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Best timing light 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]

Last Updated December 1, 2018
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Roger BarnettHey friends! I’ve got something important to talk about today! After 30 hours of research including speaking with consultants and experts, and plenty of parents and 25 hours spent testing 10 timing light, I believe that I found the best timing light of 2018.

Just read here for my top 3 recommendations. Why are these 3 timing light on top of my list? Well read on… Now I’m going to recommend a few timing light you can pick from to get started quickly and easily.

Let’s get to it!

Best timing light of 2018

Come with me. Customers need to be careful on how they spend their money on these products.

Many models on the market may be confusing to a person who is shopping for their first time. Here we have compiled a detailed list of some of the best timing light of the 2018.

Test Results and Ratings

Rank №1 №2 №3
Product
Total 4.8 4.5 4.3
Ease of use
5 points
5 points
4 points
Size
5 points
4 points
4 points
Durability
4 points
4 points
5 points
Quality
5 points
5 points
4 points
Awards 1
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How to save up to 86%? Here is little trick.

You must visit the page of sales. Here is the link. If you don’t care about which brand is better, then you can choose the timing light by the price and buy from the one who will offer the greatest discount.

 

 

№1 – Wifi Smart Plug

 
Wifi Smart Plug

Pros
Compatible & Easy to Use: Work with Amazon Echo Alexa, Google Home, IFTTT; Compatible with IOS 8 and Android 4.4 above. 1 minute to set up with your Wi-Fi, 5 steps to set up with Alexa, one-click to schedule your outlets at home
Control Your Devices Anywhere: No hub required, work on Wi-Fi. Our WI-FI enabled smart plug can control your electrical appliances by your phone anywhere after your download the “Smart Life” Free APP, also your voice can control your lights through Amazon Alexa and Google Home
Cons
Not found yet.
 
Total:
4.8

Why did this timing light win the first place?

I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch! I also liked the delivery service that was fast and quick to react. It was delivered on the third day. I really enjoy the design. It is compact, comfortable and reliable. And it looks amazing! The product is very strong. Its material is stable and doesn’t crack.

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Ease of use
5

5star

Size
5

5star

Durability
4

4star

Quality
5

5star

 

 

№2 – CAIRONDIN Smart Wifi LED Light Bulb

 
CAIRONDIN Smart Wifi LED Light Bulb

Pros
Support Alexa Echo Voice Control: Wifi smart bulb compatible with Alexa Echo, you can use voice to turn on or off the smart bulb, adjust brightness, and change color. The wifi light bulb only support 2.4GHz wifi network
Easy to Use: No hub and subscription required, just download the free APP, and complete the smart light bulb connection settings, you can start your smart life. Compatible with mobile phone Android 4.4, IOS 8.0 and above
Cons
Borderline outdated technology.
A little bit heavy.
 
Total:
4.5

Why did this timing light come in second place?

Managers explained me all the details about the product range, price, and delivery. Seems that the material is good. It has a very beautiful color but I don’t really like the texture. This is a pretty decent product that perfectly fitted the interior of our office. I like this product. For such a low price, I didn’t even hope it to be any better. It’s decently made.

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Ease of use
5

5star

Size
4

4star

Durability
4

4star

Quality
5

5star

 

 

№3 – JESTEK Timing Full Spectrum Dual Head Grow light 56 LEDs 7 Dimmable Brightness Grow Light Bulbs with Adjustable 360 Degree Gooseneck for Plants Hydroponics Greenhouse Gardening [2017 Upgraded]

 
JESTEK Timing Full Spectrum Dual Head Grow light 56 LEDs 7 Dimmable Brightness Grow Light Bulbs with Adjustable 360 Degree Gooseneck for Plants Hydroponics Greenhouse Gardening [2017 Upgraded]

Pros
🌟 Full Spectrum LEDs – BLUE LIGHT influences the formation of chlorophyll, enabling the plant to intake more energy. Plants that receive plenty of blue light grow with strong, healthy stems and leaves. RED LIGHT contributes to the optimal development. It’s essential to a plant’s early life for seed germination, root growth, and bulb development.
Cons
Extremely expensive.
The clamp could be of better quality.
 
Total:
4.3

Why did this timing light take third place?

It doesn’t squeaks nor bents. Looks great in my apartment. This price is appropriate since the product is very well built. I hope that the good reputation of the manufacturer will guarantee a long-term work. I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new.

