A Primer on Wireless DMX

Over the past several decades wireless technology has left its mark in the field entertainment technology.  Examples of entertainment technology include:
•    Scenery fabrication
•    Properties
•    Costume
•    Lighting
•    Sound
•    Video
•    Show control
•    Automation
•    Animatronics
•    Interactive environments
•    Computer simulation
The reason for the growth in technology and popularity in entertainment technology has been due to the public’s desire to have a truly immersive experience be it in a theatre, at a play or at a concert.  One of the technologies that have aided this boon is wireless DMX.  Yet despite its rising importance in enhancing the public’s entertainment experience, many people are still not aware of what this DMX is.  So what is wireless DMX?  What are its uses?  What are its advantages over what preceded it?  Here is a primer for those who are new to the concept of wireless DMX.
What is Wireless DMX?
Wireless DMX is a communications protocol that was created as a common language for lighting controllers to speak to lighting devices – such as dimmers – without the use of data cables.  As wireless technologies have grown in other areas, DMX is now relatively inexpensive and used widely in stage productions, concerts and theatres.  The use of wireless DMX has been as varied as lighting used to illuminate the White House, the Pope and the rock group U2’s tours.  It was even used for the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics in 2012.

wireless DMX
Why use Wireless DMX?
Wireless DMX represents a revolution in lighting.  DMX controllers give the operator greater control and flexibility over older wired systems.  Wireless DMX is quicker, easier and more economic than the wired systems of the past.  (DMX cable costs $1.00 or more per foot.)  Additionally, wireless DMX is superior to RF control.  Next, wireless DMX allows for adaptive frequency hopping which picks out only open radio frequencies to broadcast on (thereby not interfering with other signals.)  Lastly, DMX has already become nearly universally accepted as the communication protocol among lighting professionals.  Anyone who still uses cables is resisting an advancing technology that will only grow in the future making entertainment venues more immersive.  In short, wireless DMX is the future and the future is here.  Because of this, we sell dimmers, wireless DMX receivers, controllers and other devices that lighting professionals have come to rely upon.

Concert Lighting and other Outdoor Venues

Over the past several decades concert goers have witnessed a revolution in the use of lighting effects.  Gone are the days when concert lighting served just to illustrate the performer(s).  Gone are the days when several bland spotlights – all subject to overheating and exploding at any moment – shined on the performers serving no other part in the show.  Today, some of the most spectacular displays of lighting meant to enhance and create a mood are those that are seen at all kinds of concerts.

The Disco Biscuits - City Bisco - 10/5/12 - The Mann Center for the Performing Arts - Philadelphia, PA - Photo © Dave Vann 2012

The Disco Biscuits – City Bisco – 10/5/12 – The Mann Center for the Performing Arts – Philadelphia, PA – Photo © Dave Vann 2012

Performers from Paul McCartney to Beyonce recognize that there is the expectation that spectacular lighting and well coordinated light shows will be as much a part of their shows as is their music.  These varied artists recognize how lighting can heighten emotions, set moods and enhance the concert going experience.  Thus, the job of the lighting crew is a complicated one.  They must coordinate and confer with every member of the production including the artist him or herself.  With the use of computers systems, dimmers, etc., they must perfectly time their displays to coincide with each song and even with each passage in each song.

However, this transition from the staid lighting of the past did not come about by accident.  Music artists learned about the role lighting plays in creating, enhancing and sustaining a mood from lighting that is used in the theatre.  Technicians who work on theatre productions have duties as varied as:

  • Studying the script and consulting with the directors to assess what lighting is required
  • Discussing production requirements with the camera operator
  • Selecting lights and equipment to be used and organizing additional equipment
  • Setting up, focusing and operating light fixtures and equipment
  • Controlling consoles and auxiliary equipment
  • Choosing and combining colors to achieve the desired effect

All of these duties and more have been adopted by the lighting teams that work on concerts and other outdoor venues where the challenges posed are much more daunting.  This is why concert lighting relies so heavily on dependable, sturdy equipment, computers and software.  There equipment such as wireless dimmers and technologies like wireless DMX are indispensible.  At Ratpac Dimmers we have equipment for sale and for rent that is used by professionals in many industries.  These professionals have come to rely on our experience and professionalism.  They recognize the essential role lighting plays in theatre, concerts and other areas of entertainment.