In this beginner DMX lighting tutorial, we’ll explain how DMX works, how to set the address on your LED lights, and how to manage them using a controller. Then we’ll talk you through a basic setup using a DMX 512 controller and two LED PAR lights.

Quick Answer: Connect the DMX controller to the lights using a DMX cable and set the lights to the mode and DMX address you require. You can group lights by giving them the same DMX address or control them independently by giving them their own channels. 

How does DMX lighting work?

DMX cables can send 512 channels of data from the controller to the light fixtures in your system. You can set each channel to a value of anywhere between 0 to 255. The DMX controller acts like an audio mixing console, mixing light instead of sound.

This group of 512 DMX channels is called a universe.

Related: What is a DMX Universe?

256 values per channel over 512 channels is a lot of data. That’s why specific DMX cables are required. They may look like XLR audio cables, but the actual cable between the connectors is different and designed specifically for this job. We always recommend using the proper DMX cable.

Related: XLR vs DMX Cables, What’s the Difference?

How do DMX lights work?

So, with up to 512 channels of data coming from one cable, how does each light know what to listen for? Each light has two settings that let you specify how you want it to behave.

DMX Channel Mode

This is specific to each light model, and you will need to refer to the manual for details of how the light responds in each mode.

Let’s take a look at two different channel modes on the Chuavet Freedom Par Quad lights.

4 Channel DMX Mode


As you can see here, this is a pretty simple 4-channel DMX mode. Each channel controls the intensity of a single color.

If you want the light to be red, you need to turn channel 1 100%

If you want to create cyan, you will turn channels 2 and 3 up to 100%.

6 Channel Mode

Let’s take a look at a 6 channel mode using the same light.

6Strobe0-255Slow To Fast

You can see that if you’re using 6-channel mode and want the light to be red, you need to have the dimmer turned to 100% and the red channel also turned to 100%. This gives you an extra step, but it makes it easier to control the brightness of complex colors by using a single dimming channel.

DMX Address

The DMX address tells the light fixture which DMX channel to start monitoring. So in the case of Chauvet Freedom Par Quad light in 4-channel mode, setting the DMX address to 1 means it will monitor channels 1 to 4 to get the values for red, green, blue, and amber from the controller.

If you have a second light that you want to control independently, you need to set the second light to channel five so it listens to 5, 6, 7, and 8 to get the values for red, green, blue, and amber that you want.

Below is a sample DMX address chart.

Freedom Par 14-CH11, 2, 3, 4
Freedom Par 24-CH55, 6, 7, 8
Freedom Par 34-CH99, 10, 11, 12
Freedom Par 44-CH1313, 14, 15, 16
E-190WW Leko1-CH1717

How to Setup a DMX 512 Controller & LED PAR Lights

Let’s put the theory into practice; we’ll walk through a simple setup involving a DMX 512 controller (Elation Stage Setter 8) and two LED par lights (Chauvet Freedom PAR Quad 4 LED).

Time needed: 5 minutes.

  1. Turn on the DMX controller.
  2. Turn off the blackout mode on the controller.
    Don’t forget to zero each fader too.
  3. Set the controller to 16-channel mode.
    Each fader is controlling a different DMX channel.
  4. Connect the DMX controller to the first light.
    Use a DMX cable, not an XLR audio cable.
  5. Set the light to 4-channel mode and DMX address 1.
    Controller channels 1 to 4 will adjust the brightness of four color channels on our Chauvet light unit; red, green, blue, and amber.
  6. Connect the second light to the first.
    Use a DMX cable to daisy chain the lights together.
  7. Set the light to 4-channel mode and DMX address as required
    If you set the second light’s DMX address to 1, it will behave the same way as the first light and respond to the same channels. If you set it to 5, you will have independent control of this light using channels 5 to 8 on the DMX controller.

Beginner DMX Lighting Tutorial Pricing

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