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Ease of use
4

4star

Size
4

4star

Durability
5

5star

Quality
4

4star

 

 

timing light Buyer’s Guide

If you keep the before points in mind, you can easily go out to the market and buy timing light, right? No!

TP-Link LB130

Best of all, the TP-Link bulbs don’t require any sort of smart hub to function, so there’s no need to buy a starter kit or pay extra for a hub – once you buy a bulb, that’s it, making these an especially good choice for anyone who only wants one or two smart lights, and not a whole house worth.

All of the bulbs other than the cheapest LB100 model also come with energy monitoring, so you can see how much energy you’ve used and plan your usage accordingly.

Connectivity is reliable, with only one brief network drop in our testing time, and our biggest complaint is that at just 800 lumens these aren’t the brightest bulbs around – but they should be enough to suit most uses.

LightwaveRF

Lightwave is a smart lighting solution that’s a bit different to the others in this round-up, since it requires you to replace your light switches rather than the light bulbs themselves. It is ideal for homes with multiple spotlights that would otherwise be incredibly expensive to individually replace, and also means that when one bulb blows you can just buy a regular replacement.

To set up Lightwave you need to purchase the £89.9Web Link hub, which manages your various Lightwave kit, and you can then add on as many or as few Lightwave devices as you like. Each light switch costs from around £3(see the full range at Maplin, but shop around for best prices).

The Web Link will also manage other smart home devices from the company – you can set up devices that control your hot water and individual room heating, motion detection, and the opening and closing of blinds or curtains. You can also install smart switches on your plug sockets that allow you to turn on and off power when required.

Lightwave has a companion app through which you can turn on and off the switches from your phone or tablet, and through which you can set up schedules or timers that are ideal if you are going on holiday.

Hive Active Light

The Hive Active Light Colour changing bulb is an easy and smart way to introduce lighting into your smart home environment.

The coloured bulb is arguably more of a gimmick and something you might not use day to day, but the Cool to Warm White bulb is easy to recommend, as being able to change the colour temperature of the light is a very handy feature.

Elgato Avea

You create ‘rules’ for the lamps to work and these can be for them to turn on and off at sunset and sunrise, or at times you choose. They can be individually named and controlled, and you can even set a dimming period so the lamp fades in to your set brightness over a few minutes (or even up to 30 minutes). You can also define a sleep period, so the bulb will turn off after a set time, just like a TV or radio.

The INNOVA Digital Timing Light is a top-of-the-line timing light for the selective do-it-yourselfer. The split-screen digital LCD readout displays tachometer and advance functions simultaneously (Digital Tach: 24to RPM / Digital Advance: degrees).

See More

One of the oldest names in bike lights, Cateye knows how to deliver and the Volt 800 and Rapid Kinetic Xlive up to the reputation.

For the Volt front light, five settings (three constant plus ‘hyper’ and flashing) give you from two hours of burn up to eight hours, or 80 on flashing.

As the name suggests, the Kinetic Xmonitors movement and switches from flashing to constant as you stop, with three modes and a 50-lumen total output.

Cateye’s mounts are certainly tried and tested and work well despite diminutive construction.

With a low-battery indicator built into the switch, there is plenty to like, although changing the light setting while riding in winter could prove a little awkward as the switch is slightly recessed.

Moon Meteor Storm and Shield-X

As you’d rightly expect at the very top end of our budget, these Moon units are loaded to the hilt with light-giving features.

Dual Cree XM-LLEDs provide plenty of brightness, with an output of 1300 lumens and a run time of a good three hours. There’s also a 10-second 1700-lumen burst option if you know a tight spot is coming up.

Meanwhile, the Moon Shield-X rear light offers up to 80 lumens for 80 minutes and up to 40 hours on 15-lumen flashing mode – there is also a further hour available in a ‘get you home’ mode – all thanks to a central CREE and 20 miniature COB LEDs.

Both units offer several mounting options which look as though they’ll cover just about any fitting. Which is handy.

Blackburn Central 700 and Central 50

Pumping out 700 lumens, this version of the Central is currently Blackburn’s most powerful front unit, making it an obvious pair to the Central 50, the brand’s brightest rear.

Three main settings provide 700, 400 and 200 lumens respectively, with a minimum run time of 1.15hrs and max of 16hrs on Pulse; with three, five or seven hours on the rear.

