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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, microphone 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.

Opti RGB fixtures produce lots of light with little heat. These audience members invited on stage 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.

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