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What are DMX Scanners?

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  • Written By: H. Bliss
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2016
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Digital multiplex interface (DMX) scanners are a type of moving light known as intelligent lighting used for effects in stage and venue lighting. Scanners often contain multiple colors and light shaping tools like mirrors or gobos which can create a variety of effects and designs. This type of light is most frequently seen as an effect on a club dance floor. When a scanner is a DMX scanner, this means that it uses DMX technology to control the light.

DMX technology is a standard for facilitating the communication among electronic devices like lighting consoles and DMX scanners. Most professional stage lighting devices use technology called DMX-512 or DMX-512A to communicate with other devices. Types of plugs on DMX devices may differ but can be adapted. One reason DMX technology is popular for stage lighting is the durability of its cables. Other types of communication cables would be quickly destroyed when subjected to the wear and tear common to stage and venue lighting equipment.

Though venue lighting often relies mainly on effect lights and intelligent lighting like DMX scanners, theater lighting usually uses other lights in combination with DMX scanners to achieve the desired control over the lighting environment onstage. A typical theater lighting setup that has DMX scanners will also have other types of lights like ellipsoidal reflector spotlights (ERS), strip lights and Fresnel lights to give the lighting designer more control over the lighting appearance.

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Lighting design is used in many fields, including theater and architectural lighting design. DMX scanners are typically not used for architectural lighting design, which is a form of interior design that generally relies on lights that are fixed in place or have limited adjustments, like track lighting. However, architectural lighting can be hooked to a DMX console for mainboard controls.

Fresnel lights are non-moving lights designed to create an overall lighting effect often called a wash. ERS lights can be used to project concentrated beams of light which can be shaped using gobos. Gobos are essentially lighting stencils that can give a properly focused light a definite shape when projected on a surface like a wall or floor. Strip lights are rows of lighting used to apply an even wash of color over a wall or screen.

The colored sheets used to tint light are called gels. In many newer DMX scanners, colored light is produced using light emitting diode (LED) bulbs which are generally lower energy and run cooler while giving the lighting designer a fine degree of control over light color and intensity. This type of light usually produces color using several small but powerful LED lights, often in red, green, and blue, which are used in combination to control the overall color of the light output.

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