We've just finished a labour of love for the Phoenix Cinema in East Finchley - famous for being the oldest continuously running independent cinema in the UK, and the place where Mark Kermode went to see the Exorcist, amongst many others. It was one of the delights of living in that area.
So way back in May 2008 I spoke to Paul Homer, the Chief Executive about whether Plot could offer something to them in the way of fundraising help (I was thinking crowdfunding and merchandising ideas at the time.) They were looking to raise money for a complete upgrade at the time. He said they had been thinking of making a timeline of their history, and had been looking at a few graphic ideas for how it could work, but had not settled on a solution. I suggested we did something projected (they're a cinema, so it would work) and then make it from software, so that it's editable and adaptable…
Over a year later, working with the fundraising committee, we've produced a touchscreen timeline, and a physical timeline with parts for local people to sponsor 'tiles' - one tile for each of their 100 years of being open. They have a huge, vocal and loyal clientele, who are keen to support the place. They've also been having their history researched and written by Gerry Turvey.
It's been a huge project for us, nestled in and around our commercial and new teaching commitments. It's pushed us to the limits of what we and also those advisors around us have known. Serendipitous support has come in the form of people publishing tips in forums and the new Wiring library being published at just the times when we needed them.
• The touchscreen timeline was produced using the wonderful Processing language, which gave us an opportunity to really see what it could do. It's remarkably versatile, and could accommodate the British Modern design language we adapted from their architectural features, and the local area. It's a clean look, and works well as a frame for their material, without overwhelming the space it is in. A calm standby screen shows the multitude of sponsors they have had for the redevelopment too.
The content material researched by Gerry, re-written by Eleanor Sier for the screen, images and films sourced within a modest budget. A simple architecture was developed so that people could find the stories fast, and move quickly through the material. The idea was that the staff at the Phoenix could edit the material as they wished, and they could easily add more to the content at a later date.
• The Physical timeline was made with acrylic tiles, designed and produced by us and output by Ponoko and RazorLab. Each is laser etched with the name of the sponsor and their favourite film of that particular year. Each of these is bolted onto the wall, and has an led strip bolted onto it at the top, to shoot light down.
Each of the tiles is addressable, and here the activity on the timeline is reflected on the tiles. Press 1926 on the touchscreen, and the 1926 tile lights up! For those who have sponsored the tile, they can show their friends and family where they appear.
It was such a delight to make something like this for a small cinema, which was our local and a good source of well-curated films. So it's a modest thing - not a huge bells and whistles affair - a careful balance to create, not overwhelming the space, and tying the interaction in with the scale of the space.
Nick just amazed me with his dogged persistence to complete the bumpy electronics, despite multiple breakdowns in software and electronics at that scale (8 metres of components), Tim Brooke for his timely advice and a very pivotal piece of code, Jim Donaldson and Amy Wildman for great work, and Paul Homer for his patience when we couldn't get it all complete for their grand re-opening. Te unpredictability of doing these kinds of bespoke things has been a headache and a huge lesson. We know that any of you who have done similar things understand how that works.
So for £500 per tile, there are still a few available. Get yours here.