• We would like to remind our members that this is a privately owned, run and supported forum. You are here at the invitation and discretion of the owners. As such, rules and standards of conduct will be applied that help keep this forum functioning as the owners desire. These include, but are not limited to, removing content and even access to the forum.

    Please give yourself a refresher on the forum rules you agreed to follow when you signed up.

Teach me about DMX lighting systems

adew

Inspired
This is related (a little) to this thread discussing backing tracks. The discussions in that thread about Showbuddy got me thinking about putting together a small lighting rig to give our stage a bit more pizzaz. However, knowing nothing about lighting, Google gives a bewildering array of products and articles that leave me none the wiser but a lot better informed, lol.

Anyway, we're thinking of maybe 4 led movable head wash lights, but the range of prices for these is a bit like guitars - quite cheap to ridiculously expensive. Can anyone throw any light (ha ha, I couldn't resist it) on what we should look for when choosing this type of lighting? Any tips? Anyone using their own lights? Any links to useful "how to" resources online?

Assuming we use Showbuddy running on a MacBook, what hardware is needed apart from the lights and XLR cables? Some kind of interface?

I should point out that we generally play pubs and small clubs.

Thanks!
 

UnsungHeroGuitars

Fractal Fanatic
How far do you want to go..?

This was our lighting rig - all packed down into 4 x 4'x18"x16" flight cases and all run from DMXIS on MacBook Pro (ignore the silver cans & truss in the venue roof):

Coverd-Stage.jpg


Coverd-Stage-2.jpg


LED lights have developed so far since they first came along and were pretty weak compared to PAR cans etc. The eight LED cans in the piccys (4 on each side of the stage) are super bright - 18x8w in each can - they shed some light!

The row of eight across the back (2 bars of 4) are moving head type units with 7 x 10w in each - still pretty bright and probably enough for most bar band situations. You may not want them to be able to move about as such, but no harm having that facility too, eh?

The DMX protocol is an interesting one. You just need to get your head around the fact that you can send 512 different signals down the same piece of 2 core & screen cable... You assign each lighting unit a 'DMX Address' on the unit itself (unit 1 starting at DMX Address 1 for example) so theat each light knows what set of DMX commands it's supposed to responding to, or ignoring. Multiple instances of the same lighting unit can 'share' a set of Addresses, but they will each naturally respond in an identical way.

If it's a simple, 4 channel unit (Channel 1 Red LED, Channel 2 Green LED, Channel 3 Blue LED & Channel 4 White LED) then the next lighting unit will start at 5 thru 8, the next unit at 9 thru 12 and so on. The units generally get daisy-chained together (DMX Out to DMX In) and each unit in the chain will only listen to the set of DMX commands which fall within it's assigned DMX range. Some moving heads get pretty complex - 16 DMX Channels or more for colours, dimmer, strobe, pan, tilt, zoom, gobo (pattern) etc.

The software and interface control which signals get sent down each of the 512 channels. So in the example above, sending a maximum value down Channel 1 will light the Red LED to it's fullest amount. Channel 3 will light the Blue LED and so on. This is the 'programming' element - you create 'Scenes' which are built up of various combinations of DMX values on whichever channels you want to use to control the functions on your lights. I have spent (no exaggeration) months programming complex scenes down the years - hundreds, if not thousands of hours as our rig has evolved and been rebuilt etc - it's not a simple task... although you can always opt for 'Automatic' mode or 'Sound-to-light', but it will look like a disco.

As you've already seen, the range of lights and prices is massive. As is often the case, don't buy the cheapest, but in your application, there's no need to spend €3,000 on each lighting unit either!
 

adew

Inspired
Clive,

Thanks so much for your detailed reply. (Great pics too!)

How far do you want to go..?
Ha ha! Good question. :)

The eight LED cans in the piccys (4 on each side of the stage) are super bright - 18x8w in each can - they shed some light!

The row of eight across the back (2 bars of 4) are moving head type units with 7 x 10w in each - still pretty bright and probably enough for most bar band situations. You may not want them to be able to move about as such, but no harm having that facility too, eh?
I've seen some examples of very effective use of a few moving head lights, either on the floor or on flight cases near the rear of the stage, that really add to the visual experience. Sounds like 18x8w is overkill and a smaller size, as you suggest, would be a better option.

