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What is a USB-DMX Interface?

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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 27 October 2016
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A Digital Multiplexed (DMX) system is a means of transmitting data that is usually seen as computer- based lighting system used to control show lighting. Universal serial bus (USB) is a standard type of interface for allowing communication between two computer devices. A USB-DMX interface is a device that uses a USB device to connect a computer to a DMX lighting setup, allowing the user to control lights through software on the computer. In contrast with the common professional lighting design console, the USB-DMX interface for lighting is smaller, cheaper, and more portable.

In stage lighting design, DMX is the industry standard for connecting performance lights to a control system. Early professional full-featured lighting control consoles were large in size and limited in function, but as technology developed, these bulky consoles became smaller and manufacturers added more features than were available in systems using basic standard lighting cue controls and nothing else. The advent of the USB interface for the DMX console changed the world of lighting design by allowing a computer user to take a computer-based lighting console on the road.

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A USB-DMX software program has many of the features of a professional DMX lighting console through a computer at a fraction of the cost and hassle of buying and setting up a full-featured professional lighting console. For the home user, basic USB-DMX interface setups can be used to engineer advanced controls of Christmas lights. High-end USB-DMX interface systems generally offer access to more DMX channels and more advanced and detailed controls over lighting than basic interface versions. Some USB-DMX interface software includes that ability to render and control lighting on a three-dimensional plane to preview how it might look in the real world.

One drawback to a USB-DMX interface is that it depends on the speed and reliability of the computer that controls it. On a dedicated lighting design system with a console, normal computer problems like viruses, hard drive problems, and operating system crashes are not a major problem. When using a computer, any problems with the computer, including slowness and user error, become a problem in the lighting design program as well.

Manufacturers of USB-DMX interface systems include Nicolaudie, Chauvet and Enttec. Generally, these devices come with controller applications designed to give the user full lighting control over a computer. This type of system can be used for a wide variety of lighting applications, including concert lighting, club lighting, and stage lighting for theater productions.

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