits you.

  88. Hi!

    I have been lighting for years now, both concerts and theatrical shows, and I just wanted to say what a great article. You were very clear and concise in your explanation – most people either get over-complicated or bog readers down with millions of examples. As a person that is constantly teaching others, I’m very appreciative of an article that can clearly and quickly describe the inner workings of our craft. Kudos!

  89. We are looking into putting in a new DMX-based lighting system at an elementary school auditorium. What I’d like to do is bring the DMX-chain back from the lights to feed into both a software-based DMX control system (for designing and programming) and at the same time, a simple DMX-based wall panel for use during a performance and also for controlling the lights without a computer. So the DMX signal path chain would look like DMX Control Panel -> DMX Software Controller IF -> DMX lights.
    Question is will this work if it’s all connected together at the same time, or do I have to make a switch to move the control to either the panel or the computer?
    If I can’t just simply wire it, could I do a DMX merge?
    Thanks so much. Wonderful site and very helpful forum.

  90. Hi, I have disco lights with differing channels but all with dmx512. Will they connect to any dmx controller or dmx software package? Is this a recommended practise?

  91. Your DMX connection should work with any DMX controller. When you say the disco lights have differing channels I assume you mean that some require 2 or 3 channels and others require 4 or more? In that case, IF you want them to show up on your control panel (manual or computer based) in sequence, i.e. 3 channels of fixture 1, then 6 channels of fixture 2, and then 4 channels of fixture 3 (a simple lighting dimmer or relay box), followed by 6 channels of instrument 4 (a gobo? i.e. RGBW,x,y), then you have to set your DIP switches (or binary starting address of each of the instruments accordingly: so fixture 1 would have a starting address of 1 and would use the first 3 dimmer channels, fixture 2 should be set with a starting address of 4 (binary DIP – off, off, ON, off, off… etc.)
    You have now used 9 channels so fixture 3 would then start at address 10 (binary DIP – off, ON, off, ON, off…etc.). Now you have used up 13 channels…
    So the next fixture (# 4) will start at address 14 (DIP – off, ON, ON, ON, off… etc.) and use up the next 4 channels.
    Then next fixture (#5) would start at 20 since #4 used 6 channels…
    You don’t have to address an ‘ending’ channel, only a starting one – the fixture or dimmer box eats up however many channels it requires and then you address the next fixture starting from there.
    Confusion arises when you have already configured things and then throw in another instrument with an address set somewhere in the middle of your existing range – then you have two different fixtures responding the the same address – so unless you intend that the two function together each fixture should have a unique starting address.
    Hope this hasn’t been too basic for you and that I have addressed the issue you intended.

  92. Hi,

    I’ve been reading a few comments on here but could do with everything being simplified as much as possible for me. I work for a drama school and have found myself always doing lights. We are based in a school who know nothing about lights so am constantly having to rewire the channels to get things to work. (I’m still working out how to make particular lights work with particular controls on the desk but I’ll get there eventually). The system I am forced to work with is from the 1960’s so as you can imagine, the (bit where all the plugs are) is really old. The lighting desk has 18 channels with only half working and with various lights paired together. We have spent last weekend unpairing particular lights and pairing them with more appropriate ones but don’t know how to unpair them. But that’s a problem which I don’t think you guys on here can help me with. What I want to know is, is it possible for me to buy a new lighting desk that can have lighting cues programmed into it and plug it into this old system? OR would that not work? Any help would be brilliant. Thanks

  93. I think the forum would have to know a bit more about your system in order to help you with it. Back in the 60’s I worked with a couple of monstrous old analog systems with levers and twist handles, not DMX (was DMX even around then?) Have you a brand name/model for your controller? How do your fixtures connect to it?
    and the bigger question: Do you have a budget that will allow you to upgrade?

  94. Hi I have recently purchased a Behringer Eurolight LC2412 lighting console. At the moment all our lighting is analogue and our dimmer racks are furse EDM 6103. The desk has a 15 pin “D” conection for analogue 0 to +10v DC but I am having trouble making up a cable fron the 15 pin on the desk to the 2 9 pin “D” plugs on the dimmer racks. Can anybody help? PLEASE!!!

    P.S. We picked this desk so that we might step into the 21st century with new DMX lighting, but that will have to be done over a few years.

