DMX Laser - Usage and Ilda Protocol

Today there are many lasers used in lighting shows. They vary from small hand held laser pointers to big outdoor multicolor lasers. The simplest ones work in auto mode, changing pattern every few seconds. More advanced are DMX lasers, they use DMX protocol for pattern changing, animation etc. The most advanced lasers use ILDA protocol, specialized protocol designed for communication between laser controller and lasers.

ILDA and ILDA Image Transfer Format

ILDA (International Laser Display Association) is non profit association dedicated for the use of lasers in entertainment, education and art. It was founded in 1986. And since then ILDA sponsors annual conference and ILDA Awards for technical and artistic achievements.

ILDA Image Transfer Format is image format, developed for transferring images from laser controls to laser fixtures. Sometimes it is referred as ILDA protocol.


Difference between ILDA and DMX Lasers

Main difference between ILDA and DMX Lasers is that DMX Lasers have internal memory that describes how patterns (images) are drawn. With DMX channels we control what pattern is going to be shown. With DMX Lasers you cannot create custom patterns, you can only use predefined ones. ILDA Lasers do not have internal memory. Without ILDA controller that sends exact image data, ILDA fixtures cannot draw pictures. With ILDA you can your own custom images.

What is better? ILDA or DMX?

It depends... If you are using only lasers, ILDA is much more power solution. If you are using other DMX lighting effects, in some cases DMX is better, because you can control everything with centralized DMX Lighting control, but you will lose some of the best capabilities of laser displays... Or... you can try some Show Control Console (or software) that can control both DMX console and ILDA console via external triggering (usually MIDI).

Most mid price lasers today are both ILDA and DMX, so you can use them with both protocols.

DMX Lasers – DMX Channels

I hate cheap Chinese DMX Lasers! Don’t get me wrong, for their price, they are great, but... In most cases they are not documented at all! How can I use those lasers with DMX console? I never know what each channel does!

These are the most common options (channels):

  • Pattern Selection – Channel for selection predefined Pattern.
  • Strobe - Strobe channel, usually with speed.
  • Horizontal Move – With Horizontal Move channel you can move patter horizontally.
  • Vertical Move - With Vertical Move channel you can move patter vertically.
  • Zooms Mode - Zoom channel is very useful option. You can resize pattern. Smaller the patter brighter the beam. Especially useful with smaller lasers.
  • Y-Axis Rotation – Rotation of Projected Picture (Y Axis).
  • X-Axis Rotation – Rotation of Projected Picture (X Axis).
  • Center Rotation – Classic Rotation. Projected picture is not modified.
  • Color – With Color channel you can turn off/on colors.
  • Gradually Draw – With Gradually Draw channel, you can set laser do display patterns as they are drawn slowly.