Marion Hall, Martin Product and Application Support

Martin has a wide range of products for various applications, from industry-standard moving lights to architectural lights. In the design phase, it’s important for lighting designers to understand how these lighting fixtures work in order to give audiences a great experience. This article will explore key pieces of knowledge about light sources, color mixing, DMX and control systems to help you better understand lighting as a whole and choose the best fixtures for your lighting installation.

It’s important to understand how the source of light inside your fixture works. Martin makes many intelligent lighting fixtures, which rely on either LEDs or discharge lamps to generate light. Both types provide exceptional output, but they achieve this in different ways.

  • Lamps
    Many intelligent lighting fixtures use a discharge lamp, which is essentially a glass ball with two electrodes in it. The discharge lamp uses high voltage to ignite the gases inside, which energizes them to create an arc with those electrodes. The result is an extremely bright output of light that measures 5,600 to 6,500 degrees Kelvin.

While discharge lamps last much longer than standard incandescent lamps, they do degrade over time. Usually, a discharge lamp will last up to 700 to 800 hours, however there may be a shift in color temperature as the lamp gets older. Discharge lamps are not dimmable and need a shutter system to adjust intensity. Martin has various fixtures that use discharge lamps, including the Viper, Axiom, ERA and RUSH series.

  • LEDs
    An LED, or light-emitting diode, is a semiconductor light source that emits light when current flows through it. LEDs are extremely common in today’s lighting world because of their low power consumption, low heat and lightweight design, which make them easy to transport. Likewise, LEDs don’t need a lamp. Martin has a wide range of LED fixtures perfect for everything from stadium events to small clubs, including the following series’:

Additive vs Subtractive Color Systems

Lighting designers control wavelengths of light to create a full spectrum of color. There are two different ways to control color with Martin products: subtractive and additive color mixing.

  • Subtractive Mixing
    Subtractive color mixing begins with a white light source and uses a colored filter to subtract wavelengths, resulting in a color. Many Martin fixtures use CMY color mixing, which uses values of cyan, magenta and yellow in front of a white light source. These secondary colors will filter wavelengths from the white source. For example, the cyan filter will only let blue and green wavelengths through. Then if you put a magenta filter over the cyan, only the blue wavelength will come through since all other wavelengths were subtracted.

Another example of this is a gel. Gels have been used in the industry for decades and generally have a low cost, but are less common today because they must physically be installed. Likewise, saturated colored gels burn up quickly from the heat of the light, which will burn through the color and cause white light to come through.

Martin fixtures instead use a dichroic filter. In this system, a colored glass is used to reflect unwanted colors back to the source and only let a specific color through. The dichroic filter system is used most frequently in intelligent lighting as color wheels that are built into the fixtures or as CMY filters.

  • Additive Mixing
    Additive mixing works by adding various wavelengths of light together to produce other colors. Additive mixing uses values of the three primary colors – red, green and blue (RGB) to create white. For example, adding red and green together will create yellow.

Spots, washes and hybrids all reference different beams of light that you can achieve with lighting fixtures. Different Martin fixtures are designed to output different beams, so knowing what each beam achieves will help when designing your lighting rig.

  • Spots
    Typically, a spot refers to a hard-edged beam of light. Spots are used for lighting specials in concentrated areas using optics similar to those found in cameras. Spots are great for creating a focal point on stage.
  • Wash
    While spots create a focal point, wash fixtures do the opposite. Washes are designed to illuminate large areas and provide overall coverage. Washes help fill the space and are seen in almost every area of lighting because they are great for general illumination.
  • Hybrids
    Hybrid fixtures create both sharp spots as well as washes. These fixtures are designed with various beam capabilities and their flexibility makes them ideal for any lighting design.

It’s important to understand how to control a lighting system in order to know which lighting fixtures would be most applicable in your setup. The main steps to control your lighting system include:

The Martin MAC Viper Profile and MAC Viper AirFX lighting a Dallas Stars hockey game.

– Setting up your lighting console and fixtures
– Patching the lighting fixtures into your console
– Setting the DMX address of each fixture
– Programming your event or show
– Playing back your show

  • DMX-512
    DMX-512, or simply DMX, is the industry standard to communicate data from the console to the lighting fixtures. To send data to fixtures, the system uses:
    • 512 channels (usually referred to as addresses)
    • 8-bit protocol
    • 256 steps of resolution

A DMX universe is comprised of 512 addresses, which tell the lighting fixture what to do. A lighting technician will physically set a fixture to a unique starting address, within the 512 universe. If the fixture is not addressed correctly, it will not be able to read the DMX data coming from the console.

Lighting fixtures can use multiple addresses, which control different attributes of the light, such as intensity or color, but will always have one channel number that the technician uses to control the fixture via the console. On the lighting console, the addresses are patched to channels or fixture IDs so the lighting technician can then control the fixtures.