  95. Damn, I won’t get to see the system until the weekend. Therefore I don’t know the brand name or model. I just know that it’s connected to the main patch board with kettle leads and each plug is a 3 pin 5amp plug. There isn’t a budget to replace it as it’s in the school that we are based in so isn’t our system. (I doubt the school will replace it unless I smash it….*idea springs to mind*) I just wanted to see if anyone would know from the minimal information I gave whether it would be possible to attach a new lighting board to an old system.

  96. Hi again,
    Sorry you don’t have access to the console, but I will keep an eye on your posts as you are able to get info.
    If you are at a school, I assume that you may be part of a school system… are there any Industrial Arts teachers around that may be able to help sort out the intricacies of your existing set-up and perhaps offer to fix the faulty circuits? Maybe you could ‘sell’ it to him as an opportunity for teaching electricity and control systems…
    OK – now some guesses: you have an old system. All the power emanates from your control panel and patch board… i.e. basically all the lights are on extension cords of a sort from your control room, or in other words, if you plug in an incandescent table lamp at your patch board you can control it from your console nearby? Suggestion: cheap way of testing circuits; buy a bunch on incandescent (NOT ‘LED’) “nite-lites” from your local ‘dollar store’ plug then into your patch board and tinker with the controls to see what controls what. Saves power and craning your neck to see if a ‘real’ fixture is responding or not. (Also a lot of ladder climbing)
    It’s unlikely that any of the newer (last 10 years) systems will piggy-back onto your old system — at least the controller parts. The newer systems have mains power running up in the vicinity of where the lights will be hung, a ‘dimmer pack’ is plugged into that power source, and the lights (fixtures) are plugged into the dimmer pack. The dimmer packs are also connected in a daisy chain fashion by what appears to be, for to all intents and purposes, a dedicated microphone cable (either a 3 pin or the more recent lighting standard 5 pin plug) this cable runs back to your lighting booth and connects into your controller. A digital signal is sent by the controller to each of the dimmer boxes which in turn control the power to each of the lights connected to them. (this is expandable to up to 512 dimmer channels)
    Presumably these dimmer packs could be plugged in at your patch board; the dimmer pack plugs in to mains (uncontrolled power) and you use the old wiring to the light rails as before. But you still need to spend some money… for a DMX controller console and for the dimmer packs.
    Newer systems (short of fully computerized professional units) have the daisy chain part plugging into a converter (i.e. ENTTEC ODE or USB Pro) which in turn plugs into a standard wireless router via ethernet or a laptop. Then you purchase a program i.e. Luminair (~$130) for a laptop or iPad and run the whole system wirelessly from anywhere within your wireless range. (Sit in the audience and run the show if you wish…)
    Maybe you can talk the school into funneling the profits from your next production into a new lighting system? Bake sale? Car wash weekend? There should be a glut of old iPads on the market after tomorrow’s Apple announcement… :-)
    Roughly: $250 ENTTEC ODE (ethernet to wireless router) or $150 ENTTEC USB Pro (USB to laptop or console computer) OR stay manual at $300-400 for a 24/48 dimmer control board; $75-$250 per dimmer pack (you will need 3 or 4 to match your current level of control – they come in 4 and 6 channel per box configurations)
    I expect you could scrounge an old Intel based Mac laptop somewhere… but go for the iPad – way more cool…
    Total basic outlay 600-1000 USD
    Another idea: create or include ‘theatre arts’ in your curriculum and teach sound, lighting, stage managing, costume design, make-up, stage construction and apply for a new budget… :-)

  97. Thanks for all that information Don. Unfortunately, my drama school is completely unrelated to the actual school. We just rent the space. We are nothing to do with the school itself so have no way of sorting out their budget. But it does help to know so that I can influence the school into what they need to get. How much would you say a whole new lighting system would cost? Approximately of course. It would benefit the school for them to invest in one.