A broad footprint and 4mm rubber strap, complete with secondary hook, gives a secure fitment but lacks a quick release to aid removal for charging. The power/selector button is flush, making adjustments in winter gloves awkward.

At 50 lumens, the rear is bright enough that having it angled down is probably a sensible option but there isn’t an option to change either.

Light & Motion Urban 800 and Viz 180 Micro

Urban 800 offers four modes, including ‘pulse’, with the most powerful 800-lumens setting giving a run time of 1.5hrs, while the constant 175-lumen setting promises six hours.

The Viz 180 rear has a less regular set of outputs, with 2lumens in either a solid light (four hours), or pulsed (six hours).

It also has a 13-lumen setting for up to 1hours, and there’s a particularly neat feature in the Paceline amber setting for riding with others you don’t wish to dazzle.

At the rear, the rubber strap combines with a clip to hang it off a bag plus a hinged plate for your seatpost.

Up front, it’s a less conventional arrangement with a locating tab and swivel which means you can adjust the centering of the beam – but it does also mean it can be knocked off-centre easily.

Lezyne Power Drive 1250 XXL and Strip Drive Pro

On numbers alone, the Lezyne pairing are smashing it. As you’ll guess from the name, the front has up to 1250 lumens via three LEDs and the rear up to 100 from five.

With six modes, run times range from just under two hours at maximum power up to 3hours for the pulsed 150 Lumen setting.

If that wasn’t enough, the Strip Drive rear light offers nine modes and importantly returns to the last used when restarted.

Also of interest is that Lezyne states you can use a 2A fast-charge point to reduce the complete refill to five hours. Both are quite sizeable units so use hearty straps which are easy to get on, but hard to knock off.

Why you should trust me

I’ve reviewed consumer electronics for more than 1years and have held top editorial positions at magazines including Electronic House, E-Gear, Dealerscope, and others. I’ve also reviewed products for Sound & Vision, Big Picture Big Sound, and Consumer Digest. I’ve been an invited speaker at both the CEDIA and CES expos on the subject of smart home systems. In addition to turning my house into a laboratory for DIY home automation products, I’m also a certified Controlprogrammer.

Who should get this

Smart light bulbs are the easiest way to upgrade your home or apartment lighting to wireless control. Smart bulbs can reduce your energy consumption, especially if you’re just getting around to replacing incandescent or compact fluorescent bulbs with the significantly more energy-efficient LED bulbs. An LED bulb can last more than 1years under normal usage. If you’re smart about using the smart bulb’s scheduling and remote-operation features, you can save money by not using them when no one is in the room. However, smart bulbs cost more up front—sometimes a lot more—than non-smart LED bulbs, so the cost savings over time may be more symbolic than actual.

The main reason to try smart bulbs is that they’re fun. It’s okay to admit there’s a little thrill in tapping your smartphone to turn off a light across the room or across the house. Maybe that thrill decreases over time, but it’s still there. Getting up to physically hit a light switch—that’s never fun (unless you’re stopping at the fridge along the way to grab a beer). And smart bulbs do add convenience to your life. It’s easy to shut off downstairs lights when you’re upstairs tucked in bed. If you hear a bump in the night, you can turn on multiple lights at once. Want to turn down the lights for watching TV in the evening? All smart bulbs are easily dimmable from their apps. Most apps allow for scheduling, so you can have groups of lights turn on and off based on your daily activities or to simulate occupation when you’re away from home.

Smart bulbs that change colors are even more fun. Like a softer, warmer light to ease your way into morning? A color-adjustable or tunable white bulb can do that. Want to set a relaxing mood for music after dinner? Turn the lights blue, or green, or whatever palette you like. Set in strategic locations, color-adjusting smart bulbs can be an integral part of your home decor, rather than just something to chase the shadows away.

Many smart bulbs, including our top picks, can be integrated with a variety of other smart-home products, including smart-home hubs, switches, cameras, and thermostats, making a light bulb an easy way to start your smart-home system.

If you already have a couple of smart bulbs or a smart-home system installed, however, you may be stuck with a specific brand or technology. Some bulb brands can be mixed and matched in a system, others can’t; we explain that further below.

Pull Quote

The Hue does everything its competitors do, but a wider product and app ecosystem allows for more flexibility and creativity than any other smart bulb.

Since Philips introduced the original A1color-changing bulb in 2012, the company has added several more products to the family, including battery-powered lights, strip lights, light globes, wireless remotes, motion sensors, and plain-white-light smart bulbs. The recent addition of HomeKit compatibility makes Hue lights work with additional products and allows Siri voice control over the lights. This requires the Hue gateway, which comes in the current starter kit.

