Creating a Slow Moving Fan for Music Videos, Movies, Stage Shows, and Effects

Introduction: Creating a Slow Moving Fan for Music Videos, Movies, Stage Shows, and Effects

About: Nothing special. Yet ;)
If you have watched a dark noir film or even a 90s dance music video you may have noticed those awesome oscillating fans coming out of the haze or moving as eloquent silhouettes on the wall.  In Ridley Scott's Blade Runner the interrogation room as quiet a large fan attached to the ceiling.  Recently I was asked to recreate this effect at a music venue and quickly discovered that you cannot just put a fan in front of a light and achieve the same results.  In fact, your typical fan moves WAY to fast to create a cool silloute and any fan that doesn't won't push much of a breeze in your direction.   This effect is actually achieved by a slow moving fan and can be done on the cheap.  Don't try to put a dimmer switch on an AC powered fan, it could potentially lead to a fire.

I assembled and cut the cardboard and took the pictures at home, but the rest of this was Made at Techshop  Check out to see if there is one in your area.

What you will need:
$12  | 1 x RC Reversible DC Motor Speed Controller 12-40V 0-3A 60W  (ebay)
$10  | 1 x 12V 60 RPM 60RPM High Torque Gear Box Electric Motor  (ebay)   Or buy in USA for $15
$2    | 10ft 3/4 PVC Pipe (We only need about 5 feet, but it comes in 10 foot lengths at home depot)
$.50 | 4 x 3/4" PVC Pipe Tee Adapters
$0    | Enough Cardboard for the size of the fan, in my case it was less than 2'x2'
$0    | Duck Tape
$0    | Stapler
$0    | 12V Drill Battery or 9V battery and 9V leads
$1    | Small Gauge Cooper Wire
$0    | A Light of Some Kind

Optional, Fog Machine or Frost Shower Curtain.  Or 12V Drill Battery or 12V Battery Equivalent.

Total Base Cost = ~$30    I had the Motor, Speed Controller, and drill battery Laying around my house.  At 9V battery will work temporarily for testing.  I know that with the Motor controller a 9V battery will rotate for 6 hours. (Motor accepts variable Voltage from potentiometer).

For my final design I created a four blade fan and projected onto the back of a frosh shower curtain, the screen lowered the light pointed into the crowds eyes.  Sometimes in a dark venue it is not a good idea to blast people in the eyes with light.

I apologize for some of the images I don't have a macro camera, so shots can get tough.

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Step 1: The Setup

Light and Shadow manipulation can be an art form, just remember.   The further away from the light source, the fuzzier the shadow will become.  If you want a huge fan with clarity, then you'll have to cut out a huge piece of cardboard.

As for build quality, cardboard is not the best, but it serves it's purpose and is easily replaceable.  Also, the shadow design is based on your cardboard cut out prefferences, as you will see in this tutorial I tested two different types of Cardboard cutouts.

Step 2: Cutting and Creating

So grab some cardboard and start making.  three blade fans, four blade, heck you can cut out pac-man's if you want.

In the images below I simply tried to find a good center point / balancing point for the center of the fan.  Then stapled the pieces together and added duck tape if necessary for extra support.

When done, find the center balancing point again and punch a hole in the cardboard to mark it.

Step 3: Preping the PVC

The DC motor will fit perfectly into the 3/4" PVC T Adapter.

Simply Cut the PVC pipe into 5 Pieces, longest for the neck that supports the fan and shorter for the legs that keep everything in position.

Connect all the pieces and slap on your cardboard to make sure that nothing is touching the shaft or the floor.

Step 4: Connecting the Electronics

Pretty Simple:   Connect the Positive (Red) to the + on the board and Battery, and the Negative (Black) connects to the -  IF done right an LED light should come on.

Next you can plug in the motor and flip the switch.  Turn the potentiometer (knob) to adjust the speed.  The motor should start turning and the cardboard with it.  This motor is designed to go fast enough for the look you want and slower than any standard fan will run. The results are pretty cool and if you experiment with the fan shape and distance from the light you might be surprised at what you can achieve

Try wrapping the cables around the base of the fan and set it up where ever you want.

Hope this helps you on your next film project or stage show.


And visit techshop for all the tools you will need for any type of project.

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    3 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    I find it rather amusing that even moving fans need to be recreated for the video that you did. But I suppose if you want the scene to turn out perfectly….


    Cool. Do you have a video demo you could add to your project?

    Thanks for the post.