Making a Raspberry Pi Media Panel (fka Digital Photo Frame)

Making a Raspberry Pi Media Panel (fka Digital Photo Frame) display personal photos and videos in the living room. It also mounts to the fridge to show basic information, as well as play movies, music, and receive Airplay material.

The requirements for success were:

  • Affordable: a whole computer device and screen, ranging from $100 to $200, all in one package.
  • Charming: meaning my wife thinks it pleasant to look at in the living room.
  • Lightweight: weighing little more than a few pounds.
  • Thin: less than an inch thick (including the frame).
  • Fastly: can be constructed in a few hours or less.
  • Simple: needing mostly assembly as opposed to building or manufacture.
Making a Raspberry Pi Media Panel (fka Digital Photo Frame)
Making a Raspberry Pi Media Panel (fka Digital Photo Frame)
Making a Raspberry Pi Media Panel (fka Digital Photo Frame)

Step 1: Select the Appropriate LCD Screen

Making a Raspberry Pi Media Panel (fka Digital Photo Frame) things brief and straightforward, I advise utilizing a screen measuring at least 15″ or 17″ like that found in the MacBook or MacBook Pro. Whether you don’t already possess a laptop with an LCD screen, you may use an old one from which you have removed the screen. First, locate a board that controls the LCD screen; second, determine if you have such a board to hand. Amazon.com supplied our screens, and we picked the LG & Philips LP154WP1-TLA1 and the A2179 EMC 3302 & A1706 A1708, which are identical models. New, unopened, the price was $249 & $287 each. However, the next time I’m certain we’ll choose a glossy screen. The numbers after the dash may not have any impact on the screen, so concentrate on the digits above the dash. The A2179 EMC 3302  & A1706 A1708 determines whether an LCD Controller will support your panel and how to set it, respectively.

Step 2: Place an order for an LCD Controller Board

LCD controller boards are available from a variety of locations. To be fair, NJYTouch is a good business located in China. The model number for the A2179 EMC 3302 & A1706 A1708, the screen is Model 5451 (audio). The retail price is $40. In addition to the inverter, the control switch, and the proper LVDS connection cable for your LCD screen, it also contains the necessary programming so that the installation is simple and plug and play. Currently, shipping is free for the item, but it will take approximately a month to arrive in the US. Instead, request an upgrade to DHL if you’ve already bought the device, which will be approximately $20 extra and arrive in less than a week. A typical 2.5mm internal diameter, 5.5mm exterior diameter 12 volts, 4 amp power adaptor are required to power the microphone. Rather than have NJYTouch ship one from China, we bought one from Amazon.

How To use?

To use the device with a traditional TV or computer monitor, you’ll also need to purchase an HDMI A to DVI 24+1 cable, since the controller board includes DVI and VGA inputs but no direct HDMI input. This item was purchased through Amazon. To get audio, you’ll need a device that can convert an HDMI audio track to analog, and then plug it into a 3.5mm jack. These headphones may be purchased from Amazon between $30 and $99, depending on the choices that are included. We have had an excellent experience using this $43 product from J-Tech Digital with the X-mini II speaker via a 3.5mm connector. The Raspberry Pi’s 3.5mm analog audio output has a problem, causing popping and background noise. Trying to install a USB sound card usually results in poor audio/video latency and synchronization issues. Currently, there are two techniques to capture audio through HDMI.

Step 3: Purchase a Frame

Once the LCD screen arrives, you’ll need to measure its size to calculate how many frames you’ll need. American Frame sells beautiful and inexpensive custom Black Wood made to size. No metric sizes cut. LCD panels must be measured in 16ths of an inch. If you can’t find a perfect match, round up. For big LCD screens, I really suggest the Radius Colorcast series. The contoured bevel and somewhat larger rabbet depth accommodate the LCD panel depth better. Use the Standard line for easy tasks. Examine colors like black, white, red, and steel to see whether it’s worth it. This lesson’s images use solely natural steel frames. When ordering, pick the standard white mounting board and forgo the extra insulation and acrylic that are automatically included. They are unnecessary. It’ll be approximately $10-$15 overall, including shipping, and should arrive in a week to a week and a half.

Step 4: Magnetic Mount vs. Stand vs. Hanging

Once you’ve decided where to put your frame, you’ll need to purchase the necessary mounting hardware. Everything you need to hang your frame is included. We recommend four strong magnets for the fridge. K&J Magnetics sold us Neodymium Neodymium mounting magnets for around $5 each. In retrospect, this may have been a bit excessive, but at least our Media Panel will be secure on the fridge. To attach the magnets to the frame, you’ll need a 2″ x 1/2″ mending brace and four 1/6″ broad x 1/2″ long machine nuts and bolts. Albin Goods Media panels install simply and firmly on Easel Mate. Don’t order from Albin. Albin designed and distributes the Easel Mate. Regrettably, their Easel Mate only works with wooden frames. We acquired it from Palo Alto’s University Art. Google will expose many more vendors.

