What is the dmx protocol?

Analisi e vantaggi del protocollo DMX nella programmazione dell’illuminazione delle fontane e dei giochi d’acqua
What is the dmx protocol?

The term DMX refers to a digital lighting control and programming system based on the DMX512 protocol, abbreviation of Digital MultipleX, or “multiple digital transmission”. This digital control standard is mainly used to program and control lights and their effects from a “control console”, which can also be operated remotely.


Born in the events and theater industry to control smart lighting fixtures and special effects devices, it has gradually expanded to other uses including the lighting of fountains and water features, but also in commercial buildings for applications including light temperature, RGB, and RGBW control.

The protocol is called DMX512 because it works thanks to a controller, from which, through a 3-pin cable (three-pole XLR connectors), it is possible to pass a maximum of 512 channels (DMX channels), each of which sends a numerical value from 0 to 255 (DMX value).

Thanks to technological evolution and the increasingly massive use of this technology in various fields, external drivers are no longer needed, because they are generally integrated inside the lamp.

The DMX protocol has various advantages for many sectors, but to do so the technician must have full knowledge of the program structure, control principles and application points; but above all he must have solid knowledge of lighting engineering applied to both interiors and exteriors, given the growing demand for skills relating to color-changing light programming by clients.


In the creation of our fountains, we always use low-consumption Spot LEDs with DMX protocol, because they allow us to create light design projects of great emotional impact. Thanks to the DMX control protocol it is possible to program the colors and frequencies of each individual lamp, at in the same way it is possible to differentiate and group the spot LEDs by zone, customize the colors, and adjust the shades and intensity. Furthermore, it is also possible to integrate the lighting with the domotics present in the home or in the company.

LED light (Light-Emitting Diode), is an optoelectronic device that exploits the ability of some semiconductor materials to produce photons through a phenomenon of spontaneous emission when crossed by an electric current. Based on RGB colors (Red – Green – Blue) it manages to give multiple chromatic nuances obtained from the combination of these three colors. The RGB spot LEDs use different combinations of red, green, and green lighting modules within a single LED and blue, which, considering that each module has an incremental value ranging from 0 to 255, if we multiply 256 for each of the three colors we obtain 16,777,216, which are the possible color combinations obtainable. But it is thanks to the subsequent addition of White, by changing the acronym to RGB+W, that the color palette has expanded dramatically: white is no longer obtained from the sum of the three RGB colors, but there is a fourth LED which emits pure white, which multiplies the RGB color spectrum with a further 255 variations. To these variations are added the effects that allow you to adjust the light emitted, in terms of intensity and light frequency, such as the Dimmer and the stroboscope.


The spotLEDs we have chosen have very low energy consumption, an average of only 5 W/h depending on the model, and above all they are equipped with optics which – depending on the model – cover a range from 16° to 120°, so as to obtain color-changing combinations that make it possible to illuminate the entire area and avoid shaded areas. Furthermore, all the spotLEDs we use have an IP68 protection class, which, according to the standard CEI EN 60529/1997 (ex CEI 70-1) is characterized by:

  • 6 – means that the instrument has a total protection degree against the entry of dust, sand and in general any solid body of small dimensions;
  • 8 – means that the instrument is suitable for permanent immersion in water.


IP67 spot LEDs should be avoided in the construction or restoration of fountains and water features. This classification indicates that the spotlight is totally protected from the infiltration of dust or sand (indicated by the first number, 6), but resists immersion of maximum 30 minutes at a depth between 15 cm and 100 cm (indicated by 7, the second number).


In conclusion, in the world of digital lighting, it is essential to have an in-depth know-how of the characteristics of the DMX512 protocol and consequently of the RGB and RGB+W technologies, because in fountains – as in buildings and outdoor spaces – light is a design element of fundamental importance, especially for its ability to excite and convey messages and feelings. In the Forme d’Acqua team, there are three technicians specialized in DMX programming for fountains and water features, coordinated by the artistic direction of the architect Simona M. Favrin – FavrinDesign, dedicated to the creation of the choreography of our dynamic fountains and musical dancing fountains.


February 22nd 2023

Susanna Dei Rossi

Lastest fountain projects