Rick Borovoy of the MIT Center for Future Civic Media recently released the Junkyard Jumbotron project, which allows any number of internet-connected devices with a screen to be joined together and form one large video composition.
Creating a Jumbotron of your own is free and doesn't require any additional software as it is simply a website that receives nearly instant updates from the MIT server. The process is simple, and I created a fast test of my own Jumbotron in just a few minutes. I enlisted the help (and devices) of a few friends, and we piled our collective phones, computers, and in-between devices together on my desk and navigated each web browser to a custom URL created on the MIT server.
Each screen was instantly given an identification number and updated with a picture of an AR code. I then took a photograph of the entire composition and uploaded it to the server which, in turn, updated all of my screens with a test pattern. I uploaded a few images and voila! I had an instant video wall and make-shift media server. One incredibly cool feature was that I was able to scroll and zoom the images across all of the screens just by swiping the screen of any of the touch devices.
At the moment, the Junkyard only supports still images, although the MIT site promises video is coming soon. A project like this, which is free to use and free to download, does an interesting thing to the video design community. It very slightly moves the focus toward good design and away from specific gear. Of course, on a large commercial show, I'm going to use a stable media server with backups every time, but an open-source project like the Junkyard Jumbotron makes it so easy to compose complicated and wonderful video art, and that levels the playing field a little. It means that people with a really good idea, but without the needed resources, can make compelling works of art and that raises the bar for all of us.