Thinking of doing DMX Stage Lighting through C3 - best practice?

I’m thinking of adding a DMX controller for our 5 piece rock n roll band. Our drummer has some LED auto changing wash lights and a moving beam light which looked nice in standalone mode, but I’m sure we can make more of a show by having them coordinated to our songs.

I don’t know very much about lighting yet, but from reading around, here’s what I think I want to do! Am I on the right track?

  1. Get DMXIS plugin with the USB interface and run it as a VST within a rack in C3.

Questions:- Is there other software I should consider? Is running DMXIS as a VST better than running a different standalone app and sending it MIDI commands via a loopback midi port?

How best to then set up the different scenes in C3? At the moment I have all the songs loaded in the setlist , several just have a single state, others have a “solo” state. Only a couple of songs are fully separated into Intro, Verse, Chorus, Solo, Outtro etc?

I imagine that the lighting “preset” may change at different times to the “verse” “chorus”, so not sure song states are the best for this?

Maybe mapping the DMXIS scene preset to a rack state would be better, then using a binding in the song from a foot switch or button to a particular rack state?

Or what about just sending MIDI to the DMXIS plugin from a binding in the song. The plugin would then select the correct scene.

As well as sorting the technology, I then need to research how to use the lighting effectively. Any links or tips much appreciated.

Hi. I’ve used DMXIS for many years, first with Cantabile C2 and now C3. It works like a dream.

The bands I play in have mainly played to backing tracks and a click, so I usually built up a DMXIS MIDI track to go with the audio for a fully synced light show, which is amazing when you can do it. You can do all sorts of effects that a bloke pressing light cue buttons on a controller could not do in time.

But I have also done some free form songs (no backing track) where I used the bass synth notes I was playing to select light cues, or a foot switch on my FC300 MIDI foot controller to advance the cue in DMXIS.

I’ve also used song loading bindings to set the DMXIS song and cue

So you have quite a few possibilities there.

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Thanks Derek, Yes I forgot to mention, we are not using backing tracks, but we do have the bass, snare, and kick as audio channels.

How best to use them - is there an Audio to MIDI VST that would work?

Dmxis running in reaper.
Personal light show by another lady! :stuck_out_tongue:


I use DMXIS also. I was a little weary about the limitations of DMXIS, but at the end of the day, those limitations are it’s power and realistically, i don’t have time to build enough scenes/etc in DMXIS much less if it did it in something more powerful :).
I haven’t done a show with it integrated in C3 yet, but i plan on doing what Derek does.
Derek, do you have any tips on how you worked though all of it? I see 50 songs, building umpteen scenes, then doing a midi track per song to work it all out, and it just feels overwhelming to me. (i do use 75% backing tracks, but they’re not midi generated).


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My DMXIS interface just arrived, and I have been experimenting. Some questions

  1. The “C3 plugin presets” don’t seem to do anything. Should they? How do folk use these?


  1. I’ve created some basic presets within DMXIS for standard “stage washes” which directly map to rack states. I then expect to use these across several songsby having each song split into a different song state for each lighting effect. I anticipate 1 change per verse. If I want one song that has these basic stage washes, but with the addition of another light would I need to create a whole set of new presets? Or is there a way to apply the existing presets and then adjust the correct fader for the additional light?

  1. Selecting the rack state sends the preset number to DMXIS via MIDI on channel 16. I send the Selected State Program to the loopback port which then routes it to the plugin. Is there a better way of selecting presets between C3 and DMXIS?



Hi, I simply created a bank for each song and then all the individual cues. Bank, Cue is selected by MIDI notes in the sequence being played back by Cantabile.

It is laborious, but the results are worth it. BTW I build up the DMXIS trigger sequence in Cubase as part of the backing track generation. So it is easy to jump about whilst programming, cut and paste the note cues, etc.

PS: Can’t say I’ve seen many limitations in DMXIS. It does everything I want. What limitations do you think it has?

