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Tech Talk – DMX: Channels and Universes

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In our last Tech talk, we went over some of our new terminology for our LED Neon Flex fixtures. We thought we would continue with this and take a look at some other terms commonly used when working with our fixtures! This week we’re going to discuss what Channels and Universes are when working with DMX programming.

What is DMX?

dmx channels and universes

DMX is a standard for digital communication networks. In other words, it is a method of communication used to tell electronic devices which actions to perform.
We use it to control the lighting effects our fixtures can create, but it is capable of controlling much more than lighting. All of our fixtures are DMX compatible, and can be integrated into pre-existing systems!

During this post, we’re going to be referring to how DMX works with our fixtures specifically. The information below may not apply the same to other devices.

What are channels?

With our fixtures, a channel refers to the color an LED outputs. For example, a Vivid RGB fixture consists of 3 channels: R (red), G (green) and B (blue). Using a DMX controller, we have the ability to control the output of these channels. This way, we can create highly custom color combinations.

Vivid RGB fixtures are fairly simple as far as control schemes go. You can only program the entire fixture at once, so each RGB fixture only needs 3 channels to allow you to control the colors. Because of this, Dimwheels and other simple controllers are usually enough for smaller projects. The more Vivid RGB fixtures you have, the more channels you’ll need to be able to control, but we’ll talk about that more in the “Universes” section.

Vivid Pixel fixtures are a bit more complicated. With these fixtures, you have control over the color of each cutting unit. Because of this, each cutting unit takes up 3 channels in your control scheme. So then, if your fixture has 10 cutting units you will need to be able to control 30 channels (10 cutting units x 3 channels (r, g, b) = 30 channels). This can add up quickly and is why Pixel fixtures require more complicated controllers such as a SLESA or DiGidot.

Vivid Pixel fixtures with an RGBW circuit board require 4 channels to control each cutting unit: R (red), G (green), B (blue) and W (white). Most softwares that work with the controllers to program your lights will have a setting for RGBW control. Make sure to research which program is the best for your project!

What are universes?

A universe is a 16 bit grouping of channels totalling 512 channels. With DMX universes, you can control many more channels and by extension more fixtures. Controllers with multiple universe control are most important for large scale Pixel or RGBW projects, but are also useful for large Vivid RGB projects.

Check back in for our next Tech Talk on July 3rd!

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