Can You Make a Great Lighting Rig with 1 DMX Universe? – Learn Stage Lighting .com

Can You Make a Great Lighting Rig with 1 DMX Universe?

Talking with some students from Learn Stage Lighting Labs I’ve found that there are some situations where you are limited to 1 DMX Universe. With that, I decided to take on a challenge.

In this challenge, I’m going to start from scratch and build a 24-foot wide by 18-foot deep stage. The challenge is how many lights can I get in 1 DMX Universe as well as how can I make the most impact on this stage design with a limited amount of lights.

To get started in this tutorial I am using this as a basic band setup. But this challenge and advice can be used for both temporary and permanent installs. You can also use this for churches, DJ’s, and even theaters.

Using a 3D Visualizer

In this tutorial, I use a 3D visualizer, Capture. This helps makes it very simple to design and build out the stage. In this video, I decided to start with a basic stage set up with drums.

Lighting Rig Challenge

Setup Your Stage

Depending on whether this is permanent or temporary install will play a major role in your design. The key part is knowing where your power will be coming from.

An important piece to remember is how can you make the most impact withing your range (budget or even DMX universe). In this challenge we’re focusing on how many lights can we work with and keep within the one DMX universe.

Choosing Your Lights

Once you have the basics of your design created such as light placements, source of power, and trusses if needed you now want to focus on the type of lights to use.

The key to this challenge is finding out which lights won’t take up a lot of channels because it can add up very quickly. In this video, I was able to work with some LED Pars that only take 3 – 4 channels. Also, keep in mind what type of features you ideally would like to have for those lights.

Here are the lights I worked with during this tutorial

If you are just starting out I highly recommend working with one brand of lights as much as possible. This will help save you money if you are able to buy these lights at once. Not to mention if you do go through a dealer they will be sure to give you the support and attention needed.

Designing Your Stage

Now it’s time to start designing your stage using the 3D Visualizer. I always start with the front stage wash. If you are using Capture to design your stage be sure to turn up the “ambient light” feature that works great for when you layout your lights.

Patch Your Fixtures

Next, you want to patch in your fixtures so that you know exactly how much channels you have leftover to work with. If you selected lights that don’t need as many DMX channels, you may be surprised with what is leftover.

If you still have some channels left over definitely take a look at the stage and see if there are any additional features you want to add to it.


If you do take the time to plan out what you are working with and the impact you want to make on the stage, you really can do a lot with just one DMX universe.

In the video I had mentioned the principles I go by when designing and setting up a new stage. Inside of Learn Stage Lighting Labs, we offer some great tutorials on how to get started as well as a community of other lighting experts that have been where you are. Be sure to check it ou!

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  • Mark Backlund says:

    I just finished your “1 DMX Universe LIghting Rig Challenge”. Right off, it’s a good concept and very helpful to hear you thinking out loud about your selection process.There was a fair amount of terminology of which I am not yet fully aware as well as the intricacies of using the “Capture” visualizer. Do your labs also have beginner level definitions and usage recommendations for the various types of fixtures? I will look into subscribing to your “labs”.
    I’m involved with our local community theater, both in the acting, singing , and dancing mode, but also back stage stuff. In particular, I’m learning as much as I can about our 40 fixture lighting system, and eventually forming a committee to write up a solid training tutorial for our volunteers at several levels of expertise and responsibility.
    Thanks for taking on this “mission” of educating the unwashed masses, such as myself! I think you’ve created a great resource.

    • David says:

      Hi Mark,

      I apologize for not seeing this website comment sooner – it’s been a busy week or so!

      To answer your question – yes, I do cover fixture selection and how to choose the right lights inside the Labs. Plus, in our Labs private forums, you have the ability to ask questions of myself and other lighting fans and experts to help apply what you are learning to your particular lights.

      If you have any more questions, feel free to email me at . Thanks!

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