In this article, we’re going to go over the basic data connectors in stage lighting, and end all of the confusion between whether DMX is 3 pin, or 5 pin! If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just keep reading, I promise it won’t be over your head.
Lighting Today Has Many Forms of Data
DMX, Art-Net, Kling-Net, Console networking, and more!
Thankfully, there are only a few that we really need to pay attention to, and these basic types of data will give us the knowledge to cable up 90% of lighting rigs out there.
So, walking into an average light rig, you’re going to see:
- DMX 3 Pin Cables
- DMX 5 Pin Cables
- 4 Pin Scroller and ColorBlast Cable
- Ethernet and EtherCon Network Cables
Data is thankfully much more simple than the world of power!
DMX – Is it 3 Pin or 5 Pin?
There seems to be a ton of confusion in the world whether or not DMX is transmitted via a 3 Pin or a 5 Pin XLR cable. Some people say that true DMX is 5 Pin. Meanwhile, others say that it only uses 3 of the Pins anyways.
So who’s right?
They are both right. While the DMX512 specification calls for 5 pin DMX cable, it only uses 3 of the Pins for data transmission. The original standard did this to leave room for future expansion and also to differentiate DMX cable from microphone cable, which also uses the 3 Pin XLR.
Nevertheless, most 5 Pin cables out on the market today only have 3 pins of wire inside them, and many lighting fixtures have 3 pin and 5 pin connectors. I talk about this more in depth here.
4 Pin Scroller and ColorBlast Cable
While 3 Pin and 5 Pin DMX cable is very common, another XLR you might see out there is the 4 pin cable used for scrollers and LED ColorBlasts.
These 4 Pin cables take the output of a power supply and send a proprietary signal to the LED lights or color scrollers. If you don’t know what a scroller is, don’t worry…they’re not all that common anymore!
4 Pin cables connect together just like 3 and 5 Pin XLR’s, so it’s easy to confuse them in the field. And every time these cables seem to become obsolete, another manufacturer comes in and builds a new light that uses them!
Ethernet and EtherCon ArtNet & Other Nets
The last type of data cable you may see “out in the wild” is the good ‘ole Ethernet cable. This is the common cable that delivers internet to your computer, and has non-internet uses in the entertainment business.
The most common non-internet data you’ll see running down Ethernet is Art-Net or sACN. This allows you to send large amounts of DMX universes of data shooting down 1 cable, and gets very useful when you are working with large lighting rigs!