Build your own modular DIY DMX-controlled 8ft tube lights for $50
A lot of DIY lighting projects are fairly basic. They’re often too small or too low-powered. Not all of them, of course. We’ve seen some great ones, too, like this one from Matt Perks or this one from Eric Strebel.
This modular system from Super Valid Designs looks like one of the excellent DIY option. It offers complete tube setups up to 8ft long for around than $50 each. And with full remote RGB control over DMX, they’re certainly better than most.
A modular system with quick disconnect
The lighting system essentially revolves around the base. The base is made from various plumbing and electrical components for its construction. It sports the DMX socket to cable into your DMX controller and has a spring-loaded friction fit mechanism for installing and removing the lights themselves.
It’s an interesting construction because it’s made from random bits of ABS plumbing and electrical conduit connectors. But each is modified to let them slot into each other and form the final stand. Tent pole springs are used to create the electrical connections. It’s a very inventive setup.
The basic item list to build 8 bases looks like this. But as mentioned in the video, don’t just accept that everything will fit as needed. Don’t order it online. Actually grab all the bits and try them out in-store before you buy.
- 8x 2″ ABS Cap
- 1x 2″ ABS Pipe (3ft length)
- 4x 1 1/4″ coupling
- 8x 1″ coupling
- 2x 1/2″ C channel (8ft length)
- Box of 1/2″ 8-32 machine screws
- Box of 8-32 Nyloc nuts
- 2x 16mm Aviation Socket (10-pack)
- Tent pole clips
- RGB Wire
You’ll also want to have some solder, electrical tape and hot glue handy, as well as various tools. Naturally, a soldering iron and a hot glue gun, but also a hacksaw or chop saw.
Buying enough components to build 8 bases should bring the cost of each base down to about CAD$25 (about US$19). Of course, this will depend on where you buy your components. Super Valid Designs does appear to be working on a 3D printable housing to eliminate the need for the ABS parts and couplings. At the moment, it’s only available from their discord.
The lights themselves
Two different types of lights are shown in the video. One is the traditional tube, in lengths of up to 8ft. The other is an odd kind of ball light, although he doesn’t go into how to make that one. The tube light, though, is very simple to construct.
It essentially requires a 12v LED strip of your choice. In the video, we’re shown what appear to be some high-quality RGB tubes. If you don’t need RGB and just want white, I’d recommend buying some high-CRI daylight or tungsten white strips instead. But here’s the component list provided in the video.
- 8 x 3/4″ coupling
- 8x 1″ coupling
- 8x T12 tube guard
- 8x flat bar
- 24x 1/2″ 6-32 screws
- 24x 6-32 nuts
- Spade connectors
- 12/24V SMD 5050 RGB 60 LEDs per Meter
The tube light, too, has a very low cost per unit. It’s a little more than the base cost, coming in at around CAD$45 (about US$34) each. However, this cost will vary depending on the LEDs you choose.
The tubs are easy to pull in and out of the bases. But do bear in mind that the bases have exposed contacts, so be careful around them.
It’s not a bad little setup for just over $50 per light and base combo. And that’s for the 8ft ones. So, if you’re building shorter 2ft or 4ft lights, they will be less expensive. Also, if you’re only interested in effects and don’t need a high CRI output, you can save some money by getting cheaper LED strips, too.
If you want to build a big set of lights on a low budget, it’s well worth checking out the video above and considering making your own. It’s not a beginner project, for sure, but it’s not that difficult if you take your time.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.