Things to think about when considering the move up to DMX lighting & control by Tyrone Blue

November 28, 2012 by Tyrone Blue

There are many folks who use DMX fixtures, but not so many who use fixtures with DMX control. With this article, I’d like to attempt to nudge everyone to make that move (and maybe help you learn programming). I‘ve heard so many DJs mention that they “don’t need to know DMX programming to accomplish a show with lights”. While this is true, I’d like to think that most of the “professional” vendors would want to continue their education and professional commitment to the profession, by furthering your knowledge. In doing so, your efforts are advancing each one of us in the public’s (and your eventual customer’s) eyes. Your accomplishment in learning to program DMX fixtures, has the benefit of elevating all of us to a more professional level in the publics eye. Plus, you’ll get to use your fixtures to their full potential. I’ve heard customers say: “DJs are all pretty much the same”. Let’s change that perception!

So, where to start… Many of you may already have DMX fixtures, but limit your use to “sound active” or “internal control”, for displaying them. OK, that works to a point, but it’s sort of like buying a Ferrari to drive 30 MPH on dirt roads (you’ll discover that I love to use metaphors).

Let’s begin where I began…

For years, I wanted to know how to control DMX (digital multiplex) lighting. Every time I went to the local DJ supply store, I was faced with sales people who sold the gear, but didn’t know how to operate the gear. I suspect this is common all over the country. And, the manuals that come with each fixture, are written by some foreign geek, who assumed the purchaser already knew how to program.

Out of frustration (back in 2002), I eventually contacted Ben Stowe, who owns Northern Light FX in Northern Minnesota. He invited me to come observe the light display he was constructing at Bemidji State University, for their hockey team (the “Beavers”… really!). Ben was using a computer software program (ShowXpress). That turned out to be way over my head. I was interested enough to return two more times, until I got enough information from Ben, to buy some gear, and begin to learn on my own at home.

All DMX gear comes with instructions, but, as I’m sure all of you know, the instructions were written for experienced operators, and I didn’t understand much of what was there. There were terms used that I’d never heard of and had to sit down over a period of 8 months, using the information that Ben had given me, and play until all of the parts made sense.

So, I mentioned to Ben, that “if DMX was easier to learn, he (and every other vendor) would sell more equipment”. He said: “why don’t you write a book”. The rest is history… Over the next three or four years, I felt pretty competent in sharing my knowledge, and published my first addition of “DMX for beginners”. After showing the book to Ben, he wanted to take me up on my statement of “making it easier for others to learn programming” and invited me to teach a seminar at Mobile Beat Las Vegas. For 3 years, I did.

In the articles to come, I hope I can help you to understand DMX, and have you purchase the “RIGHT” equipment that will put you in the “big leagues”. While there are some folks who suggest that the “freeware” software is the way to start… I am suggesting that you learn how to “walk before you run”. DMX software, while very cool, is in my opinion “running”. I equate it to using a calculator, without knowing how to add and subtract first. So, the best place to start is by learning how to “add and subtract”. Stay tuned…

Tyrone Blue Tyrone Blue (12 Posts)

I am finishing up my 8th year as a club DJ at the local Resort nightclub ( I have been DJing for 24 years, with a special love/interest in high tech lighting. I teach DMX programming, both hardware, and software. I exclusively use ShowXpress, which I believe is the best DMX software on the planet! I believe I have a couple of years left to do this. I have a crew of 3 DJ’s, who do my “giging” at weddings and the nightclub.

Filed Under: Lighting for Mobile DJs