GIFs have Never Been Bigger at UMW

Possibly the coolest thing about UMW’s Information and  Technology Convergence Center (ITCC) is the media wall.


It’s designed to be a canvas for a variety of media creations, and it is centrally located in the atrium between the second and third floors. It is made up of 43 individual squares in an organic pattern using Laser Phosphor Display technology (Prysm). The idea was to run UMW community work on there regularly, but one of the challenges we face is we don’t have enough student media work to program the wall regularly. We’ve tried to make up for this by continuously running films on the media wall, such as The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Fritz Lang‘s MetropolisAndy Rush is all about German Expressionist cinema.


But in a recent meeting about the wall, the ITCC building manager Cartland Berge noted that a student from the photography club (I think he said his name was Sam) thought “cinemagraphs” (the fancy word for animated GIFs, kinda like movie versus film or cinema) might be a good fit for the media wall. EXACTLY PRECISELY!

While the media wall won’t just be GIFs, it make total sense, at least for now, that they represent a significant portion of the programming as we work on collecting more media content from the community over time. As to how we solicit GIFs and the process for putting them on the wall—that all still needs to be worked out. But, in the meantime, I took advantage of Michael Branson Smith‘s residency at UMW earlier this week to build a GIF template.

umw-video-wall-pattern (1)

Being the awesome GIF artist that he is, he knocked it out in minutes. I was fascinated by how he built the above template to get the pixel dimensions for the unique shape of UMW’s Media Wall. He created a large image filled with 20 x 20 pixel, color-coded squares and made it the desktop background for the Mac mini that runs the media wall. Once on the wall, he could count off how many pixels for each of the sides of the unique pattern. I was really tripped out by how he figured this out: simple and genius. I’ll see if we can’t get a copy of the color-coded background image to illustrate what I’m talking about. Think of the space between these two paragraphs as place holder #1 in the meantime.

<img place holder #1 />

Once he had the template, we were faced with the challenge of what the first GIF on the media wall should be. We decided on the”eye in the sky” from Blade Runner to reinforce the age of transparency/surveillance the ITCC building represents.

After that, Michael had a vision with this Travis Bickle GIF from IWDRM

He then got on a roll, busting out this brilliant gem from Scooby-Doo.

And here’s another look at that same GIF to give you a sense of how big these GIFs are. Thanks to Thomas Lackert for providing scale.

Zach Whalen and I played around with some more GIFs yesterday. We had the unfair GIF up, as well as the Super Mario Cloud GIF.


Zach has the modified GIF he created for the media wall, so I’ll just put the original up until I get his version. Consider it placeholder in this post. Damn I’m impatient, and I will have some updating to do 🙂


The GIFs on the wall are just running in a browser, so Zach and I got to talking about the possibility of pointing the browser at a script that pulls from a collection of curated GIFs, and works through them intentionally or randomly at some predefined interval(s). I think he’s already experimenting with the code. And might I just add here that having Zach as an embedded faculty member at DTLT this semester has been a total blast—without  question the highlight of the year at UMW for me. It represents exactly what we wanted the building to be in the first place: a convergence of staff, faculty, and students around the possibilities of digital media. It’s really fun to finally be doing just that, and collaborations like #umwconsole and the GIF Wall are just the beginning.

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5 Responses to GIFs have Never Been Bigger at UMW

  1. John says:

    Talking of random gifs pulled from a collection… If you have space for a wee monitor how about DS106 Gif TV?
    Hit the full screen button bonus ds196radio sound track.
    Runs of the horribly designed ds106 gif api.

  2. Reverend says:

    This is freaking awesome, John. I am going to work on getting that up on the Media Wall once I get back from Colorado. I’ll be sure to document it if I can pull it off. So beautiful! How did you get them all?

  3. John says:

    Hi Jim,
    Thanks a long way short of what you are doing in ‘real’ space which is awesome at a major level. I am imagining sitting on the couches loving the wall.

    The ds106 gif TV runs off the ds106 gif API;)
    The gif API scrapes some ds106-ista blogs and tumblrs every so often and builds a database. Over 1200 gifts at the moment. It is pretty crude and probably fragile;)
    You can get a random gif from a URL or a bunch via json.
    I’ve a few daft things that use the API here and there.

    • Reverend says:

      Zach Whalen and I are going to look at the API when I get back from Colorado next week, and see what we can do. I think we can find a ton of student GIFs as well, and I know Tom Woodward did an early GIF gallery around 2011-2012. I think we can add to this brilliant work you ahve done. Did I ever tell you how much you rule?

  4. John says:

    Hi Jim,
    There is an open invite for any ds106naught to join

    Which is scraped by the api.

    Either that or let me know a tumblr or rss feed and I’ll add to the mix. I’ve already got a good few ds106 blogs & tumblrs.
    There is also a google form somewhere to submit gifs…
    I don’t want to replicate other gif collections, just get ones produced for ds106 or in the spirit of ds106

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