  98. Having no idea of what you are facing, stage size, production aspirations that’s a tall order. You would do better to get a salesperson in to look at your facility and discuss what you intend to do with it. How long will you have the facility – is it worth the expenditure (for the more or less permanent parts I mean)?
    Some of the fun (and education) is working with what you have and making the most of it. Adapting a play to the facility and constraints provided has always been part of theatre.
    Basically though you have a couple of considerations: control system and fixtures (lights). I have already run you off the costs of control. eBay or Craig’s list may provide cheaper options but buyer beware applies.
    Fixtures: incandescent lamps (PARs, ellipsoidals, Fresnels, strip lights) all burn a lot of electricity and produce a lot of heat. They are also relatively inexpensive for initial outlay. They are point source lights and therefore focusable. Are electricity bills a concern? Is heat dissipation a concern? Will you require A/C to keep the place cool?
    If so, then going with more expensive and versatile, cooler and longer lasting LED lights may be the answer in the long haul, but you won’t get as many lights per monetary unit spent.
    There is also the aspect of ‘throw’ to consider and using colour – gels can be hard to find but LEDs can run the whole spectrum from the console. How many do you need to cover the space you intend to use? Is rental of extra lighting (on a per show basis) an option?
    Bottom line: you will probably end up with both styles of light for the foreseeable future… sometimes you need a focusable light and LEDs haven’t got there yet.
    For me? I’m currently in Mexico – getting ‘stuff’ can be difficult since I’m not in Mexico City or Guadalajara. I have no idea of prices where you are or the availability. Most of my stuff is brought in from the US or Canada.
    I’m in a small place (90 seats), a community theatre, we have an old manual 12/24 DMX control (Scene Setter) which is now our back up controller and we have a donated iPad running Luminaire, a donated wireless router and an ENTTEC ODE interface. This daisy chains to three 4 channel dimmers and two 4 channel relay boxes – so, in fact, I can control 20 channels but only 12 of them are dimmable. I’m on incandescent lighting with PAR 64s (8 narrow, 8 wide beam), 3 ellipsoidals, one follow-spot. I’m pushing for a budget to include some 4 channel (RGBW) LEDs since electricity and heat are issues, and we will phase out the incandescents as best we can. I’m also asking for more dimmer boxes 4’s or 6’s – doesn’t matter. (the LED units won’t require dimmer boxes since the dimmer circuitry is intrinsic)

  99. Note To Peter:
    Just had a look around – I expect you have the manual and therefore the pin-out for the Behringer unit but you don’t have the pin-in for your rack? I can’t find anything on the Furse unit either but here is a source I found that may be able to help:
    good luck!

  100. Hi all,

    If I have a lighting system (kam led par set) using 15 channels of DMX, and buy a simple DMX console (showtec fademaster 16) is it safe to assume that:

    Consoles with 16 sliders control channels 1-16 of dmx?

    I set the first dmx channel on the lights to be 1 so….

    Everything works out of the box? channel 1 = slider 1 etc?

    or do I need to set the controller to somehow start at a DMX value?
    sorry if this is a stupid question but I really don’t have any DMX knowledge.

  101. Attn: Rob Sayer
    I wrote back in December about an issue we were having with some Bunker DM4 dimmer boxes. I think I have solved the problem but there is still the concern about whether the engineers designing the boxes have done their job. Don’t know how to address that problem.
    Briefly, the issue was three different dimmer boxes all displaying the same fault: channels 3 & 4 had a 20% threshold – thereabouts – so there was no gradual fade in from red filament to full brightness. Why this would occur in three different boxes simultaneously suggested a controller issue – not so. Furthermore, when I took the boxes into the shop they were handed back – “no repair necessary, all is working fine” except when I got them back to the theatre.
    You need to be aware that the dimmers have two power input cords – presumably for 110V from each side of a 220V panel. After much switching of supply power sources I discovered that having both supply cords plugged into the same power source (as would probably be used on a test bench in the shop using a powerbar) the dimming worked correctly and smoothly for all four channels on the box. However if I plugged into a split receptacle (both sides of a 220V supply) the problem resurfaced.
    A simple switch around in the electrical panel gave me 110V to each plug in on any given receptacle and then the next plug-in box had the alternate side of the 220V supply. Seems that the phasing of the power supplied created the problem: as long as any given dimmer box only gets the same half of the sinewave for both power cords there is no problem.
    We’re happily back in business.
    This could be a leakage issue in the dimmer box, or perhaps there should be an inverter if two halves of the same 220V supply are used in a given box.
    There may be other readers with similar bizarre problems that this approach can help.

