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Painting with Pixels at GDC 2011

March 15, 2011

The Game Developers Conference is the largest annual gathering of professionals from the video game industry. For GDC 25 I was commissioned by the evil geniuses at iam8bit to design a pixel mural of epic proportions, 20 feet by 8 feet to be exact. The catch? The wall would be completely blank.

Each of the conference’s attendees would receive a 2″ pixel, either cyan, magenta, yellow, or black (the conference color scheme this year) and would get to place his or her pixel on the wall in a corresponding square.

Over the course of the week, the image I designed would reveal itself… but only if everyone participated. Part art project, part social experiement, “Painting with Pixels” was one of the most fascinating and fun projects I’ve ever had the pleasure of working on. Being at the conference all week it was interesting to observe the evolution of people’s behavior; while most attendees would comply with the instructions (I even heard one woman chastise her friend for speculating what would happen if he put his color on the wrong square), others bent or even broke the rules completely. If you watch the time lapse above, around the two minute mark you’ll see one person remove some of the placed pixels to create an image of Super Mario. I observed one person color their magenta pixel black so they could place it on a square designated for black ones.

It was also exciting to see how one person’s idea would quickly spread to others. Though most were content to simply place their pixel in a color-designated spot, one attendee decided to draw a little illustration on his before adding it to the mural. This caught on and by the end of the conference, hundreds of pixels were adorned with artwork, signatures, witty sayings, and even a few mini-resumes from out of work developers.

The GDC logo was the first element to really materialize, followed shortly by the jetpack-wearing cowboy and the dragon incinerating the Golden Gate Bridge.

And here’s the wall 99.9% complete! There were a few pixels left unclaimed at the end of the conference so Jon, Nick, and I filled the rest in.

Overall it was a great success, we couldn’t have done it without the collaboration of everyone at the conference. Each pixel symbolized nothing more than potential on its own, but bring together several thousand of them, take a step back, and you get a real picture of community, and the power of working together.

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69 comments

  1. [...] on 40 godzin nakręconych od 28 lutego do 4 marca tego roku. Natomiast do zdjęć odsyłam Was na bloga Jude’a, albo galerii serwisu [...]


  2. [...] · March 16, 2011 at 1:06 am · Filed under Linksplosions Jude Buffum – Painting with Pixels at GDC 2011Buffum’s installation at GDC.The Rumpus Interview With Peter Smith And Charlie Hoey, The [...]


  3. That’s pretty sweet.


  4. super dope! love the video nice post


  5. Incredible symbolism here – when working together, each person’s “part” contributes to an amazing “whole.”

    Awesome post! :)


  6. The pictures look excellent. Thanks for sharing this post.


  7. Flipping brilliant! What a FUN idea. Thanks for sharing and congrats on Freshly Pressed.


  8. Great Idea! It turned out very beautiful!


  9. The Power of Working Toghether! If only we could apply this concept to everything we do. Our Family Our Jobs Our Life. Great Post!


  10. Cool how long did it take to do.


  11. Fantastic concept!


  12. XLNT Video. I love the 8-bit Video Game mosaics. Lego is another great medium for this type of art. Love the music as well. What’s the name of the band?


  13. [...] Pixelise your dreams. [...]


  14. I think this is really cool!


  15. Thanks for all the nice words!

    The band is called “School of Velocity”, I don’t know the song title.

    Not counting all the time put into creating the design and having everything printed, the actual wall only took maybe four or five hours to install, and then it was up for five days, open to the conference attendees from 9am to 5pm, February 28th through March 4th. So the actual pixel installation was 40 hours.


  16. L O V E I T !


  17. Wow this is awesome. Me Loves A Lot


  18. Fantastic project :) Read about it at gamasutra and came looking 4 your blog. Wish I was there :)
    – ALCH3MIST


  19. love this…


  20. Ridiculously Awesome!!


  21. Tactile digital art. Lovely.


  22. A brilliant idea! love it!


  23. Super cool. Great concept and execution. Love the social element you incorporated into the art creation.


  24. AWESOME MARKETING CAMPAIGN


  25. I enjoyed the video and loved the concept. Very nice indeed.


  26. Nice thats a cool piece. Im beginning to see a rise in retro art themed art lately with the us old farts who grew up with a nintendo controller in hand. The art work looks great, with a childish heart of video games we loved. This is a nice retrospective if anything of where our generation came from.


  27. Wish I could have been there to contribute my pixel.
    Great idea, and congrats on the FP.


  28. How fun! Who doesn’t like a puzzle? And, of course, it’s human nature for one to want to be “different” than the rest and personalize it with their own artwork. At least, an artistic and creative person would think that way!


  29. Great idea!You’re brilliant~


  30. Fantastic! I love that folks created their own art, with in the greater art.

    Such is life, a brush is a brush, and paint is paint until its bound with a plethora of colors to create a painting!

    Good times.


