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See Your Instagram Photos on Giant #F21ThreadScreen

BREAKFAST LLC, a small design and engineering company based in New York, has built a giant, one-of-a-kind analogue screen comprised of 6,400 mechanical, colour-changing spools of fabric. The 13x10 ft. display was built for fashion brand Forever 21, which has over 7.5 million followers on Instagram.

The thread screen – which took a year-and-a-half to build – can create images and animations with over 6,000 mechanical spools. Each spool can display one of 36 colours, making up a larger image of 80x80 ‘pixels’. The spools are connected to thousands of circuits, motors and gears. Half a dozen hidden fans point at the back of the machine to stop it from overheating. The prodigious amount of static electricity it creates means that it must also be grounded so that it doesn’t catch fire.

Each ‘pixel’ is actually a 5 ft. loop of threaded poly blend fabric printed with 36 pantone colours. By driving the loops with a set of motors like a conveyor belt, the machine changes the colour of each spool until the display shows the right colour for that ‘pixel’. Each loop has a reflective strip sewn into which is scanned by an infrared camera to show the machine where each colour is on the loop and what colour is currently visible on the display.

In total, the screen is comprised of 200 modules, each made up of 32 wooden spools. If a ‘pixel’ goes out of alignment, the team can use a web image and an on-screen grid to work out exactly which spool it is and then reset it. The 16x4 modules can be replaced – they have 10 spares. The thread screen contains 6.7 miles of fabric altogether – 6 times the length of the Brooklyn Bridge.

From July 22nd – July 28th, Instagram users will be able to see their photos hashtagged with #F21ThreadScreen recreated on the display via a live webcam feed streamed on a dedicated YouTube page. The images are automatically captured and optimised for the screen’s 80x80 resolution. As each physical ‘pixel’ adjusts, the whole screen appears in flux; in seconds it turns itself into an enlarged version of your original Instagram photo. You’ll also get a video of the machine in action as it creates your image. BREAKFAST will moderate the screen so nothing inappropriate shows up.

The spools don’t move fast enough to produce full-colour video at a decent frame rate, but the screen is capable of displaying animated GIFs in black and white. For the time being there are no plans for the screen to leave the BREAKFAST office. Chief creative officer Andrew Zolty says that after the Forever 21 campaign has run through this week, the team will discuss whether they can take it on the road.

Aaron Waterhouse

Aaron is a recent English graduate from Durham University who is now working as a content writer intern. An enthusiastic traveller, he hopes to become a journalist and report from around the world. Follow him @AaronAtSMF

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See Your Instagram Photos on Giant #F21ThreadScreen Reviewed by Unknown on Friday, July 24, 2015 Rating: 5

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