DIY Multimedia / Photo / Video Frame Using Raspberry Pi

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Long long ago I talked about converting a LCD panel from a laptop to external monitor which was an easy exercise as long as one was willing to dish out $40 to buy a controller board from ebay. But when I did that I could not stop myself from imagining far better applications of the LCD + controller combination. Since that day I started dreaming of building my own multimedia photo frame out of it. I could have hooked it up to a laptop with broken lcd and gotten what I wanted but I wanted my frame to consume least possible power. So, I waited till I could get my hands on Raspberry pi which was sometime last year. After that I was just a matter of putting things together and waiting for Raspbmc to become stable. Now that all of that has happened, here is my finished digital multimedia frame updating me with the weather today. The power of XBMC allows me to play full HD video, music, picture slideshows, Youtube, checks weather prediction and even inform you for new email arrival in Gmail. It also supports streaming of media(music, images, videos non-DRM) using Airplay from any iDevice. With host of plugins for XBMC 12.0 Frodo, the behaviour can be tweaked as per the need. I installed Subsonic music streaming plugin on to it (how to coming soon) and now I can stream music off my Subsonic server running on my office computer. Also with photo slideshow screensaver plugin, I can continue listening to music while the image slideshow goes on.


Coming back to how did I get there? Lets start by listing out items that we need:

  1. LCD panel (free, got from a broken laptop)
  2. Controller board for LCD with DVI out (Approx. $40)
  3. Raspberry pi ($35)
  4. Power adapter for pi: 5V, 1A ($5-10, free for me, used a spare one lying around)
  5. Male HDMI to Male DVI adapter ($5 off ebay)
  6. 8GB High speed SDHC card ($10 or less)
  7. Any generic USB Wireless adapter / dangle which works with Linux ($10)
  8. Custom made Wood frame ($10)

Now we proceed as follows

  • We start by inserting the LCD panel into the wood frame.
  • Connect the LCD panel to the controller board as explained here.
  • Hook the Raspberry Pi to the DVI port of the controller board using the HDMI-DVI adapter.
  • Install Raspbmc on to the SDHC card as explained here.
  • Insert the card in to Pi and power up the entire system, but not before you have hooked up a keyboard and LAN cable to Pi. LAN based internet connection is only necessary for initial setup. Later on Photo frame would connect to internet using the USB dongle.
  • On powering up, Raspbmc would download the image and root files and partition the whole card and boot up. This would take a while, 30 mins to an hour depending on your internet speed.
  • When the system reboots after installation is complete, install the “Wireless Manager” addon  from the
  • Shutdown XBMC using the keyboard.
  • Connect the Wireless Adapter and power it again.
  • Now configure your wireless card using the plugin that you installed earlier.
  • Disconnect LAN cable and reboot.
  • Now add media as you would do for any XBMC installation.
  • I added media from my cloud storage (Beagleboard powered fileserver) and I was good to go.

While now we are good to go in terms of usability but, the controller board and Pi is loosely hanging at the back. I screwed the controller board (which had nice three holes meant for the purpose) on to a perspex (Acrylic glass) strip. Perspex strip was in turn bolted to the frame. Weight of Pi is easily supported by the controller through the HDMI-DVI adapter. See image below for details.

Supporting The Pi

Once this is taken care off, we have our Multimedia Frame ready for action. Controlling the frame is very easy and you can use most popular smartphones for the purpose as Official XBMC remotes  are available for both iOS as well as Android. Since I am getting the audio out on Analog jack, I made the suitable change inside XBMC settings.

Check out some more images of the frame below.


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About the Author

has written 346 posts on this blog.

Meditating towards his "nerdvana", lifehacker is a teacher by the day and a nerdy blogger by the night. He lives to learn and yearns to learn living.

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