Here’s an example of how this works. A conventional lighting fixture only has one address because only one attribute can be controlled by the console: intensity. On the other hand, the Martin MAC Quantum Profile uses 19 addresses in a DMX universe. It has many attributes you can control, such as intensity, pan/tilt, color, gobos and many other controls and effects. On the console, you can patch this as channel one to address one, so the MAC Quantum Profile would take up one channel and addresses 1 through 19.

  • DMX Addressing
    As discussed earlier, every DMX compatible lighting fixture must be set to a unique address. These addresses cannot be overlapped or the lighting fixtures cannot be controlled independently. As a result, you may need to use multiple universes to have all of the lights function independently.

For example, the MAC Quantum Profile uses 19 addresses, so only 26 MAC Quantum Profiles can fit in one universe (one will take up addresses 1 – 19, the next will take up addresses 20 – 38, etc.). Another universe will provide an additional 512 addresses. Most consoles come with two to four universes, and there are ways to add more universes.

Likewise, lighting fixtures have different DMX modes that must also be set in addition to a starting address. These modes provide optional features. The more features, the more DMX channels are required by the fixture.

Most lighting consoles have lighting fixture profiles that tell the console information about the light. The fixture profile tells the console the type of light so the console can map attributes like pan/tilt, color, and effects to buttons and faders. These profiles are preloaded into the console by the manufacturer, or the fixture manufacturer will publish a DMX map that can be uploaded on to the console.

  • DMX Cables
    DMX data is distributed by either a 3- or 5-pin cable from the lighting console to the lighting fixture. Some manufacturers use a 3-pin input, some have 5-pin, while others have both. 5-pin DMX is the industry standard, and an adapter can be used to go from 3- to 5-pin. The maximum distance of DMX from the console to the fixture is 1,300 feet before the data will start degrading.

It’s important to note that a 3-pin DMX cable looks just like an XLR cable used for audio. You should not use an XLR cable as a substitute for a DMX cable. XLR cables have different impedance and sometimes have poor shielding, which can cause data loss and intermittent lighting control.

Likewise, lighting fixtures controlled via DMX can be daisy-chained together with a maximum of 32 devices per chain. A DMX terminator is needed on the last device in a daisy chain. A DMX terminator is a 120 ohm resistor soldered between pins 2-3 to prevent data reflections and noise that goes on the end of the DMX chain to prevent data malfunctions.

  • Remote Data Management
    DMX is generally a one-directional protocol, meaning the controller has no idea if devices (lighting fixtures) are connected to it. However, there is an exception in the case of Remote Data Management or RDM. RDM allows the controller to speak to the lighting fixtures to obtain basic information, including DMX address, lamp hours, temperature and other attributes. RDM can be used to remotely address and set DMX modes, which is helpful for fixtures you cannot physically address.

The implementation of RDM varies with manufacturers, so it’s important to check if your lighting fixture supports RDM. Many of the Martin Architectural Washes use RDM, which is helpful since it may be hard to physically address or control architectural lights in some instances. Moreover, it’s important to turn off RDM on the console after you’re finished using it because it can tie up the data network and affect other data leaving the console.


The Martin VC-Strip 25 and Martin MAC Viper Performance at work together.

In small lighting setups, DMX cables can be used to connect lighting fixtures to the console. However, for larger setups or permanent installs, there are more efficient ways to distribute data.

  • Ethernet Distribution
    For permanent installs, CAT5 Ethernet cables can be used to distribute DMX-512 using Ethernet to DMX adapters. Likewise, Ethernet cables can be hard-wired into terminal blocks, like LED systems.
  • Opto Splitter
    Opto splitters can be used to distribute DMX to multiple locations in a lighting system. They also help to extend cable lengths because they refresh the data so it does not degrade when sent via long cable runs.
  • Wireless Receivers
    Wireless receivers can distribute DMX over wireless connections, similar to wireless audio. Some manufacturers have DMX receivers built into fixtures. However, wireless DMX signals have limitations and are not frequently used because they are susceptible to other RF interferences.
  • DMX Art-Net Distribution
    DMX Art-Net is a protocol that can output up to 32,768 universes over a single CAT5 Ethernet cable instead of using multiple DMX cables. Art-Net uses IP based protocol and must be set to either 10x or 2x IP range. Art-Net can also be converted to individual 5-pin or 3-pin DMX universes via Art-Net nodes and is used most frequently in the lighting industry.
  • sACN (Streaming ACN)
    sACN, or streaming architecture for control networks, is a newer protocol that is very similar to Art-Net. sACN uses standard ethernet switches to distribute data. However, sACN can output 63,999 DMX universes over a single CAT5 cable, and the IP address is not locked to a specific range like Art-Net is. Because sACN is a newer protocol, not as many devices support it, but it is becoming increasingly popular.
  • Fiber Cables
    Art-Net and sACN can both be converted to fiber cables via an adapter. This is extremely helpful to extend cable lengths because fiber won’t degrade the signal so cables can be much longer than DMX or CAT5 Ethernet.
  • Signal Chain with Nodes
    Protocols like Art-Net and sACN are helpful to distribute data from the console to the lighting fixtures. The chain looks something like this:
    • The lighting technician sends data from the console to the lighting fixtures via a CAT5 ethernet output on the back of the console
    • The CAT5 Ethernet cable is connected to an Art-Net Node
    • The Art-Net Node sends the information through a DMX output (that is set to a specific universe)
    • The DMX output is sent to the lighting fixtures