  31. Wow! Love the concept. Now that’s art, for real.


  32. I laughed at the Mario rearrange that someone did. Oh those cheeky gamers! :P


    • Yeah the Mario pop up was one of my favorite things that happened. The funny thing was we were video taping the whole time and watching the wall but he did it when there were people in the way. SNEAKY!
      We left it up for a little bit just to throw people off, plus it was pretty cool.


  33. Wow, this is awesome. I’d love to do something like this for an event as well. Great job!


  34. [...] http://vimeo.com/21023739 The Game Developers Conference is the largest annual gathering of professionals from the video game industry. For GDC 25 I was commissioned by the evil geniuses at iam8bit to design a pixel mural of epic proportions, 20 feet by 8 feet to be exact. The catch? The wall would be completely blank. Each of the conference's attendees would receive a 2" pixel, either cyan, magenta, yellow, or black (the conference color scheme … Read More [...]


  35. [...] Painting with Pixels at GDC 2011 (via Jude Buffum) Posted on March 18, 2011 by madelsy http://vimeo.com/21023739 The Game Developers Conference is the largest annual gathering of professionals from the video game industry. For GDC 25 I was commissioned by the evil geniuses at iam8bit to design a pixel mural of epic proportions, 20 feet by 8 feet to be exact. The catch? The wall would be completely blank. Each of the conference's attendees would receive a 2" pixel, either cyan, magenta, yellow, or black (the conference color scheme … Read More [...]


  36. wow…..


  37. I love this..I like the way you think and work.


  38. What a cool way to take pixels out of the computer/video game and into the hands of the conference attendees to collectively create an illustration. Very fun stuff. Thanks for sharing!


  39. [...] http://vimeo.com/21023739 The Game Developers Conference is the largest annual gathering of professionals from the video game industry. For GDC 25 I was commissioned by the evil geniuses at iam8bit to design a pixel mural of epic proportions, 20 feet by 8 feet to be exact. The catch? The wall would be completely blank. Each of the conference's attendees would receive a 2" pixel, either cyan, magenta, yellow, or black (the conference color scheme … Read More [...]


  40. awesome!!!!!
    love the idea……………………..
    also very innovative!?!?!?!?!?


  41. That is SO cool! Imagine you had made a stop motion video to go along with it, that would have been great. I can’t imagine how sore your arms must have been after this. Isn’t it a strange phenomenon to see digital art in the virtual realm? Very cool!


    • We toyed around with the idea. At one point I taped together a pixel fireball and we were going to try a stop motion clip where one of us “shot” the fireball at the other. But we didn’t want to stop the time lapse camera, which was firing every 20 seconds.


  42. Innovative and also showing some community spirit! Well done!


  43. nice! i love this and great post


  44. and this is my blog http://aryanmolaei.wordpress.com/


  45. Love this! Post-it art great but then add art to it. Fun!


  46. El Juderino…awesome stuff man. Loved it when Super Mario made an appearance in the time-lapse. This was a great concept, amazing how people reacted and participated. Kudos brother.


  47. Pixels rule! Great mural – so what happens to it now? You would need a BIG living room :)


    • We saved all the pixels that people drew or wrote on, and are working on a smaller piece for the GDC board to have at their office.


  48. Cool.


  49. i came out awesome man.


  50. Do you know anything about puffles? I saw them on The Disney Channel with my 5 year old son, Ezra Morrison.


  51. it’s a little like chinese cross-stitch。The color & photos are very beauty.take a lot of time & patient make it . when u finished keep it at home or sent to friends fot the best gift .for the others i can’t see other means of that drawing .PIEXls~~~~


  52. [...] what our good friend Jude Buffum and Iam8bit  worked on at GDC after the video make sure to click here on Jude’s thought of the project [...]


  53. Coooooooooll!!!!!!!!!


  54. I was new in the world of bloggers so please guidance yes, And thank you for sharing these on your blog, And your blog is very useful to me.


  55. Thank you for your blog, this is very useful to me.


  56. Oh my gosh.. I love this. Anything with art AND gamer culture? Amazing.

    Great colors, too.


  57. Super cool. Great concept and execution. Love the social element you incorporated into the art creation.


  58. What a cool way to take pixels out of the computer/video game and into the hands of the conference attendees to collectively create an illustration. Very fun stuff. Thanks for sharing!


  59. [...] | The Jude Abides [...]


  60. [...] Visto en | The Jude Abides [...]


  61. [...] is an installation created by iam8bit for the 2011 Game Developers Conference. Visitors were each given one colored [...]


  62. [...] Jude Buffum – 8-Bit Terrariums and Painting with Pixels at GDC [...]


  63. That was a rad project indeed! So cool to see it all come together, and the social aspect of it is so much fun, and helps save from the tedium of a project of this scale!

    If anyone else is looking to design a large mural there’s a tool online to help create them: http://heavymural.com/


    • Wow Christ, that website is amazing, I especially love the Post-It option, that would have been a life-saver when I did a Post-It installation in Berlin a few years ago :)


      • Sorry, I meant CHRIS ;)



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