Put On Great Light Shows with DMX512 and Doug Fleenor Design
A secret force is behind all those incredible lights and effects we’ve seen in concerts, nightclubs, TV, movies, and more! The secret is DMX512, aka DMX. The Big Red Button often used to start a light show is probably a DMX device you have seen alongside a DMX cord, which may or may not include a Neutrik powerCON if it is a piece of production equipment for the entertainment industry.
Doug Fleenor Design (DFD) has pioneered DMX gear since 1990. DFD is still making some of the world’s finest DMX equipment.
“They (DFD) produce the best DMX devices in the industry.” – Rick McConnell, Owner of XS Lighting & Sound (source: https://www.facebook.com/DougFleenorDesign/reviews/?_rdr )
A TALE OF TWO PIONEERS
Let’s travel back over 530 years to Andalusia, Spain. We are in the city of Seville on Cartuja Island. It’s a warm, sunny spring day filled with the sweet, refreshing scent of orange blossoms. We enter the massive gate and doors to the Monastery of Santa Maria de las Cuevas. One room catches the eye. Inside, several men huddle around a giant table with a tall globe.
The man in the middle leading the discussion is the Italian Explorer, Christopher Columbus. The vital eastern Silk Road to Asia was cut off with the fall of the Mongolian Empire. Columbus plans a bold solution to this problem: sail a second time west across the vast Atlantic Ocean. But this time go further than the Carribean and get all the way to Asia.
Exactly 500 years later, on the same Cartuja Island, we’re back for the Seville Expo of 1992. It’s to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s discovery of the Americas. His second voyage to America left from Seville. Now another man has to plan a pioneering water crossing.
That man is American Engineer Doug Fleenor. The Expo needs a custom lighting display controlled from across the river. Doug has to run a DMX512 signal more than a mile across a bridge!
Harnessing the power of DMX512, combined with his designs, Doug manages to get that digital signal across the river.
Since 1990, DFD has facilitated light and effect shows all over the world, including a Super Bowl halftime show.
“In New York, the Times Square ball – we have distribution inside the video ball they are using for that. Electroluminescent lighting on costumes, under DMX control. We’ve been involved with Blue Man Group doing DMX-controlled, highly synchronized strobe lights.” – Milton Davis, engineer extraordinaire at DFD (source: https://www.inparkmagazine.com/expanding-dmx-control-universe/)
BRIEF HISTORY OF DFD
DFD Started in 1990 with two products, and they are still in production! The first products are:
- Inline Opto-Isolator
- DMX to AMX Converter
DFD initially helped other companies incorporate DMX512. Doug had DFD evolve to make DMX products the world needed but no one else had made.
Mr. Fleenor’s line of isolation products started with that custom project for Expo ’92.
The first isolated splitter was designed for a Super Bowl halftime show. The DMX Line Tester won the Line Tester Product of the Year in 1993.
DFD’s simple switch closures trigger fog machines, advance slide projectors, and more.
The Preset 10 won Product of the Year at LDI’03.
WHAT IS DMX512?
The DMX512 protocol is a standard for sending digital signals. DMX512 is frequently used to control lighting and effects. DMX stands for Digital Multiplex. In addition, multiplexing combines multiple signals and sends them across one data line. The 512 stands for the 512 different digital data channels carried by DMX. However, each of these channels gets a value from 0 to 255.
In a simple light, full brightness has a value of 255 and darkness at 0. The light gradually dims with values descending from 254.
Other types of devices include a DMX controlled power outlet, a fog machine, and a laser.
A DMX512 chain begins with a controller. The controller sends digital signals to all its secondary devices. Each secondary device has an incoming port to get the signal and an outgoing port to keep the signal flowing. The last device should attach a terminator to its outgoing port to prevent signal issues.
Also, DMX signals are usually sent via a DMX Cord. Signals can be carried in other ways as long as they get turned back to a DMX signal upon reaching the next device.
However, don’t forget to power your DMX devices. For outdoor events, the Neutrik powerCON power cable line ensures your DMX devices get juice in any weather.
All DFD products are proudly backed by a limited five-year parts and labor warranty against manufacturing defects. You need to pay to send it to DFD. If covered, DFD will fix the unit and pay for return ground shipping. This warranty covers manufacturing defects.
Out of warranty? Not a problem! Most non-warranty repairs are made for a low, fixed $50.00 fee, plus shipping.
Let’s look at 3 of DFD’s vast line of DMX gadgets.
3 DFD PRODUCTS
Note: Most products do not come with a DMX Cord. Not only because DMX Cords can come in 3 and 5 pin, but most DMX cords are various different lengths, which are needed for different projects. Therefore DMX Cords, Power cables (generally Neutrik powercon is if detaches) and other accessories are separate.
DFD PRESET 10 PORTABLE
Additionally, the Preset 10 Portable stores 10 DMX presets. A preset is a snapshot of one DMX setting.
- It can act as a backup for a lighting console or be a standalone console
- Recall any preset by touching one of the ten buttons
- Assigned a unique crossfade time to any preset, from 0 to 999 seconds
- Get at Amazon: DFD PRESET 10 PORTABLE
Furthermore, the GIZMO can transmit, receive, save, and playback scenes while also performing a variety of data and cable tests.
- LCD Display is backlit and is visible in darkness or direct sunlight
- 9 Volt Battery or AC Power gives flexibility and portability
- Durable metal housing
- Padded nylon carry case for safe transport
- 3 pounds
- Buy at Amazon: DFD GIZMO
DFD MARCONI-TX Wireless DMX Transmitter
Send a DMX512 signal wirelessly when cabling isn’t practical.
- 2 dB rubber whip antenna
- Use up to 16 of these transmitters simultaneously for 8,192 DMX channels
- 3 pounds
- Find on Amazon: DFD MARCONI-TX Wireless DMX Transmitter
A few other products highly recommended by Doug Fleenor within reasonable price ranges are:
- Doug Fleenor Design E8ANL-DIN 8 Channel Ethernet to Analog Interface
Great if you are trying to convert from Ethernet to Analog
- Doug Fleenor Design DFD-DMX1REL20A Single Channel Relay Pack for Up to 20A Line Voltage
Great if you are trying to control 20amp AC 120vac Power Receptacle via DMX512.
- Doug Fleenor Design DMX Splitters 124 – 124-RJ-ESTA
Great if you are trying to split your DMX 512 signal up to 4 ways.
- Doug Fleenor Design DMX Isolation Amplifiers and Splitters 121 -121-TB
Great if you are conducting long runs of DMX 512. Various versions available at this link.
- Doug Fleenor Design PRE10-P Preset 10 Portable Playback Device
Great if you are looking for easy programming and recall of up to 10 presets for DMX 512.
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