Introduction: SharedCinema

You know when dinner parties turn into video watch-a-thons? Let’s do that, but in public. Shared Cinema is a public video jukebox that activates urban spaces!

As much as we love sharing and watching YouTube and Vimeo from our browsers, these experiences are insular. While in a public space that is activated by Shared Cinema, users select and share videos they love and upvote the videos they want to see through a mobile interface. The projected display shows the current video playing with full audio and a preview of the queue of videos submitted.

The dynamic visualization of the queue that responds to actions taken by the viewer/participant contributes wonder and playfulness to the immersive and joyful experience of watching videos together. We envision this video jukebox will transform many forms of group gatherings, from a bus stop to a museum gallery, from a neighborhood bar to your own backyard party.

Visit us at

And check out all of the code for SharedCinema on Kevin's GitHub site. We hope that SharedCinema will be built upon in ways we can't even imagine! 

We may in the near future offer to create instances of SharedCinema for each event/location that is hosted around the world. Stay tuned! 

In the meantime, you can build your own SharedCinema. It only requires 3 things: A mobile (client) UI and a projector (presenter) UI . If you want to add a physical element to the urban experience, you can also build seating, but that is obviously not required. 

Let's get started!  

Step 1: Building the Mobile Experience

The Mobile UI is fairly straightforward with the MVP version only having 2 screens: 1) VOTE, a view of the current queue of videos, allowing the user to upvote the videos they want to watch and see the number of votes each video has received. 2) ADD VIDEOS, a search box that allows the user to search YouTube (or in the future, perhaps Vimeo or other video databases) and select a video to add to the queue.

Step 2: Building the Presenter Experience

The projector (presenter) UI has three key components: 1) The currently playing video takes up most of the screen. 2) To the right are a list of the top three videos along with an image thumbnail, title, and quantity of upvotes for each. 3) At the bottom is a very basic description of what to do to participate in SharedCinema along with a link to the mobile SharedCinema URL. 

Step 3: Building the Seating

The seating for SharedCinema is very simple and inexpensive. We used Sonotube (or any similar brand) cardboard concrete column molds. They are super strong and durable. First, cut 10-12" dia. tubes to a length of ~16" in the front row and about ~28" in the back row. Next, we cut a seat form masonite and laser etched some basic instructions on to the top. 
Then we painted them magenta using 3 coats of paint. 

Lastly, we mounted a 6-piece speaker set into three of the back row seats. We drilled then jigsawed out each speaker whole. Using scrap wood, hot glue ledges to the inside of the tube to help support the speaker such that it lines up with the speaker hole in the tube. This part requires a bit of coordination to get it right before you cut. Drill holes in the back of each of the three speaker seats and run the power and speaker cables between them. 

Step 4: Launch in a Public Space!

SharedCinema can activate a wide range of public spaces. We explored activating LCD advertising displays at bus stops, underutilized urban plazas, and alleyways. Ultimately the easiest space to set up a first proof-of-concept was in an alley that is near a few popular establishments during the 2012 San Francisco Urban Prototyping Festival. 

The Projector
If you want to launch SharedCinema during daylight hours, you can forget about using a projector. You probably don't have access to one that is bright enough. If you have access to an outdoor LCD or LED display that could be a great alternative. Since we wanted to project in an alley, we decided to launch SharedCinema around dusk during an autumn evening. There are 3 key factors to outdoor projection: Lumens of your projector, throw distance (projector to screen) and the reflectivity of the surface. Thanks to the Grey Area Foundation for the Arts, we were lucky to have access to a Proxima DP9290 which has bright 3500 lumen max. You probably need at least 2000 lumens to project from 20'+ with the ambient lights of an urban setting. We were also projecting across a relatively narrow 24' space, which A) made an intimate theater-scaled space B) was within the throw distance for our projector. We were projecting a screen width of about 15'5" width. Lastly, the wall of the TechShop on which we were projecting was an offwhite rough concrete. You want as smooth and white (and reflective, if you can find it) surface as possible. You can opt for a special projector paint, but it's very expensive. Lastly, try and get at 40' from any streetlights. They will kill your image. 

Projector Set Up

We mounted our projector by screwing 2 El brackets and 2 chains to a plywood panel that the projector could rest on. We mounted this to the horizontal bar of a set of window bars and hung the chains from another higher horizontal bar using 2 anchor shackles. Since people and cars were walking through our throw distance, mounting the projector higher up limited the amount of interruptions we had to the image.

Power and WiFi

These two factors may ultimately be the most critical when it comes to your site selection. We were very grateful to be able to run our AC power chord for the projector into The Tempest bar which also shared it's WiFi with us and allowed us to keep our projector laptop securely inside.

Planting the Seed, Getting the Crowd Going

Two factors immediately became critical to gaining and keeping an active audience during our first launch.
1) Keep the video queue full. That meant that at first, we had to upload our own videos. Once we had a critical mass the queue was overflowing.
2) The other factor was the audience itself. People love to join a crowd, so try and orient your seating area to be highly visible from nearby streets. If the audience is laughing, singing or dancing, even better! 

Good luck and enjoy!

The SharedCinema team is Chris Abrams, Kevin Nelson, and Beau Trincia

Please email us at or

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    11 Discussions


    3 years ago

    Love this, but it seems to no longer be active/available (the website and the app). Any chance for an update?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    you guys are awesome! this is the mosttt interesting ~ible till now.