Stage lighting effects have gradually gone from great to unbelievably amazing in the span of a couple of decades. And it is not just stage lighting, but also the dramatic lighting effects in night clubs, on billboards, and in sports arenas.
And the secret behind these easily implemented, attractive, lighting effects?
Digital Multiplex Systems.
DMX512, or DMX as it is commonly known as, is a standard for digital communication networks commonly used in stage lighting and effects.
What’s really interesting, however, is how DMX lighting technology is currently being applied in homes, particularly home theaters. You can have a projection system and tiered seating, but once you add specialty rope lighting, you elevate your space from a place where you go to watch movies, to a true in-home version of a movie theater.
DMX lighting can even be used to connect multiple low voltage lights in, say a kitchen. It’s applications extend well beyond flashy lighting effects, and can be used far more practically to create different lighting scenes that you can adjust based on things like time of day or ambient light. Even household Christmas lighting has progressively become better and easier to design and program through DMX technology.
So let’s break down what makes DMX lighting special, the advantages it has over analog systems, and how you can use it in your home.
Parts of a DMX system
Simply speaking, a DMX system has four basic parts:
● Controller: To create the signal, or initiate the communication
● Cable: To carry the signal to the light fixtures or dimmer packs
● Light fixtures/Dimmer packs: To control the brightness to the lights
● Lights: The actual lights
These four components work in tandem to produce the desired light effects.
Analog vs. DMX systems
Gone are the days when each and every light fixture had to have its own dedicated wire. A DMX system can control up to 512 channels. In its simplest form, each channel can be said to correspond to one light. So, again in its simplest form, a DMX system can control 512 lights all at once!
Compare this to the conventional analog systems wherein, to control each light fixture, it has to have its own dedicated wire. Additionally, with an analog system, other than simple on-off, the only other controllable feature is the intensity of the lights.
Analog system controllers are manual. Every light fixture or dimmer needs to be manually adjusted to perform as required. For larger, complicated projects, the number of wires coming into the analog controller is high. The system becomes hard and cumbersome to operate manually. On the other hand, a DMX system has fewer wires and can be automated and operated using a laptop.
When used together with Automated or Intelligent Light Fixtures, the DMX system becomes truly powerful. This combination allows control over features like intensity, pan, tilt, and zoom of individual lights.
Benefits of DMX systems
From large, complex commercial lighting, to small, yet intricate, household lighting projects, there are several benefits of using DMX systems.
● Intelligent lights: DMX systems work with intelligent lights which can be programmed to change color, move or even change the pattern. This is particularly useful in the home theater setting to not only impress, but also have the versatility to change the mood or theme of the room.
● Energy efficient: The DMX system functions on low voltage, making it an energy efficient option.
● Ease of use: The DMX system communicates via digital signals. A large number of light fixtures can be easily controlled using a laptop.
● Ease of integration: DMX systems are easy to integrate within an already existing system of lighting. That means you can integrate the lighting with your smart home and program lighting scenes that assist in making your home more energy efficient.
● Programmable lighting: Complex light shows can be easily programmed using a DMX system. The level of control over various aspects of lighting like intensity, color, angle or pan, and even pattern of light, ensures that an impressive show can be put together and controlled from a laptop.
DMX systems have become the norm in commercial lighting for a reason. The exciting part is that we’re really only beginning to see its potential for residential use. The applications for intelligent lighting in the era of smart homes are seemingly endless.