March 17, 2022 - Since they were first introduced to consumers in the late ‘90s, flat-panel displays have gotten bigger, thinner, and now deliver an image quality that Philo Farnsworth could've only dreamt about. Their spectacular sizes, however, marked another point of contention between interior designers and technology integrators, especially in high-end projects. Very often, the mantra for these jobs is "hide the tech." TVs have been hidden behind panels, tucked into floors and ceilings, and otherwise disguised when they're not in use. When a big display isn't being used, it's a void, a big dark space on the wall.
In recent years, though, another notion has popped up: Could this panel do double-duty? Could it display both "traditional" TV content and also be used as a digital canvas to show art when not in use as a traditional TV?
And would some clients even have an interest in a display dedicated to artwork and artwork alone?
The World of Digital Art
One company that's become a Crestron Home® platform partner is Blackdove, a firm that specializes in dynamic, digital art that is easily delivered to your TV. Blackdove's President, Dan Mikesell, recently worked successfully with a custom integrator to finish up a project in a home in Naples, Florida, that included no less than four large flat panel displays. "We use the Crestron DM NVX system to send Blackdove subscription art and the client's artwork collection from our media player to all four televisions," he explains.
Those big screens now generate a variety of imagery when they're not displaying movies, shows, sports, or games — and the options for artwork can be as diverse as different clients' tastes. While custom installations are becoming more and more common — including single panels and modular displays — the bulk of what Blackdove provides is designed for either landscape (the traditional orientation of a television) or portrait screens, the latter used most often for artwork-only applications.
From there, the content's provided in variety of ways. "We offer a subscription service that provides thousands of pieces of moving art," explains Mikesell, "or the client can load his or her collection onto their private Blackdove account." There's also the option to purchase digital artwork that's backed by non-fungible tokens (more on that in a moment) from Blackdove.
The works that Blackdove offers are all animated in some form or another. "The bulk of the works right now are video pieces and our large library allows clients to quickly select art that most appeals to them," says Mikesell.
Crestron Home Integration
Some of the offerings have soundtracks, too, and that's yet another part of the experience that can be delivered via the Crestron Home platform. "We had one client commission an entire operatic theme for one of the pieces they purchased from one of our artists," Mikesell notes.
That audio, naturally, can be easily controlled by the Crestron Home platform — in much the same manner as the video via DM NVX® AV over IP. As with every partner who works with Crestron Home — from the sleek keypads made by Black Nova to the air-quality monitors and controllers from Delos — the goal is to make every aspect of the "smart" home easily integrated and intuitively controlled. Any user who's spent even a short amount of time with the platform will immediately understand how to manipulate their digital art collection.
"Control of Blackdove via Crestron Home will deliver the exact same user experience that you get whether it's controlling, lights, climate, or shades," says Michael Short, Crestron's director of residential marketing. Because Blackdove is an official partner, their solution ties seamlessly into the Crestron Home experience via an extension. Short explains, "A Crestron integrator can simply discover the Blackdove server as a driver when configuring the system — and instantly their unique experience will appear in the app on the client's touchscreens or phone. The user will then have complete control, with the same style as every other device."
Some of the works that Blackdove offers are NFTs. For the uninitiated, here's a fine explainer from the folks at NPR:
The token refers to a unit of currency on the blockchain. It's how cryptocurrency like Bitcoin is bought and sold. ... [You're] purchasing a kind of bar code, almost a certificate of authenticity that serves as proof that a certain version of something is uniquely yours. ...
"The underlying thing that you're buying is code that manifests as images," said Donna Redel, who teaches courses on crypto-digital assets at Fordham Law School. "You're buying a different format of art." (Additionally, that digital provenance Blackdove provides includes a smart contract.)
Mikesell's involvement in this developing art form is about more than technology and profit. It's a passion. He and his wife are the driving force behind a Miami art foundation — Fountainhead Arts — that provides studio space and residency in a home near his. And the projects the Blackdove artists undertake aren't limited to residential spaces or a 16:9 format. "One recent restaurant job featured two video walls, 50 feet across by eight feet high. Obviously, that's not a standard aspect ratio," he says.
"And that became a custom commission for several of our artists."
Ultimately, Mikesell's bullish on the medium of light and pixels. "The interest is growing, and the ability to offer these pieces is yet another source of revenue for the integrator — and I'm talking about displays that are dedicated to artwork alone," he says. "Interior designers are becoming very interested in having beautiful art playing on the large TVs installed in their clients' residences. We're convinced that in five to ten years there's going to be mass adoption of these art-only portrait digital canvas screens."