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DMX devices

   

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Below are listed some common DMX512 devices, as well as uncommon ones such as laser projectors. Although DMX is the official laser projector control standard of the International Laser Display Association, there are as yet few laser projectors which meet this standard. If you are shopping for a laser projector, or building one, it is preferable to have a laser projector with DMX-controlled devices.
     Since a laser projector can be considered as a special case of an intelligent lighting fixture, we'll cover the more common DMX devices first, and end with a discussion of DMX use with laser projectors.

DMX dimmer packs

Leprecon 340/360 dimmer packsUsually you buy lighting dimmers as modules called dimmer packs that have a fixed number of AC outlets that you plug the light bulbs into. For example, the Leprecon model LD-360-DMX dimmer pack has six duplex AC receptacles that lights can be plugged into. The dimmer pack also has input and output connections for the DMX link. Usually the DMX data link connection is facilitated through a 5-pin XLR connector and standard microphone cable.
        The DMX dimmer pack will also have rotary or dip switches to set the "start address". The start address is used to designate which six channels within the 512 possible are used by the dimmer pack. If the start address is set to 1, then the dimmer pack responds to channels 1 through 6. If the start address is set to 9, the dimmer pack responds to channels 9 through 14.

DMX-to-analog converters

Similar to DMX dimmer packs, you can also find DMX-to-analog converters. These are very similar to dimmer packs in that they have a fixed number of output channels, usually between 10 and 32 per converter. The difference is that instead of the output being in the form of AC receptacles, the output is in the form of a DC voltage. Most DMX-to-analog converters have a jumper or potentiometer where you can adjust the output voltage range from 0 to 5V up to 0 to 10V. A DMX channel value of 0 will output 0 volts and a channel value of 255 will output the maximum DC voltage (between 5V and 10V).

DMX-to-TTL and DMX-to-relay converters

In addition to DMX dimmer packs and DMX-to-analog converters, you can also find DMX-to-TTL and DMX-to-relay converters. These are basically the same as the DMX-to-analog converters, but instead of outputting and analog voltage between 0V and 10V, they output only TTL-compatible voltage levels or a relay closure. Because analog signal conditioning is not required, these may offer more channels at a lower price than the equivalent DMX-to-analog converter.
        For DMX-to-TTL converters, a DMX channel value of 0 will result in an output of 0.0 to 0.8 volts (TTL Low) while a DMX channel value of 255 will result in an output of 2.4 to 5.0 volts (TTL High). Depending on how the DMX-to-TTL converter is programmed to operate, in between DMX channel values will result in either a TTL High or TTL Low. See the user's manual of the DMX-to-TTL converter for details about in-between channel values.
        For DMX-to-relay converters, you should consult the manual for details about how the channel values are interpreted as far as relay closure and opening.

Intelligent lighting fixtures

Cyberlight fixture from High End SystemsIn addition to controlling the brightness level of single light bulbs or the voltage of single analog outputs, DMX512 can also be used to control intelligent lighting fixtures like the Cyberlight and Technobeam from High End Systems and the Goldenscan from Clay Paky.
        These intelligent lighting fixtures use a number of DMX channels to control not only the brightness of the outgoing light, but also the color, focus, beam shape and other parameters of the lighting fixture. Like the dimmer pack, which had a rotary switch to designate the starting channel, these light fixtures also have some way of designating the starting channel number that they respond to. Also like the dimmer pack, a single channel is used to control a single function such as lamp brightness, focus, gobo wheel select, gobo wheel rotation speed, etc.
        Below you will see a DMX channel map of a hypothetical intelligent lighting fixture, along with some comments about how each channel is used:

  • Channel 1: Iris control  This controls the iris aperture diameter within the lighting fixture. A value of 0 indicates that the aperture should be fully closed while a value of 255 indicates that the aperture should be fully open.

  • Channel 2: Color wheel position  This controls a color wheel within the intelligent lighting fixture. The color wheel has colored glass disks around its periphery that can be directed in front of the light beam to change the color of the outgoing light. Usually there are 6 or 8 colored glass disks in the color wheel. A value of 0 indicates "clear" glass and the output color should be white. As the value increases from 0 to 255, the color wheel will rotate and different colored glass disks will pass in front of the light making it a different color. It is possible to be between two glass disks to derive a mixture of the two colors.

  • Channel 3: Frost effect control  Most intelligent lighting fixtures have elements that can control the appearance of the light. In this hypothetical lighting fixture, frost can be used to soften or blur the outgoing light. A value of 0 indicates that the frost filter is completely removed from the beam and the edge of the light is very hard. A value of 255 indicates that the frost filter is fully inserted and the edge of the light is very soft.

  • Channel 4: Lamp dimmer  This works just like the standard lamp dimmer in the dimmer pack example. The difference is that it is accomplished with a mechanical shutter rather than actually controlling the voltage to the lamp filament. A value of 0 indicates that no light should be output while a value of 255 means that the full amount of light should be output.

  • Channel 5: Pan  This controls a moving mirror on the front of the lighting fixture to position the light beam. Panning action is accomplished by rotating a mirror about the axis of the lighting fixture. This is analogous to the X position of a laser beam.

  • Channel 6: Tilt  This controls the same exact mirror that Pan controls, but it controls a different motor that tilts the mirror rather than rotating it. This is analogous to the Y position of a laser beam.

DMX use with laser projectors

DMX512 can be used to control various laser projector functions, just as it was used to control lamp brightness levels, voltage levels, panning and tilting and other things. To do this, the laser projector would need to have a DMX-to-analog or DMX-to-TTL converter within the projector. This converter would then be connected such that it can control various laser projector functions such as:

  • Beam actuators that can fade beam positions

  • Shutters and filters that can gradually occlude the beam

  • Lumia motor speed

  • Rotating diffraction grating selection

  • Rotating diffraction grating speed

DMX-to-analog converters would be preferable if your beam actuators and shutters are capable of "analog" motion so that if they were moved half way into the beam, you would get half of the light. Some beam actuators only have two positions - in the beam and out of the beam. In this case, either a DMX-to-analog or DMX-to-TTL converter could be used with essentially the same result.

Resources

  • Wireless DMX (from a May 2000 Laserist List posting by Mark Reilly of TTL Lasershows): "RadioDMX from a company called Interactive Technologies. It uses digital spread spectrum technology centered around 2.4GHz to transmit the complete 512-channel DMX signal. With the standard antenna it is supposed to be able to transmit 3500 feet with a line of sight (across a river in my case). Its fairly expensive at around $7,000 for two transceivers but I found a lighting rental house that will rent it for a week."

  • DMX testing and other devices from...
         -- Interactive Technologies: "Our Product Line of DMX-512 stage lighting controls includes the award-winning RadioDMX Wireless DMX Distribution System, the all new DMX/Flex Modular DMX Processing and Distribution System, the highly acclaimed MicroTech DMX Handheld Remote Focus and Troubleshooting Tool and many other related Interfaces, DMX Accessories and handy stage Widgets. Also check out our information on our Customized products for your unique applications."
         -- Doug Fleenor Design: "A manufacturer of DMX512 distribution and interface equipment for the entertainment industry. A long and growing list of standard products is supplemented by a custom design service which provides solutions to unique problems. Started in 1990 by principal engineer Doug Fleenor, the company has established itself as a leader in DMX512 technology."

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  This page last updated: Wednesday, Januari 29, 2020

 
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