Frame More Than Just Pictures — Frame Pixels Too

Multimedia Station for Seattle100 Gallery[The debate continues about whether or not iPads are good portfolios for photographers and filmmakers. But those considerations aside, one thing I KNOW is that the iPad is great for is displaying photo & video content in a gallery setting, or on a studio wall in a waiting area. So in pure coincidence with Apple’s announcement today that the iPad2 is now available (early), Dartanyon has written up a post about how we made our custom iPad holders that were crazy-popular at my most recent gallery opening…]

Howdy folks, Dartanyon here. As Chase said above, iPads make amazing devices to display multimedia content. The screens are bright and crisp and photos and videos really shine. They also have the great advantage of allowing viewers to navigate and select the content they want to watch instead of waiting for a looping video feed to get around to the interesting part. As such, I’d like to walk you through how we went about creating some custom iPad holders for our recent Seattle 100 gallery show. And note: the price for this DIY project is scalable based on materials used and the results are great.

We wanted the iPads to function as video players that were user friendly, secure, and artfully displayed.  We quickly discovered that there was no commercially available solution for what we were trying to accomplish.  So what’s next?  Go custom.

iPad Holder Mounted

The challenges:  iPads are designed to be interactive, to move between apps.  How do you keep people from messing with them, checking their email, pointing them at un-savory sites, or worse yet walking away with them entirely?

Certainly we could just lock them up, as they do in retail environments, but that wouldn’t stop people from pushing the home button or launching other apps, thereby leaving the next user at a loss as to how to interact with the device. We needed a way to keep the user in “video” mode using only the touch screen for navigation while keeping all of the other nav buttons from being pressed [ also home or off].  We also needed a way to keep the iPads from walking away, and to keep them powered up for 4 days.   

The plans:  I really enjoy fabricating custom doo-dads [designing them at least] to overcome complex problems.  It seemed natural that in the environment of an art gallery, the best approach would be to treat the iPads as just another piece of art … by framing them.  First we needed to create a design to meet the above objectives.  Additionally, since we were showcasing the video interviews, we needed to get audio pumped out of them too.  

iPadHolder SketchUp

Click to Enlarge

iPadHolder SketchUp

Click to Enlarge

I started out by popping open Google SketchUp and laying out what was in my head.  A base plate to go between the wall and the iPad, a set of rails to keep the iPad in place with cut outs to facilitate plugging in the dock connector cable, and a head phone splitter to a couple of sets of head phones (so two people could watch and listen at the same time).  We wanted to make the iPads feel larger than they were so we came up with a “matte” top plate that would extend the area of the iPads 5 inches in all directions.  This served to make the units themselves feel bigger in comparison to the huge prints on the wall, and also served to hide the connections from the general public.

iPad holder showing the cut outsiPad holder showing the front panel overlapping the iPad bezel

The fabrication:  As much as I’d like to tell you that we have a milling machine in house, we don’t.  So off I went, plans in hand, down to our favorite plastics shop and proceeded to go over my plans with them. A couple of days later we had a pair of awesome iPad frames that were just perfect.  We could attach all of the cables and fire the iPads up, then place them in the trays.  We paid a bit over $100 bucks for ours to be fabricated, but a similar display — perhaps even nicer and made from a less expensive material like wood, with just a few tools (jigsaw, drill, and sandpaper — could be made for an estimated $15-20 in materials.

The installation:  Each frame had holes at each of the four corners which allowed them to be secured to the wall.  We also drilled a tiny little through hole — size to accomodate a paperclip — to access the home button, in the event we wanted to navigate or reset the ipad.  We hid all of the cords behind the base plate, and placed some classy looking hooks – $5 from the local hardware store – just under the frames from which to hang the headphones.

The results: The interactive video stations were a huge success at the show. People hung out and watched them for much longer than expected. Everyone really enjoyed being able to navigate through the videos using the touch screens. People have grown very accustomed to being able to control the content they watch. These wall mounted iPads were the perfect solution; giving us a platform to share multimedia art, and empowering the viewer to truly interact with the content.

Watching the Seattle100 Videos

Enjoying the Video Stations

Reminder – you CAN do this or get help from a friend on the cheap! Give it a try. I’d love to hear about your results or other ideas you’ve got for displaying the content on iPads as art.

