DMX Lighting Control from Ableton / Max

Does anyone here have any experience with controlling lights over DMX?

I have access to 8 Martin Mac 101s:

And potentially 4 Mac 250s:

I don’t have an exact use for them yet, but would like to explore controlling them over DMX, perhaps making them move as part of an audio + lighting environment controlled through Max or M4L.

Initially, I’m not sure how capable a DMX interface needs to be to do this? Could I use something like this:

Any help appreciated!

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I’ve been trying to research this, too, with limited results. I’ve come across a few older M4L devices that are designed to work with Enttec or similar USB-DMX boxes, but they are older and don’t seem to still be supported, and I don’t already have DMX hardware so it seems risky to buy a $200 converter and some cans and have it maybe not work.

Excited to hear what experience folks have!

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Just realised I’d linked to the wrong page. It was Enttec boxes I was looking at too (updated).

I have experience using those USB Enttec interfaces in Max and, in my experience, they can work wonderfully.
Two recent examples are the MIDILights M4L device (which I developed for Strange Electronics) and the custom M4L device I developed for Gui Boratto’s recent Pentagram album / tour.
The one I developed for Boratto was designed to control the color and movement of 5 Robin LedBeam 150s.

The enttec interfaces do require that you send some initialization commands and that you prepend the DMX messages with some extra numbers but other than that they work great and reliably without any need for external objects or anything. You can just string together the messages using the ZL objects and send them to the native serial object in Max.


That’s super useful, thanks. Will definitely look at the device. I knew someone on Lines would know about this…

So can you theoretically control all of lights I mentioned with one device? I was unsure if it could send enough channels of DMX to do that?

I also understand that you chain a string of lights together in series, is that correct? How do you then target each light in Max?

Apologies if this is very beginner! I am planning to put some time into this, but understanding the basics would help a lot!

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Yeah, basically you’re limited to the number of DMX universes available on the interface. I used the MK1 so it only has a single universe (512 channels).
If you’re using DMX lights that don’t move and only require RGB then you can technically control more than 170 lights at once. On the other hand, if you’re using something more complex like those Robin lights (which use 16 channels each) the number goes down to 32 lights.
I think either way you could get a lot of stuff done with just a mk1 (so it might be a good idea to even look for an used one).

Exactly. If you’re using just a 3 channel RGB light then the first 3 numbers of the string would be used by light 1, the following 3 numbers by light 2 and so on. You also have to make sure that the start address of each light is set correctly (light 1 would be set to 0001, light 2 to 0004, light 3 to 0007 etc).

The only thing you gotta keep in mind is that you do need to prepend some numbers to that string that indicate the length of the string etc. It’s not hard but you need to pay attention to formatting.

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I’d also look into Open Lighting Architecture (OLA) as there is an Open Sound Control (OSC) input for that. I’ve used it extensively with SuperCollider as the control source and it works great. link:

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My DMX experience is fairly limited, but over the summer I had some success using just an Arduino Mega and a DMX shield. Essentially I was designing the brain for a simple demo system for a local artist in boston who would at some point take his 6 lumenpulse lights to a small town in Massachusetts, set them up in their clock tower, and show them what a DMX setup would look like. If they liked it, they would eventually get their own setup with a dedicated interface and all that. Then afterwards the artist would still have this simple, easy to setup demo system for his own use.

I still have lots to learn about it, but if anyone reading this is/was like me in that they had an interest in DMX with no prior experience and doesn’t mind DIY/tinkering with code, the Arduino Mega/DMX Shield is a great option because it’s super cheap! Depending on where you get the Mega and Shield from, you can get your “interface” for under $50. Then just find a DMX library for the Arduino (I used DMXSerial), and like @IcaroFerre said, it’s just list formatting and outputting to the Arduino from Max’s serial object. My patch isn’t nearly as nice or sophisticated as his, but it got the job done!

I just ordered another Mega/Shield and a pair of much cheaper lights (because I can’t drop > $1000 for one lumenpulse light) because it was such a fun project and I’m eager to explore DMX a bit more.


I also used the enttec DMXIS box and had great results, but it’s finicky. my use was super low-intensity, eight non-moving fixtures that I programmed with automation data in Ableton. super easy but time consuming.


Did you have to use any sort of specific M4L device to send to the DMXIS box? Or is there a plug-in that handles that?

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I have a DMX enttex box and have used it with MAX before (a long time ago) I had a shnth controlling lights via its bars

depending on how many channels you would need Qlab has a nice simple free version

midi, OSC, sound, light, video the whole deal
my wife and I have used many versions of this program for a long time with our theatre and it is just wonderful to be able to use lights from this same interface

if you happen to be an old ETC board kind of person then check out ministageconsole

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there’s a plugin that it comes with, as well as a standalone application. you just edit automation in Ableton for each of the faders in the plugin, it’s really easy.


I just used Max-controlled DMX for the first time, after the bit of formatting on the lights end it worked out easily to rig them up like @IcaroFerre mentioned. I tried re-searching the cycling74 forums, but look for the fxwdmxusbpro external if it’s still up, it’s an update of the dmxusbpro which makes the serial communication much simpler. This with this & I haven’t had a bug since. Feel free to PM me & I can send the external if you like!


Thanks all. Loads to process there!

Going to go through in more detail asap. Definitely going to give this a try though.

if anyone else is thinking about using the DMXIS box & plugin, seeing a couple tutorials like this helped me visualize the actual process:

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take a look at DMAX?
i just ran across

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