Have you ever wondered how the impressive outdoor lighting on New Year or Springs Festival works? Or the ever-popular Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa’s light show.
If yes, this is the right place. No doubt, the lighting system might seem complex as they are often choreographed on the fountain or audio commands.
DMX Lighting and How it Works?
DMX or Digital Multiplex has LED lights along with the audio. It has a couple of other effects.
DMX systems were initially used in stage performances like theatre or concerts.
The lights at concerts, for example, are always in sync with the music. Thus enhancing the whole musical experience. This effect is achieved with DMX lighting.
Large-scale events like festivals and theatre performances work better when DMX lighting is used since it enables the lighting managers to control multiple inputs simultaneously through DMX controls.
This helps create unique effects in a variety of colors and patterns. DMX lighting can be used in various designs and color combinations.
A tech expert can use a DMX controller to enter commands that control the lights. A DMX system usually includes many elements that work together to carry through complex inputs.
Usually, backstage or in control rooms, tech experts are operating large switchboards. That is a DMX controller.
Now, the question is, how does a controller work?
It is a simple wiring system in which cables transmit commands to the lights. Only the LED lights get information and can run commands efficiently.
Let’s explore how DMX systems work and how this kind of lighting creates a unique outdoor lighting experience.
Terms you Should Know
This system comes with a standard protocol. Through this, it controls intricate inputs of smart light fixtures. This system has 512 controls that can be used at a time. Hence, the name DMX 512.
The DMX itself is just a communication apparatus. Its only role is to transmit information. An external input has to be connected to each output on the DMX device to source energy.
This is where the DMX 512 software comes in. Most lighting projects use DMX 512 software for input controls.
A controller is an apparatus that controls colors, brightness, and other such effects or patterns. DMX controller is a console that employs a specific protocol and code set to control the lights. The produced signal is transmitted in a daisy chain.
DMX cables connect LED lights with the DMX controller. Cables transmit signals from the source to the lights. They are made from tinned copper and are a vital system component.
A low-quality or damaged cable can cause interruptions in the light show. Microphone cables are another cable that might be connected to the DMX.
Each channel manages outputs for an individual fixture. Each output can have a maximum of 512 channels. This means that for each institution, there are 512 output possibilities.
Each channel controls a unique command. The initial 3 commands are green, blue, and red. The rest of the commands perform other outputs like strobing, dimming, or creating a different color combination.
An address sends you to only one fixture in the lighting system. Each fixture has a unique address. This is how a channel would know exactly which lighting fixture to command.
The lighting design would not function properly if each fixture did not have a different address.
A universe is a combination of channels and codes managed by the controller. One universe has 512 different channels.
You can install a new universe in case you want more channels. Each universe will have to be connected to the rest of the universes via different cables. The second universe will also require its console.
The DMX only transmits commands. The lighting fixtures are powered from a separate source. Project managers usually use weatherproof or partially indoor cables for sizeable outdoor or landscape lighting projects.
You can assemble scenes with the help of different combination commands and channels. The lighting technicians designate a coordinated set of commands to create a scene. The scene could be saved to be commanded again.
When set in a sequence, they create a complex lighting command. A sequence can be set by the ‘Chases’ option on the controller. This is how the stunning lights you see at every concert are created.
Scenes can control more than one lighting fixture because they can utilize more channels simultaneously.
How does a DMX System Work?
Various DMX controllers are available, from touch screen DMX to one with a higher number of channels. The controllers are easy to operate once you have understood how it functions.
Let us explain the features involved in it and what they do.
The DMX controller will first assign channels to the institution when setting up a DMX with a fixture. Once the channels are installed, the controller will transmit the signals and receive outputs via these channels.
For each channel, a different effect or function can be programmed. When you have set the effect, it can be saved in the controller’s memory.
To create lighting effects, you will have to set scenes. For a scene, you can combine different fixtures with unique channels. You can save scenes on your controller.
DMX sends low voltage inputs to the LED lights from the source.
DMX wires are usually dual-core cables with 3 to 5-pin connections. You can easily connect it to LED lights with a normal cable.
Otherwise, there are various other cables available as well. You can choose the cable length according to your functions and projects.
Controlling Lighting Fixtures
The easiest way you can connect the LED lights:
- Attach the DMX IN lead of any of the lights.
- The second step is to attach DMX OUT of the first light with the DMX IN of the second light.
- Thirdly, put fixtures 1 and 2 to their assigned addresses.
