One of the first things that you need to do when you get a new light out of the box is to give it a DMX address.
What is a DMX Address?
The DMX address is the place in the 512 available DMX addresses where the light will start responding to DMX.
If the light is a simple, 1-channel fixture, then the DMX address will be the only channel it uses. But, if it is a multi-channel fixture it may use anywhere up to the full 512 channels after the start address.
How Do You Set a DMX Address?
The first step to set an address is to determine what the starting DMX address of the light is going to be.
Determining Your Addresses
Most modern software packages and/or consoles are designed to first “patch” your lights before you do anything else. This allows you to select what type of lights you have, and assign the addresses inside the console or software.
If your lights are simple LED lights with intensity levels for each color across 3-7 channels, you’ll likely find these in your console under “Generic” and then a name like “RGB” or “RGBWAUV”. They may not be available under the brand name that you bought from and that’s okay! DMX doesn’t care as long as it receives the right data!
Once you’re patched, you can then print, copy, or take a picture of that patch screen to set your addresses.
If however, you’re on a simpler, fader-based console you may not have the ability to patch. In that case, each fader is permanently assigned to a DMX channel, and they are usually labeled 1 thru however many channels your console supports.
Simple, DJ-style consoles like the Chauvet Obey 40 or 70 also prepatch the “fixtures” in groups of 16 channels each. If you’ve got a console like that, be sure to check the manual for the starting address of each light.
No matter what type of console you have, it’s now time to set you addresses on your lights themselves.
Setting The Address with LCD Screens
Most modern lights have LCD screens to set the DMX address. These are great because you can get a readout of the address, and set up other settings from within the menu.
Some lights even have battery backups so that the light doesn’t need to be plugged in to set an address, and they have touch screens to make it quick!
Whatever the case, the set the DMX address, you’ll want to navigate in the menu until you find the address setting for DMX.
Every light is different, so be sure to consult your manual if you are having trouble finding the correct menu to set the address.
While you’re there, you’ll also want to go into the menu and verify that the mode is set correctly as well. Modern fixtures often have at least a few different modes, and it is important to choose the mode that matches what you patched in your console.
Setting The Address with Dip Switches
Dimmer packs or older/inexpensive fixtures sometimes have “dip switches” on them to set the DMX address.
If you have dip switches, you’ll need to do a little math or use an app.
You’ll see these little switches, labeled with an “ON” position, and then each switch has a number with it. These numbers are 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128 and 256 – this is called the binary system.
In order to set an address, you add up all of the ON switches, and that’s where the dimmer or fixture is addressed to.
Notice that I have highlighted the (9) switches that make a DMX address. Many lights also have a 10th switch that sets the light into DMX mode.
If you are starting from scratch, begin by turning on the switch closest to, but below the number you want.
Then, figure out the difference via subtraction, and turn on the closest switch to that. Keep repeating this step until you have the number you desire.
For example: say we want to address a dimmer at 36. We would then turn on the switch labeled 32. The difference left over is 4, so we’d then turn on the switch labeled 4, and the dimmer would be patched correctly. Check that you did it properly before you put away your lifts or scaffolding.
If you have to do this a lot, the math will quickly become second nature! If not, download a DMX address app or find an online calculator – there are many out there, and they make the work simple!
Test and Enjoy Your Lights
Once you’ve gotten everything addressed, do not forget to test your lights from the console!
This will allow you to see if everything is working as intended, or if you made a mistake or have a mismatch somewhere.