  102. To Dave March 14:
    You have it right. There is no setting of the controller end of things… only the start address of the fixture (your 15 channel ‘kam led par set’). You can have it either with an open channel at the ‘top’ (channel 1) or an open channel at the bottom (channel 16) Presumably you would go with the second choice which would permit you to use one more channel, starting at address 16. Going with the first choice may create problems down the line since most things you might plug into your DMX will ‘eat’ four channels minimum which would have 2,3,4 overlapping with the kam unit which you may not want.

  103. to Peter Schofield:

    I’ve just spent several hours today repairing our extremely creaky Furse EDM 6103 dimmers……….and will be doing more of the same over the next few days (sob sob) so if you still need the info I will make a note of it for you!

  104. Hi.
    I am looking to get a laptop dmx controller to control my lights and allow me to expand my lighting rig. Therer are loads of free to download programmes which on the face of them seem alright….Are they?
    Also, Do i need anything else like a physical connection between the programme and the lights like a midi controller for a music programme?

  105. hi Rob.
    I have purchaced for China 40 8 way DMX Dimmers and 50 16 way dimmers, is it a requirement for them to have Opto Isolation on board or is it my resposibilty to either request it or add Opto Isolators myself?
    many thanks


  106. Hi,
    Im so happy of found a website like this couse Im from Colombia Southamerica and im so interested in stage lighting but her e isnt a carrer of lighting and i am in the hight school and i now colaborate in a church with lighting we have a 128 DMX channels and articles like this are very usefull for so im so happy and i have the hope that one day i will be in the other side of the stage
    keep advancing
    From COLOMBIA Bye

  107. we have 2 brands of led par 56 cans 4 american dj & 6 irradient lighting.
    when daisy chained and addressed the american dj cans seem to want ttyo do their own thing. you got any suggestions.


  108. all my LED lights have 10 dip switches i want each light to be a different colour i have four lights i want them to be different so that green on one red on another blue on the other and white on the other alternating.

  109. Hi guys.. I have an event coming up that I need to use both Movers and PAR lights. My question is, can I run all movers on the same DMX daisy chain line through the Dimmer Packs out to the controller?

    Note: power of Movers are not plugged in to the Dimmer Packs – Only the DMX ins-outs.

    Thank you


  110. Yup, as long as you have enough room on the DMX Universe to address the fixtures as you want (and also don’t need more than the 32 device limit on a single DMX line).

  111. It’s in the specification. A line load can have up to 32 devices (a desk counts as a device too, so does a buffer). Every time a buffer/splitter/DA is inserted, each output then becomes another line.

  112. Hey,

    I’m looking for a little bit of help with a problem I can’t get my head around.

    Since an (in-house) repair on some lighting units I have developed a rather strange fault.

    I have two Showtec dimmer bars and four LEDJ Omni Tri 9 all on the same universe.

    If I feed DMX to the LEDs first and then the dimmer bars everything is all ok.

    If I plug the LEDs in on their own, everything is fine.

    If I plug the dimmer bars in on their own, everything is fine and the little signal light blinks away quite merrily.

    If I then plug the LEDs in further down the DMX chain (after the dimmer bars) the LEDs work fine but the little signal light disappears from the dimmer bar after about a second and the bar becomes unresponsive.

    When I first had the problem I worked out pretty quickly that the fault was a wiring one – the pins had been crossed between the input and output in the rewire. I’ve since rectified that and the problem still presents.

    Any help!? It’s driving me round the loop!



  113. Hi Matt.
    I guess my first question would be: If the system was working completely normally prior to your ‘in-house’ repairs, then what was the nature of the repair? Specifically, was there any chance of crossing the DMX wiring at some point? Then: Are you using a terminator or not? IF you drop the ‘repaired’ unit (fixture or cable) from the chain does everything work?
    There are others on the board with more expertise than me but I think they will want the same info in order to help.

  114. The repair was the replacement of DMX sockets so there is the possibility of some cross over. I have tried with termination to no avail, although the system is so small it doesn’t necessarily need termination. All of the fixtures were repaired at the same time so diagnosis by elimination is tough. I’ve tried just one fixture at a time and the fault continues. If there is a wiring fault it’s systemic in the repair and must be the same for all fixtures.

    Would a wiring cross over cause the fault I’m describing?

