Luminair for iPad – multi-touch DMX lighting control – A Quick Preview from Synthe FX on Vimeo.

Controlling lighting has been caught in a kind of Stone Age – expensive, inelegant, awkward, and antiquated. But while the iPad’s impact has perhaps been overstated with some problems (“it’ll save publishing! it’ll replace all other computers! it will transform how you think about life!”), here in this far more limited but important niche, I think it could be downright revolutionary. You can thank the app developer.

Luminair showed potential on the iPhone and iPod touch, but on the larger real estate of the iPad – with an extraordinary effort to make the user interface more mature – it’s looking like an actual replacement for other control schemes. For lighting and show control over the standard DMX protocol, Luminair gives you touch control of presets, colors, sequenced events, the lot.

I could say more, but I think the video tells it all. It’s also the kind of elegant, attractive UI design that embodies everything iOS is supposed to be. The reality is, despite Apple’s terrific tools and SDK for designing for the screen, a lot of UI design isn’t all that great. (Don’t blame the tools. Doing great UI design, whether on a website, a desktop, or any mobile platform, isn’t easy.) Here, my only regret is that because this is a DMX app, the larger mobile app community likely won’t see how slick the UI looks. Oh, well, no matter – if you run shows on DMX, you don’t care.

Word is people have already begun to work with Luminair on iPad in the real world. I hope to cover that – and perhaps even get the attention of people who don’t know what DMX is – soon.

Just don’t be surprised if you see this app at a show near you.

By way of comparison, here’s the iPhone/iPod touch version. It’s still very usable, and a terrific handheld remote; just look to the iPad version as one capable of becoming the main DMX control rig.

Luminair 2.0 – wireless DMX lighting control for iPhone + iPod touch from Synthe FX on Vimeo.

  • Joakim Faxvaag

    Ok, I haven't tried it, but I can't see this working for bigger shows.

    It's a good idea of course, but I'm not very impressed yet. How fast you can get your looks together? How is your workflow during a live situation? How do you solve the tactility? We're dealing with lights, which you have to see, and you can't keep your eyes on two places at the same time. Adjusting several parameters to perfection could be a hassle. But I guess that's something to get used to?

    One output universe is a joke these days. You can run a decent show, but you're kind of limited.

    The methods of lighting control may look a bit stone age, but the truth is, most of them provide very fast, dependable, expandable, customizable and well tried solutions. The new MA's even got a multitouch screen.

    Compared to most of the free solutions or the software that's bundled with the cheap artnet nodes around, this would probably come out in a good way. But I don't think I'll buy this. I couldn't trust it with my show. I'm a grandMA guy, and they've got a great remote for the iPhone. I use it before every concert. 8)

  • Peter Kirn

    Nope, definitely, I haven't tested any of those things in a real world situation. I'm saying a) I think this has potential to fit the application really well, and b) I think they've done some of the nicest iOS UI design I've seen yet.

    I'd like to do that kind of testing, though, with someone who can give it a proper shakedown. If that's you, Joakim, and you own an iPad, let us know. (or anyone else?) It's not me. I'm just the observer. ;)

    And as for Stone Age controllers, I'm comparing to a lot of the DMX rigs and products I've seen available. Not to slam the market; I just think there are some gaping holes, and a lot of the rigs out there in club installations, etc., are just horrendous.

  • Joakim Faxvaag

    I agree with you on the quality of products in the low end market. Club installations could be much nicer with something like this. Just the ability to move around with it is a killer. And it will probably be easier to learn for people than what out there at the moment.

    I've got an iPad and an artnet node. 8) Kind of curious on how it actually works.

  • Samuel Gaehwiler

    I fully agree with Joakim.

    I quickly went over the user manual and it looks like you are only able to switch between static scenes (cues). Not sure if Luminair makes a smooth transition between scenes or if it is possible to set up the fade time for this (quite important for theater). Programming the movements of moving lights is also not possible (would be important for concerts and clubs). So I really doubt its use as a lighting controller. It might be a nice addition to a dedicated lighting controller for preparing the show.

    If someone is looking for an affordable art-net to dmx device: They also provide externals and patches for Max (e.g. making video to dmx possible. Or controlling light with Max4Live).

  • Ryan Hisey


    Luminair won't replace a GrandMA, and doesn't attempt to by any means. With that said, Luminair(plus compatible interface) will look very attractive on a feature and price basis, compared to a lot of small consoles/controllers/PC software.

    For users like yourself, the great thing is you can use Luminair directly along with larger consoles that support Art-Net, like the GrandMA. Whether you are using it standalone, or in addition to a larger system, it's an indispensable tool in my opinion.


    It's fully capable of these tasks. Luminair transitions smoothly between scenes/cues. You can set individual fade times, and build fairly complex Stack playlists. Position/program moving lights using the XY control pad(use the accelerometer if you wish).

  • Joakim Faxvaag


    I agree, it is very attractive on a feature and price basis compared to the smaller consoles/controllers.

    Thank you for providing the quartz plug-in btw, I've been using the kineme one since it was available. Good tools to play with.

  • 639me

    what's also crucial to controlling timing are 'wait out time' and 'wait in time'. if it had that, i would use it for small shows. as it stands, it's more useful as a complement, or remote, to a larger console. for me, at least.


    'individual fade times', that goes for individual cues. not for individual channels.

    but which would also be useful

  • cat

    For £60 I'd want a demo version, to see if I actually thought it was worth it, bought too many apps, that I've never actually used…

    For those of you looking for a cheap (free) DMX control software for mac or pc, I recommend MagicQ ( supports many DMX boxes, artnet, upto 16 universes, excellent integration with media servers, thumbnails from the server for example, supports arkaos as well for those of you who use it.

    Yeah its bigger than an iphone, but you could always vnc in from your iphone to trigger cues/channels.

    I've run shows from it, but for full on programming you'll always prefer a console. :)

  • Bruce Wheaton

    "Controlling lighting has been caught in a kind of Stone Age – expensive, inelegant, awkward, and antiquated."

    Not sure where you get that from. Expensive, sure. But there's many cutting edge consoles around – ETC EOS, GrandMA, Maxxys and the awe-inspiring V676 – I know you'd love that, it has 6 touchscreens and makes any TV/Movie control surface you've seen look like Spock's science station.

    Luminair is a great looking utility, workable for small, dimmed only systems and testing other rigs, but it's not a game changer at all. There have even been DMX remotes and palm/win mobile apps with similar functions (but less attractive) for quite a while.

    I love this site, and I read very regularly, but the occasional hyperbole based on slender knowledge can be a bit grating. It always seems to be the first line that's over the top – I guess that's a journalist thing.

  • Bruce Wheaton
  • Peter Kirn

    @Bruce: Fair enough. I think that counts as hyperbole. I should have put that differently. The entry-level of the market has been what's been stuck, I think. DMX as the control protocol derives some of MIDI's limitations (and shares some of its origins with MIDI); it works, but hasn't entirely kept pace with other protocol advances even in performance applications. And I was venturing into slender areas of knowledge, which was not the best time for (yellow?) journalism.

  • Peter Kirn

    I'll uh, try to restrain myself in future.

  • Tim Bartlett

    Looks handy for wandering around a venue — although I ran a 2-camera 3-video layer projection for a rock band in a tiny venue recently, and decided to control it with OSC from my phone. I ended up looking like some jerk who was texting during the whole show.

  • Peter Kirn

    @Tim: good point. We need some big box with a giant antenna that looks like the remote control for a flying saucer. Maybe it could even be an iPhone case. ;)

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