Types of DMX Controllers
Wireless controllers are more modern technology. You might be tempted to switch to the wireless system rather than keep a wired one.
Before you make a decision, let us weigh the benefits of each system.
Wireless DMX controllers will have no hassle of wiring and cables. LED light fixtures are easily controlled via signals. Like Wi-Fi, they can be easily operated at a frequency of 2.4 GHz.
- They are a better option for small-scale setups as wires are no hassle.
- You can save money on the DMX cables.
- It can be operated through mobile applications, which are very handy.
- It is durable, and you can use it long enough if it is a good quality brand.
- They are brand specific. This means they will not be compatible with most other brands.
- A specific USB or antenna will have to be used to transmit or receive signals.
- In large areas, there will be issues of poor connections.
As the name suggests, a cabled controller uses DMX cables to send and receive signals. These are used in events where there is no room for accidents, for instance, theatre shows and concerts.
- There will be no connection loss issue unless the cable is faulty or damaged.
- For larger landscape projects in outdoor spaces, you can simply connect larger cables without worrying about signal loss.
- Managing wires can be a hassle.
- You will have to ensure the safety of the cables. If they get damaged, they can be expensive to buy and repair.
Why Choose DMX for Landscape Lighting and Outdoor Lighting?
Now you are well versed in DMX technology and how DMX controls work for outdoor lights and landscape lights.
But now the question is, why is DMX a preferred lighting system?
DMX allows more control and an unlimited number of lighting channels. This makes it the smart choice for any type of outdoor light package.
However, they are too complex for residential lighting projects such as in a backyard. They are commonly used for commercial buildings or other such outdoor functions.
Large commercial lighting projects require a lot of fixtures and commands. A DMX is complex enough to handle such projects.
In addition to lighting commands, DMX systems can also command inputs other than lighting. This makes it perfect for concerts and fountains.
With the help of DMX, you can give audio or fountain commands in addition to proper lighting commands. This allows for mesmerizing scenes and displays, and that too with just a power source and a DMX.
DMX has many advantages that set it apart from other lighting systems.
DMX system requires an external power source. However, it operates on a comparatively very low voltage. This makes it energy-efficient and the right choice for commercial lighting packages.
Easy to Program
The DMX 15 software allows the user a smooth operation. And the operator can quickly enter commands and create scenes. Thus, you can easily control the commands using just a laptop.
It has made creating stunning lighting packages hassle-free and quick.
Smart Lighting Capability
You can use motion or light sensors to integrate smart lighting into a DMX. Many buildings or bridges have automatic lighting. This not only creates an impressive scene but also saves energy.
The lighting automation allows lights to be dimmed when the sun rises and turned on when the sun sets. This way, you can illuminate your building at all times.
It allows you to connect the DMX control system easily with your existing lighting system. You will not have any issues with its compatibility with the system at your home.
Limitations of DMX
DMX is a powerful and intelligent outdoor light device. Despite that, it has a few limitations in some scenarios.
Although uncommon, you might have noticed a few flickering lights in an older lighting application. This is because the DMX cables are prone to interference once in a while.
The reason can be a weak connection to the fixture, electromagnetic fields, or long cables. This can happen to any DMX system.
However, these errors can be easily fixed by an operator.
Things You Need To Consider Before Choosing DMX Outdoor Lighting
Choosing the right DMX can take your light show to another level. The basic requirements for the DMX are fixtures, cables, wattage, channels, and scalability.
Some controllers can only have one universe, while others have multiple. So you should also consider the scalability of your future projects when choosing the final unit.
Depending on your application, you will need a different number of fixtures to control using the DMX controller. The controller you choose should have enough fixtures to control the entire project. The fixtures will include effects, lights, and valves.
Each fixture will require a specific wattage of energy. The DMX decoder can bear only a particular quantity of wattage. If your fixtures exceed the limit, you can install an amplifier to power the remaining load.
Each fixture will require a channel of its own. Moreover, each fixture has its channel specifications.
So make sure that your controller can handle all the channels needed.
DMX systems offer excellent command and precision that can create mesmerizing lighting effects. The possibilities of what a DMX provides are unlimited, which is just as thrilling as it can be overwhelming.
This is why consulting a qualified lighting supplier such as R&C Lighting is recommended. They have a team of highly skilled engineers known for their superior quality indoor, outdoor, and landscape lighting products.
They are experts in DMX systems. You will get a subtle glow in your projects and excellent services with your DMX system.