Picture of How to Make a Raspberry Pi Media Panel (fka Digital Photo Frame)

The goal of this project was to create a low cost Raspberry Pi Media Panel--a nice looking screen that could stand in the living room or attach to the refrigerator with the primary purpose of streaming personal photo and video content full time, but also be able to do some other cool things when needed...like show the weather, play a movie, play music, or receive AirPlay content.

Read this blog post if you want to learn more about what a media panel is and why you might want one.

Success criteria were:
-Low cost: a full blown computing device and screen for between $100 and $200 all in
-Attractive: meaning my wife finds it aesthetically acceptable for the living room
-Light: no more than a few pounds
-Thin: no more than an inch thick, including frame
-Quick: can be built in a few hours or less
-Simple: requiring mainly assembly, versus construction or manufacturing


Several people have asked me about an integrated product/service like this that is off-the-shelf. I've been working on one for almost two years, and just launched it on Kickstarter. It's called Fireside, and we think of it as a SmartFrame. It auto-organizes, scores and ranks your photos and videos so it can be smart about constantly updating playlists so you always see fresh relevant content. Read all about it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/897743693/fireside

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andyjagoe (author) 10 months ago

Several people have asked me about an integrated product/service like
this that is off-the-shelf. I've been working on one for almost two years, and just launched it on Kickstarter. It's called Fireside, and we call it a SmartFrame. It auto-organizes, scores and ranks your photos and videos so it can be smart about constantly updating playlists so you always see fresh relevant content. You can read more about it here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/897743693/fireside

EliR1 andyjagoe4 months ago
Great instuctiable., it's ready clear and easy to follow. Do you know any way to automatically download my Google photos . I want the pictures to be up to date on the raspberry pi thanks ps:maby you can add this feature to smartframe also
andyjagoe (author)  EliR14 months ago

Thanks for the note. I don't know something that will automatically sync/download your Google photos--but it's a good idea.

PaulY45 months ago

thanks for the quick reply

i will have to see if i can do something

nothing ventuerd nothing gained

PaulY45 months ago

I have an old 9" android that no longer boots ,could i use the screen from that?

would it have all the bits i need there ?

andyjagoe (author)  PaulY45 months ago

It's possible you might be able to use the screen, but you would need to find an LED driver board for it. The Raspberry Pi has a DSI video connector but as far as I know it is still undocumented and there are no screens that can use it. This means you need to use HDMI to deliver video from your Raspberry Pi to your Android screen...and therefore need some way to convert the HDMI signals into something the screen can handle (which will be something akin to LVDS or MIPI and not HDMI)

SUSHANTC16 months ago

Hi Andy! That's a great work there :)
I'm about to embark on this DIY journey. Could you tell me if there's a way possible to to play animated gifs after the photo frame is completed?

andyjagoe (author)  SUSHANTC16 months ago

Unfortunately, I don't believe so. Others may be aware of a tool that can do this.

Ohh, I see. Thanks anyways!

If anyone could tell me if there's a way possible to play animated gifs after the photo frame is completed, please help me!!

SimonO36 months ago

Nice! Sorry to see the Kickstarter didnt hit the mark. Do you have any plans to share/sell your designs for the rear enclosure? Thanks!

martybecker7 months ago

I would like some clarification on the measurement needed for the frame. With the measurements from the LCD, do you select a frame size that will give you an inside frame size a bit smaller than the LCD?

andyjagoe (author)  martybecker7 months ago
Hi Marty, thanks for your note. I recommend ordering your LCD first and then getting the exact outside dimensions. This is then your "content" or "picture" dimensions when you order your custom frame from American Frame.
philip_g8 months ago

thanks for a great write up!

I used slideshow screensaver to access a shared drive on my desktop PC so I can easily add photos to the library and all works great.

I don't have the LCD yet and haven't ordered the frame, did you have enough room to mount the raspberry pi to the backing board and still hang on the wall OK or do I need to look for a deeper frame?

andyjagoe (author)  philip_g7 months ago

Hi Philip, You will need a deeper frame to try to mount the raspberry pi to the backing board and be able to hang it on the wall. The ethernet jack is the point where the Rpi board is deepest...almost 1 inch.

ibenkos9 months ago

I am new to raspberry pi, I got my model B yesterday and I want to make this project but I don't know what to download and where. can somebody please help me and reply whit links on what I need to download for this project? thanks

Thank you for a great Instructable! I have one problem--wireless access with Raspbmc. I think I've tried every solution on the web with no success. Can you help?

