Virtual Poster Display

Bill Gates once spent millions of dollars to build virtual art displays into his new house. Well, now the cost is a couple hundred bucks, plus a little legwork. And the result looks great. (Note that the examples shown here are purposely set to run too fast, for demo purposes in a short video. Slower is better.)

I decided to try this after buying a lot of art books, reading them, and noticing that the images then disappeared back into the books, never to be seen again. And I was just starting to like them!

So I started tinkering, first trying to project a slideshow to my TV via a Chromecast device over Wifi (from my laptop). I found a Chrome extension called Local Gallery Viewer that lets you run a slideshow inside a browser tab, which you can then cast to the TV via Chromecast. You can also control slideshow timing, and easily play all the images from within one folder (e.g. “Matt Weber photos”), in my case pulling from Dropbox.

Projecting to a TV like this works great for landscape orientation images, which many paintings and photos are (some artists like Edward Hopper are all landscape). But I really wanted to do posters, and for that I needed a portrait orientation display.

After briefly attempting to pivot my TV on a swivel, I gave up and went to Best Buy to buy some cheap TVs to mount sideways. The swivel thing is a bad path… you end up having to buy hardware for swivel motorboat seats, and attach that to your TV. Even if it works, you realize you’re never going use it because turning your TV is too big a hassle. Not worth it.

The dedicated portrait displays, however, work brilliantly… especially because you can mount them where they look good and are visible during parties, or cooking, or whatever (as opposed to the TV room). I picked up a couple of 28 inch displays for $125 each. Aside from being cheap, they were also light enough to hang on the wall with not much more than picture wire.

Now the tricky part. The slideshow and casting software expects your TV to be landscape so it projects all the images that way. So you need to use photo editing software (Preview on the Mac actually works fine) to fake it out, by bulk-rotating the images 90 degrees to the left. A one time hassle, but very worth it.

Once you’re set up, you can use whatever images you want, but they should be at least around 900 pixels tall to look good. One hint for finding images: Google image search now lets you sort by size. Just click “Search Tools” under Image Search, and then sort by Size. Have fun curating!

P.S.: Here’s one more, that I filmed with a different screen arrangement: