Our first product, ColorMax, was a proprietary protocol and included a controller, but the industry wanted to work with the lighting console. Next, our products were made with an industry standard, analog 0 to 10V. This worked fine as far as interfacing to consoles, but the noise and drift and inaccuracies of the analog protocol were still problems.

DMX512 suddenly made our market bigger because we could work with nearly any controller. The digital protocol eliminated some of the problems with analog, like drift and noise. Our first DMX512 product actually used a module to convert back to analog. It included decimal switches for addresses — so no dipswitches and binary addressing — and it had the ability for an alternate start code of 1. It used a buffer to get around the 32-receiver limitation of DMX512. I remember the first Coloram power supply had an analog input in addition to DMX512. We had to add additional features for troubleshooting, like a “DMX present” light because there was no easy way to measure if the signal was actually present, and an “Address match” light because some controllers didn't put out all 512 addresses.

Into The Future…

DMX512 will be the last mile for Ethernet protocols. The equipment will be around for a long time. I actually just had a customer admit to getting rid of Cinch-Jones cables this year (an old analog standard). Because many public facilities have a 20- to 30-year replacement cycle, DMX512 will hang around as long as analog did. It has now advanced to be a two-way protocol with the addition of RDM, which will enable the protocols of the future like ACN. Once again, our business will expand because of the additional information available. The industry will change, not only in product capabilities, but in the way people work.

Many companies, including Wybron, have been developing RDM products for some time now in anticipation of the standard being passed. The product introductions this fall will likely be leaps ahead of what the industry is expecting.