This project began with an idea my wife had. She wanted to create living portraits of ourselves, places we go, things we do, friends, family, pets and hang them on our walls. The living portraits would be like something from the Harry Potter universe, seemingly still photographs with subtle movement that would bring them to life. I make digital art for a living, so making the portraits was something I was able to figure out – but the frames were a problem. We couldn’t find a digital frame that would be good for displaying art, and especially not looping animated art. So, I started work on making a frame ourselves. Since that time a year and a half ago more people have gotten involved, and we realized that we would like to share the hardware and content with others. Art is more and more commonly a digital process and it’s about time we had a proper digital canvas. Canviz was designed and built with that goal.
I began making a prototype a year and a half ago. Initially I used the prototype hardware to display some animated portraits of my dog Tully. Once we had a few frames built we found that we also wanted to display paintings, photographs, and information (a traffic map for example). We wanted it to turn off when we weren’t around. We wanted it to download art wirelessly, to control it with our phones, to hang it horizontally or vertically, and many more things. We designed the look of the frames on paper and in 3d modeling programs. We put together the electronics, programmed the software, and built the wood framing. What we have now is a frame that works the way we wanted it to, looks the way we wanted it to, and we want to share that with you, and to continue its development.
Animated GIFs, Cinemagraphs, Motion Graphics, Etc.
Animated GIFs have been around for a long time and were a generic way to add moving graphics to a webpage. More recently, the use of the format has gone through a kind of renaissance and been used to create art that exists somewhere between the mediums of photography and film. The short duration of GIFs is a constraint that has fired a lot of creative work, maybe it’s analogous to the constraint on the number of characters that twitter imposes. The emerging work is something new. As PBS puts it, this is the birth of a new medium:
The name for this new medium, with its moving images and looping content, is different depending on who you talk to. Another label used is Cinemagraph:
Sometimes this work is assembled from a series of photographs or frames from a film, and sometimes the work is animated by hand or a form of motion graphics. What the work tends to have in common is a bite-sized duration and seamless looping. There is growing interest in creating and viewing the work:
Maybe we ARE witnessing the birth of a new medium. We are making Canviz to be the best way for artists and fans of the medium to display these artworks. Canviz will play looping GIFs/Cinemagraphs continuously and seamlessly. You will control when they start and for how long.
Canviz is THE frame for GIFs.
Stills, Paintings, Photography, Etc.
Whatever your tastes or purpose, from photography to finger paintings, your image will look its best on Canviz. Canviz supports the most commonly used image formats and a wide range of sizes. Canviz will fill the screen with your image properly, with regard for whether it is hung landscape or portrait. Canviz has a high resolution screen that has super-wide viewing angles and uses IPS technology to keep the colors and values accurate from anywhere in the room. Manage your images with the Canviz app, you control when your images display and for how long. Swipe to send an image from the app to your Canviz. Display your own images, or choose from our large library of still and animated art.
Canviz supports the following image formats (more to come):
Canviz is the best platform for displaying digital photos, paintings and GIFs. Canviz can do more than that as well. We think the way that we receive some daily information from the internet can be done better. Phones, tablets and computers need our active prodding to get useful information out of them. They only answer when you ask, they don’t anticipate. They are often distracting. More often than not, the information you’re looking for is buried, cluttered and ugly. We think the role these devices play in our lives could be balanced by having more passive interfaces. Canviz has no physical buttons and no touchscreen because it shouldn’t. We’d like Canviz to display our information beautifully and in the background. Canviz will display works of art that give you the time, weather prediction, highway traffic, and someday soon home energy use, news headlines, and whatever else you can come up with.
When Canviz arrives you’ll hang it up, power it up, and a message on-screen will tell you how to connect it to your phone, tablet or computer. You’ll connect wirelessly* to Canviz using our app, or a computer**. We will step you through the simple and brief initial setup, and then Canviz will start displaying the art we’ve pre-loaded for you. You can use the app to control what is being displayed, or use our website. If you’d like to add your art to Canviz you can either push it using the app, or you can drop it into the Canviz drive using wifi. Setup a password for Canviz if you prefer to stay private. Explore our library of art through the app or our website. See something you like? Select it for sync and Canviz, if it is connected to the internet, will download it. Canviz features are easy to turn on or off or schedule for certain times of the day and week. Your customizations will be saved to a Canviz profile and tweakable through the app or our website. Canviz is power efficient and makes it easy to schedule on and off periods. The wall mounting hardware that comes with Canviz will allow you to orient it either vertically or horizontally on the wall, or you can have Canviz free-standing.
* Using bluetooth.
** Using wifi or USB.
Canviz is only possible because of recent drops in the cost of computer parts and LCD displays along with the availability of automated manufacturing. We intend to continue making Canviz here in California. We’re using modern CNC routers to cut the Canviz frame from solid pieces of walnut and baltic birch wood. The designs for Canviz were digitally modeled in 3d, and the CNC routers allow us to rapidly fabricate these parts. This will allow us to scale up to larger production. We considered many different materials, but we think that if we are going to modernize the traditional frame we should improve what is missing without losing what works. Wood frames are preferred for art. Plastic is the go-to material for consumer electronics, but it makes for a poor choice when framing art. The frame should compliment the displayed work, not detract from it. Canviz software has been designed by an artist, is focused on producing great images and is constantly improving.
Credit is certainly due to these great artists.
As well we’d like to give credit to Howard Pyle, Edgar Degas, Vsevolod Garshin, Claude Monet, Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn, Vincent van Gogh, Johannes Vermeer, and humbly MM Waters. As well as gratitude to The NY Metropolitan Museum, the SF Legion of Honor Museum, Joyce Pan for the inspired music for our pitch video, Emil Siapno for the beautiful cinematography, Emily Kitchen, Sean Durant, Tully Waters, BW, and everyone that helped get this train moving.
We can’t do this without you. Really. This is the start of something new. We know from talking to many artists that there is a need for a digital canvas like this. Some of you are making GIFs that are admired by thousands but stuck on tumblr/pinterest/reddit/deviantart, some of you are rabid fans of art on these same sites but can’t get the art out of your browser, some of you take photos digitally but need to go to a printer to get your work out of the camera, and some of you are thinking of something you can do with Canviz that we hadn’t thought of. This project is for you. Canviz pulls digital art from the clutches of phones, tablets, laptops and desktops and puts it on a pedestal. Contact us and find out how you can be a part of the team.
Let’s take a closer look at the details:
These are the current dimension and specs of Canviz as it is built today. We expect they will improve as we continue to develop. The thickness of Canviz will almost certainly decrease, but we don’t want to count our chickens before they hatch. The image area will not shrink, but could grow. The footprint will remain as close to these specs as possible so that you can plan around this. The image quality will remain the highest possible. The resolution will only improve.
New Designs and Materials