Making Ethernet a Viable Option to Control Stage Lighting

Imagine what it would be like attending a concert or a live theater performance without a coordinated light show. How would that impact the experience? With the amazing effects that can be achieved thanks to advancements in lighting over the past decade, it would not be nearly the same.

Years ago, most lighting systems communicated using proprietary serial protocols. This made interoperability between different OEM’s equipment problematic and often impossible. To rectify this situation, the lighting industry got together and agreed that one common standard digital protocol must be created.

The Road to Standardization in Theater and Stage Lighting – DMX512 & DM512-A

DMX512 is a standard for digital communication networks commonly used to control stage lighting and effects; it was originally intended as a standardized method for controlling light dimmers. Developed by the United States Institute for Theatre Technology (USITT) Engineering Commission, the DMX512 standard (for “digital multiplex with 512 pieces of information”) was created in 1986, with subsequent revisions in 1990 leading to USITT DMX512/1990.

DMX512-A – In 1998, the Entertainment Services and Technology Association (ESTA) began a revision process to develop DMX512 as an ANSI standard. The resulting revised standard, known officially as “Entertainment Technology – USITT DMX512-A – Asynchronous Serial Digital Data Transmission Standard for Controlling Lighting Equipment and Accessories,” was approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in November 2004. It was revised again in 2008, and is the current standard known today as “E1.11 – 2008, USITT DMX512-A” (or just “DMX512-A”).

Ethernet is expanding as a means to communicate control signals that vary the intensity, color, timing and position of elements in theater and stage lighting systems. 

The ways that Ethernet can support theater and stage lighting

  1. The Need for Higher Bandwidth
  2. Why Not Internet Protocol (IP)?
  3. Scalability

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