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About the Cabell Screen

What's on the screen?

Epitomizing the innovative approaches to architecture and student space throughout James Branch Cabell Library is The Vitrine or the big screen, on the building’s northern facade overlooking the campus’ main pedestrian intersection. The screen has been installed with the hope to intrigue, inspire and inform the tens of thousands of VCU community members who pass by daily. This media facade is approximately 400-square feet of digital exhibition space, 21 feet wide by 24 feet tall.

It is programmed with visually-engaging presentations including animation, short films, kinetic-art projects and rotating still images, and it is intended to showcase art, scientific images, library collections, data visualizations of research and other creative expressions appropriate for an academic research library. The screen is not a billboard or jumbotron for advertising or promotional messaging. Instead, it is a platform for artistic and cultural expression, a way to make visible the unique expressions of the VCU academic and artistic community. Even on rare occasions when the screen will showcase a landmark campus event or a significant library event, the presentation will be artful or artlike. 

Some common questions

  • The screen has no sound. It will not be used to show sporting events or films.
  • It is the only such screen used by a library east of California. The library at California State University at Fresno uses one as an art installation.
  • The screen may be referred to as a “Vitrine”--an architectural term and also an object defined as a glass cabinet or case, especially for displaying art objects. The terms “big screen” or “The Vitrine” or “vitrine” are correct. The screen also may be referred to as a “media façade” or “The Cabell Screen.”
  • Interested in tuning in but cannot come to campus? Watch via the Cabell Webcam, which sweeps by the screen once per minute.
  • Interested in exhibiting? Email

Exhibits for the big screen

  • Exhibits will be groupings of 6 to 20 related images or gifs, each displayed for 20 to 25 seconds.
  • Video or kinetic installations will also be shown.
  • A team will be selecting and soliciting exhibits for the big screen, which will be programmed at irregular hours and mostly during high-traffic times at the library.
  • Exhibits will be noted on a blog containing links to further information, artist's bios and such.
  • Some exhibits will be announced in advance in news articles or on social media.
  • Artworks displayed will have ties to VCU and be the work of students, faculty, staff, alumni or feature public art (such as the RVA mural project, for example, or art associated with First Friday) in the VCU neighborhood.

Quality and types of exhibits

  • Images and videos with simple shapes and colors tend to look best on the big screen.
  • Text should be minimal.
  • Logos are prohibited.
  • Shapes and text on a black background are easiest to read.
  • Generally, drawn or animated images look better than detailed photographs or videos, because the photographs are too detailed and can look pixelated when viewed too close.
  • Artworks created especially for the big screen will be sought and faculty are invited to include a big screen showing in classroom assignments. VCU Libraries will work with faculty to schedule screenings during class periods as needed. 

Among the types of exhibits VCU Libraries envisions

  • Student showcases (where students submit their work).
  • Soundless video/films.
  • Highlights of thesis and senior finale and MFA shows.  
  • Faculty showcases (where a faculty member submits a selection of his/her works to share with the community).
  • Alumni showcases (an alumna or alumnus agrees to show a curated selection of works at his/her alma mater).
  • Class exhibit (a faculty member assigns the big screen as a medium for student work and the works are published on the big screen).
  • Silent film shorts, animations, gifs, etc.

Information for artists and creators

  • The screen is a combination of woven, semi-transparent stainless-steel structures that allows which daylight into the building. Embedded in the structure are Daktronics LED lights and infrastructure. It is a visual medium only and is not high-definition.  
  • 21 feet wide by 24 feet high
  • Resolution - 128 x 140 px (horizontal x vertical)
  • Aspect ratio - 8:9 (1:1.125)
  • Pixel configuration -  2-red, 2-green, 2-blue RGB
  • Color processing -  48-bit (3x6)
  • Image processing - 22-bit
  • LED refresh rate - 1,000 Hz
  • Brightness - 8,750 NITS
  • Total pixels - 18,432 pxs.
  • Total LEDs - 110,592 pieces

VCU Libraries

James Branch Cabell Library Monroe Park Campus
901 Park Ave., Box 842033
Richmond, VA 23284-2033
Toll-free: (844) 352-7399
(804) 828-1111
All Libraries
Tompkins-McCaw Library MCV Campus
509 N. 12th St., Box 980582
Richmond, VA 23298-0582
Toll-free: (844) 352-7399
(804) 828-0636

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