In the world of museum exhibitions, visuals are essential for captivating visitors and conveying narratives. If you’re looking to upgrade the way videos are presented on TVs, Raspberry Pi computers offer a simple yet effective “hands off” solution.

An old cathode ray tube TV

In this article we will discuss the idea of using a Raspberry Pi computer to loop videos on TVs within a museum or gallery setting, streamlining the playback experience. Whether you’re a curator wanting to enhance your exhibit or someone who just needs to play a video on a loop, this guide will show you how you could obtain a polished and continuous audiovisual display with inexpensive, yet reliable, equipment.

The Problem

Showing a video on repeat sounds like a simple thing to do until you have to do it.

Imagine you just found a fantastic DVD in your archive. In theory, the process seems uncomplicated – locate a TV and a DVD player, press play, and you’re set! Yet, reality complicates matters.

How does one properly connect these devices? Ah, yes, the correct sequence of plugging in. And now, the quest for the elusive remote ensues. Of course, the batteries have died; another brief intermission ensues. At last, armed with functional batteries, the task of selecting the precise chapter arises with the dated 90’s style menu. With all hurdles cleared, you embark on your cinematic journey… or so you thought. Twenty minutes later, frustration mounts as the video is back at the main menu. Ah, yes, the video concluded, requiring another press of the play button.

Does this sound familiar? What sounds simple in theory often ends up being complex and tedious in practice. While individually manageable the cumulative weight of these tasks amounts to an overwhelming chore. What we need is a simple and affordable solution where you turn on the plug and the video starts playing on a display until you turn off the plug completely unattended.

The Solution

Enter the Raspberry Pi. It is an affordable, miniature, low power PC built for hobbyists and those needing computing on a budget. For just £45 at the time of writing the 4th generation Raspberry Pi certainly ticks this box. It consumes a modest amount of power and is about the size of a box of matches.

We are also going to need some software! Thanks to Julius Schmiedel we have just that. He’s created a bit of free Open-Source software called “MP4Museum” which we can load onto our Raspberry Pi in a few minutes. This software will open any video files found on a USB stick which is plugged into our device and play them on repeat for as long as you supply power to it!

If we’ve got a TV, projector or computer monitor with an HDMI port laying around then we’re good to go with just a few other inexpensive accessories. If we need to source a display as part of this project then a “dumb”, as opposed to “smart”, TV is ideal. Now obsolete to many, “dumb” TVs are abundantly available for a mere £20 to £40, ensuring an affordable large-screen solution. Local second-hand marketplaces as well as Facebook Marketplace and eBay are great places to source this equipment.

If we run through the simple process of installing the MP4Museum on the Raspberry Pi, plug in our USB stick with our MP4 video files, and then connect up to our TV and flick on the power we can have a working video player in under an hour!

Et voila…

We have a video of our choice looping on a TV of our choice without the faff!

With a bit more work, which we’ll discuss in future articles, we can setup the device to work with physical buttons to play, pause, and skip the videos on the memory stick. We can also setup multiple devices to run in synchronisation or even make videos start based on motion.

You can jump straight in and have a go yourself by reading the next article in this series where we deal with the nuts and bolts of setting up one of these devices. If all of this sounds great but you need a little help getting started, or you’d like to modify MP4Museum to your needs I can help you with that. Why not get in touch and we can have a free no-obligation chat about your needs.