Are you using OpenElec all i did was go into settings you should be able to find all the WiFi settings there assuming you have a wifi dongle plugged in.

Also if i'm getting this wrong try plugging the WiFi dongle into the Rpi directly, instead of a USB hub.

Tried the dongle both ways - no joy. I'm probably going to use a wired network connection. So I went on to Step 7 of the Instructable and when I powered everything up, here's the raster below. Any ideas??

andyjagoe (author)  john.scott.7140410 months ago

John, this looks like an issue with your LCD controller board and/or LCD screen. Which LCD screen do you have and which model LCD controller? Have you checked with NJYTOUCH if your controller supports your screen and is programmed correctly?

andyjagoe (author)  john.scott.7140410 months ago

Hi John. Thanks for the comment and glad you enjoyed it! Can you be more specific with the problem you're having with wireless in Raspbmc? To get consistent and stable wireless support with the Edimax under Raspbian, it's important to do the following system tweaks which are not configured by default (see below). Not sure if these are in Raspbmc or not...but it's worth taking a look.

#Add 'wireless-power off' to /etc/network/interfaces so wifi operates properly
# Disable power saving in realtek 8192cu
# add 'options 8192cu rtw_power_mgnt=0 rtw_enusbss=1 rtw_ips_mode=1' to /etc/modprobe.d/8192cu.conf

Thanks, Andy! I'm a real noobie here but I'll give this a try.

Also, my issue is that Raspbmc will scan for wireless, see my network but will not connect for some reason.

andyjagoe (author)  john.scott.7140410 months ago

Ok...my suggestions will probably not help in that case. This change is just to prevent situations where your wireless will lock up or stop working.

You may want to try loading Raspbian on another SD card and see if you can boot it up and find your wireless network. This would be a good datapoint for you to know exactly where the problem is. I've found Raspbmc to sometimes be a bit more bleeding edge than Raspbian...you could also try the OpenElec distribution which is an XBMC oriented distribution for RPi but also maybe a bit more stable. Simply boot up and then from the command line type 'startx' to go into the gui. You can then use the WiFi setup tool on the desktop to look for and add networks.

skinner.tim11 months ago

This could be my solution I've been looking for, I work as a video artist, mainly showing projected work in non-commercial galleries. Someone is going to purchase my work but I need to appropriate it for a household setting, so it can hang on the wall just like a painting. Anyway I've been trying to work with digital photo frames, firstly getting the right MP4 with the right codecs is a nightmare, and the quality is poor (plastic imports from China). Would it be possible not to stream a video through the internet but just play via a usb?

Hey Tim, you might be interested in Canviz: http://CanvizIsArt.com/

andyjagoe (author)  skinner.tim11 months ago
Hi Tim. Thanks for your comment. If you use XBMC as the Instructable suggests, the default is to play locally and a USB stick was what I used when I built it. You still might have to deal with codecs though, since XBMC handles some better than others.

Something else that could interest you is my new company Fireside, which has its roots in this very instructable (and is launching soon). Fireside is like Sonos for video/pictures, providing a visual ambience ecosystem for the home. It also has apps for adding content and does all the transcoding / conversions for you.

Thanks Andy

Codecs are a real pain, most common for me are MP4 - ACC, H.264 or .Mov - Linear PCM, H.264, my vids are created on FCE and then Quicktime conversion. I've trialled XBMC on my Mac it is running my videos fine, this might change when XBMC is on the Raspberry Pi.

Signed up to Fireside, as there are more and more digital video artists anything to help us sell our work to the general public is always welcome, ideally we want a device that can play one single MP4orMov that is secured within (one piece, one frame) and can hang on the wall, no different to a painting, ideally battery powered.

Anyway thanks again.

Doing it!
My UK pricing so far.

R-Pi (B+) - £27.44
Edimax Wifi - £8.28
USB Hub (recently released R-Pi one) - £10.11
Black Pi case - £2.46
Mains for Pi - £2.88
2m cable HDMI - DVI - £1.84
LCD Controller Board (HDMI+DVI+VGA+AUDIO LCD Controller Board for LP154WX4 1280x800 DIY M.NT68676.2A) - £23.00
LG 17" LP154WX4 Screen (2nd hand) - £16.14

Total £92.15 ($149.18)

The items left to source are slightly more expensive here in the UK, a LCD power adapter is about £11 ($18). Framing will be about £20 ($32), though cross that bridge later on, and could always fashion one myself.