@a6325435 . I cant really comment on this approach as I don’t use Cantabile in this way to select DMXIS presets. I am selecting cues from a MIDI file programmed to select the cues. Or I use Bass notes from one of my keyboards for a song we did free form (no backing track), or for some other songs (mainly intros) I mapped a MIDI CC in DMXIS, which is generated by one of my foot pedals on my FC300, to step through cues.

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To answer my own question - yes I’ve found I can do this by using channel masks. I set up a basic preset - eg. Red Wash, and then switch to another DMXIS preset to bring up the additional light or strobe, or other effect. This 2nd preset will have all channels disabled or masked except those for the additional light. That way no other faders are affected.

So that means I can also have a single “guitar solo” DMXIS preset which applies to all songs. This preset could dim all the lights except the one on the guitar, while keeping whatever colour they happened to be on at the time.

That saves creating lots of permutations.

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I think I’ve worked out how I want to use DMXIS.

I’ve created my presets in DMXIS, and I can directly select each preset from within C3, for each rack state. That means I don’t have to mess about sending midi notes to DMXIS to change lighting presets. I just have to work out when I want to change the rack states.

Like this.


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It is such a rush reading about your applications of DMXIS using Cantabile 3.

I set up my first computerized light shows using an interface I built for a Commodore 64, writing a program in BASIC that poked machine language into the registers which turned on and off the eight +5v outputs that an external user port offered. That was in 1992. There were better computerized or at least automated implementations (I worked on wiring one used for a giant illuminated map for Intermedia Systems in Boston back in the seventies!) but that Commodore interface was the first one I ever built and used.

Seeing how far it has come is a blast! 512 channels from the basic unit - cool cool cool!!! :slight_smile:


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Glad to assist on the nostalgia trip. :slight_smile:

DMX is quite a neat system where you can just daisy chain lights together. And if 512 channels are not enough, then you just need more controllers or one with multi outputs! But with DMX IS, I was running a light show comprised of

  • Two Equinox Microbars (4 mini pars per bar)
  • One QTX LIght GOBO
  • Two Chauvet varilights
  • Six slung par cans
  • Four floor par cans
  • Haze machine
    All were multi colour with different fixed and variable effects, and you could get a really good light show going for small venues. If the venue was too small, you could just omit certain fixtures with no need to change the programming.

DMXIS as a VST plugin worked a breeze in Cantabile, including doing tempo synced effects from the Cantabile master transport tempo using DMXIS oscillators on different output channels.

Well worth checking out if you wish to run a light show from Cantabile.


I now have DMXIS behaving itself and know how I want to use it. I’ve been able to feed it audio through C3 from kick and snare drums and enable the sound active setting. The tempo sync using a preset change every 4 bars is surprisingly good even when playing freeform, as long as we’re somewhere close to the tempo. This is quite exciting! Thanks for the pointers everyone.

Next, I’m looking for comments on whether I’m on the right lines.

  1. What Lights to get?
  2. What basic presets I need to set up?

So what lights?
I bought one of these 36W PAR to play with.

One band member who also does discos has 2 ADJ profile panels like this

And a single moving head spot similar to this

Here is a rough stage plot. Dark purple are the lights I think we can get quite quickly, light purple are things for the future. I’ve spent some time researching, and discovered the principle of lighting the band members 1st, then the set, then the air. We don’t have haze, so I don’t think the single moving head spot will be much use to us.

I don’t think we’ll have room for a couple of 4 PAR T bars, so I thought we’d;

  1. Mount a slimline COB light on each speaker tripod. We can start with 1 light per stand and go up to 2 if necesary. We can mount them underneath the speakers at roughly chest height using an O clamp, and/or on top of the speaker using the M10 flying screw thread.
  2. Put the 2 panel lights around the drums.
  3. Put another COB by the singer’s monitor on the floor pointing up at him.
  4. Put another COB near (or behind) me pointing up at me.
  5. If we get a banner, then we can have a COB or a bar uplighting it.

Does this seem reasonable? I need to try and sell this to the band so that they’ll get some of the lights.

