DMX 101

Learn what DMX is, how it relates to your lighting system and other key elements.

DMX, short for Digital Multiplex, is a standardized digital communication protocol used in the context of stage lighting to control and synchronize lighting fixtures. In a DMX-based stage lighting system, lighting controllers (such as Lightkey, Onyx, MA or Vista) send data, in the form of numerical values, to individual lighting fixtures, instructing them on how to behave. Each fixture, be it a simple LED light or a complex moving head, has a specific number of channels assigned to it within the DMX universe, allowing precise control of parameters like color, intensity, position, and effects. This protocol enables lighting designers (you!) and operators (you as well!) to create dynamic worship environments using lights!


1. Communication Protocol:

– At the core of a DMX system is a communication protocol. Think of it as a language that lighting controllers and fixtures use to talk to each other. This language consists of numbers, or “channels,” from 1 to 512 (in a common DMX512 system). Each channel corresponds to a different lighting parameter, like color, intensity, or position.


2. Lighting Fixtures:

– Lighting fixtures, such as moving lights, LED lights, or hazers, are equipped with DMX inputs. These inputs allow them to receive instructions from the controller. Fixtures can have multiple channels, depending on their complexity. For example, a basic LED light might have a few channels for color and brightness, while a moving head fixture could have many channels to control various movements, intensity and effects.


3. Controller:

– The controller, which can be a computer, lighting console, or dedicated DMX controller, is where the operator designs and sends lighting cues. By adjusting the values for each channel, the controller tells the fixtures what to do. For instance, you can change the color of a light, make it brighter or dimmer, or pan and tilt a moving head. These instructions are being sent using DMX.


4. Basic Setup:

– A simple DMX lighting system will comprise of a DMX controller, DMX distributor and DMX light fixtures. Everything is wired in daisy-chain. Your controller outputs the DMX signal, your DMX distributor helps segment out and distribute DMX signal across your lighting setup, your DMX fixtures receive the signal and light your stage.