Control/Dimming How to Learn DMX?

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by ship, Aug 16, 2019 at 12:15 AM.

  1. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    So I have around 13.5 years until I can retire by normal expectations. (As told by a friend, really retire.. no probably not afford it.) So far in my lighting career, I have gotten by without learning how to code DMX or use modern light boards. Sure I understand the concept(s) and protocol for how it's done... but I have guys to actually do it.

    As I normally say... It's post 1979 technology, and not my field of study (even if I do LED's by them forced on me.)

    That same friend offered me more education in lighting which could help my pay rate getting above steady and into something else in training/pay grade which would help with retirement. At first.. no I'm fine in glide path to retirement, but now in thinking about it... I should learn and engage in learning financially and personally. Become vibrant in doing what I do with new things as opposed to just doing what I do now board.

    Good faith on my part, first to personally understand the what is simple binary code in learning to program DMX. Any advice in reading/learning it? Next to start learning modern light boards which I'm sure I could learn from work by way of sitting down in the console cage and being taught.

    As opposed to counting down my days until I retire, given a easy glide path to that... time to go to school again in trying to catch up in technology with the hope of advancing to my possibilities in being useful for more than what I am already. 13.5 years to further advance my career, and beyond... yea, won't retire anyway.

    So what do I need to read best on line to learn this coding of DMX given from a mechanical standpoint I already know it, and have read DMX Protocal a few years ago in surfing over what I didn't need to understand. Back to it, or website to read?

    What else to read in catching up with the Ethernet versions of DMX - understand how/why it works, limitations or benefits, but gets over my head once it gets into fiber etc. in details that I now need to understand in that push to learn and advance in the last stages of my career.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019 at 12:25 AM
  2. Crisp image

    Crisp image Well-Known Member

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    Do you really need to learn coding? Or just understand how the new fixtures use multilpe DMX addresses for one fixture.
    If I understand you, I think you should understand that fixtures will use more than one address of DMX but to program that fixture is as simple as selecting the fixture profile on the console and patching.
    If you are using ETC products then have a look on Youtube as they have just released the latest videos for Ver 2.8 software. They are great and also have workbooks to go with them.
    Other Manufacturers have offline software so you can learn the software and how it works without being in front of a rig.
    Lastly get in front of a console and have some lights attached (even if they are cheap Ebay ones) and play. Make mistakes, discover ways to do stuff and ask questions here and on other forums.Lots of people will help you out.
    I am only learning myself and have about 15 years to retirement. It is an exciting new world out there for you and I.
    I must go now so I can bump in Aladdin Jr for which I built the sets and am also lighting for our local Community Youth Theater group.
    Enjoy the journey
    Regards
    Geoff
     
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  3. TimMc

    TimMc Well-Known Member

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    Learn the fundamentals of TCP/IP packet switched networks. It's what makes the Intertoobs work, it makes the office network work, and it's the way bulky lighting data (and increasingly, digital audio) gets moved around. These networks run much faster than DMX which makes multiplexing data fairly straight forward. The good news is that multiplexing is a mostly appliance-level task these days and new fixtures have network ports built in. Convenient, but you still need to know how the network works.

    @Crisp image is spot on about using visualizers, off line editors and also camping out with a console until you can make it do tricks. Nothing replaces button pushing and mouse pointing for yourself.

    I'm a lot closer to retirement than you and I'm starting to coast a bit. I try to keep up with the stuff I think I know but acquiring fully fresh and new skills does not have the attraction it held 5 or 6 years ago. As my primary skills are in audio it's fun to watch how LX has taken off and now is symbiosing with VDO; we've nothing similar in audio other than those digital networks taking over our signal distribution.
     
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  4. abbyt

    abbyt Active Member

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    Hoping this isn't too simplified, but here's an analogy:

    Think of each DMX address as a person in a house.

    Each house is a DMX controllable lighting fixture. (Each house also has a street address or DMX start address. Each individual resident takes up 1 address space.)

    Each member of the household can control one property or attribute of that fixture. Some houses may have only one resident, and some may have dozens and dozens. More on this in a bit.

    Each house is located on a street, which you can equate to a DMX universe. You can have as many houses on that street, limited only by a top cap of 512 residents spread throughout those houses.

    A single DMX run can only accommodate one street's worth of houses. If you want to talk to residents on another street, you need another wire/universe.

