How to Set Up DMX Lighting

By Emilio Guarino
DMX makes lighting applications much more flexible.

DMX lighting was developed as a way to simplify lighting control as well as to allow users to manipulate lighting fixtures from different manufacturers with one controller. Before digital lighting control was developed, each parameter of lighting control needed a dedicated wire. This was messy and tedious to troubleshoot. For a short period each manufacturer used its own digital control system, but this locked users into using a single brand of light fixture. The adoption of DMX as the standard system for lighting control solved these problems by allowing users to mix different brands and use a single, common control wire.

An XLR cable

Connect all the DMX lights and controller with the XLR cables. The order of the lights does not matter, but the final fixture in the chain must have its termination switch set to "On." Connect the DMX termination plug to the output of the final fixture if it does not have a termination switch.

Reading may be required!

Refer to each lighting fixture's documentation to determine how many channels each light requires. If a light has two different control parameters, such as iris size and output level, it will require two different channels. For example, if its DMX address is set to "1," it will use DMX channels 1 and 2. DMX channel 3 will be available for the next light.

DMX lighting in action

Set the DMX start address on each fixture using the 9 binary DMX DIP switches. Switch 1 has a value of 1, switch 2 has a value of 2, switch 3 has a value of 4, switch 4 has a value of 8, switch 5 has a value of 16, switch 6 has a value of 32, switch 7 has a value of 64, switch 8 has a value of 128, and switch 9 has a value of 256. The sum of the corresponding values of each switch turned on will determine the start address of a light fixture. For example, engaging switches 1 and 3 will yield a DMX address of 5 because their respective binary values are 1 and 4.

Tip

Light fixtures can share a DMX start address. If you would like to control multiple lights as a group, program them to the same DMX start address.

Warning

Certain light fixtures can get extremely hot in a very short period of time. Wear heat resistant gloves when necessary. Many of the bulbs and parts inside of lights contain hazardous materials such as mercury and lead. Avoid prolonged contact with internal parts and wash your hands after performing any maintenance.

About the Author

Emilio Guarino is a musician born and raised in New Jersey. He began writing in 2008 as a hobby while working on his bachelor's degree in jazz studies at Rutgers University and now contributes regularly to sites such as eHow.