What Happens When You Cross An Animated GIF And A Snowglobe?

Well, this. The magical cinema snowglobe.

Remember how, in the "The Wizard of Oz," the Wicked Witch of the West had a giant crystal ball filled with film footage of Dorothy and her friends at her disposal?

Sure you do, it was mesmerizing.

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The poppies!

Thanks to a pair of San Francisco artists, JD Beltran and Scott Minneman, you too could hold moving images in the palm of your hand — if not quite a live surveillance feed.

How does the Cinema Snowglobe work? Tiny screens, water and something like snow. Like a traditional snowglobe, the curved glass uses water and a buoyant material — in this case resembling fog instead of snow — to create a layered three-dimensional scene. "We use the form of the globe, the circle, as a lens," Beltran said, "At the base of lens, we have a tiny LCD creen, so it plays in a loop." The wirings and component parts are housed in the base of the globe but don't worry — you still pick it up and shake it.

The final design has not been set so Beltran said that the specifics of how exactly all the component parts (including the battery powering the lighted screen) would fit into the base were a bit sketchy. Still, she said that they were heartened by how well the prototype worked.

The genesis for the project was work Beltran did as a graduate student at the San Francisco Art Institute in the late '90s. She was drawn to the globes — "it's a wonderful form of analog storytelling"— but at the time, she was frustrated with the limitations of the tiny sphere.

"One of the nice things is that we could not have done this 10 or 15 years ago

because of the compactness," she said. "The tiny screens would have cost hundreds of dollars. Now we can get them for $25, so we can make a product that is affordable."

Beltran and Minneman hope to have the snowglobes ready for sale for $250 each in about three weeks. They will have about ten types that will be pre-set videos (she's thinking of a fireworks and skiing scenes) but they are also doing custom globes at no additional cost. Bay Area residents can come down to their studio, Workshop Residence, from July 16-20 for "portrait sittings" or just send in their own videos. "We don't want a feature film on a snowglobe," said Beltran, "It's really supposed to be a moment of time, expanded."

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