November 29, 2012

DMX Lighting Tutorial Part 5: Hardware and Software

In part 5 of our DMX Lighting Tutorial series we go over the hardware and software used to control a DMX lighting universe. Hardware like the Chauvet Obey 40 are great controllers for fixtures and changing entire scenes. Some of the pros of using hardware are typically matters concerning reliability. You can avoid potential crashes and hardware is often easier to control. Some of the drawbacks of hardware are that the actual hardware is not expandable and flexible like software can be, and only the higher end hardware consoles allow for certain lighting manipulations.

Chauvet Obey 40 DMX Lighting Controller

You can also use software to control your lighting and for this video we show off the American DJ myDMX which is a great tool to get you started for controlling a DMX lighting universe. Some of the advantages to using software are its expandability and flexibility, greater numbers of stored scenes and presets, and more advanced lighting control functions. While software can be more flexible it also has the potential for crashes, (depending on your CPU power) software solutions can be more expensive which could make portability an issue, and they are a little more difficult to operate for the novice.

American DJ myDMX Software and Lighting Control System

Both hardware and software controllers for DMX lights are useful for lighting technicians and it just depends on what type of shows you will be controlling lights for if you are trying to decide which path makes the most sense for you.

We hope you found all 5 parts of our DMX Lighting Tutorials useful and if you have any questions related to these tutorials or DMX lighting generally, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

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 to part 5 of the uniquesquared DMX lighting series. So the classic method for DMX control is the hardware controller. Every DMX hardware control system is designed to handle a set number of light fixtures. For example, I’ve got a Chauvet Obey 40 that I use to control my lights, and I like it a lot. The Obey 40 can control up to 12 different lights. Remember from part 2 how we set our DMX address. The first light starts with the DMX address 1. For every single one of those 12 lights my Chauvet 40 has 16 dedicated channels of control. That means the first light gets channels 1-16, the second light gets channels 17-32, the third gets channels 33-48, the fourth gets channels 49-64 and so on. Remember that number range from 0 to 255 where 255 was equivalent to full power and 0 was equivalent to no power? This is where that range comes into play. On my controller, each fader has 255 steps. There’s an LED display on my controller which tells me where my slider is in that range when the channel is selected. You just find the value that corresponds to the amount of power you want on a channel for a fixture, and then set your other matching fixtures with the same value on the same channel for each light. Not only does this help you perfectly match brightness but it also helps you match color when you’re mixing with red, green, and blue channels.

There are a number of DMX softwares out there. I personally like myDMX. The interface is one of the more affordable options and the software is compatible with Macs as well as PCs. As soon as you open the software you will see a list of lighting manufacturers on the left. Almost every light on the market is in this scan library. Just find your light and drag it into the universe. Let’s say the first light I’m looking for is a colorstrip mini. You’’’ see that myDMX has a couple different preset control modes. I’m just going to choose mode 1 and place it in my Universe. This light only has 4 channels of control and you see that reflected in the software. Lets say the next light I want is an American DJ Vizi LED. I’m going to choose the second preset mode and drop it into my Universe. I’m going to add another colorstrip mini and another Vizi LED just because I feel like it. Now when I hover my mouse over the light, a menu pops up with the number of the address. If I click on the light it even shows me the dipswitch setting for that address.

Ok guys, that’s the end of part 5 and also the end of the DMX lighting series. I hope it’s helped you get a better understanding for the basics of DMX lighting. Remember for all the best prices on lighting gear and any other pro audio needs you may have, come check out