DMX, the signal we use to talk to our stage lights, requires the use of DMX cable so that everything works correctly and stays happy…or does it?
While it is important not to use mic cable for our DMX, we can run DMX signal over other types of cable designed for a digital signal as well – including network cable!
Using network cable can save you money because it is cheaper than DMX cable. It can run up to around 1000’ in a single run (read below), so if you’re under that length, you don’t need to use DMX cable (which is good for up to 3900′).
This makes it perfect for runs that are permanently installed because DMX cable can be expensive, and you don’t need the durability of a DMX cable for something that’s going to stay in the wall!
2 Main Ways to Run DMX Over Ethernet…
As we hit the “nuts and bolts” of making our DMX signal travel over ethernet, there are (2) primary ways to do it – via simple adapters, or via networked DMX.
The simplest way to run our DMX over ethernet is to literally use an adapter. These are easy to find, and allow you to run 1-4 universes over a single ethernet cable.
If you’re looking to wire this up yourself, here’s an excellent resource for all the technical info. It’s generally acceptable to run DMX over Cat5 or Cat6 cable for up to 1000′.
However, it’s important to remember that network signals can only travel 300′ – so if you go above that limit, label your cables carefully – computer networks will not work reliably at these lengths!
Simply plug these adapters in, and you’re good to go! Assuming your network cable is good, you’re ready to go! This is a great solution for permanent installations because bulk cable is so inexpensive and so simple to work with once you get the hang of it!
This isn’t a great idea for portable setups, as network cable rugged enough to last through setups and teardowns is generally more expensive than DMX cable…and that brings us to:
Protocols like Art-Net and sACN allow us to run many, many universes of DMX over a single network cable.
If your console supports it, you can carry a lot of data over a single cable – Like 65,000 universes a lot! This is a huge time and money saver when you’re running a lot of universes!
The downside to this is the cost.
Instead of simple adapters at both ends of the cable, you are literally sending the data over a standard computer network, and at the stage end, you’ll need a “node” to get your Art-Net or sACN back into regular DMX data.
Here is my full post with everything you need to begin with Art-Net and sACN: Learn more about Art-Net and sACN here!