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Social Songbird Talks to Mind Behind #F21ThreadScreen

Last week, BREAKFAST LLC unveiled its Forever 21 lo-res thread screen, which recreates Instagram photos hashtagged with #F21ThreadScreen. You can see the live screen here. We had the opportunity to ask Andrew Zolty, the chief creative officer of BREAKFAST, some questions about the thread screen and the future of the project after the live event is over.

Twitter: @azolty
The thread screen is deceptively simple on the surface. How many hands were needed to make the fascinating machine possible?

​In total, I'd imagine somewhere around 25 people (mostly helping with assembly) were involved at different stages, but on a day-to-day basis it was a core group that ranged from 36.

The screen brings the digital world of social media together with the physical world – was this always a deliberate aim? 

Even before we had the idea, we knew that our goal was to build something that anyone could try out wherever they were in the world. We weren't sure which approach we would take, but it was in our minds from day one.​

What's so fascinating about the machine is that it's a web-connected experience that anyone can try. How does it feel to be involved in connecting to so many people worldwide?

After spending so long on something, you begin to lose sight of whether what you built is interesting or special in any way to the rest of the world. It's incredibly rewarding to see the reaction, and we love watching people's reactions as they get their image up on the screen in real time. It's all a great feeling, and I hope as many people get to try it out as we can squeeze in.​ 

One of the reasons that the screen is creating such a buzz is that it deviates from the obsession with better image resolution. With this in mind, why do you think the thread screen is drawing so much attention? 

We unintentionally seem to specialize in low resolution. A few years back we built another mechanical screen that was made of small plastic discs that flip. It still lives in our office, and the reaction has always been like that of a child seeing something at Disney World for the first time.


The thread screen is capable of producing basic black and white GIF animations. Do you think this is an area with the potential for advancement? 

We never found enough time to really push this feature – perhaps we'll have more of a play after the live event is over. It actually can animate between any two colors that are next to each other on the fabric, but going any further would take too long for it to produce a smooth-ish animation.​

We'd love to spend some time with it. I think there's a lot of room for fun and creativity there.  

Are there any plans to carry over the project to other social networks as well as Instagram?

We have another product called Instaprint that works similarly  hashtag an Instagram and it prints out of a slick wall-mounted device like a modern-day polaroid. We've experimented for years with pulling in images from Twitter and the like, and what we've found is that it confused the directions and simply didn't bring in enough photos to make it worth it. It's simpler to focus on one platform where we're getting the best possible results.

I've read that there are no long-term plans for thread screen to move from the BREAKFAST offices – can you tell me any more about that?

There's not much more to say, as we're waiting to see how the week wraps up before figuring out what's next. We'll see what happens.​

Do you think BREAKFAST will be involved in similar projects in the future?

​BREAKFAST is shifting its model right now to focus more on developing IP that can be purchased/licensed/leveraged by many brands and companies​, rather than one-off projects that are only used by one. We are sitting on a lot of great ideas that we'll begin producing and sharing with interested companies in the next couple months. Any interested brands of business can sign up to be alerted when we're getting ready to reveal something new.

Here's a behind the scenes look at the thread screen at the BREAKFAST office in New York:

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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Social Songbird Talks to Mind Behind #F21ThreadScreen Reviewed by Unknown on Monday, July 27, 2015 Rating: 5

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