The glowing glory of the PowerMate, as captured by Casey Fleser aka Some Geek in Tennessee.

The PowerMate from Griffin is an affordable, very compact USB knob with glowing blue LED feedback and push-and-turn functionality (so it’s a button, too). But using just one knob may not be all that useful for control. We’ve already seen Robert Hodgin VJing with four PowerMates, but our friends Bill Van Loo and Joshua Schnable have come up with a novel solution. Using Schnable’s custom software built in Pure Data (Pd), they’ve not only mapped the PowerMate to MIDI, but using switches and the push function allow you to control four or eight channels at once using just the one knob.

At the end of last week, they offered a first look at the solution, with a basic demo in Ableton Live (though any MIDI-capable software will work), and downloadable Pd patch and manual to get you started. The patch is open source-licensed.

announcing CTRL4 + CTRL8: MIDI Control for Griffin PowerMate + PureData

Of course, if you’d rather use OSC or create an instrument right in Pd, you can do that, too, with this as a template. But if you want to get up and running with your PowerMate – even if you’ve never used Pd – this should be quite accessible.

Check it out in action in the video below. More documentation is coming.

The manual itself is written from the Mac perspective, but with any MIDI loopback tool on Windows, it should work, too – and I believe some people are even using the PowerMate on Linux. If anyone wants to share how you’re using this on another platform or with another setup, that’d be great, in a noisepages post/blog or anywhere you like – just let us know. (Documentation, suffice to say, is a huge part of going open source.)

This might be worth trying with similar hardware like the (discontinued but still available) Logitech NuLOOQ Navigator, as well. (The NuLOOQ is more expensive list, but looks like prices are as low as $30, and it adds additional controls like a ring on the top.)

Griffin PowerMate

Logitech NuLOOQ Navigator

FIRST LOOK: Joshua Schnable’s CTRL8 Powermate/PD control software from chromedecay on Vimeo.