No great dance party is complete without the right optical stimulation. At the low end is the use of a projector and some prerecorded visuals played on repeat. On the high end, a dedicated VJ coordinates video clips in sync with the story of the music throughout the course of the night. With this arrangement, the VJ takes his cues from the DJ more than from the audience; the interaction between the VJ and crowd is limited. Thanks to NYC/Cambridge-based digital alchemist Fuzzy Wobble, this is changing.

Back in 2013, with the help of Patrick Brandt, Fuzzy created the GIF Dance Party project for the Humor & Code class at the Parsons School of Design and Technology. The web-based project was a clever way of creating custom GIFs assembled, collage-style, from any number of infamous dancing GIFs culled from the internet onto a virtual dancefloor that you can set to any number of bouncy tunes and share with your friends.

Since its inception, the project has become an internet phenomenon undoubtedly responsible for a decreasing production at white-collar offices worldwide. Emmy Morales, Beatport writer, says “GIF Dance Party takes the cake for the funniest—and most fun—thing we’ve seen in a while.”

Unbeknownst to most, the project was always intended to be an interactive installation. The web page was simply all that could be produced, given the tight deadlines of the class. This seems to have been a blessing in disguise, since it has served as the best promotional material anyone could ask for.

Wobble and his colleagues, Matt Griffis and Wes Thomas, have since managed to develop software that uses a high-tech digital camera to take a few seconds of video of a live dancer, subtract the background, and loop it into a GIF for use by the VJ in populating the virtual dancefloor projected throughout a party venue. They are taking their new creation on the road and can now be hired to install a GIF dance party at your next event!

For the introverts on the floor, Fuzzy notes, “If a person is too shy to jump in front of the capture booth, they are still able to participate through their smartphone by grabbing one of the ‘stock’ characters.” When enabled, party people can access the GDP software via a secret URL that will allow the manipulation and duplication of stock dancing GIFs seen projected in real-time. However, as Fuzzy points out, “In most party atmospheres, the last thing we want to see is another smartphone extended upward from the crowd. So, for many events, we will be running the installation with the mobile features disabled. Keep people in the moment. This is an IRL project. Our currency is smiles, not likes.”

Previously, VJs operated autonomously, and crowd interaction was limited to either reacting to the DJ’s selections or posing for a nightlife photographer, encouraging illicit behavior for the sake of spectacular post-party images. The GIF Dance Party project takes elements of both to create interaction whose results are seen in real-time and amplify the party experience with innovative new technology. Eat your heart out, Cobrasnake!

Here’s a tech demo video on how it all works:


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