Is DMX Worth It? By Arnoldo Offermann

June 17, 2013 by Arnoldo Offermann

As DJs, we rightfully place a huge priority of the music we play, how we play it, and how we entertain the crowd in between. However, we bring lighting because it adds a visual appeal to the music we play. It’s amazing to think how much lighting has progressed over the past few years. While “plug & pray” lighting rigs are still seen today (nothing wrong with that as long as it looks clean), many DJs have jumped into the arena of full-on mobile event production, thanks to large lighting arsenals. And while the technology makes it easy to let the lighting “do it’s own thing” automatically, after a while, these lights need to be tamed quite a bit; we wouldn’t trust our computers to pick our music for us, so why trust a light to do the same? You need control, and before you guys lose your mind (up in here, up in here)…you need DMX!

If you’re not aware of DMX control, it’s a digital protocol that controls lighting, to put it as briefly as possible. I don’t want to delve into how and why it works, as there’s plenty of great resources out there, such as Ben Stowe’s video series. Instead, I want to talk about why you should use DMX, what solution works best, and when.


I personally choose to use some form of DMX control on my lights when the client requests full control of scenes, and of course has a budget for a lighting tech to run control of those lights (or sometimes I run it in between songs). By scenes, I literally mean the theatrical version of the word; at a wedding we typical have the following scenes:

• Guests walking in • Grand Intro
• Special Dances
• Dinner and toasts • Formalities

• Dancing

For example, I may have the lights with all white as guests walk in and then switch to a fun chase sequence as I do the introduc- tions. This would quickly cut to one of their wedding colors for the first dance.

Though I could easily use a light that has a remote control option and thus allow a real quick solution, this isn’t always the best solution. For weddings where lighting is a big priority, a remote control allowing quick and dirty cuts from scene to scene will not do. Let’s take the same scenario above, but

explain what would be done with proper DMX programming. I am still talking strictly floods, but we’ll go from there.

Guests walk in and the entire room is lit up in pure white. Nothing special about this and shouldn’t be. However, I can choose to do a cool or warm white based on the overall season and colors picked. We get ready for the grand intro and the lights dim. Guests grab their seats as the music begins, and the lighting comes back up pulsing to the beat of the song, building up in intensity and speed as we get to the main event. Suddenly the pulsating lights change to only the wedding colors as we introduce the bride and groom. The crowd cheers as they take their steps toward their first dance.

This was a very simple three scene change which looks incredible with DMX control. What happens if we add other fixtures to the above scenario? Let’s take a “look”…

Guests walk in and the entire room is lit up in pure white. We get ready for the grand intro and the lights dim. Suddenly, in the center of the room, their wedding monogram highlights the dance floor as the MC welcomes the guests to an extraor- dinary night. Cheers erupt as two moving heads focus a spotlight on the entrance door and four other movers begin to circle the room. The music begins and the floods pulse to the beat of the song. The floods dim off and only the spots and gobo are on as the bride and groom walk in. The crowd cheers as they step toward their first dance, and the movers rotate around them while the floods dim to a subtle color that tints the room just right.

Once you do this a couple of time and get video of it, you’ll notice a better reaction out of brides during sales meetings, as you talk about lighting. Using DMX, I can take the same lighting that I use for a high-energy school dance and create a romantic atmosphere for a bride who doesn’t want ANY club ambiance at her wedding at all. Best of all, the time I take for DMX programming isn’t free—it’s all built into the final cost. On bigger packages, we can create really custom scenes and create something truly spectacular.

Of course, as the event gets bigger the choice of DMX really becomes obvious. However, when does it make sense NOT to go full-on DMX?

For the events we do, our DMX con- troller requires a second person. While I could DJ and run our system, I prefer to focus on one thing and make it amazing; thus a lighting tech always comes with me. However, let’s say I have a Sweet 16 with a smaller budget. I could sell a simple light show with a tech, or more lighting without a tech. Many choose the latter, despite the limitations of no DMX. However, this doesn’t mean I just let a bunch of lights run all night. More and more lighting is coming out with small remote controls or even a small DMX board (wireless) to run color floods. Using these two tools, I can create an exciting show that still adds visual appeal to my mix without needing a tech.

The same applies for uplighting. For that, I use my small ADJ RGB8WC WiFLY board and I have enough control of the uplighting to create plenty of scenes with the preset buttons. It won’t give me as much control as the big board, or even a laptop with control software, but it’s provides a nice bang for the buck. Should my client want more control, we discuss better control options.

However, don’t do like we did and keep stepping up. We started with a hardware board, hated it and moved to entry-level software then stepped up to a fully-featured solution. Turns out the latter was easier to program and would’ve made life easier from the get-go. Download as many free demos as possible and watch YouTube videos made by users on various software. You’ll find something that suits your style and you’ll be programming like a pro soon enough! Get ready to light up some new possibilities for your business and brighten your bottom line!



Arnoldo Offermann Arnoldo Offermann (40 Posts)

Arnoldo Offermann is the president of 4SchoolsOnly, a national phenomenon in school dances. In a market where DJs cry about $500 school DJs, 4SO sees 10-20x that price tag per event. Arnoldo is also the creator of Master School Dances, the leading educational tools for DJs wanting to get into this great market. He is a sought-after speaker, reviewer, and DJ tech-writer. You can learn more at

Filed Under: 2013, Exclusive Online News and Content, Mobile DJ Business