What is DMX?

What is DMX?

SoundSwitch uses the DMX512 protocol to control lighting fixtures. We won't get into the technical side of things too deeply here, instead this article provides insights into DMX and how it relates to SoundSwitch.

Fixtures:

Firstly, a DMX fixture is any light, smoke machine or other device that is controlled by DMX. Every fixture has a different set of functions and be used in certain ways. For example, a typical LED wash light has controllable functions such as:

Intensity or brightness
Color
Strobe
Built in effects

Each of these functions is assigned a DMX control channel and SoundSwitch uses these channels to control the functions of the light, like those mentioned above.

Below is a channel setup for our example LED wash light (we will use this example throughout this article):

Channel 1 = Red
Channel 2 = Green
Channel 3 = Blue
Channel 4 = Intensity
Channel 5 = Strobe
Channel 6 = Built in Effects 

Our example light uses six channels but outside this example there are a number of different lighting fixtures that each have a range of features which use a corresponding amount of control channels; more features = more channels.

Interface:

SoundSwitch changes the way users interact with DMX. We have done a lot of work in the background to ensure that you don’t have to worry too much about DMX channels, faders or dimmers, however, it is a good idea to have a base understanding of DMX and the fixtures you will be working with. 

Setting the Fixture Address:

A Fixture Address lets SoundSwitch know where, in the 512 channels, the fixture is located and can be viewed as the starting point for the DMX channels used by a fixture. Using our example once more, the right place to set the Fixture Address on the fixture itself would be on channel 1; this being mirrored in SoundSwitch too.

Fixture Channels:

SoundSwitch supports up to 512 DMX Channels with every lighting fixture in your rig taking up some of these channels. For example, our example six-channel fixture will take up channels 1 through to 6. If you were then to add another identical fixture to your array it could then take up channels 7 through 12. You can keep going until all 512 channels are being used.

Arranging Fixture Addresses:

Fixture Addresses don’t have to be in order, just make sure the settings on the fixture match the settings in SoundSwitch. Further to this, it is important to ensure that fixtures don’t overlap. For example, if you set our example fixture to channel 1 (which uses 6 channels) you shouldn't set another identical fixture to channel 3 as the fixture channels would overlap. In this example, the next fixture should be set on channel 7 or higher.

A simple way to approach this is to set your Fixture Addresses every 10 channels as this makes things easy to remember, while avoiding any possible overlap.

For example:

Fixture 1 = Channel 1
Fixture 2 = Channel 10
Fixture 3 = Channel 20 

This may mean that some of your channels are not being used but that's ok. The only circumstance where it may be an issue is if you are working with a large lighting rig, with a lot of complex fixtures, that use all 512 channels. In this instance it would then be best to patch the fixtures closely together and in turn eliminate unused channels.

Setting the Fixture Address:

To set the address on the fixture the best place to start is the user manual. There are many different interfaces in market so there is no one stop shop for this part of the process. The manufacturers website or a Google search are also good ways to get at the right information; there is a lot of content available that can help you build up your understanding of how to set fixture addresses online.

Matching the Fixture Address in SoundSwitch:

Once you have set the address on your lighting fixture you need to match this inside Edit Mode. To do so firstly locate the fixture in the Fixture Library and drag and drop this into the workspace. You will see a new Fixture Track as been created and a new Fixture Menu will have popped up on the right hand side of the screen. Next, double click on the Fixture Menu to bring up the interface that allows you to input the DMX address. Enter the address that is the same as on the back of the fixture and hit 'Ok'. Now that these are aligned it's time to get creative.

Setup Tip: If you are using two of the same fixtures and would like to control them in exactly the same way, you can put them on the same Fixture Address i.e. you will not be able to control them independently. This is called “Hard Patching” and lets you control any number of the same fixture with a single Control Track.

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