Light board vs. a DMX interface with a MacMini


Sep 19, 2010
South Korea
We are in the process of outfitting our new performing arts center (PAC). We've been asked to look at forgoing a light board in favor of a DMX interface with a Mac Mini to run lights all through software. We're looking at cost saving measures without sacrificing a quality product. This is for a high school PAC, not a professional house.

Any thoughts or red flags or suggestions? Thanks!


Resident Curmudgeon
Senior Team
Premium Member
Aug 21, 2007
Las Vegas, NV, USA
A dedicated control surface will always be preferable over a computer, keyboard, and mouse. What if you want to manually perform two actions at once (for example, take one set of lights down while bringing another set up)? Can't do that clicking and dragging a cursor on a screen. The approximately 4000 USD for an ETC Element or similar should be a very small portion of the budget for a well-equipped performing arts center.

Some threads to see:


Well-Known Member
Mar 20, 2004
Brooklyn, NY
Another issue with PC/laptop based lighting computers in a HS is the likelyhood for 1) The PC to get messed with 'cause somebody wants to load and play a video game, or 2) The laptop walks.

Dedicated control surfaces, as Derek stated are faster and easier to work with. Plus you get a training session, usually and when the desk has a problem you are not potentially stuck between the software company and the hardware company, while trying to get the lights running 1/2 hr to show.


Active Member
Jan 10, 2009
Thomasville, GA
i personally prefer DMX interfaces for our spaces. they're easy to learn and use, especially for high schoolers. however, that depends on your program. i like DasLight, but it's not compatible for a Mac. i really have yet to find one on Mac that i like.


Active Member
Jan 20, 2009
I like using MagicQ, it might be hard to learn at first but it works well. They sell a dmx to usb interface now, and you can find it here. I have not used it yet, but for the price I would pick one up just for backup. If u have the money for a board I would say go with the board.


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