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Mystical Matthew
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Elite user
468 Posts

Profile of Mystical Matthew
Howdy all!

I have a medium sized cabaret show. On some of my bigger venues I would like to add some simple intelligent lighting. Nothing over the top. Just some simple stuff to highlight the act.

My mother (The Great Nancini) and I work together on all our shows, so we have the luxury of an extra set of hands. How expensive is the lighting? Can it be controlled from a laptop? How difficult is it to set up? I have a nice sound rig already, and I think some basic lighting would give our shows just a little extra polish.



P.S. Just to clear this up, I'm 23. My mom loves the magic as much (or more) than I do. There aren't many mother-son teams in magic, but that's what we're doing.
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Loyal user
Remscheid, Germany
283 Posts

Profile of abrell
Dear Matt,

There are so many products on the market it is nearly impossible to give a simple advice. Maybe the best advice is to look for more information.

1. All intelligent lighting devices are controlled by USITT DMX 512. This protocol is a standard used worldwide. It can be generated by light desks and (with some special black boxes) by any computer, because it uses an special version of the old RS 422 connection. Ask some professionals and have a look at shops for musicians. They use it too and your needs are nearly the same as any small musicians band.
2. With DMX 512 you can control intelligent lighting (moving waslights, moving spotlights), dimmer racks for "non intelligent" lights, but also strobelights, fans, fog machines and some other devices. If possible have a look at what you are going to buy and always ask how to change the bulb and how high the running costs are. Tell the merchant that you have not handled these lamps before and need assistance and support. If possible then first rent some equipment and find out if this is what you need.
3.There are a lot of books with important information. Have a look at the USITT website. Also have a look for catalogues with detailed technical information. Whenever possible ask some professional in your area.

Kind regards

Kai Abrell
Mystical Matthew
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Elite user
468 Posts

Profile of Mystical Matthew
Thanks for your response. I didn't know how much there was to this. I appreciate you pointing me in the right direction.
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Inner circle
Virden, IL
1134 Posts

Profile of Eldon
Great advice from Abrell. It can be fairly simple. You can start off with two lights, a basic controller and a foot switch and get some nice results. Then build from there.
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Elite user
Phoenix, AZ
476 Posts

Profile of Fitz
You are going to get many tips so I will just say this.

DMX 512 use it, if it is anything else do not waste your money.

One more thing and this one is personal, and may tick off many people.
I do not like American DJ... I don't need to bash them but I can say I have not had any luck with them in the past. You get what you pay for, or in my case what the companys I have worked for pay for.

I have a daily web show all about magic at
Dark Magi
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2 Posts

Profile of Dark Magi
DMX 512 That is the way I have gone as well I have 2 (6 channel) scanners at the moment. I have used them in my shows and they are brilliant.
I will be investing in some dimmer packs with some Par cans too. I also want to interface my fog machine into the system.
I have been considering getting the DMX LED Par Cans as I understand you can have any colour you want 16 Million or so the disadvantage as I understand is that the LED type do not have a far 'throw' of light. Has anyone used them?
I have a little box that interfaces the PC to the lighting available in kit form through distributors of Velleman Electronics You will require some skill in soldering as there are quite a few components that are soldered to the board. Use a good soldering Iron. It comes with Light controller software that can be adapted to any light using the DMX 512 protocol. I am looking for some alternate software (free-ware) to control the lights as the software that comes with the kit although it works well is not extremely reliable especially when it comes to programming the scenes. If you know of some software that works please do tell I would like to be able to synchronise my sound and lighting!
adam christopher
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Veteran user
316 Posts

Profile of adam christopher
DMX 512 used to be a B@#$h to program (I learned on a CP-10XT programmer) but with today's virtual design software you can design a show, scale it to venues, coordinate light & sound, etc....all without ever leaving your computer! I also would highly recommend speaking with LivingIllusions, They seem to know their stuff!

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Loyal user
Los Angeles
267 Posts

Profile of socalmagic
The difficulty level of intelligent lights vary. The biggest problem is that you have to tell them where to hit the stage (and what color, gobo, speed, strobe, etc). This is a one-time set-up if you are in a single venue, or if your set-up is always the same. It can be time-consuming if you have a new show every night.

I use 5 Mighty Scan intelligent lights with a DMX Operator hooked up to my ShowTech. I have about 100 scenes. Multiply that by 5 IL's and you have a lot of scenes to program before a show. I also have a computer program, but I have yet to switch over to it since it has a little steeper of a learning curve.
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