Step 5: Get a Raspberry Pi and Accessories

After the lengthier lead-time components, it’s time to buy the Media Panel’s brain, the Raspberry Pi. Element14 sold us a Raspberry Pi Model B for $69.95. You’ll also need:

-USB WiFi (unless you plan to use ethernet). We use this product from Edimax which is about $12.57.
-A Pi case: This one is $4.59 on Amazon and comes in a variety of colors.
-An SD Card for your OS. We prefer this 8 GB Amazon model for $8.61.
You’ll need an ELECJET Super Fast adapter ($14.99) or a USB A to Micro B cable ($8.55) if you want to power your Raspberry Pi from a powered USB hub (more on this later). Connecting all your USB accessories to the USB hub reduces the power consumption from the Raspberry Pi, resulting in more reliable operation.
-Powered USB hub. We use a $17 StarTech model.
-USB Mouse and Keyboard If something goes wrong during setup, it’s easier to fix than using SSH or your XBMC remote control. You presumably already have these, but if not, Amazon has them for cheap. Choose from the RPi Verified Peripherals list.

Whether you decide to go off this list, be sure to first check the list of Raspberry Pi Verified Peripherals to verify if it works. Don’t take anything for granted.

Step 6: Setup Your Raspberry Pi

The next step is to install the operating system. You may use any operating system, however, we prefer Raspbmc. It’s a Debian-based minimal Linux distribution optimized for XBMC on Raspberry Pi. The system auto-updates and starts XBMC.

How to download and install Raspbmc. Make sure your Raspberry Pi has network connectivity. That means configuring WiFi.

Connect your USB hub to one of the Raspberry Pi’s USB A connectors. Then attach a USB A to USB Micro B cable from the hub to the Raspberry Pi’s USB Micro B connector. Backpowering is how your Raspberry Pi gets power. Install USB WiFi module and test keyboard/mouse (if you like—not essential).

How to connect your Raspberry Pi ?

Connect your Raspberry Pi to a TV via HDMI and boot into XBMC to test your installation. Also, check the weather and RSS feeds to ensure the gadget has Internet connectivity. Go to System: Info and write down your device’s IP address for SSH access or to set up your remote control.

So you can utilize the remote app on your smartphone, I also recommend setting “Allow XBMC to receive AirPlay content” under System: Settings: Airplay.

Finally, get the free XBMC app for your iPhone or Android phone to control your system.

Step 7: Put the LCD Controller Board Together

Here’s a video that demonstrates how to assemble the LCD Controller Board and accessories you got. Assemble as shown in the video, but do not yet connect the LVDS connection to the LCD panel. Because the cable must pass through the hole we need to cut in the mounting board, we’ll accomplish this in the following step.

Step 8: Put the Frame Together

This stage is for bringing everything together. Assemble your frame and install the LCD screen and LCD Controller Board as shown in the video. If everything goes as planned, it shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes. Connect power to your LCD controller board, link up the HDMI connection to your Raspberry Pi, and then power up your Raspberry Pi to see your Media Panel in action for the first time.

Step 9: Adding Media and Using the Media Panel

You may add personal media to your Media Panel in several ways:

The first technique is simple but requires a USB flash disk. Use your computer to create two folders on a USB flash drive (like this 64 GB SanDisk for $17.84 Another for photos. Placing your own photos and videos. Unplug your USB flash drive and connect it to your Raspberry Pi. Now tell XBMC where to seek media (see below).

SCP/SSH may also copy files to the SD card of the Raspberry Pi. Make media folders in /home/pi through SSH. Type ssh pi@ipaddress and enter raspberry as the default password. Substitute your device’s IP address (e.g. 192.168.1.2). You are currently at /home/pi. Then “exit” after “mkdir photos” and “mkdir videos”. Then enter “scp * pi@ipaddress:/home/pics” into the pictures directory. Enter your password again, and make sure the folder only includes photos. Simulate “scp * pi@ipaddress” for videos.

Finally

Now that your material is available locally, you must notify XBMC. Select your pictures folder under “Add Source” under Pictures. Likewise with your videos folder.
Adding the Slideshow Screensaver and configuring it to use your pictures folder.

How to run a video loop (kludgy, I know…):
-Select “Play the next movie automatically” under System, Settings, Video, Playback.
Choose Videos, Files from the menu bar.
-Set your remote control to a gesture mode.
-Hold down the video folder. Click Queue Item from the menu.
-Re-select and hold the video folder. Click the Now Playing option.
– The videos in your folder should be listed.
Then select Shuffle from the menu (unless you want to play videos in order).
-Click on a video once to start an infinite loop.

You may also add normal XBMC video and audio services like Amazon Instant Video, Hulu, and YouTube to your Media Panel.
Enjoy!

 

Jerry Arceneaux

Jerry is a professional framer, and his hobby is custom framing & digital framing! He has been framing for the last 5 years, and he likes the digital frame. Based on his experiences with different types of framing; he is sharing his opinion about various frameworks so that beginners can get started the right way. Happy reading!

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