The DMX protocol is an interesting one. You just need to get your head around the fact that you can send 512 different signals down the same piece of 2 core & screen cable... You assign each lighting unit a 'DMX Address' on the unit itself (unit 1 starting at DMX Address 1 for example) so theat each light knows what set of DMX commands it's supposed to responding to, or ignoring. Multiple instances of the same lighting unit can 'share' a set of Addresses, but they will each naturally respond in an identical way.

If it's a simple, 4 channel unit (Channel 1 Red LED, Channel 2 Green LED, Channel 3 Blue LED & Channel 4 White LED) then the next lighting unit will start at 5 thru 8, the next unit at 9 thru 12 and so on. The units generally get daisy-chained together (DMX Out to DMX In) and each unit in the chain will only listen to the set of DMX commands which fall within it's assigned DMX range. Some moving heads get pretty complex - 16 DMX Channels or more for colours, dimmer, strobe, pan, tilt, zoom, gobo (pattern) etc.

The software and interface control which signals get sent down each of the 512 channels. So in the example above, sending a maximum value down Channel 1 will light the Red LED to it's fullest amount. Channel 3 will light the Blue LED and so on. This is the 'programming' element - you create 'Scenes' which are built up of various combinations of DMX values on whichever channels you want to use to control the functions on your lights. I have spent (no exaggeration) months programming complex scenes down the years - hundreds, if not thousands of hours as our rig has evolved and been rebuilt etc - it's not a simple task... although you can always opt for 'Automatic' mode or 'Sound-to-light', but it will look like a disco.
Very useful! Thanks.

As you've already seen, the range of lights and prices is massive. As is often the case, don't buy the cheapest, but in your application, there's no need to spend €3,000 on each lighting unit either!
Sadly we don't have the budget for that. :) Any thoughts about more reasonably priced products such as these?

Eurolite TMH-9
Varytec Easy Move XS HP Wash 7x8W RGBW

What do use for an interface?

Thanks! Much appreciated.
 

mwd

Power User
I am on round 2 of designing lights and am going to apply some live and learn this go around. I'm going to simplify our show. We got a 15' triangle truss that raises on two stands. Going to put 3 pars on each side for wash, an LED spider and some other moving effect in the middle. A real small (and cheap) lazer also in the middle. Use some fog (DMXIS controlled) on the floor. Possibly add a second unit later as fog left, fog right. 2 pars behind our backdrop and 2 in front for blinders. Then 3 pars on each PA tree for front lighting.

In the front going to eliminate our front moving spot heads and also eliminated them in the rear. They cost big money and are a major pain in the butt. You get them programmed in your rehearsals only to have to realign them in your live show and frankly it's never right. You wind up with a spot hitting someone left or right or in the chest instead of the head. Moving lights = cool. Moving lights that must focus on a spot = PITA.

Floor lighting is a nice accent but if it's all you have you'll wind up looking like ghouls (which may be desirable depending on your genre'...lol).

I do have some bad news for you. Most of the lights that us poor folk can afford are chinese imports and they come with squat for instructions. You might find the dmxis library file to control them or you may have to write it. Secondly it is seriously, intensively, brutal programming your light show. I had a gazillion hours in 15 songs. So be prepared. Good news is once it's done, it's done.

Your control box would be DMXIS/Showbuddy (or similar product). It is the equivalent of a 512 channel mixer. Any given light will have so many channels. I have worked with 8 channel to 40 channel. Each channel performing a certain function for a certain color or effect. You will use this "mixer" to create a scene and save it as a preset. That preset could last 1 second. A given song could have 25, 50 or 100 presets. So it takes some time. Organization is key.

I'm adding a footnote about Showbuddy. As I stated I'm on round 2. We lost a member that owned the lights and laptop. I got a new (used) laptop, new DMXIS box, upgraded from 10.6 Snow Leopard to 10.10 Yosemite. Something is giving me fits with Showbuddy and my footswitch. I changed so many things at once I am now having to track it down. I suspect it is how Yosemite and Showbuddy are playing together as my hardware all appears well. Showbuddy has a new beta which I'm going to test as well as load a copy on my Windoze laptop to try and eliminate new OS issues.

I will let you know but I most definitely don't want to steer you wrong. It was solid as a rock on Snow Leopard but I had to update for my new Fractal editor and Mavericks and Yosemite definitely crapped out on a few issues.
 

UnsungHeroGuitars

Fractal Fanatic
Clive,

Thanks so much for your detailed reply. (Great pics too!)