    Now here's where things get fun...let's add in modern day networking!

    If you're using the sACN protocol, and the appropriate network gear and has the proper settings, you can direct 63,999 universes down a wire. (If you're using ArtNet, depending on a few variables, I believe that number is 32,768.)

    Ok, now on to control.

    In modern day lighting consoles, manufacturers have countless different ways to talk to the residents in the various houses, but most of them operate as follows:

    Let's say house #1 is just a single dimmer. It is street address #1. You can map the console to talk to "resident #1 on Street A", or address 1 on Universe 1).

    To make things a little more exciting, let's say house #2 has a street address of 11 and 3 residents reside there. We'll call this an RGB LED. We still want our modern day console up think of this as control over the whole house, but with the ability to control what each resident is doing within this house. So, in most consoles, there exists a library of sorts. You would go into the library and find the manufacturer and model of your fixture and tell it to map to a given channel of the console. Let's say 101. (Forgot to mention this house is on B street). So we tell the console we want to patch fixture X model y, starting address 11, universe 2 (because we're now on B street). At this point the console understands that mfr x model y has 3 attributes you need to control. (Behind the scenes, since the starting address of the fixture is 11, then the console maps address 11, red, address 12, green, and address 13, blue, so you can control these from channel 101. You would then select channel 101 on your console, and it would give you the option to control each color separately (as a sort of sub-control under the main channel's purview, if you will).

    Beyond this, you would then "paint your picture" on the stage, and save that into some kind of cue, scene, memory, preset, palette, etc for later recall. At this point, the way each console handles this is so vast that it's a bit hard to simplify.

    I hope I've helped, instead of muddied the waters.

    If you have different or more specific questions, I'm happy to help with those.
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019 at 3:30 AM
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  5. Rob

    Rob Well-Known Member

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    Beyond 0-255 and all that, it may be interesting to know how modern consoles deal with the front end vs the zero's and ones. I was looking for a white paper I wrote 15 years ago and actually found this thread from 2011. An updated version of this paper is on our website.
     
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  6. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Thanks all in will read and study as with getting back and re-reading Protocal.
     
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  7. RickR

    RickR Well-Known Member

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    I'd take it back to goals. What do you want to do regarding DMX? Build fixtures, run shows, install systems, invent new gadgets?

    I concur with TimMc. Basic networking is the bleeding edge today, but will soon be mandatory! Everyone on CB should know how to hook up a few devices and troubleshoot IP addresses. Can you connect your phone to a hidden SSID with a static IP?
     
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  8. JChenault

    JChenault Well-Known Member

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    Ship

    When I teach classes in Computer Science, I always tell the students to be sure they understand the business problem they are trying to solve.

    In that vein I must say that I don’t understand what you mean by “Code DMX

    Are you trying to learn how to set up rigs that use DMX ( say multiple universes on ACN)?
    Are you trying to understand how lighting consoles think?
    Do you want to build devices that listen to DMX signals and do something useful?
    Do you want to write software code that spits out appropriate DMX values ( IE write a control console)


    Each of these ( and more ) are very different questions. What is the problem you are trying to solve

    Wrote this last night but did not post

    RickR said it more succinctly
     
  9. StradivariusBone

    StradivariusBone Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    I second what has been said thus far and echo what @JChenault just said. I start my kids out on the basics of DMX is the language that communicates from the controller to the lighting rig and how it does that, but only to the degree that they understand how to hook up a new fixture to the network and that it needs a unique ID and possibly a range of addresses in order to work. After that it's practical experience in using our lighting controller software. They learn first how to just turn the lights on and then move on to things like running meetings and the ones that get really serious will learn how to program a show.

    If you're looking for a project to learn on, messing around the the Arduino DMX stuff is pretty cool. I built an arduino shield (hardware attachment) that can output DMX from the arduino and learned to code it to operate from two faders. I put it into the wall to replace the dead architectural controller we have. I learned quite a bit about DMX and the RS-485 serial data protocol it runs on. I can share more about that project if you think it'd help.

    For the record, I'm about 18 years out from retirement myself. Getting a little closer every day lol!
     
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  10. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Thanks on the further, and the education of me started again today for the first time since 97' or 98'. Business purposes: ETC Color Source fixtures with Element and Color source light board on a few projects I will be helping to install. Gets me more focused in their study and from above in having learned and even asked further questions about RDM today. This amongst reading the manual on the fixture and watched the light board video.