Setting up Hue lights requires a few simple steps, much like any other smart-home device. The gateway connects to your home router or network switch via a wired Ethernet port. This connects the system to your network and allows you to control the lights with a smartphone or tablet connected wirelessly to the same network. The gateway connects to the Hue bulbs themselves over a Zigbee wireless mesh network. A mesh network has the ability to repeat signals through all the connected nodes (in this case, the Hue lights are the nodes), which cuts down on errors and improves reliability. The gateway unit is small enough that you can easily tuck it out of sight.

Who else likes our pick

An inexpensive bulb that’s good for people who want an easily controllable light, not a whole smart home.

GE discontinued its previous Link line of bulbs, which connected using Zigbee, in favor of the new C family. C-Life bulbs connect via Bluetooth, making them easy to connect and control from your smartphone, tablet, or computer, but which also means you can’t control them when you’re away from home or—given Bluetooth’s limited range—even if you’re on a separate floor of the home.

The C-Life bulb is usually sold in a bundle with C-Sleep, a tunable white bulb that you can adjust from a harsh white to warmer tones. The app also allows the tone to automatically track with the time of day, supposedly creating the optimal light for the conditions. Of course, because it doesn’t include a light sensor or any connection to weather information, C-Sleep can’t actually know what the ambient lighting conditions are. Still, it’s an inexpensive tunable white bulb and works well at what it does. Like the C-Life, it also communicated via Bluetooth.

The competition

Sylvania Lightify bulbs (which used to be called Osram Lightify) work on a Zigbee network, and as such need a Zigbee hub, either the small wall-plug unit often sold bundled with a bulb or a smart-home hub like SmartThings or Wink. The Lightify RGB color-adjustable bulb is about the same price as the Hue, but it’s shaped more like a traditional incandescent bulb. I measured 500 lux from the top and 250 at the sides, which makes it slightly brighter than the Hue, but the difference is only really noticeable when in a white mode. The colors are not as rich as those of the Hue or LIFX bulbs, but red looks red enough, and green looks green enough to satisfy most people.

The Lightify tunable white bulb measured a little brighter at its peak settings, giving us 600 lux from the top and 320 from the sides.

When setting up your Lightify bulbs, you first need to set up the gateway (unless you’re using another brand’s hub). It didn’t initially want to connect to my network, until I resorted to calling technical support and was walked through a few additional steps that did the trick (turn iPhone to airplane mode, then turn Wi-Fi back on, which disables Apple’s Wi-Fi Assist). Weird, but it worked.

The Lightify app is graphically dull and not as intuitive as the Hue or LIFX apps, but if you’re connecting the bulb to the SmartThings or Wink hub you’ll use that app instead and won’t have to mess with the Lightify one. For a while Lightify bulbs could also be paired with the Hue gateway, but firmware updates seem to have made that more difficult, so it’s no longer a dependable option (feel free to try it, but cross your fingers).

Like Hue and LIFX, Lightify bulbs work with Alexa when connected to an Alexa-compatible hub like SmartThings and Wink, but they won’t work with Alexa independently, and don’t work with Google Home or Apple HomeKit. The lights do work with Nest, so you can create scenes that synchronize with Nest’s Home and Away modes. Those may be factors to consider if your plan is to add a variety of smart-home gadgets to your abode.

Like Hue, these bulbs are part of a family of Lightify products, which also include outdoor string lights and strip lights for indoor use (which we plan to test soon) as well as a wireless remote similar to the one Hue offers. Lightify isn’t a bad way to go if your plans go beyond standard A1bulbs, but the company doesn’t currently integrate with as many other platforms.

The Cree Connected and LinearLinc bulbs.

LinearLinc Bulbz (also sold under the GoControl brand) is a Z-Wave bulb for Z-Wave–based smart-home systems. It works well with both the Wink and SmartThings hubs (and presumably with other Z-Wave smart-home hubs). Putting out 520 lux from the top and 360 from the side, it’s brighter than many of the bulbs we tested, but also more expensive—twice the price of the Cree or GE bulbs. Unlike those bulbs, the LinearLincs responded almost immediately to app commands. If keeping your smart-home devices within a Z-Wave ecosystem is important to you, these bulbs will light the way.