No problem
thumbsup.gif




Any thoughts about more reasonably priced products such as these?

Eurolite TMH-9
Varytec Easy Move XS HP Wash 7x8W RGBW

Those are effectively the same unit in each of the two examples. Same spec and operation. Quad LED (RGBW) is the way to go these days, much better than just individual RGB LEDs that were the only option in the 'early days'.

They are also the same as the 8 which you see on the bars across the back of the stage in my piccys
smile.gif
I sourced ours from China - saved a few quid, but a couple went a bit squiffy early on (warranty etc is a nightmare when buying from there), but I did get them to send me a couple replacement boards FOC, but I've had to replace loads of the actual LED elements themselves... hence my informed advice not to but the cheapest you can find
mellow.gif


If you're buying via Thomann, they're a good company and will sort things for you if something goes south, so you won't go far wrong there
thumbsup.gif




What do use for an interface?

DMXIS software and hardware Interface / box
thumbsup.gif
 

solo-act

Fractal Fanatic
I have some LED pars, a couple Martin scanners and a Martin Acrobat (that needs repair).

I've run them off a tiny box the size of a couple decks of cards. I programmed dozens of scenes on a desktop app, and dumped them into the box. The box runs standalone, and I cue the scenes on a midi footswitch. One of these days I'll insert the scenes into the midi track that plays with my backing tracks so light are automated like axe-fx scenes are now.

The tiny box is discontinued, and requires a dongle for midi.
image.php


Newer version has midi built in and more features.
LanBox LCX - LanBox Products
LanBox-LCX_big.jpg

About $500US for the box. I can't speak for their editor anymore. Haven't used it for years. No complaints here. Their stuff has worked flawlessly since 2007. I only use it when a venue pays enough to set it up, though, which isn't often.
 

Muso4142

Member
This is a good read as i'm about to take delivery of a fairly simple lighting rig from Thomann.

I've used DMX before but as a simple sound to light/foot controlled affair.

It does sound very time consuming but I'm hoping to convince a friend to offer some help ! ha ha

Has anyone in europe used the Stairville DMX Joker system before?

Thanks \m/
 

warlockII

Power User
I've been thinking about buying the enttec pro MkII for DMX interface...anyone using one? If you were doing it again would you go with this unit or another?
Anyone have one for sale :encouragement:
 

mwd

Power User
I bought the Pro MKII to run visualizations with Capture Polar. It's a solid piece of equipment, worked as it should. High quality.

I was facing buying a new DMXIS box for Showbuddy and assumed I would just use it for that but was surprised that the box for SB is a bit proprietary. So I sold it on eBay to get the box SB calls for. It brought 175.00 like new in box.
 

adew

Inspired
In the front going to eliminate our front moving spot heads and also eliminated them in the rear. They cost big money and are a major pain in the butt. You get them programmed in your rehearsals only to have to realign them in your live show and frankly it's never right. You wind up with a spot hitting someone left or right or in the chest instead of the head. Moving lights = cool. Moving lights that must focus on a spot = PITA.
Good point, which I hadn't thought about.

Floor lighting is a nice accent but if it's all you have you'll wind up looking like ghouls (which may be desirable depending on your genre'...lol).
Ha ha! I see what you mean, but I have seen a couple of local bands using this kind of set up and they didn't look too ghoulish. (We're a little ghoulish ourselves, so no worries there, lol) Most of the places we play have some kind of overhead lighting, usually "fixed", so I'm really thinking about accents and visual effects.

I do have some bad news for you. Most of the lights that us poor folk can afford are chinese imports and they come with squat for instructions.
I suspected as much. However, for a band which isn't playing 200 dates a year I'm hoping we can skimp a little and get something effective, though certainly not best quality, for reasonable money.

Your control box would be DMXIS/Showbuddy (or similar product). It is the equivalent of a 512 channel mixer. Any given light will have so many channels. I have worked with 8 channel to 40 channel. Each channel performing a certain function for a certain color or effect. You will use this "mixer" to create a scene and save it as a preset. That preset could last 1 second. A given song could have 25, 50 or 100 presets. So it takes some time. Organization is key.
Got it. However, I still need a hardware interface to connect the Mac to the lights, yes?