The audio HDMI to HDMI converter - found this one over here similar price ($31.50),


Leaving the framing out my main spend should be around the £120 ($195), which is pretty good.

andyjagoe (author)  skinner.tim11 months ago

Great! Note that you'll need a microSD card (B+ is microSD vs B is regular SD card) and USB flash stick as well. Using the B+, I've been able to run all the USB components directly connected to the Raspberry Pi vs using the USB hub. The B+ fixed a lot of the problems that made the USB hub the preferred solution for the B. So you probably can drop the USB hub (saves space too).

Most of the parts have arrived (annoyingly the HDMI cable not until Mon).

Yep found out I needed a microSD, I actually have an 8GB micro card which I was using in my camera, is it possible to reformat an old one or do you have to use a new one?

Was wondering with the RaspberryPi instead of having the whole media centre, I just need to play one video, is there a simple player akin to Quicktime you could recommend.

andyjagoe (author)  skinner.tim11 months ago

Yes, you can reformat an old one. Just be sure it's not to old because it needs to be fast enough to run the OS. Take a look here for more details on SD cards: http://elinux.org/RPi_SD_cards

There's a command line video player called omxplayer you can easily use, and you could loop it using a shell script. This is the de facto video player on the Raspberry Pi, and is actually what XBMC uses under the hood anyway. There might be some other ways to get hardware accelerated video going (I've been able to successfully compile gstreamer 1.0, which most other solutions are dependent on), but this is a much more difficult and less mature route to go than using omxplayer.

Got the raspberry pi running but being a noob struggling to get omxplayer running on Raspbian, so going to put that aside for one moment, and place on my card the Raspbmc (XBMC) on the card instead, my only at the moment is just to get a video playing.

There are a couple of foreseeable problems - the login point, so when the customer has it on her wall she will have to log in, plugging in a keyboard etc, this could get annoying, also at the other end switching the thing off, can't just flip the switch. This is where the digital photo frames have the advantage. The ability to switch on and off at will, touch screen is a possible future way to go, it's just that login point, wonder if there is a way round that.

Was wondering have you used aluminium frame moulding for health and
safety reasons or would you be able to use a wooden surround? how hot does it get?

andyjagoe (author)  skinner.tim11 months ago

I used aluminum because it allowed the thinnest possible frame. I think you'd be fine if you choose wood. I haven't measured the heat, but for this application it shouldn't get so hot that it's a concern.

This is a very cool idea. I supposed I could use a screen from a old laptop, does not hurt to give it a try. I imagine that it is possible to integrate wireless speaker. There is so much to play with this. Thumbs up, very good!!

andyjagoe (author)  luis.berroa.16510 months ago
Hi Luis. Thanks for the comment and glad you're enjoying!

Yes, you can use an old laptop screen--but you need to make sure you can get an LCD controller board that can drive it. Also, sound is definitely possible. It used to be that you needed to take it off the HDMI channel for best results (some LCD controller have this built in) since RPi didn't handle separate audio solutions well...but I understand this has been getting better. You might be able to take it off the 3.5mm jack. You just have to be careful with sync issues.

bigbutbald10 months ago

Hey! Thanks for the intractable. It's great. My question is if there's anyway to adjust or tweak this, so that it would draw from a dynamic set of pictures, like a twitter hashtag, or Facebook album, or something like that?

andyjagoe (author)  bigbutbald10 months ago
Thanks for your note and question. I know there are some apps you can add to XBMC to do some of these things, but I've never found any that I especially liked. It's one of the reasons I started working on Fireside, which is launching on Oct 28: http://blog.fireside.co/why-we-created-fireside/
zsole210 months ago

Hi Andy,

Thank you for this great instructable! It was easy to follow, without much experience on DIY projects.

There are two points that somewhat bothered me, but from the comments, others had it too: having two power bricks, and the on-off switch (or lack thereof). With some research and experimenting, I was able to overcome those:

For the power brick, I managed to setup a step-down converter from the 12V LCD line (e.g. http://www.dx.com/p/dc-7-24v-to-dc-5v-voltage-step-down-transformer-module-144860).

For the switch, I found the solution at http://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?p=355975. A simple pushbutton can be wired in instead of the jumper, and the second link under 'EDIT' is particularly useful. To make it work under raspbmc, GPIO access needs to be enabled, an easy to follow guide can be found at http://www.raspberrypi.org/forums/viewtopic.php?f=35&t=62438 (and if someone needs cooling, this is a good starting point, too).

I hope this helps others who wants to follow this excellent guide.

andyjagoe (author)  zsole210 months ago
Hi Zsole2,

What a great addition to the instructable! Thanks for sharing.


IKnowPatrick11 months ago

These instructions are not complete? WTFudge

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