76 Responses to Frame More Than Just Pictures — Frame Pixels Too

  1. Javie Wavie March 11, 2011 at 10:51 am #

    Man, some of ya’ll are made of money it seems. Recession, what recession?? Almost 26% of U.S. children are homeless what children?

  2. Justin Thor Simenson March 11, 2011 at 10:53 am #

    I had an idea a couple years ago of a digital screen matted and framed like a normal piece of art that was connected via bluetooth or wifi and here it is.

    A friend of mine told me once, “if you get a great idea and don’t have time to make it a reality, tell someone that idea. Letting it go will ensure that it will be made, if the idea is solid enough.”

    Thanks for this post, I agree the iPad and tablets alike will help change the way a gallery runs and displays art!

  3. Chris March 11, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    Great idea :) Much nicer than just having a loop of video playing! The iPad really was a game changer, I wonder what the iPad 2 will bring? Im hoping for some sort of photo editing software that kicks! That would rock for photographers! Anyway I digress great job!

  4. James March 11, 2011 at 10:57 am #

    They look great!!

    How did you end up keeping them in video mode?

    I’d love to put something together like that, maybe out of stainless steel.

    • Dartanyon March 11, 2011 at 1:44 pm #

      They stayed in the “Videos” app because you could not press the home button. It was covered by the frame. Which on the iPad means that you can’t get out of that app.

      • Whelan April 17, 2012 at 7:13 am #

        just a note – For this to work in iOS 5, you’ll probably need to disable the multitouch gestures in the settings, to prevent ppl from using the pinching gesture to get to the home screen.

  5. Gabe March 11, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    Awesome idea. this could be done with any of the tablets out there. Even a Nook Color thats been rooted. Perfect idea for doing for waiting rooms. or even doing a whole gallery like this.

    Javie, I would suggest looking before you speak. Chase is sponsored by Apple.

    • Dartanyon March 11, 2011 at 1:45 pm #

      Absolutely many tablets could have been used, but we had some iPads already that we often use to send out as portfolios, so we just re-purposed those.

    • Wilfredo March 31, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

      @Gabe, I don’t think Apple sponsors Chase..he happens to love Apple products like anyone else. He works his ass off and happens to make decent $$ doing so…Apple doesn’t need to sponsor to anyone to sell products.

      @dartanyon we didn’t meet at the finale for the Zack Arias shindig last year – I was over with the rest of the crew and had BBQ style dinner @ Chase’s place..anyways, I suggest you look into this app – it might better fit your purpose. –>

      The user can’t mess with the UI and it presents a really cool multimedia UX…Anyways, hope all is well.

      – Wilfredo

  6. Chad Thompson March 11, 2011 at 11:03 am #

    The current exhibit at the MOPA here in san diego is using the iPads to great effect. It really adds context to the 60’s street photography displayed for those of us born in the 70’s.

  7. Optic Bard March 11, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    Looks like a great idea, but how did you solve the problem of stopping people from checking e-mail, or exiting video mode??

    • Andrew MacDonald March 11, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

      People couldn’t leave video mode or go to their email as they didn’t have access to the home button. So nobody could come out of the mode the installers put it in in the first place.

    • Dartanyon March 11, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

      The white frame actually covers the iPad all the was to the edge of the screen, covering up the home button on the iPad which means that it can’t be taken out of the “Videos” app.

  8. stephen March 11, 2011 at 12:31 pm #

    what’s the point of a low resolution 9″ screen when you have a 2560×1440 27″ monitor next to it…?

    • Dartanyon March 11, 2011 at 1:50 pm #

      The point is to be able to interact with many pieces of video content, but not with any other bits or bytes on the device. We could have created some custom webpages I suppose and then used Saft to force kiosk mode on safari for those, like we did for the website that is running on the 27″ display, but then we would have needed more computers to make that happen.

      We were using the tech we had available which included that laptop [in the box under the monitor] and a couple of iPads that were in house during that time period.

  9. Andrew MacDonald March 11, 2011 at 1:24 pm #

    Fantastic Idea, love the iPads on the wall, but I have a question. What purpose does the big screen have???

    I understand why you have the iPads on the wall, but whats with the monitor?