What to look forward to

Sylvania’s Smart+ A1Full Color bulbs, the company’s first line of smart light bulbs, are supposedly the first to allow owners to control them directly via Siri and Apple’s Home app. The Bluetooth-enabled bulbs are expected to ship in September. Once they are available, we’ll see how they stack up to our current picks.

Koogeek has a new smart light bulb, the HomeKit-enabled Wi-Fi Smart LED Light Bulb, which we will test as soon as we can. Koogeek’s bulb has a built-in wireless radio, which means you don’t have to buy a separate wireless hub to control your lights via smartphone.

TP-Link’s LB230 smart bulbs are designed to change color and connect to Wi-Fi without a separate hub, and can be controlled remotely through an app. TP-Link says it offers a two-year warranty and lifetime technical support. We’ll test these out as soon as we can and update this guide with our thoughts.

IKEA’s Trådfri smart LED bulbs are now compatible with Apple’s HomeKit (IKEA’s dimmers and other smart-lighting devices are still not compatible, however). According to The Verge, IKEA has also promised Google Home compatibility sometime in the future, but just when that might happen is unclear. They’re certainly cheaper than our current pick and runner-up, but we’ll wait to update this guide until we get a chance to test how they perform with the HomeKit.

You can already find several smart bulbs that include non-lighting features such as music or video cameras. Although we’re not huge fans of those, we expect to see more, and if there’s interest, we’ll check them out. Overall, the biggest trend we expect and hope for is declining prices. Though smart LED bulbs may last you 1to 20 years, they’re still expensive. As they grow in popularity, they’ll inevitably become cheaper, and more people will get to enjoy their benefits.

Regarding the last question, if you’ll be handling your own lighting during performances, features such as remote control, foot pedal control, and programmability will be important considerations.

LED vs. Conventional Lighting Fixtures

Inexpensive LED fixtures typically have smaller, low-power LEDs while larger, high-end fixtures are equipped with one-watt or three-watt diodes for much more impact. Smaller LEDs are often designated by their sizes—typically 5mm or 10mm. A 10mm diode is proportionately much brighter than a 5MM LED.

Strobe and Laser Effects

Strobe effects use a pulsing white light beam to create a visual stuttering effect similar to viewing old-time films. They’re very popular in dance clubs and are available with both traditional filament bulbs as well as LEDs in a range of power levels to match various venues. You can choose from standalone models or DMX-controlled strobes that can be programmed with custom patterns. Sound-activated models can create a particularly exciting ambience on the dancefloor. Note that many LED PAR cans and effects lighting fixtures include strobing functions that may be adequate for your needs.

Laser effects produce very intense single-color beams and often include built-in display programs as well as sound-activated functions using a built-in mic. Motorized units allow scanning and burst effects, and the inclusion of gobos can create patterned laser beams. More advanced laser effect fixtures can produce 3-D effects and detailed backdrops, skyscapes, and much more. Lasers are especially effective when used in conjunction with fog machines.

Black Lights and UV Lights

These fixtures are a simple, low-cost way to add a special ambience to performance spaces and other venues. They enhance the appearance of white and fluorescent colors in darkened spaces creating a ghostly glow. Black lights are available in standard fluorescent tube and incandescent bulb formats that use standard lighting fixtures as well as newly developed LED fixtures.

PAR Can Lighting Fixtures

These lights are a staple of stage and live-sound lighting. These basic fixtures have a metal housing, mounting bracket, reflector, and socket that can accept a variety of different lamp types. They’re often used in large numbers to illuminate certain performers or stage areas and are usually mounted on overhead trusses. They do not offer a true hard-edge beam; the width of the beam is determined by the shape and positioning of the PAR can’s reflector.

PAR cans come in a wide range of sizes and are identified by their diameters in eighths of an inch. A PAR64, for example, has an 8″ diameter (because 6eighths of an inch equals 8″). Most include a holder allowing colored gels to be mounted in front of the lens.

Note that PAR3lamps are sometimes designated as simply SP (Spot) or FL (Flood).

The power requirements of PAR cans with incandescent lamps can add up fast. Those for smaller stages are typically in the 75-150 watt range. PAR3cans typically run between 50-150 watts. PAR46s usually have 200-watt lamps, PAR56s usually range from 300-500 watts, and PAR 64s range from 500-1000 watts. This is where the LED technology really shines (pun intended). They not only use a fraction of the power required by incandescent  fixtures, but also reduce the number of fixtures needed in order to create a wide range of color options.