  115. Sorry Matt, although I may have helped in elucidating the probable source of the problem, you’re getting over my head with the electronics and engineering aspect. I can’t tell you for sure if the problem you’re encountering can be caused by a cross-over – but my gut feeling says, ‘yes’. There are others on this board with far more expertise and experience than I and hopefully they will weigh in. Rob Sayer… are you there?
    Failing that, my next move would be to find out the spec sheet connections to the replaced DMX sockets – a picture, a wiring digram, a letter to the manufacturers, a qualified repair depot – and then open up the fixtures – all of them – and make sure there are no cross-overs remaining.
    If you have the equipment and the expertise, you could check the pins on the DMX sockets to find out which pin has the digital signal and make sure that it’s consistent for all the units. While we’re here, perhaps you can let the board know if you’re using DMX3 or DMX5 and if your ‘repair’ was actually a conversion of one to the other?
    Having the signal light on for a second and then going off sure sounds like a capacitor taking a moment to charge up, so again I’m thinking cross-over fault somewhere.
    Sorry I can’t help more. Best of luck.

  116. Hi Matt

    You are getting help over at the Blue Room too ( ) and the answers there are hopefully pointing you towards a conclusion. Generally, I would advise against the idea of too much complex electronic fault finding in the field for a general lampie.

    Ultimately, my goal would be to isolate the problem and then work around it / swap the faulty item out. However, as noted above, fault finding DMX issues in a system can really test one’s ability to verify a problem as a fault can seem to move around. In the end, these things are generally either down to driver cards or wiring.
    One thing that I would consider is that just because repairs were done and faults appeared, while they may be related there is a possibility that they aren’t. Don’t discount the idea of something obvious and unrelated to the repair.

  117. Hello to all, I´m a repair man and now I started to repair a acme dmx splitter model CA-DS14, I need a circuit diagram. I have a problemas with cut´s energy, I find the fuse 1A 250V broken, I change but it follow with problems, always, when I connect the splitter cuting the fuse. thank you for your attention¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡

  118. I’ll try to be simple in my explanation in hopes someone here can give a simple answer as I am limited in my experience with lighting systems. We have a small student theatre company that has no home of its own. We are blessed to have different venues to use but everything we do has to be easily transported. We currently use a DMX 512 controller for our lighting to which we have two Matrix DMX Pro dimmer packs which then connect 8 Fresnel lights, 4 on each pack. Each Fresnel is 500 watts. The first two shows in which we used the light board all went well but now a recurring issue has developed. When we bring the lights up , not a lot of fancy light changes with only 8 lights, the lights will stay on for 10-15 minutes then all will go out at once. We can quickly bring them all up again and they will stay lit for another 10 minutes or so and then all go out. I have reset the light board to factory settings in case there were scenes programed inadvertainly that would cause this. That did not solve the problem. Any ideas that can be shared will be really appreciated.

  119. Hi I have a 6 channel Dmx controller with a 5 channel light connected to it. I want to add another 2 channel light to my set up, can I run this light using one channel on my controller and if do how do I set it up.


  120. It really depends on what the 2nd channel on your 2-channel light does. I’d be surprised if that channel could be ignored and you still get the light to work. Try connecting it up, setting the lights DMX start address to 006 and use the last fader on your controller – see what it does. If you set it to 005, the first channel will overlap with the 5-channel fixture and it will probably do weird things when you change that channel. Other option is to see if your 5-channel light has a mode where it uses fewer channels.

  121. Hey,
    I have a show coming up where I would like to use standard mains bulbs,
    how would I go about setting it up to be controlled by the DMX Lighting controller at the venue?
    it would only be a case of the turning on or off, Just wondered if this would be possible and if so how it would be done?

    Thank you

  122. Hello,

    We have lights that we use that turn on when you increase the power so they don’t run on DMX so your basically turning them slowly on and slowly off but we want to get new lights which run on DMX so we were wondering if you could switch power to DMX so plug those lights into a DMX splitter and then run that to the board. anyone know how??

  123. Hey, I’m working on a school production and there are some DMX ports built in around the theatre (in the catwalk, backstage, etc), and I have no idea if they are for the sound system or if they are part of a DMX network for lights. The universe 1 port on light board plugs into a port on the wall, so im wondering if it connects to some of the ports built in around the theatre. Is there any way to figure this out?