I'm adding a footnote about Showbuddy. As I stated I'm on round 2. We lost a member that owned the lights and laptop. I got a new (used) laptop, new DMXIS box, upgraded from 10.6 Snow Leopard to 10.10 Yosemite. Something is giving me fits with Showbuddy and my footswitch. I changed so many things at once I am now having to track it down. I suspect it is how Yosemite and Showbuddy are playing together as my hardware all appears well. Showbuddy has a new beta which I'm going to test as well as load a copy on my Windoze laptop to try and eliminate new OS issues.
I'm running Mountain Lion and no immediate plans to go to Yosemite.

I will let you know but I most definitely don't want to steer you wrong.
Thanks. I appreciate it.
 

mwd

Power User
Adew, Showbuddy was rock solid pre-Maverick. I downloaded the new 1.5 beta last night and am liking what I see but will get to try it out tomorrow night. If by chance you get Showbuddy it is a 2-part system you will go to Enttec and buy this controller and DMXIS software then then get the Showbuddy software. Then get DMX cables and a 5 dollar terminator and start diving in.

Also I tried my best to stay with well known and American brands but looking at me on stage just doesn't justify spending 3200.00 on a light I can get for 200.00 so eBay, made in China...lol.

Update to Adew: All is good. Logic X update on my Macbook and iMac crapped out the Serial driver for Showbuddy/DMXIS. Had to re-do the USB fix. Took 5 seconds per unit when I figured out what was going on.
 
Last edited:

adew

Inspired
Update to Adew: All is good. Logic X update on my Macbook and iMac crapped out the Serial driver for Showbuddy/DMXIS. Had to re-do the USB fix. Took 5 seconds per unit when I figured out what was going on.
Good to know. Thanks!
 

DavezHear

Inspired
I'm also using DMXIS for a controller. I didn't go with show buddy though since it doesn't output midi only dmx and audio. So we are just using the DAW with the DMXIS plugin and it works great. Everything is handled by the DAW this way, lighting, backing tracks,click track and guide track to in-ears, program changes for the axe and drums. (no pedal dance for me). All triggered by a footswitch on the mfc.
 

mwd

Power User
Man DavezHear not only does ShowBuddy trigger MIDI but it does it better than any DAW I've ever come across.
 

kevinerror

Member
Here's my band's live lighting setup:


Two LED strips and two LED Par cans. The literal cheapest I could find. Those lights plus a USB -> DMX dongle for the laptop cost around $220 total. It's all preprogrammed stuff, midi -> QLC+ -> the lights. This video makes it look a lot more like just the primary colors (red, green, blue) but it's actually a lot more, lots of blending and such.
 

Eanna

Inspired
I've been thinking about buying the enttec pro MkII for DMX interface...anyone using one? If you were doing it again would you go with this unit or another?
Anyone have one for sale :encouragement:

Yea we used the enttec pro a while back with the 'Freestyler' application... Worked great on laptop... had a kick drum mic aux feed triggering the sound to light... Freestyler managed dimmers, Morpheus color changers on 1000w Par64s, a few Martin EFX series scanners, a bunch of LED pars etc... Used a Berhinger fcb1010 midi pedalboard to control everything I think... This was 5+ years ago, we thought it was great then, I'm sure its even better now...
 

dr bonkers

Fractal Fanatic
Vendor
This is what I get for looking at the forum with no glasses on.

At first I thought the name of this thread was DMX "Fighting" Systems... and I thought that the rapper DMX had conceived of his own martial arts discipline.

This thread's content is much better.
 

adew

Inspired
Here's my band's live lighting setup:

Two LED strips and two LED Par cans. The literal cheapest I could find. Those lights plus a USB -> DMX dongle for the laptop cost around $220 total. It's all preprogrammed stuff, midi -> QLC+ -> the lights. This video makes it look a lot more like just the primary colors (red, green, blue) but it's actually a lot more, lots of blending and such.
For a relatively simple set up, that looks really effective. Cool!
 

adew

Inspired
@mwd

I've been playing around with the Showbuddy demo and have watched their tutorial vids. However, it seems a bit of a performance to align MIDI chunk messages with the backing track. At least in a DAW there are bar/beat markers to help do this. Am I missing something, or is it always a matter of aligning by ear? If so, seems a lot of work. Having said that, there is a simplicity to the SB interface which is nice to work with, especially the MIDI chunk category/name system. Any tips re this bar/beat marker issue I'm having? Thanks!
 
Top Bottom