Controlling external devices - fans

  • Hi there

    I'm wanting to set something up in Isadora to control multiple external devices - either basic electric fans or usb desk fans. Is anyone able to point me in the direction of where to start in terms of interfaces and isadora actors/patches?

    Thanks in advance


  • Beta Platinum

    Arduino and DC motor maybe?

  • if you want to control big fans that need mains power then it is safest to work with things like this

    If you get one that uses an ir remote (will only work with direct line of sight - often described as 'in the same room') you can probably use with an arduino and ir led to control them directly. If they are radio controlled (described as  'even works through walls') then you would need to break open the remote control (which is low voltage and won't kill you if you get it wrong) and connect components across the switches inside that enables a microcontroller (Arduino or similar) to "press" each of the switches under the control of a computer - can post more details if that is the road you want to go down.

  • @nick - that's a good idea.

    I used this kind of thing in a project years ago: [](
    they're designed to be circuit board mounted, but you can also get holders for them with terminals.
    Maybe a bunch of these could be controlled by an Arduino switch board?

  • Dodgy and bad for the brushes on the motor, but turn a big fan on full and plug it into the dimmer, you can control it with dmx.

  • i use dmx controlled Fans and it works like charm! otherwise u need to plug the dimmer into a (nondim) switchpack!!

  • Tech Staff

    A DMX controllable Dimmer box might be an option for fans.

  • And another way. OSC. there are cheap OSC controllers for RGB on Amazon. Then buy some 12vdc relays (whatever current you think you need) . So Isadora sends out the OSC command to the RGB board which turns on the appropriate 12vdc output to the relay and the fan turns on. No dimmers needed. Just on and off.

  • DMX controller to a DMX RGB to Relay would be the same thing too.

  • this box has the advantage of having midi. maybe easier to deal with than DMX
    For cheap and DIY, get an arduino clone and search for arduino compatible relay cards on ebay. 
    something like this:
    Thats 4 channels for 3 bucks. There also 2, 8 and 16 channels. Go for 16, and set it up once and for all in a project box...
    Plenty of information on how to switch those relays via isadora here on the forum.
    or go for a teensy (arduino clone), it can be set to act as a midi interface or HID and eliminates any need for serial communication.

  • Thanks everyone this is all great! So many methods. I might save up the arduino options till I get a tinkering collaborator and start with the DMX dimmer which I'm pretty sure I can source on loan through my networks.
    So, plug the  fans into the DMX dimmer - plug dimmer into laptop - set up the midi ports through Communications menu - use the Midi Enable/All Notes Off/ to control on/off to each port? - set up interaction control patches.
    Fred do you suggest that simple on off is better on the motors than graded control?

  • Beta Platinum

    I have a vertical wind set up that uses a dmx dimmer system. It is 12 black 45cm floor fans (bought at a general hardware store while they had a reduced price - apparently customers don't like black floor fans). The fans do not have a step motor so are on/off. They do have a lo/ med/ hi rocker switch. I put three fans on a single channel so that there are 4 channels taken on the dimmer. However, all of these fans could go on a single dimmer for all on/ all off. I use a Lanbox to connect the dimmer to Isadora. Don't try 'dimming' these types of fans they won't like it - and will make a terrible noise to let you know. These fans do a great job but I am now taping their stands to the floor because if they fall over while operating the blades bend and they are very hard to rebalance. Atari sell fans with step motors and dmx built in. I just haven't had the resources to purchase 12 of the Atari units. If you are interested in artists doing serious things with fans look up Cheers Bonemap

  • Maybe you can dim them if you hang an inducting load along with it. The classic method is to put a lightbulb in a black lightproof box and connect it in parallel (a "ghost load") this is how its done with discoball motors. Could work for fans too.