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Sports site Deadspin reveals the incredible machine power behind its amazing GIFs

Animated GIFs make the Internet a better place. We’ve done our best to provide you with ways to make your own and even recommend the best apps to use because we know that having GIFs handy is a smart move, not just for providing better-than-text comments to various Web content, but also showing appreciation for your favorite movies and TV shows. For sports news site Deadspin, GIFs are a staple fans can’t get enough of, and now we know exactly how the site makes them.

The New York Times recently profiled Tim Burke, the Video/Assignment Editor over at Deadspin, where he’s known as the King of the GIFs. But what makes him more than great at what he does is his determination to provide the best (and often unexpected) moments in current sports. That, and his ability to multitask and watch more than a dozen games at once, which he does through a self-built computer station colleagues fondly refer to as the “Burke-puter.” 

The Burke-puter is a modular collection of computers, monitors, video input devices (among other gadgets) build a modular system of computers, monitors, gadgets, and video input devices that allow him to monitor, capture, and repurpose live moments as quickly as possible.

Tim Burke's whole computer setup, via Gizmodo

Tim Burke’s whole computer setup, via Gizmodo

At first glance, you’re already overwhelmed by the vast amounts of moving footage. Eight monitors take up most of the space, which are programmed to split into even more mini-screens, through which he can record from 28 sources simultaneously. According to the profile, more than two weeks ago, Burke watched a dozen NFL games, two Major League Baseball games, four Premier League soccer matches, among other sporting events, and it took him from 10 a.m. until 2 a.m. the next day.

Although video may be considered the most effective medium to showcase sports replays, they are usually entangled in strict copyright rules – Burke reportedly uses video only when there is no other choice, and even then, Deadspin regularly receives letters from the NFL to take video content down. That’s why screenshots and animated GIFs are becoming the more favored option to enjoy sports from a different perspective.

“This all started, strangely enough, as an art project. I founded 30fps in 2008 as a site to highlight live TV screencaps I grabbed using a single USB-based EyeTV 250+ tuner mated to a 2006 Intel Core Duo Macbook,” Burke shared on Gizmodo – Deadspin’s sister site – back in March.

If you’re interested in what’s included in his monstrous machine setup (which, give or take, cost him around $5000), Burke listed the following:

  • Custom i7 server running OS 10.6.8 (router/firewall)
  • Xbox360 (monitors ESPN, NBA, & MLB)
  • PS3 (monitors MLB & NHL)
  • Three Roku boxes (MLB, NBA, NHL)
  • Three HD cable boxes
  • Four DirecTV receivers
  • Kenwood 5.1 surround receiver
  • Six EyeTV 200 Firewire-based tuners
  • Two Miglia TVMax USB-based tuners
  • Four Hauppauge HD-PVR USB-based tuners
  • Old random AMD server running Ubuntu 12.04 (archive video encoder)
  • Three HDHomeRun tuners
  • TrendNet 24-port Gigabit Ethernet switch
  • Various iDevices (online video feeders)

Bear in mind that this list was furnished more than half a year ago, so he may have made vast improvements here and there. Regardless of that, his whole GIF-making routine is still jaw-dropping and awe-inspiring. 


Images via Tim Burke

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