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14 LED and DMX Stage Lighting Tips and Techniques

Tip 1: Use DMX control cables with your LED lights. While XLR cable connectors will fit, micophone cable is not designed for the high speed serial electrical data signals used by DMX lighting fixtures and DMX controllers . Tip 2: The last fixture in the chain should be terminated with a DMX terminator. This helps reduce transmission errors caused by long cable runs and interference from AC power lines or other equipment. These are inexpensive, and you only need one. (I bought a spare, which I ended up using with a second setup.) Tip 3: A standard par controller most likely won't work with DMX lighting fixtures, since you will run out of channels quickly. Instead, get a DMX controller that is designed specifically for multi-channel DMX lights. Tip 4: Mount your LED enclosures close to the performers. Yes, this is contrary to old-school stagecraft technique. Since LED units emit a cooler light than regular bulbs, this maximizes the light energy and concentrates it on the band. Performers love LED lighting, since it generates almost no heat.

These audience members invited onstage sure look like they're enjoying the comfortable stage temperature! Note how the entire color wash was produced by three truss-mounted Opti RGB LED fixtures indicated by the arrows. (The PARs in the background contributed only to the ambience, since they were loaded with low wattage bulbs.) Photo credit: Justin McCarron Tip 5: Inexpensive road cases for LED lights. I discovered that a rolling Samsonite hard sided suitcase easily holds a pair of Opti LED enclosures. There's even room left over to store DMX cables. You can often find suitable luggage and road cases at secondhand stores.

Tip 6: Use a stage clamp for each of your LED fixtures. I went with an "O" style that practically eliminates scratching on my lighting truss. The Chauvet clamp comes with inserts so you can use a single clamp with 1", 1.5" or 2" pipe. It was also less expensive than clamps from other manufacturers. Tip 7: Use a safety cable if there's any chance that a light fixture can come lose and cause injury. They're cheap insurance for performers and the audience. Continued on next page >>

14 LED and DMX Stage Lighting Tips and Techniques

(Continued from page 1) Tip 8: Stock up on DMX cables. Since DMX cables can be daisychained together, having an assortment of various lengths will ensure that you can run your cables around obstacles and keep them out of traffic. You'll probably want a 50' length or two to go from the lighting tech's table to the first LED enclosure, several short lengths (5' or 10') to string between LED fixtures on a truss, and some 25' lengths to connect lighting trees across the stage, and from the front to the rear of the stage. Tip 9: Quick way to store cables. I store each DMX cable in its own gallon size zip lock storage bag. The bags are clear, so it's easy to see what it contains. The bags that have a zipper on them are much quicker and easier to seal than the cheaper ones that don't. The bags keep your cords from getting twisted or tangled with each other. Label the outside of the bag with the length of the cable. For example "DMX-25" on the bag indicates it's a DMX cable (not a mic cable) with a length of 25 feet. Tip 10: Label your DMX cables. Use a permanent marker or a label maker to indentify each DMX cable as "DMX" so they don't get stored with the XLR mic cables. A label maker is the best option, since many DMX cable ends are painted black, which makes it hard to see ink from a permanent marker. Our favorite are the plastic-coated paper labels that print with black ink on a white background. These labels are durable, easy to read, and fairly inexpensive. It's a great way to ensure that you don't run out of DMX lighting cables because your bandmates are using them as mic cables. If you ever perform with mutiple bands, add your name to the label, too. That way there's no argument as to who owns it. Tip 11: Instruct your sound and lighting crew to never use use mic cables with DMX lighting gear. While a standard, low-Z XLR mic cable may work fine for a set or two, eventually it'll cause a lockup of the controller or lighting unit, requiring a power off reset. DMX lights can take a minute to reset from power off (especially moving head fixtures), which seems like an eternity during a live show. DMX cables, on the other hand, are designed with extra shielding and low capacitance cable. These cables also reject inteference from lighting controllers, wireless units, and even mobile phones, better than XLR cables. It's the interference issue that raises havoc with sensitive DMX lighting gear. IF you don't want downtime during your show because the lights locked up, play it safe and only use DMX cables with your DMX lighting system. Tip 12: If it's a bright fixture, try aiming it at the performer's instrument. This should help to avoid blinding the artist during the show. There'll be plenty of light left over to light the performer's head and body. Once we mistakenly aimed a fixture at our bass player's face (see photo at left) and it looked like his head was on fire when the LED fixture was lit with red, yellow, or orange! (Photo credit: Justin McCarron)

