If you have been a lighting tech wishing to emulate your sound team compatriots by going wireless, your time has come.
The first time I heard of wireless DMX, it was during a News Year’s Eve celebration, where several buildings were linked to control devices across busy streets. This technology has actually been around for several years, but it has recently become affordable and available for all.
For this review, Lightronics provided me with a WSTFX Wireless DMX Transmitter and a XC-42 Compact Portable Dimmer with the wireless option. The transmitter is just a small box with a DMX jack, antenna, one button, an LED and a power jack.
The transmitter is very simple to use, and only has a few components. There are only two operations that need to be performed at the transmitter. The transmitter needs to be linked up with the receivers you want to be receiving that universe of DMX. The operation is quite simple. By pushing the only button, the transmitter will seek out and link up with any unlinked receiver. By holding the button down longer, you perform an un-link operation. Once linked, the DMX is flawless in operation.
The portable dimmer pack is designed for two power inputs so that you can control 4800 watts or 1200 watts per channel. The unit has a DMX input and output, and with the wireless option, an antenna. The DMX output is functional when wireless so that you can control other devices as well.
With better software being developed for the dimmer packs, the options are increasing. In the past you could only address this type of portable pack in groups of four. This unit allows you to set any start address you like. In fact, you can set each dimmer to its own address. Another nice feature is that you can limit the output of the dimmer which can help in controlling the overall amperage draw from the unit. I say this because even though the unit will draw up to 20 amps for two dimmers, the breaker controlling the wall outlet you are plugged into will only allow you to draw 16 amps continuously. So, you could set the output lower and not worry if someone brings all of the dimmers to full at once.
The unit also allows you to set five different dimmer response curves: Dimmer for regular use, Relay for on/off control, LED1 and 2 are for LED fixtures, and Fluorescent for dimmable 2 wire ballasts. If you don’t have a console, the unit can be set to run in stand alone mode, either by setting different intensities or in a chase mode, where you can choose from 16 different patterns. Within the patterns you can set the rate, fade time and brightness.
To set up the pack to function wirelessly you go to the control source configuration and choose from five options. This area of the menu is where you can un-link the pack from a transmitter.
For a test of the system I went to a church and set the transmitter in the booth and the dimmer pack on the stage. I used the DMX output on the pack to send DMX another 50 feet to two dimmer packs and an opto isolator that was talking to two moving lights and eight LED Pars. I found no delay in the DMX signal at all. I was at the site to train the client on how to program the moving lights with their console. When we were done with the training, I told him that we had been talking over the wireless signal to his dimmers and fixtures. He was quite impressed.
The MSRP on the units I tested are $875.00 for the WSTFX Wireless Transmitter and $1,355.00 for the XC-42 Portable Dimmer Pack with the Wireless Option, respectively. The portable pack without the wireless is $795.00.