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Cheap DMX cables using CAT5

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by gafftaper, Aug 1, 2007.

  1. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Theater Manager & T.D.
    Seattle, Washington
    First off I'm starting to feel like I need my own forum lately. Thanks everyone for your help.

    So a while back it was mentioned in another thread that you can use Cat5 cable for DMX lines without any problems. Just put a plug on the end and you are set.

    I wanted a little more clarification so I thought I would start this thread. Could somebody post a step by step description of what you need for cable and how you properly connect it?

    Also can you make 4 pin lines that have power in them with Cat5?

  2. soundlight

    soundlight Well-Known Member

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    NJ & NYC
    4-pin lines need the special 4-wire cable with the heavier gauge power run built in.

    And honestly, with your budget, gaff, get real DMX cable. It's much nicer to work with, easier to coil, and mates better with the XLR connectors. You're not going to need all that much DMX anyway, since you can have those nodes going out to your fixtures!
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2007
  3. Footer

    Footer Senior Team Senior Team Premium Member

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    Saratoga Springs, NY
    Well, technicly yes, enough to run scroller, no. Cat5 is usually a 22guage cable, you can run a control voltage through it but anything with any type of pull at all will melt it quick.

    As far as how to terminate it, I use the esta termination guide.

    Keep in mind that if you do this, get cable that is rated for out of wall use. You can get stranded cat 5 which will hold up much better. I have used standard cat5e plenum grad in a pinch, but it does not hold up to well to constant handling and bending. If you have a ton of free cable laying around its not a bad way to go. I used to work for a data-com installer as their warehouse manager, we through away all boxes of cable after a job that were not completely used, so i have a ton of cat 5 laying around. Keep in mind that it does not hold up as well but it will work exacly the same. In your situation were the cable won't ever leave the space, I think it will work fine. I won't be making a DMX snake for FOH runs any time soon.
  4. Sean

    Sean Active Member

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    Alexandria, VA
    There is a standard written for using INSTALL Cat-5 for DMX. That's in conduit. Not portable cable.

    First, you'd need shielded cable. It wouldn't be worth all the trouble--Cat-5 cable is very weak--put a ladder or dolly wheel on it once and it's dead.

    No, you need 14 gauge wire in Scroller cable for the 24vdc

    Seriously, don't even bother.

  5. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    North Wales PA

    I know people are doing it, and there are pages about doing it, but I say don't do it!!!!

    Now, if you ignore that advice at least use shielded Cat5e. One pair goes to pins 2&3, one pair goes to 4&5, and ALL remaining wires goes to pin 1 including the shield drain wire. Do not connect to the shell case. NEVER split or double up on the signal pairs! It doesn't work like power cables. You will be creating a RF resonant trap. If you are doing this to insure some future compatibility with Ethernet, then just pull the cat5 with your dmx cable and leave the cat5 disconnected. Cat5 is dirt cheap, but this should not be a motivator for using it instead of proper DMX cable. It's just too thin, has solid conductors, and the jacket is too fragile.
  6. BillESC

    BillESC Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Kilmarnock, VA
    Although more expensive, Duraflex DMX cable is the way you should go. Twisted pairs and double shielded.
  7. n1ist

    n1ist Well-Known Member

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    Malden MA
    Cat5 cable is internally paired 1x2, 3x6, 4x5, 7x8. The DMX standard puts the primary data pair on 1x2 and the secondary on 3x6 with 7x8 as ground. See USITT DMX512 FAQ

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