November 8, 2012

DMX Lighting Tutorial Part 4: DMX Wiring

Find out how to wire your DMX lights in part 4 of this DMX lighting tutorial. If you’re new to DMX lighting you should check out parts 1 through 3 of our DMX lighting series. They’ll get you up to speed. In this video, we’re going to talk about DMX cable connection types, mistakes to avoid when wiring, and how to handle large DMX lighting setups. We’ve got all of the current parts of our DMX lighting tutorial posted below.

5 pin to 3 pin Connection

DMX Lighting Tutorial Videos

Part 1. What is DMX?
Part 2. What is DMX Addressing?
Part 3. Dipswitches
Part 4. DMX Wiring
Part 5. Hardware and Software Setup


Hello my name is Chris. Welcome back! This is part 4 of the uniquesquared DMX lighting series in which I’m explaining some of the basics of DMX lighting with the help of this marker board and these turkeys. In this video segment I’ll be talking about DMX wiring. Ok let’s begin.

There are two types of DMX cable. One has five pins and the other has three. Why? Back in the day, a well respected organization called the United States Institute for Theatre Technology was developing DMX and decided the official DMX cable should have 5 pins. So then all the manufacturers that were associated with USITT started incorporating the 5 pin connector in their production line. But some manufacturers that weren’t associated with USITT said, “Hey, we can make a DMX cable that works great but only has 3 pins and we can save a bunch of money if we do it.” So they did and that’s basically the reason that there are two different connector types. Now the three pin DMX cable looks a lot like the your standard XLR cable. But just because the microphone cable looks like the DMX cable, it doesn’t mean you can substitute one for the other. The DMX cable is a data cable and the other is an audio cable. They are two very different things. I won’t get into technicalities here but just know that if you try to use the XLR cable for DMX you’re probably going to run into trouble. For example, you might run the risk of frying the microchip in your light. And then you’re out a light and then you got to buy another light. Not worth it.

So, once you’re sure that you’ve got the right cable it’s time to wire the lights. All lights to be controlled by DMX should be wired in a daisy chain. The first light is connected to the controller, the second light is connected to the first light, the third light is connected to the second light and so on and so forth. If you have a really big setup with clusters of lights spread far apart, the daisy chain can quickly become impractical.  A DMX splitter is the solution for an unnecessarily long daisy chain of lights. As the name suggests, the DMX splitter takes a signal from your controller and splits it into multiple identical signals. You can then run cables from the splitter’s outputs to your different light fixtures. The operation of the lights remains the same as it was with the daisy chain, but with the splitter you can use your DMX cable more efficiently. Be sure that you only use a splitter box. Do not use a splitter cable. The y shaped cable splitter is a sure recipe for problems.

Whether you’ve got your lights in a daisy-chain or you’ve got your lights branching out from a splitter it’s always important to terminate each light at the end of the chain. This is a terminator plug. You can buy them from Amazon for $5. That is what you use to terminate the chain. The terminator plug sucks up the control signal so it can’t reflect down the chain causing interference. It’s very important that you put a terminator plug on every single branch coming out of a DMX splitter. If your lights are acting weird and glitchy you probably forgot a terminator plug somewhere. Some lights have a terminator switch built in so you don’t have to insert a plug, you can just flip the switch.

Ok so that’s the end of part 4. Now you know how to wire your lights and how to set the address on your lights. You’re almost ready to get them up and going with a controller. But your setup is going to be a little bit different depending type of controller you use. So In the next video I’m going to introduce you to two different methods of DMX control: hardware and software control. Be sure to checkout for great prices on lights, DMX controllers, or any pro audio gear you may need. If you have any questions you can leave them on our blog and we’ll answer them as soon as we can. You are watching