A common lighting setup for bands involves the use of a pair of light trees on either side of the stage, each holding enough PAR3cans with spot lamps and amber or light pink gels to light each frontline band member. Drummers are usually lit from the back and sides. Mounting the light trees to the tops of your main speakers is a space-saving strategy.

PAR cans and other lighting fixtures that have a double-yoke support system are something to look for if you want maximum placement flexibility. Double yokes allow mounting the fixture from a truss or placing it on a floor, speaker, or stage without a separate mount.

Today, many PAR fixtures are equipped with LEDs instead of traditional incandescent bulbs, giving them multi-color and color-mixing options. As noted above, PAR cans with LEDs generate much less heat, require far less power, and don’t require the use of dimmer packs.

The Thinpar6from Venue uses 100 bright LEDS to generate intense static or pulsing colors plus sound-activated and automated programs with master/slave or DMX-controlled operation.

Dimmer and Switch Packs

PAR cans with incandescent lamps require dimmer packs to control them. They operate in the same way household dimmer switches function, allowing you to set the relative brightness of connected lights. Most small bands and DJs use satellite dimmer packs with several channels that are typically mounted to the T-Bar or truss holding the PAR cans. The cans are plugged into the dimmer and they’re connected to a DMX controller. Dimmer packs are available with various numbers of channels, and some include built-in programs or chases.

Some units offer both dimmer and switch capabilities. Switches only provide on/off functions, and should be be used on LED and non-DMX effects fixtures to avoid shortening their life.

Lighting and Effects Packages

On the Musician’s Friend website you’ll find affordable lighting and effects packages that range from economical multi-PAR can packs to full systems that include a complete set of stage lighting and effects fixtures plus a controller, stands, and cables—everything needed to light your show. Aside from the savings these packs offer, you can be sure each fixture is compatible and designed to maximize the overall visual impact of your performance.

Non-DMX Lighting

Non-DMX lighting fixtures have their own on-board controllers. Many such fixtures are designed to react to sound picked up through an internal microphone. Sound-activated fixtures usually include settings allowing the unit to create effects when insufficient or no sound is present.

Selectable, built-in programs allow you to automate non-DMX fixture operation—an advantage for bands and DJs who handle their own lighting. Fixtures in this category with incandescent lamps are often manufactured to operate for a specified period of time before they must be turned off, which may make it necessary to use multiple fixtures to create a continuous show. Look for the duty-cycle specification to determine if a specific model makes sense for your needs. This is another advantage of LED fixtures—they have no duty-cycle limitations. Examples of common non-DMX lighting include beam effects, flower effects, and gobo projectors.

DMX Lighting Fixtures

Also called intelligent lighting, these fixtures can be controlled via DMX-51controllers or interfaces. A DMX controller allows you to program stage lighting and effects remotely, ideal when you want complete control of the look and timing of lighting effects. DMX fixtures offer more control attributes or “traits” than non-DMX fixtures.

DMX-512

DMX-51is the communication/cabling protocol that most entertainment lights and controllers use to communicate with each other. DMX acts like a post office. For control, you assign an address between and 51However, unlike your house, which only has one address, your fixture needs a number assigned to each of its channels. A 6-channel DMX fixture uses addresses, or channels on a controller. Each channel on the fixture handles a specific control attribute such as pan, tilt, color, etc.

DMX Controllers

Controllers run the gamut from simple non-DMX switchboxes and relay packs that allow you to power multiple lighting and sound channels to highly sophisticated DMX units that provide control over every aspect of multiple lighting systems composed of hundreds of DMX-compatible fixtures. Some simpler controllers have a dedicated purpose such as controlling specific effects such as strobes or fog machines. Some controller models allow foot control—a great feature for solo acts and small bands who control their lights in realtime during performance.

The basics of DMX controller operation are generally quite simple. Each slider on the controller corresponds to a channel on the fixture being controlled. DMX fixtures have specific values that correspond to their various control settings such as color, gobo, pan, tilt, strobe speed, etc. By moving a slider on the controller to a specific value, the fixture follows suit. The various control values of each button or slider used to create an overall effect can be saved into a “scene”, which triggers the specific action or state you set. The scene is then saved into a memory bank. Numerous scenes can be combined into an entire program, which, for example, can be synchronized with cues for a show. This is called a “chase.” Chases can be adjusted via a myriad of input functions, depending on the controller being used. Examples of control triggers include MIDI and clock/calendar events.