Tip 13: A digital camera, with the flash turned off, provides a quick indication of any needed lighting adjustments. That's what was used in the Tip 12 photo above. It can also point out where a light may be improperly aimed. If the lighting "cone" is aimed too far to the left or right, or too much on the stage itself and not enough on the performer, it defeats the purpose of having the light in the first place. Be sure to hold the camera extra still when not using the flash. (Why no flash, you ask? The power camera strobe washes out the effect of your stage lighting.) Tip 14: Don't face LED fixtures towards the audience. LED lights provide colors by color mixing red, green, and blue LEDs. This works great when the light hits the stage or the performer, but if the light is turned towards the audience, they instead see the individual LEDs colors that produce the light. This can be distracting. Keep the light away from the audience, or use a diffusion gel. Many acts (ours included) supplement the LEDs with traditional PAR lamps in back of the performers so the audience can see the lights. ----------

Chauvet Stage Designer 50 DMX Lighting Controller

The Chauvet Stage Designer 50is a DMX lighting controller and 48-channel DMX-512 dimming console that gives you the ability take over a large lighting setup with ease. The Stage Designer 50 has 96,000 programmable steps, 8 pages with 12 scenes each for 96 total playback faders, re-assignable channels, adjustable chase and fade times, and 2 programmable aux buttons. This DMX controller also has built-in crossfader, dark, and kill buttons; MIDI in, out, and thru (with file dump); direct audio input, as well as 3-pin and 5-pin DMX connections. With the Chauvet Stage Designer 50 DMX Lighting Controller you can override chases on the fly, mix and match chases, or set for beat-activation, top sync, or auto run.


American DJ LS-80 LED Lighting System

The LS-80 LED System from American DJ is a great all-in-one PAR can system for any mobile entertainer. It includes 4 PAR can lamps, a T20F chase controller with a T20FC footswitch, and a light stand. The four LED PAR cans included in this popular American DJ lighting system vary in color: one red, one green, one blue, and one amber. Each PAR can uses 12 x 1W LEDs producing bright color washes of light and is rated at an extremely long 50,000 hour life. You also get a sturdy light stand which can extend up to 10 feet that has plenty of room to hold all 4 lamps. The LS-80 LED System uses the T20F chase/foot control system allowing you to operate this easy-to-use chase controller either from the T20F controller itself or via the T20FC footswitch. The T20F features 20 built-in programs10 normal chase programs and 10 chase programs with fade time7 pre-set scenes, black out, plus master/slave and DMX operation. Great for any performer on the go, the American DJ LS-80 LED Lighting System is easy to set-up and take down. Plus, with low heat emitting LEDs performers stay cooler on stage.


American DJ 3-Pin DMX Cable

This cable features 22 AWG stranded (0.15 x 19) tinned copper conductors, polyethylene insulation, twisted pair, polyethylene inner jacket, Duofoil (100% coverage) and cotton plus a tinned copper braid shield (85% coverage). PVC jacket. More info...

Chauvet Pro Clamp with 360 Degree Wrap

Fits 1", 1-1/2", or 2" pipes. Size 6" x 3-1/2" x 5". More info...

American DJ Crank II Mobile Trussing System for Stage Lights

The American DJ Crank II Mobile Trussing System is the ultimate mobile stand system making life on the road much easier. Before the Crank-2 you had to push your heavy lights up by hand. With this stage light truss system, you can set up everything at eye level, then easily crank up to 10" high. The rack offers heavy duty tripod stands and American DJ's road-durable steel Ibeam trusses that hold up to 140 lbs. More info...

Also available: Chauvet 4PLAY 6-Channel LED Light Bar and Effects System
The Chauvet 4PLAY provides a ready-to-go lighting bar for the traveling entertainer. The bar is fitted with four LED moonflowers each containing 57 red, green, blue, and white diodes to produce razor-sharp, rotating beams. The 4PLAY light bar gives you individual control of red, green, blue, and white LEDs within each light plus each of the four moonflower lights can be individually positioned. The Chauvet 4Play also features adjustable strobe speed plus 6channels of DMX control with built-in automated and sound-activated programs. The 4PLAY lighting effect fits onto most standard 1-3/8" tripods, including speaker stands and Chauvet's 4BAR tripod (sold separately), plus it comes with a convenient light bar travel bag.


Behringer FCB1010 MIDI Footcontroller 886830019708

If you've got a MIDI rig you need to tame, you'll find the Behringer FCB1010 MIDI Footcontroller indispensable. With 10 banks of 10 presets, you'll have plenty of storage space. Each preset can send 5 MIDI program change commands and 2 MIDI control commands simultaneously so you can configure an entire synth rack with one stomp. 2 expression pedals independently control any MIDI channel, controller number, and range. The footswitches can also be configured to send MIDI

note numbers, perfect for tap-tempo functions. 2 programmable, relaycontrolled footswitch jacks are great for switching guitar amp channels via MIDI.


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