Raspberry Pi Animated Gif Picture Frame

I’ve been toying with building a digital picture frame for a couple of years.  I bought my Raspberry Pi for this project in August 2012, but I never built it.  A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Camron about the project, and we decided to work on it together.

I wanted the frame to work like an appliance – plug it in, play images.  Camron wrote most of the code before I got there.  We had two programs:

  • A ruby script which automatically download animated gifs from a source and places them in a directory.
  • Play the gifs on a screen using Gifsicle

We installed Arch Linux on the Raspberry Pi, but we couldn’t get Gifsicle to find an X session to display the gifs.  We decided to dump Arch and flashed the SD drive with Raspbian.  Raspbian boots into the window manager directly, so we were able to play the gifs.

Unfortunately, the Raspberry Pi was running at 100% CPU, and the gifs were very choppy.  Camron wrote a little HTML file with some JavaScript to play the gifs in a browser.  The gifs ran a little smoother, but it wasn’t great.  Anything form Reddit’s high quality gifs crashed the browser.

I’ve seen a Raspberry Pi used as a media player, so I know the hardware can handle a little video, but big gifs without any hardware help don’t seem viable.  I have a couple more things to try – optimizing the gifs, finding an alternate gif player, transcoding the gifs to video.

Update:  It seems Twitter is already doing gif to mp4 transcoding.