    Sure, much went over my head. More about so many options - but it's similar concepts from in the 90's_, and the lights are in stock to learn from, and the board is similar to concepts to Lite Pallet III and or Vision. Learning a lot, but a slow learner so I will re-view a lot and probably get the light board in sooner than later so as to learn from with various lights hooked up. A week or two to study and even play test.

    I feel stoked about learning new stuff, or at least refreshing what I could do 20 years ago - this easier I might note... at least once I learn the much harder systems better. Sill have to further review the 20x bump buttons in questions like what if bump buttons are from the first ten.... details to learn which are probably simple. Thanks above, keep it coming and I will also study it and below... Intent isn't to go on the road, but perhaps to help in setting up some studio or scenes for a rep plot.

    Mostly, if I'm off the ladder as installer to the extent I can be on it this year. Need to be light board available. Tore 3/4's of the tendons from my right bicept in Feburary. Got all of them cut and re-assembled with Kellems grip and bolt anchor'd into the bone early in June by way of surgery. Been expidited in healing well since and am literally off physical theripy with a 20oz hammer to excercise with.... I can do this install.... But I am no longer or for now full strength, and in addition to retirement at some point, I need a further skill level to make up for my injury. This for being the best person to take with on-site. Adventure. Thanks again. I am learning new stuff daily... Hopefully this week I can catch up with my Wife in light board ability to run:) I really am out of step, but do at least understand the fundimentals. TBA... screwing with Wife's light board...
     
    Last edited: Aug 20, 2019 at 12:05 AM
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  11. Ford

    Ford Sr Product Manager, Chauvet Professional

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    Hi Ship,
    From everything I know about you, you're a pretty smart person. You give good advice.

    That said... I agree with what @JChenault and others said above.

    You don't need to understand how to engineer an automatic transmission to drive a car. you only need to understand the interface... and maybe have a rough idea of what's happening in the transmission (but not really).

    Running a modern lighting console can be both intimidating, and (with a little practice) SUPER Refreshing, liberating, and a nice way to earn a little extra scratch.
    The ETC syntax is pretty easy to understand, but I would also consider learning a more "moving-light friendly" console, like ChamSys, or MA.
    ChamSys software can be downloaded for free (and gives you 64 universes via artnet...again, free). They also offer a free visualizer that can be used as a learning/teaching tool. Learning on something like this can be a great (and low-cost) way to understand the fundamentals of presets, palettes, Patching and the difference between Live and Blind, and Cues, Chases, and Effects.
    There are a ton of resources for learning how these consoles "think", and once you understand one of them (and have a few friends on speed-dial), you will be able to figure out the others. Please PM me, if you'd like me to reach out to our training team to see when a Beginning ChamSys training will be in your area.
    Or... tell me if you're going to be at a tradeshow, and I'll see about getting you into one of our classes.

    -Ford
     
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  12. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    Thanks. Will look into it in training. As for trade shows... no/na, I don't get sent and kind of like if not on an install 9:5 life when not at home inventing stuff for home or work. TBA getting back to a large backlogue of antique lights to restore. I can do this education - included with understanding as presented ArtNet.... Thanks!

    Dropped a ColorSource fixture during a mockup for customer in how they would mount to building (snow) truss roof. Possibly the first fixture I ever dropped in at least 20++ years or ever. Granted I was trying to spin it for gel frame latch front with Unistrut mount. Dislike Unistrut mounts for fixtures. Interesting that the fall/break point was at the yoke mount to one side of the light - a 1/4-20 bolt - which seemingly did serious damage to that side of the fixture.. Probably need a whole new frame to the fixture, but nothing rattled inside at least in about a 10' drop test as it were.

    Something to be more careful of during the install given Unistrut nut spinning of the fixture for the up side.. before safety cable. Middle finger appropriate in the jokes that followed from the repair department... Lesson learned to be more careful.
     
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  13. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    That right there, @ship is the difference. If DMX drops a frame it's no big deal as there'll be another along in 1/44 of a second or so, but drop a fixture and everyone points, laughs, and shames at you.

    Would love to be there when you tell xxxxx, "Hey can you teach me the gMA3?
    Preferably by lunch, but I can take the whole day if you think you'll need it."
     
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