Software-Based DMX Control

As with software-based audio recording and performance functions, there is a revolution in progress involving a shift in lighting control from hardware-based controllers to PC software and mobile device apps. That said, also as with audio functions, there are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches.

Dedicated hardware lighting controllers with physical sliders, buttons, switches, and legible displays offer intuitive and tactile control and workflow without delving deeply into menus and mastering steep software learning curves. On the other hand, software-based lighting control offers enormous control potential with nearly unlimited creativity in designing elaborate lighting programs. Software may also be more affordable route.

The compact Chauvet Xpress 51Controller and USB Interface works with Windows or Mac computers and gives you powerful software-based control over an unlimited number of shows.

Many hardware lighting controllers come bundled with their own proprietary software and/or are compatible with other lighting software. Deciding which approach to lighting is right for your needs comes down to the complexity of your lighting and your willingness to master sophisticated lighting programming.

The Elation Show Designer 2CF DMX Controller offers 102channels of controls and has a huge fixture library for simplified effects programming.

DMX Controller Features and Specs

Number of channels: Much like calculating the connections needed on an audio mixer, count the number of devices and each device’s number of channels in coming up with an adequate channel count. You’ll of course want to allow some additional capacity for future needs too.

Number of channels per fixture: Some fixtures have many control attributes or parameters. If you plan to include such fixtures in your lighting system, a controller that can handle up to 3channels per fixture will make sense. However, if your system will be largely comprised of simpler effect fixtures and PAR cans, a smaller, DJ-type controller is likely to be adequate.

Number of programmable scenes: As noted above, a scene is a set of control values or slider positions that can be saved for instant recall. Some controllers allow scenes to be saved on external memory devices while software-compatible controllers offer scene storage and editing on external computers or tablets.

Number of programmable shows: A complete sequence of chases and other settings that comprise a complete performance that can be saved and recalled.

Number of universes: Each DMX network is called a “universe” and has up to 51channels. Smaller controllers usually have a single OUT connector allowing control of a single universe. More complex lighting systems may be composed of several networks or universes thus requiring multiple controllers, or a single controller with multiple OUT connectors.

Fixture libraries: These collections of fixture profiles streamline the process of setting attributes and functions.

Tap/sync: This function allows the operator to sync lighting effects with the music by tapping in the tempo.

Joystick/trackball controls: These make tilt/pan and other positional functions easier to control.

Keyboard input: Allows connection of a computer keyboard for faster programming and naming of scenes, chases, and shows.

MIDI I/O and control: Allows control of the lighting system with a MIDI-enabled pedalboard, keyboard or other controller—a valuable feature for performers and DJs who control their lights in realtime. MIDI in and out connectors also facilitate programming on external computers and other MIDI-compatible devices.

USB Connectivity/Software-based DMX control: A USB connector plus MIDI implementation opens up a world of control possibilities using PC software and/or mobile apps to program and control your lighting.

Wireless operation: Some DMX controllers are compatible with wireless adapters so as to deal with situation where very long cable runs would otherwise be needed. Such systems have a wireless transmitter at the controller and receivers located near lighting fixtures. These systems convert DMX control messages to radio frequencies at the transmitter then convert the signal back to DMX signals at the receivers which are connected to the fixtures.

Lighting Strategies

Each fixture produces output at a specific beam angle, which denotes the width of beam being produced. Assuming that you have two fixtures with the same wattage lamps, the fixture with the smaller beam angle will appear brighter. This is because the same amount of light is being focused into a smaller area. In addition, because a smaller beam angle creates a more focused and intense projection, the light can be placed further from the subject being illuminated. The larger (wider) the beam angle of a fixture, the larger the area that can be covered by the unit.

Fixtures should also be placed in proximity to the subject based on output. Lights that have a lower output need to be placed closer to the subject than a high-output fixture in order to be perceived as having the same brightness.

Having a combination of wash and spot fixtures illuminating an area will greatly enhance the look of any show. By using contrasting colors, the spots will pop out more, appearing brighter within the wash effect than if used alone.

Assigning Effects and Programming Shows

The key to good lighting design is to mix and match fixtures and tones to create a desired mood and effect. When programming, use color schemes that complement or contrast with one another, depending on the mood you want. Using a wash to create an ambient light in a color that will complement your spot, or effect, will make it appear brighter and richer. Clean, crisp complementary colors, along with fluid movement and symmetry produce an air of professionalism. Contrasting colors add high energy and drama to a venue. The best way to increase your design skills is by visiting different venues and shows to see what other designers have done. Note the elements that struck you as the best, and attempt to emulate and improve on them.

