Very Slow Movie Player




Introduction: Very Slow Movie Player

The Very Slow Movie Player plays a movie over several months or years on an e-paper screen. This project uses a Raspberry Pi, an e-paper screen, and Python code to play a movie several hundred times slower than normal. Choose a favorite movie or an especially beautiful film and watch it in a different way than normal. It's kinda like a picture-frame on your wall that slowly changes over time.

Bryan Boyer came up with the VSMP and shared it in the article Creating a Very Slow Movie Player. I built it using Tom Whitwell's instructions and code.

Building a VSMP doesn't require soldering or coding. As usual with this kind of thing, some troubleshooting might be necessary when installing the dependencies on the Raspberry Pi. You need a 3D printer or CNC machine to make the cases I made, but the case/frame for this project is a good area to improvise and experiment. You could stick it in an Ikea frame, get it professionally framed, build a case out of wood, Lasercut one out of wood or plastic, or anything else. If you make a VSMP, please share!




  • Computer with command-line
  • Small screwdriver and wrench


  • 3D Printer or CNC machine to print or cut case or a picture frame to frame the screen

Step 1: Connect E-paper Screen to Raspberry Pi

Use the parts that come with the e-ink display HAT to connect the display to the Raspberry Pi.

  1. Add the standoffs with nuts on the bottom of the Pi's board
  2. Plug the HAT onto the GPIO pins on the Pi
  3. Use the screws to attach the HAT more permanently
    • Don't screw them in too tight, you might bend the board. Just tighten enough to keep it secure.
  4. Plug the screen in
    • Gently pry up the black lever on the ribbon cable connector
    • Plug the ribbon cable into the connector
    • Carefully push the lever back into place to secure the ribbon cable

Step 2: Get Remote Access to Raspberry Pi Shell

To install the SlowMovie software on our Raspberry Pi, we need access to the Raspberry Pi. It doesn't come with a screen or keyboard, so we'll use a tool called "ssh" (secure shell) to control it using another computer.

(These instructions are based of this article)

First we need to enable ssh on the Raspberry Pi and give it credentials to connect to our WiFi network.

Terminal capture:

  • Plug the NOOBS SD card into your computer
  • Open terminal change directory into the SD card:
cd /Volumes/boot
  • Use the following command to create a file called "ssh". This will enable ssh once the Raspberry Pi boots up.
touch ssh
  • Use the following command to create and begin editing a file called "wpa_supplicant.conf"
nano wpa_supplicant.conf
  • Edit the file to add the following lines:
ctrl_interface=DIR=/var/run/wpa_supplicant GROUP=netdev 
  • Replace US with your country-code
  • Replace WifiSSID with your WiFi network's SSID (its name)
  • Replace Password with its password. This will allow the Raspberry Pi to connect to your WiFi network automatically when it starts up.
  • Save the file and eject the SD card.
  • Finally, plug the SD card into the Raspberry Pi's SD card slot.

Now we need to find out the IP address of our Raspberry Pi in order to ssh into it and start controlling it.

  1. Plug the Pi into power using the USB C port on the side.
    • The red and green lights should light up.
  2. SNIFF IT! Give it a few moments to connect to your WiFi network and then use Angry IP Scanner to sniff for the IP of the Pi.
    • It should appear with an IP address on the left and "raspberrypi.local" on the right as the Hostname. Copy the IP address. ssh
  3. In the terminal again, run following command to ssh into the Pi, replacing IPADDRESS with the IP address you copied. Log in with the default password: "raspberry" (Terminal capture:


You're now connected remotely to your Raspberry Pi's shell (terminal)! It's a good idea to change the password.

Step 3: Install SlowMovie Software

The SlowMovie GitHub repo has great installation instructions. Head over there and follow those.

There's an automatic script to install all dependencies, and also instructions on how to set things up manually. Go see the GitHub for the details!

If you've gotten the software installed successfully, you should be able to run "python3" from the SlowMovie directory on the Raspberry Pi and see frames from the test video appear on the e-paper screen!

Step 4: Add Your Own Movie

Add movies to the Videos/ directory to play your own movie on the VSMP.

Run the following command from your own computer. It copies your movie into the Raspberry Pi's Videos folder:

scp yourmovie.mp4 pi@IPADDRESS:~/SlowMovie/Videos

Replace yourmovie.mp4 with your movie's path on your own computer, and replace IPADDRESS the same way you did before.

(Terminal capture:

Now you can start your movie playing!

  1. ssh into the Raspberry Pi again.
  2. Go to the SlowMovie directory: "cd SlowMovie"
  3. Edit the nowPlaying file to contain the name of the video file you want to play: "nano nowPlaying"
  4. Now run "sudo systemctl start slowmovie" to start the SlowMovie service, which will restart when the Raspberry Pi reboots.

Done! Your movie will now play through. Beware, it usually starts with a bunch of all-black frames. The playback is using the default settings:

random-frames = False
delay = 120
increment = 4
contrast = 1.0

"delay" is how many seconds to wait between displaying the next update.

