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What is DMX Controller Software?

By Lee Johnson
Updated May 16, 2024
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Digital multiplexing (DMX) controller software is designed to control light shows through a computer program. DMX controllers are also available as hardware, but many users prefer software controllers because they save on space and are much cheaper. Some pieces of DMX controller software are available for free and can be used in conjunction with a universal serial bus (USB)-to-DMX converter to send the required DMX protocol to a lighting setup. This type of software can also be used to control lasers and fog machines.

DMX can be thought of as a language that is used to tell a lighting system what to do. The user tells the DMX controller what he wants the lights to do, and the DMX controller converts the message and sends it over to the lighting system. In order to facilitate this, the lights will all be numbered, so the user is also able to control what happens to individual lights in the chain.

To control all of this functionality from a computer, DMX controller software has been developed. From the program’s interface, the user can set lights to go dimmer, go brighter, switch on and off and change color. There are many options for this software, but most have the same key functions. Even though it’s possible to have up to 512 channels operating through a DMX controller, multiple lights can be added to the same channel so that they operate as a unit. For example, if there were four lights dotted around the ceiling all hooked up to channel one, by dimming channel one, the network of four lights would dim in unison.

Connecting a lighting system to a personal computer (PC) is one problem that is raised by DMX controller software. DMX signals need XLR connectors to transmit them, which are three- or five-pronged leads with both a “male” and a “female” end, often used for microphones. A PC is unlikely to have an XLR output, there are converters available that work from a computer’s USB port.

DMX controller software also can be easily updated. Even hardware-based DMX controllers use software applications for the main functions for this reason. As a result of this, there is an ever-expanding list of features available on the software, such as three-dimensional virtual representations of a light show. DMX controller software also is available for some highly advanced cell phones for ultra-mobile light show control.

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