Projecting Content to Life: Rothko & Beam

Projecting Content to Life: Rothko & Beam
March 19, 2015

It is not often that a business-focused blog starts off with an art review, but hold on for a few paragraphs.

In the middle of this brutal Boston winter, I visited the newly-renovated Harvard Art Museum in Cambridge, MA. If you like to see art in a beautiful space, it is free on Saturday mornings. The highlights of the visit were the Rothko Murals, on display until July 2015. They were originally hung in 1961 in an undergraduate dining hall at Harvard (go figure). I know that Rothko would turn over in his grave if he read this, but his murals have always struck me as being a pre-cursor to PowerPoint—they  could almost be a presentation template!

Over the years, the murals faded, were put in storage, and the museum was challenged to bring them back to their original quality. It is an amazing story: essentially, they found a mural that was never hung and were able to replicate the colors. Rather than alter the actual canvas, they were able to create a filter that, when projected with what appears to be a standard InFocus projector, was able to restore the original colors. Shut the projector off (which they do a few minutes before the museum closes) and you see the faded work; turn it on and it looks as if it was hung yesterday.

A few weeks later, I came across a Kickstarter campaign by a group manufacturing what they call “Beam.” For $400 you can have a projector that can be screwed into a lamp socket (think lightbulb) or connected with a cord—and you can easily project on a ceiling, a table, or a wall. They call it a smart projector and it supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth; no need for cables, and the Beam takes care of audio as well (thinking of a Brainshark presentation right about now). The Kickstarter campaign goes through the end of March, and has already exceeded their goal by 3x, with a projected October delivery.

Many of us take projectors for granted. The heat, the noise, and the blinding light can drive you to wishing every room had a 50-inch TV screen. However, screens have their own issues (having the right cables, finding and futzing with the controls and image size). You could also just use an iPad, but that really only works well for an audience of 1, unless you want to project it.

What excites me about the Rothko exhibit and Beam is that they represent new ways to use a 25-year old analog technology that presenters count on every day.