"increment" is how many frames to move forward each update.

You can edit the file "slowmovie.conf" to change these settings.

When the movie ends, the next movie in the Videos directory will start. You can use scp to copy more movies to that directory.

Step 5: Turn Off Raspberry Pi LEDs

The power and activity LEDs on the Raspberry Pi can shine through the e-paper screen at night and just be a general nuisance. Fortunately, we can turn them off with software without having to tape over them or de-solder them from the board. There are several ways to do this. Here's the one I found that worked for my Raspberry Pi 4 B.

(Terminal capture:

Start editing "/etc/rc.local" (a file with commands that are called every time the Pi boots up)

sudo nano /etc/rc.local

At the bottom of the file, but before the line "exit", add the following lines:

# Turn out the lights
echo 0 >/sys/class/leds/led0/brightness #Turn off Green LED
echo 0 >/sys/class/leds/led1/brightness #Turn off Red LED

This will set the brightness of both LEDs to 0 every time the Raspberry Pi boots. To reset this later, simply remove these lines.

Step 6: Make Case and Assemble

You need a 3D printer or CNC machine to make the cases I made here. The files for my case design are included here in case you want to print or CNC cut them. I also included Fusion 360 files and .step files in case you want to make modifications.

Files attached:

  • STLs of front and back piece
  • Fusion360 .f3d file of entire design
  • STEP file with both pieces
  • DXFs of the lines needed for front and back CNC cuts
  • .crv file (VCarve) with toolpaths for CNC cuts. (not attached: get it here)

But the case/frame for this project is a good area to improvise and experiment! You could stick it in an Ikea frame, get it professionally framed, build a case out of wood, Lasercut one out of wood or plastic, or anything else you can think of.

If you make a VSMP, please share! I'd love to see your build.

CNC Contest

Participated in the
CNC Contest

3 People Made This Project!


  • Chocolate Challenge

    Chocolate Challenge
  • Stone Concrete Cement Contest

    Stone Concrete Cement Contest
  • Digital Fabrication Student Design Challenge

    Digital Fabrication Student Design Challenge



Question 3 months ago on Step 6

Hello qubist, would it be possibel to get the front.stl as a .step?


Answer 3 months ago

Hi there! I updated the files in Step 6 to include .step files for front and back pieces. If you need something more specific, you can download Fusion360 free for hobby use and then export whichever components you'd like in your preferred format. Happy making!


6 months ago

Thanks so much for the guide, I've just done this. I saw that doing commands manually via ssh works perfectly, but I started worrying that something is wrong when if I leave it to autostart after the raspberry pi switches on, I've just been getting mostly pitch black screens, but it sounds like from what you said this is normal? So after a few black screens after startup it starts working again? Thanks

Maxime Ryheul
Maxime Ryheul

1 year ago

Great idea. It would be a great background decoration.
Also love how small and compact the end product is.


Reply 11 months ago

Thanks! It's quite elegant sitting on my windowsill or desk. I think with my case design I could also mount it to the wall with Command Strips or something, to look like a pictureframe.


1 year ago

I love the idea of this, but I'd like to make one that displays color. Would the frames change so slowly that burn-in would become a problem?


Reply 1 year ago

There are color e-paper displays. Check out:
And there's an effort to modify the code to be compatible with more displays:

Something so attractive to me about this project was the e-paper display, since it doesn't shine out light into my eyeballs, doesn't need to be turned off at night, and plays nice with direct sunlight. And, since a fast refresh-rate isn't needed for the project, e-paper's slow refresh limitation isn't a problem.

But I like the idea of making one in full color with a different type of display, too! Please share the result when it's done!


Reply 1 year ago

This is a great question.
I found this on the website:
Q. Do e-ink devices "burn-in"
A. "No. You may notice an occasional ghosting, but this always goes away after a few refreshes. True burn-in is only a potential problem with displays that use phosphors (CRTs and Plasmas).
As a sidenote, there's no way to actually turn one of these screens "off". E-Link is
bistable... it requires no power except when refreshing... so even when there appears to be nothing on the screen you're still staring at an "image" (a blank one)."

As I was planning to adapt this idea to an Arduino STM32 and a TFT display, It looks like the TFT is more susceptible to 'Burn-in', so I may have to do some testing to verify this. Apparently turning down the brightness may help with the TFT.


Reply 1 year ago

That's kind of what I was thinking - using a TFT display as well. Thanks for your reply!

Nikolaos Babetas
Nikolaos Babetas

1 year ago

That's actually really cool and creative! Well done!


Reply 1 year ago

Well thanks! Make sure to check out the two original articles as well!

Penolopy Bulnick
Penolopy Bulnick

1 year ago

This sounds fun! Do you have a video of it?


Reply 1 year ago

I can take a video and upload it! I'll do it tomorrow.


Reply 1 year ago

I added a video of it updating, and a short timelapse!