    • Dartanyon March 11, 2011 at 1:48 pm #

      The monitor [with a laptop in the box below it] was locked into a local copy of the Seattle100 website using using a software called saft, that creates a Kiosk mode for safari, not allowing any other domains, expect those specified.

  10. Shen March 11, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    Good Idea… thanks for sharing…

  11. Wilf March 12, 2011 at 12:30 am #

    Great stuff, Dartanyon! Thanks for sharing.
    speaking of screens, now a little off-topic question: What MBP-display do you guys use on outdoor shootings, matte or glossy? i’m about to purchase the new MBP 15″ and fear that the small text on the HiRes matte will give me headaches, whereas a matte film applied on the glossy might as well…
    thanks! wilf

  12. Ted McAusher March 12, 2011 at 7:58 am #

    Awesome ideas! I love apple, and anything that compliments apple is a born winner. Thanks for the post!

  13. Tristan March 12, 2011 at 10:22 am #

    This is great!

    Did you use a protective layer above the ipad or could people just touch the original ipad screen?

    keep up the good work!

  14. fas March 12, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    You can simply stick it to the wall also with Velcro.

  15. Levi March 13, 2011 at 11:06 am #

    Sorry, but I have to say this is pretty stupid.

    “They also have the great advantage of allowing viewers to navigate and select the content they want to watch instead of waiting for a looping video feed to get around to the interesting part.”

    Sounds to me like an effective way to kill an exhibition. Why not simply wait? Chances are, that when skipped to, “the interesting part” is probably now out of context and its value is lost.

  16. DanielKphoto March 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm #

    Great idea and thanks very much for sharing. Little question though, I understand that the homebutton could not be pressed, but how did you keep the iPad from going into sleep mode?

  17. Brian Palmer March 14, 2011 at 8:04 am #

    I’m curating a photography exhibit that utilizes the latest gen iPods and smartphones which run a barcode scanning app to interact with each photo. The Photography Exposed Interactive Exhibit uses QR Codes along with the artist name and title to label each image, and when guests scan the QR Code, they have immediate access to a variety of info like camera settings and shoot location, artist’s comments and thoughts, behind the scenes video during the shoot itself, and screen cast of post production with Photoshop, when used.

    The exhibit is located at Kohl Gallery on Washington College campus in Chestertown, MD, and is free to the public. If you are interested, come visit soon, because it is slated t come down very soon. Check out video and images of the exhibit that explains the functionality here:

    I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the new iPad 2. It would have been the perfect platform to have on hand for sharing this kind of content. I think the next time around I’d like to make the content non-linear, so as you learn more about a photo, you can delve further and choose your path. The above blog post introduces some more ideas about how this could used in upcoming exhibits. Thanks for the great post!

  18. JT Serna March 14, 2011 at 9:24 am #

    I am currently working with a local children’s advocacy group on their upcoming fund raiser and we were planning on using the iPad for our personal presentations, but this opens up some new possibilities for us. Thank you for sharing.

  19. Michal Garcia March 16, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    Those were totally dope at the show. Good work Dartanyon!

  20. Wilfredo March 31, 2011 at 1:46 pm #

    As for the presentation itself..really impressed with what you have..however, my only critique is the wires and the extra monitor seem to clutter the display area….most exhibitions I’ve seen are uber simplistic….I’d find wireless headsets, bluetooth perhaps…hide the wires…and most def dump the shelf with the Apple display and mount it too..or dump it all together or at the very least focus on minimizing the extra stuff..

    the image above shows a really nice set up, but it still needs some cleaning up…otherwise, great job fellas.

    My desktop reads ” MINIMALISIMPLICITY“, it serves to remind me to keep all I do aligned with those two words.

    – Wilfredo

  21. Martin Kaufmann June 16, 2011 at 4:49 am #

    Great post… and interesting to see how the iPad gets used in so many ways. Right now in Denmark there is an exhibition with artist David Hockney showing his Brushes/iPad work on… iPads.

    In my attempt to find out how I maximize my investment in the iPad I wrote this post about the iPad:

    All the best,

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  1. Apple iPad for Photography? - March 19, 2011

    […] tasks such as downloading, viewing, and sending photos, but also using them as custom/interactive photo frames, among other things. Now, let’s take a look at some of the better reviews and commentary […]

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