Next question post from me will be about presets

Next question is about presets.

I think I need sequences for the following scenarios. Any specific song programming could follow on afterwards.
Before Set
Start of Set before song
In Between Songs

Verse 1
Chorus 1
Verse 2nd option
Chorus 2nd option


I’ve read that the singer should mostly be lit in white, but anything goes for the rest of the band?

Any suggestions for a basic song preset? here’s my 1st stab at it, without having any idea what I’m doing, or the lights to try it out!

  1. White light on singer, Light Orange on left speaker, Red on right speaker, Light blue on drummer and keyboard
  2. 4 bars later, fade the orange and red between the speakers over 2 seconds.
  3. 4 bars later fade the blue on drummer and keyboard to orange
  4. 4 bars later fade the orange on the spaker to blue
  5. 4 bars later fade orange on drummer and keyboard to red

I’m making this up as I go along. Can you tell?!

Hmm, I would be a bit worried by all this lighting people from below - this is something you’d try to avoid, since it tends to make people look pretty spooky (try lighting yourself with a flashlight from below - horror movie stuff…).

I’d try to have the lights on people from the front or above - so at least one 4 PAR T bar mounted on a tripod would be helpful for pointing the light at the singer and yourself; you can point the lights on the speakers at the guitarist and bassist, so you’ll have individual lighting for each of you except the drummer - and for drummers it’s usually OK to light them from below; looks great with the drum kit.

And remember: if you don’t get blinded, the lights are too dark :wink:

In addition to the dedicated spots on each of you, I’d suggest using a couple of the COBs as color washes for the back of the stage - simply point them up the wall / curtain or your banner. Pretty easy to create a color foundation fitting your song this way.

This is the way I’m currently reworking our setup - I’ve currently got two cheap 4 PAR bars on stands and will add 4-5 single lights pointing up at the wall to provide background. That should do for most of the smaller gigs where the lights aren’t provided by the house.



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:notes::notes::notes: Blinded By The Light :notes::notes::notes::eyeglasses:

That’s for all the Springsteen haters …like Fred :rofl:


My wife said it makes a vast improvement.

I don’t see that we would have much space in a small pub for example for 2 Tbar on stands.

I found this which should reduce the space needed. What do you think?

Which cheap PAR bars do you use?

Hey, this looks interesting! Unfortunately will not work with our setup, since we work with the HK Audio Elements, so no speaker stands.

This is what we are currently using - cheap and cheerful, but roughly does what it needs to :wink:

In very small pub situations, we simply lay one or both of these bars on the ground somewhere and have them pointed at the ceiling. In these cases, no sophisticated light show, but simply slowly changing colors - good enough for a cramped pub :wink:



Yeah, if you only uplight, you might end up looking like Gary Numan or Phil Collins in Mama - Hah-ha-Hah - eeeeuuuugggghhh. :slight_smile:

If space is a premium, I would start with a pair of something like this (very similar to what Torsten is suggesting)

These appear to be the renamed version of the Microbars I mentioned above. I have two of these and for small gigs, just these on their own are good. Plenty of light and you can put them behind the speakers facing back to the band and point them in different directions.

In terms of the cues and making it up as you go along, then that is pretty much what you do :slight_smile: The thing with lights is to try and "keep your "powder dry and save the big effects for when needed. The first song I did was way too complicated as I was trying to be too clever, and it was a lot of work. I tend to listen to t song carefully to plan what it needs. A slow song does not need many changes or dynamic effects, an up tempo and dramatic song can be the complete opposite. For the cues themselves and colour choices, I listen to the lyrics to see what mood the song is and what colours it evokes.

Sometimes it is simple. Take 'Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”…

So, so you think you can tell, heaven from hell, blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail, a smile from a veil …

Plenty of colour cues in there without having to think about it :slight_smile:

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From all your replies a couple of gigabar MK2s seems to be the way to go. I’m discussing with the rest of the band.

Does anyone have a 16 channel dmxis fixture file for this light please? It isn’t there on the fixtures site.