• Chi

My Thoughts on Wireless DMX


2020.07.27


As technology developed in lighting industry, wireless DMX is probably the latest addition to lighting tech family. It has been widely adapted into a lot of lighting teams’ inventories recently. This wave of revolution roughly started a few years ago and picked up its speed about a year and half ago. It provokes debates between generations of electricians daily about how this new addition affecting our work flow.

I have chatted with many about this subject. Most people I know that are against this technology think that wireless DMX takes away people’s jobs. I don’t agree 100% with that statement but I understand their concerns.

Wireless controlling has saved me and my team from a lot of suffering in crazy elements on locations. Because I can control lights from my light board via wireless DMX, after units are set at their position with power on, we don’t have to post a person standing by in the dark; in the cold; in wild woods waiting for hours just for a moment of adjusting that may or may not happen. Of course, man power is still needed for troubled shooting; moving lights to other spots; adjusting focuses. I don’t think you can reduce man power even with wireless DMX system in place. But it greatly reduces the chances of electricians exposing to unknown and unpredictable dangers. Also, we don’t have to add any DMX cable runs mixing in with all the existing cables from various departments already on set. Less tangling; less tripping hazers.

With wireless DMX getting popular, it means that more senior electricians have to learn it and get themselves familiar with it. I think it is a great advantage that we, as an essential department in TV/Film shooting, are improving constantly and catching up with the development of lighting industry. But, without a systematic training, it is not easy to understand this new tech. I had started my DMX system training back when I was in undergrad. It was part of basic lighting system course before I was even exposed to lighting design. I can’t not imagine how one can learn about wireless DMX without knowing how DMX works at the first place. It must be very challenging to grasp the basic idea.

The other big character of wireless DMX is that it takes a longer time to set up than just running cables from console to isolators, and then to units. Like I mentioned in What Does Board Op. Do, there is more detailed prep works need to happen.If it was not done correctly, not only you can’t control your lights, but your lights may start disco dancing or do other wild things on their own, which is pretty scary if you are not familiar with these kinds of behaviors. This is also another reason I heard form many why they shy away from wireless DMX systems.

Personally, I think it is a broad op’s responsibility to make the team’s life easier. Wireless DMX becomes a very important tool helping me achieving that goal so I can have my teammates standing by in shelters not in the pouring rain or the 40-mile wind. But it also comes with the price of helping my teammates understand how the technology works. I am glad that I am always able to convert my curious teammates into lighting tech geeks but I understand this is not always the case.

I empathize with my fellow colleagues that have difficulties working with wireless DMX. I am sure one day I will face the same challenge when I can not keep up with new innovations in the industry. But looking at the big picture, I do think making wireless DMX part of our work flows is vital for our prosperity in the future. Learning new things will never be easy but if we don’t adapt, it will be us that get filtered out and left behind.

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