  124. If they are 5 Pin, then it’s pretty likely they are DMX in or out. If they are 3 Pin but aren’t marked up as DMX, then they could be audio or even comms system – definitely don’t experiment and plug DMX kit into the latter as comms systems can bust DMX chips as they supply system power down that the line.
    Assuming they are DMX ports: If they are female sockets on the boxes, then they will be outputs (to send to kit). If male, then a box may be to send lighting control signal from the stage instead of the control position / read auditorium etc. If they have a loop through lead that comes from the box and plugs back into the port, they will be set up so that you can ‘break in’ to the DMX chain. If just a port, they will be wired back to a DMX splitter and/or a patch bay.

    Somewhere, often near where the dimmers / patch are mounted (or in the control room) there will be something that gives you more clues as to how the system is put together.

    Just remember that if they are just 3 Pin XLRs on a unknown box with no markings, they could as likely be part of the audio or comms system.

  125. We have recently replaced our old analogue lighting with an ADJ OPERATOR 384 plus a few LED lights. I am afraid we are struggling with the basic concepts and terminology. I have read your articles that have helped a bit but my old brain has still not quite grasped how things work and how to operate them smoothly. Any suggestions on where to look further?

  126. Hiya

    One quick answer is but I’ll email you direct as I happen to have a spare place on the next course.

  127. Hi I have a dmx desk zero 88 and three dmx dimmers 12 channel also dmx. We use them to dim our current lights 500w /1kw. We have been given 5 led dmx lights which I would like to use my question is could I power these each led light via the 12 channel dimmer? I was thinking of just putting a 3 pin round plug on each led light and use the power override button on the dimmer for that channel so the power out put is always at 100% for that light. And running some dmx cables from the dimmer.

  128. Hiya
    Be aware that you have no guarantee that the override button on the dimmer doesn’t send out a chopped waveform. Unless the dimmer is specifically designed to be able to provide switched power, I would avoid running your LEDs through the dimmer as it has the potential to damage one or the other.

  129. i have an old zero 88 XL lightmaster 12 channel desk.
    i would like to know if i use DMX am i limited to 12 channels.
    cos i read there are 512 available channels.

    mister light

  130. I loved the little XL and XLS desks and toured with them quite a bit. There are only 12 channels of control on the XL, but each one can be set to DMX512 addresses other than 1 – 12 (up to 96 I recall. ) A search suggests page 17 of the user manual for how to do this. Hope that helps.

  131. Hello. Not sure if you’re still answering questions as the last post was 9 years ago. I recently purchased a Laser scanner Galvo set with a pre-programmed microcontroller on it. It has a “DMX” connector and a table that is very confusing to me. I was a stage hand back in 1992 on the island of Guam and saw their lightboard. It looked like it was DMX. Anywaythe product came with a table with three columns labled “Channel”; “DMX VALUE” and “Desription.

    For channel 2 is says, “Graphic 1 selection”, then under DMX VALUE it says, “0—-1” description = “Close” then under DMX VALUE it says 2-224 and the desription says, “133 Static patterns” Then the next line (STill Channel 2 and still Graphic 1 Selection) DMX VALUE says, 225-227 and description says “Screen theme animation”

    And it goes on and on like this. It seems like i use channel 1 to select those things, but how do I send a DMX Value? I am using my Laptop PC with a USB – to- DMX adapter that I connected to the controller board on the DMX connector (I have all the pins correct DMX Common, DMX DATA (+) and DMX DATA (-) ) I am also running the free “Freestyler” DMX software. So how do I send a DMX VALUE using a slider? I can see how maybe a percentage can be converted to a binary code with a value of 1-255, but that seems difficult to do with a slider. Any Ideas? I am an electronic technician of 40 years and know all about wiring and hardware and computers, but this table makes no sense to me.

    Thank you very much!

  132. I don’t know enough about Freestyler, but most modern lighting control systems give you an interface that allows for the selection of the full range of a DMX channel rather than a simple percentage. The key to getting the best from the control interface (including Freestyler) is that you need to have (or create) the fixture profile (AKA as a personality) for the Galvo. This means that you can control it on it’s own terms, rather than with a fader designed for a dimmer channel. There is a bit of somewhat elderly information on this concept at
    A Google search suggests that you should be looking at the Freestyler Fixture Creator
    It’s a common situation in lighting control: Either a profile exists, or you need to edit an existing one or make one from scratch. This means you don’t have to wrestle with a percentage fader to control an 8 bit value.

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