It’s important to note that the DMX cable in this chain must be connected to the correct universe on the Art-Net node. You can set each DMX output on the node to a specific universe.

There are various ways to control lighting fixtures that make sense for different lighting installations. A concert lighting rig would probably want a different controller than an architectural lighting setup, so the type of controller you have should work best for the task at hand.

  • Software-based Controllers
    Software-based lighting controllers are computer programs that are used to control lighting fixtures. Software controllers require either a USB interface to connect to DMX, or connect to Art-Net or sACN via CAT5 Ethernet cables. Software controllers are great for pre-programming shows before you’re physically in a venue, but can sometimes be limiting, especially during playback because the controls are on a very small screen.
  • Hardware-based Controllers
    Hardware-based controllers are seen frequently in the lighting world. An example would be a typical lighting console, like the Martin M1. These controllers have physical knobs and faders, which makes it easier to access features and program lights. They have a dedicated internal operating system that is streamlined for programming. Likewise, most consoles have built-in touch screens and more DMX universe capabilities than software-based controllers. They have built-in 3-pin or 5-pin DMX outputs and CAT5 Ethernet outputs for Art-Net and sACN support. Hardware-based controllers are generally durable and designed for concerts and tours.
  • Stand-alone Controllers
    Stand-alone controllers are primarily used for permanent installs. They are great for architectural or static lighting. Here’s how they work:
    • The lighting looks are programmed with a lighting console or software
    • The data is captured onto the stand-alone controller
    • The lighting console is removed
    • The stand-alone controller plays back the programmed looks

Stand-alone controllers usually work using a clock, so you would set programming changes to specific dates or times. For example, at 6 pm the lights would change to a dinner look, or on the US Independence Day, the lights would change to red, white and blue.

Martin has a broad range of products for lighting design, including automated, static, effect and architectural light fixtures. Additionally, Martin has products for creative video and atmospheric effects. Let’s take a look at what makes each fixture unique.

  • Automated Lights
    Martin has a range of automated lights, or moving lights, that are great for everything from large-scale touring to small clubs and theaters. These lights have many capabilities, including color mixing, beam effects and much more.
  • MAC Viper
    The MAC Viper family is a professional series that has been used on tours throughout the world. Vipers are premium workhorses that utilize high output discharge lamps. The series uses CMY color mixing as well as a dichroic color wheel and come with many effects such as dimmer/shutter, iris, strobes, prisms and an FX wheel. The Viper series is perfect for concert touring, stadiums and award shows. The Viper series includes:
    • MAC Viper Performance
    • MAC Viper Profile
    • MAC Viper Wash DX
    • MAC Viper Wash
    • MAC Viper AIRFX
  • MAC Quantum
    The MAC Quantum series is comprised of the Quantum Profile and the Quantum Wash. These medium-sized fixtures feature a high LED output. The Profile uses CMY color mixing, while the Wash uses RGBW additive color mixing. The two fixtures have a low-profile design and low power consumption, making them perfect for houses of worship, small theaters or concert touring.
  • The Martin MAC Aura PXL

    MAC Aura
    The Mac Aura is an LED series that is one of Martin’s most popular product lines. The fixtures feature an Aura eye-candy effect that combines multicolor beam LEDs with a backlight LED array, taking the synthetic look out of LED wash lights. The Aura series features three products:

    • MAC Aura
    • MAC Aura X8
    • MAC Aura PXL

The new MAC Aura PXL is the first wash light to feature individual pixel control for main beams via DMX, Art-Net, sACN and Martin’s P3 video protocol. These fixtures are great for concerts, corporate events and award shows because of their compact size, clever setup and control options.

