Lighting Control: What to Know About 3 Protocols

In the world of lighting control, there are quite a few different control protocols and systems. Many of them however, take a huge influence from the DMX protocol.

Lighting Control: What to Know About 3 Protocols
DMX is a standard for digital communication, specifically designed to create interconnectivity within lighting equipment. Within the DMX 512 standard, there are 512 channels of control that can be managed with 256 distinct values.

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The best lighting design is only as good as its network. A single point failure in a system can turn into a huge distraction, one that can pull the congregation out of worship.

Control protocols are the central nervous system of any lighting setup.

It is important for us as leaders in worship lighting, to not only consider our visual design, but also the technical design.

A superb technical design makes for an incredible visual design that can function without flaw.

In the world of lighting control, there are quite a few different control protocols and systems. Many of them however, take a huge influence from the DMX protocol.

DMX is a standard for digital communication, specifically designed to create interconnectivity within lighting equipment. Within the DMX 512 standard, there are 512 channels of control that can be managed with 256 distinct values. Further, this protocol can be extended with the use of multiple DMX universes. These universes essentially act as multiple control systems within a larger control scheme. 

DMX is typically transmitted over 5-pin XLRs connected to 120 ohm 2-pair cable. It can also be run over 3-pin cable as well. Many times, mic cable is used to transmit DMX data. This is not suggested, however, because mic cable does not have the same impedance rating and changes the wave properties of the signal. This can cause glitches, dropouts, and unexplainable data issues. When using long lengths of such cable, or you opt to configure a great number of fixtures on a single line, this can hold especially true.

The DMX protocol also calls for termination at the end of each run. A terminator is a resistor that helps to eliminate defects and minimize noise in the data line. It is best practice to use resistors, however in situations with shorter cable runs and low fixture counts, it is not always necessary.

Part of the appeal of DMX is its robust qualities and flexibility. Under correct use, DMX can transmit data over a span of 3,800 feet. Unlike many other past protocols, up to 32 fixtures can be wired to a single DMX output. The originating DMX line can also be split, with the use of an Opto-Splitter. This enables multiple runs of 32 fixtures to exist in a single DMX universe.

Opto-Splitters make copies of the original DMX source and duplicate it to multiple outputs. Each bit of data transferred through the output of an Opto-Splitter is internally transferred as a light wave and received by a light receiver, to be translated into DMX data.


More About Steven Hall
Steven Hall serves churches through his company ModScenes.com in Norman, Oklahoma. Mod Scenes creates easy-to-use stage designs that are affordable and flexible. Steven has worked in churches as a lighting director, production manager, and scenic designer for more than 10 years. He currently serves his home church Journeychurch.tv as a volunteer lighting tech. Steven is a graduate of Full Sail University. He lives in Norman, Oklahoma, with his wife, Sara, and son Dorian. You can reach Steven on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stevenhallav.
Get in Touch: stevenhallav@gmail.com    More by Steven Hall

Latest Resource

Worship Facilities Magazine, March-April 2018
The March-April 2018 issue of Worship Facilities Magazine offers articles about how to prepare, prevent and respond to church violence, a look into what church management software can do for your church community, and a piece on how a once popular nightclub venue was transitioned to become Shoreline Church's new home.


Article Topics

Products · Technology · Lighting · Visual Arts · Lighting Design · ArtNet · Cable · Communication · Control · DMX · Interconnectivity · All Topics

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Comments

By wphelps on February 12, 2018

When the designers of Art-Net choose the 2.0.0.0/8 addresses, they must not have anticipated that one might want to control devices over the Internet, or even have the device on a network that is connected to the Internet; as, that is a Public IP Block.  Manufacturers should not be using 192.0.0.0/8 since that is not even part of the standard.  Ideally, the 10.0.0.0/8 Private range would be the only one ever hard-coded into lighting devices; though, even with that range, I would never specify a device that did not allow the address to be changed.


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