In the lighting industry there have never been so many lights offering a wireless control option. One of the most common questions I hear is “How do you control a standard lighting fixture wirelessly?” …and is it even wise to do so?
If setup and done correctly, having wireless control can be very effective and useful but if setup and done poorly, it can prove to be full of headaches and frustration.
There are three different methods that we’re going to cover today. We’ll go over the pros and cons of each one so that you can make the best selection for your rig.
Wouldn’t it be great if our lights could get their DMX data 100% wirelessly from our lighting console and you’d never have to run a DMX cable again?
Wireless DMX can be a great option if the setup and conditions are a good fit for it. Most often a wireless DMX system consists of a transmitter that sits near your lighting console, and receivers next to or built-into the lights to receive it.
If you’re installing your lights permanently, I still recommend running wired DMX to any lighting position you have. While wireless can work in pretty much any space, over time the other frequencies in your area may change, and you may find yourself in a stressful situation one day when the wireless gets some interference!
In a portable setting, it’s a different story. A well setup wireless system can work great and stay interference free in most areas.
When going with wireless DMX, it’s best to know what wireless channels you are on and what other channels are busy in your area.
There are apps available to check the wireless space and show which channels would be the best option.
This information will apply to any of the three methods and is good to know. When you want to run something wirelessly it’s going to be either in the 800 megahertz, 2.4 gigahertz, or 5.6 gigahertz range.
In the 800 megahertz range, there’s often the most free space available. However, the devices that speak within that range tend to be the most expensive.
Then, you have the 2.4 gigahertz range when is commonly known as the wifi range and has about 12 available channels, but most devices broadcast at a wider bandwidth – generally overlapping 2-4 different channels.
With the 5.6 gigahertz range it’s about the same as 2.4 but instead has 36 channels available which give you a little more to work with, and there is not as much overlap between channels.
Overall, just remember that the strength of the wireless signals can depend on the space. If it’s a congested wireless space it will prove to have more difficulty in setting up and getting a solid connection. This is where using apps to find available channels is very handy.
Controlling Your Console Wirelessly Without Wireless DMX
Perhaps you want to be able to walk around in your venue and have wireless control- then you don’t need wireless DMX, you just need to control your console wirelessly.
Some consoles, including LightShark LS-Core or LS-1 that has a basic built-in Wi-Fi router. The benefit of using one of those or something similar is that the unit would be connected to your DMX and power, which lets you connect to that unit wirelessly. Other consoles or software allow you to connect a PC wirelessly as a second console or remote.
The benefit is that your fixtures, console, and other equipment are set up and wired directly but also allows you to connect to it wirelessly to be able to control your lights.
If your Wi-Fi was to drop, since your units are set up and plugged in, your fixtures, consoles, and equipment will not stop working because of this and the lights stay on while you troubleshoot and fix the problem.
Point to Point Wifi
The last method would be a situation where your controls are set up in the back of the venue but you want to be able to control everything in the front of the venue.
If you have just one universe, the first method, Wireless DMX, may be a good fit but if you have multiple universes then you may want a point-to-point Wifi network sending Art-Net, sACN, or a console-net signal between the back of the venue and the stage.
You can set up your wireless unit in the front of the venue that has your router and access point set up to send your signal to the back of the venue to your other access point.
The downside to this method (as well as the wireless DMX method) is that if you’re wireless connection goes down, you lose complete control.
Having a solid wireless plan and backups is a great way to be prepared in case something should happen unexpectedly.