  • MAC Encore
    The MAC Encore series was designed from the ground up specifically for theatre and television. The series uses a white LED engine with CMY color mixing. These low power consumption lights are incredibly quiet, making them perfect for applications where speech intelligibility is a priority. The series includes warm and cold versions of spots and washes to emulate tungsten lamps, including:
    • MAC Encore Performance CLD
    • MAC Encore Performance WRM
    • MAC Encore Wash CLD
    • MAC Encore Wash WRM
  • MAC Allure
    The Mac Allure series features the first fixtures to allow individual LED pixel control. The Allure family has pixelated beams comprised of seven individually controlled segments that can be controlled via DMX, Art-Net, sACN, or the Martin P3 video processor. These fixtures feature Martin’s renowned color calibration, extended color modes, and instant color control utilizing additive mixing, which make them great for concerts and award shows. The Allure series includes:
  • ERA Series
    The ERA series is relatively new with a variety of bright LED fixtures. The ERA series features the 300 Profile, which is a 260W CMY color mixing fixture that’s lightweight and compact—perfect for small theaters and clubs. It also features the ERA Performance line, which includes LED fixtures that range from 300W to 800W. These include:

ERA Performance fixtures use a CMY color system and are considered spots because they use four blade framing shutters. The ERA Performance 400 comes in both WRM and CLD to replicate tungsten lamps.

The ERA series also includes the ERA 500 Hybrid IP, which is the first IP outdoor-rated Martin fixture. It’s highly versatile and combines a beam, spot and wash in a single fixture, making it the ideal fixture for outdoor stadiums and festivals. Overall, the ERA series is great for concerts, houses of worship and theaters.

  • RUSH Series
    The RUSH series is a high quality, a cost-effective product line that Martin created for venues on a budget. These fixtures range from discharge lamp fixtures to LED products and offer many fixture types, including washes, profiles, hybrids, mirror lights, blinders, strip lights and hazers.

Martin RUSH fixtures


Recently, Martin created an ELP Ellipsoidal family of static spotlights. Ellipsoidals have been around for decades and are used frequently in theaters. They feature an LED light engine and are available in color and warm white versions. The Ellipsoidals are compatible with universal accessories like lenses but Martin has two zoom lenses that can capture 15 – 30 degrees or 25 – 50 degrees.

The Martin Atomic 3000 LED.


  • Atomic 3000
    Martin has various fixtures designed specifically for effects, including the popular Atomic 3000 DMX and Atomic 3000 LED. The original Atomic 3000 DMX is used widely around the world and features a Xenon-based strobe. The newer Atomic 3000 LED is the brightest LED-based strobe on the market. It features an RGB Aura backlight and has the same look and feel as the original, but you can change colors since it is an LED fixture.
  • VDO Atomic Dot
    The VDO Atomic Dot is a small LED-based strobe that’s extremely compact and versatile. It can be mounted in clusters or on mic stands. It features the Aura eye-candy effect using 16 pixels. It is Martin P3-compatible and comes in warm and cool versions.

Martin has a variety of fixtures ideal for all kinds of architectural lighting requirements, including the Martin Exterior Wash 310, Exterior Projection 1000, and Exterior Inground 400 – all used for this installation.


Martin has a range of architectural lighting that is fully outdoor rated. These durable fixtures include:

  • LED wash lights
  • LED linear video fixtures
  • LED dots
  • Creative pixel grids
  • Image projectors

These lights are perfect for lighting up buildings, outdoor displays, and much more.

Martin P3-050 System Controller controlling Martin VC-DOT 9s and VC-Strip 25s.

Martin has various fixtures that are designed for creative video. These LED products are custom designed for installations and concert touring. They are all compatible with the Martin P3 System Controller, which is a video processor that converts a video signal into s signal for the lighting fixtures to capture with no latency. There are a few different types of P3 controllers, including


  • VDO Family
    The VDO family are outdoor-rated fixtures that support video pixel mapping. They are rental-optimized and great for both indoor and outdoor concerts, award shows and corporate events. The VDO family includes:
    • LED video battens
    • Video dots
    • Video blades
    • Small wash fixtures
  • VC Family
    The VC family features a variety of LED building blocks, including video tiles, dots and strips. These fixtures are perfect for pixel mapping both indoor and outdoors, and can easily be integrated into stage designs, set elements, lobbies and much more.

Atmospheric effects like haze or fog are integral in many lighting designs because they add depth and texture to any design. Martin has the JEM series, which includes:

  • Fog machines
  • Hazers
  • Fans
  • Low fog machines
  • Effects fluid

These compact products operate silently and are great for concerts, theaters, and other applications.

I hope you enjoyed this article, but I also invite you to view my full Martin Learning Session Webinar video replay: ‘Lighting 101′.

We also invite you to view all our upcoming Martin Learning Sessions and our recorded Martin Learning Sessions Playlist. Our complete audio, video and lighting Learning Sessions Calendar and our library of all recorded learning sessions is available as well.


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