Connecting a Controller to Lighting Fixtures

A DMX signal begins at the controller and follows the path of the cable to the first fixture and then to each fixture in line down the cable run. The following diagram shows the proper method and order for connecting multiple fixtures to a single controller. The DMX line pictured here runs from the controller to the “DMX In” connection on the first fixture. From the “DMX Out” connection of the first fixture, a cord is connected to the “DMX In” connection of the next fixture in the line, and so on until all units have a cable connected to the “DMX In” connection. The last fixture in the line should have a DMX terminator installed to maintain the quality of the DMX signal.

Lighting Hardware

When setting up your lighting, you need hardware that will safely and securely position and hold your fixtures where you need them. Raising your lighting fixtures increases their coverage and keeps them safe from accidental contact and damage caused by vibrations. Musician’s Friend offers a broad selection of clamps, mounting brackets, and safety cables to accomplish this.

If you perform in a variety of venues, it’s likely you’ll run into challenges in setting up your lights. Having an assortment of lighting stands can help make setup simpler. Basic T-bar stands with tripod bases make a good all-around lighting support. A pair of such stands with an integrated truss affords more positioning options, support, and stability. Read specs carefully to make sure that the light stand or truss system you choose is rated for the weight of your fixtures.

Lighting Cables

The fixtures you select will determine the cables required to connect your system. In general, you will need one power cord per fixture, along with the appropriate extension cords (if needed). In addition, if you are connecting your fixtures via DMX cable, you will need one DMX cable per fixture. DMX cables use XLR connectors and come in 3- and 5-pin varieties. Check the user’s manual of your fixtures and controller to determine which type will be needed for your application. It’s a good practice to have extra cables on hand to deal with failures and venues requiring longer cable runs. That goes for extension cords, switchboxes, and AC power strips too.

Lighting Glossary

Attribute » a controllable parameter on a fixture such as gobo selection, color, tilt, pan, etc.

Beam angle » The width of a beam of light, often designated by the number of degrees; the greater the number the wider the beam. Sometimes designated with qualitative terms such as narrow, medium, and wide.

Chase » A sequence of lighting effects or on and off sequences. A simple example is the apparent movement of theatre marquee lights along a string, caused by the rapid sequential illumination of each fixture.

CMY » System of light color mixing using Cyan, Magenta, and Yellow. This system entails the use of colored gels or filters to create a wide palette of colors. Also see RGB.

Color temperature » A measurement of how relatively blue (“cold”) or amber (“warm”) a given light is.

Color wheel » A circular metal disc containing colored glass filters and is motorized to rotate in front of a light source.

DMX51» The protocol used to control lighting systems and individual DMX-compatible effects.

Fixture » In lighting systems, any lamp or lighting effect is considered a fixture.

Focus » A qualitative statement of how relatively hard or soft a gobo’s projected image is. The hardness of a projected image is largely a function of the distance that the beam is projected; the greater the distance, the softer the image. Focus may also refer to the X/Y position of a moving light in relation to the performance space or stage.

Gel » Also called a color gel or color filter, it’s a transparent colored polyester or polycarbonate sheet used in stage lighting in front of a light beam to alter its color.

Gobo » A usually spherical glass or metal template containing patterns that are projected by light sources mounted behind or within the gobo.

Gobo wheel » A disc within a moving light fixture that has several gobos placed around its perimeter. A motor steps through each gobo pattern in sequence, or fixtures may be programmable to select custom sequences.

Joystick » A device that allows control of a moving light’s pan and tilt functions. See trackball.

Kelvin » The measurement of a lamp’s color temperature. Incandescent lamps typically range between 600-3200 Kelvin. Arc and discharge lamps range 6000 and 9000 Kelvin. The sun has a temperature of 577See color temperature.

Moving head fixture » A lighting fixture in which the entire optical system, including gobo wheels, lamps, prisms, etc. move with the emitted beam(s).

Moving mirror fixture » Often called scanners, these lighting fixtures employ a mirror to animate and project beams of light. They typically offer faster movement than moving head fixtures.

 

 

 

 

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Final Word

First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.

Most important, have fun and choose your timing light wisely! Good luck!

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