Build a Raspberry Pi RV Media Player

by | Jan 26, 2019

When Joan and I started our RV travels several years ago, we knew we would be traveling for months at a time. Like those who travel for extended periods as well as RV full timers, we wanted to carry our DVD library with us. We’ve all had those times in the camper when it’s to rainy to do anything, there’s nothing of interest to watch on antenna TV and I just finished my last book. Or even worse, the kids are bouncing around the camper with nothing for entertainment. The remedy, microwave popcorn and their favorite movie using a RV media player.

Using A Raspberry Pi

Part of the challenge to RV life is space and carrying a large quantity of DVDs just isn’t practical. There’s precious few places to store more than an dozen or so plus you have to dig through the pile until you find the one to watch. We found a great solution. Ripping our purchased DVDs to a hard drive and viewing from a PC connected to our TV. This solution has worked well, but the PC is getting older and I don’t know how much longer the hard drive will survive from the shocks experienced from road travel.

Raspbery Pi RV Media PlayerI found a great solution to replace the PC – a media player built on the ever popular Raspberry Pi. The Raspberry Pi is a very low cost platform that has taken computer hobbyist by storm. A quick Google search and I’m amazed at the amount of applications that is available for the Raspberry Pi.

For a minimal investment in a Raspberry Pi kit, a remote and some free software, we now have a super fast, RV media player with hundreds and hundreds of our DVD to enjoy on the road. If you can use a screw driver and have basic computer skills, you can build your own RV media player. It’s super simple and I’ve provided the step-by-step process in the notes below along with a video at the end of this blog. Here’s how.

A full list of parts and software is provided at the end of this blog.

Building the RV Media Player

Raspberry Pi 4We built our media server using a Raspberry Pi 3 B+ which is no longer available. CanaKit offers a complete Raspberry Pi 4 kit which includes the Raspberry Pi, a power supply, fan, case, external power switch, Samsung 128Gb MicroSD memory card, USB card reader and HDMI cables. From the video below, you’ll see that it takes just a couple of minutes to assemble the Raspberry Pi and the next step is loading the media software.

We also have an Air Mouse to add a remote and simple keyboard functions.

Loading the RV Media Player Software

To load the software on the Raspberry Pi, you will need access to a Windows computer and the Internet. This is a one time process to download the operating system and flash the application for the SD card. Once completed, the PC is no longer needed.

The second step in creating the RV Media Player is to load the operating software on the Raspberry Pi. We wanted to keep it simple. Little to no software set up, low computing requirements for quick response and something that could easily access our video library located on a portable USB connected hard drive. The perfect fit was LibreELEC with the Kodi media software. To install, download the current version of LibreELEC (at the release date of this blog it’s https://libreelec.tv/downloads/raspberry/. The download will take a minute or so.

The next step is to flash the LibreELEC program to the MicroSD memory card. You will need a USB to adapter. I’ve provided one in the product notes. This adapter is also very handy to remove pictures and videos from SD cards used in your cameras, phones and drones. To flash the memory card, I downloaded the Etcher application for Windows. This application offers a simple 3 step process to flash the SD card – select the file to flash, select the USB drive containing SD card and press Flash. A minute or two later, you’re done.

Raspberry Pi Media PlayerLast step is to insert the MicroSD card into the Raspberry Pi, connect the Pi to your TV’s HDMI cable, plug and power the Pi. The initial boot requires a one-time set up and takes an extra minute on this first start up. See the video for details. Plug in your hard drive containing your videos and done!

 

Building a Video Library

If you need to build your video library from your DVD collection, there is a Rip and convert process for each DVD. One comment before you start. The copyright laws pertaining to ripping DVDs that your have legally purchased for personal use vary from country to country. Do your research prior to ripping your videos first. Also know that ripping DVDs and redistributing for commercial use is illegal.

You will need a Windows PC to perform the DVD ripping task. While very simple to perform, this process can be a little time consuming. It took some time for us to create our video library ripping a couple DVDs each evening over a period of weeks. There is a wide variety of software applications available to rip a DVD. Some work well, some don’t. Our favorite is DVDFab. We bought a lifetime licence for the DVDFab DVD Copy + DVD Ripper and have been using for years. DVDfab offers periodic updates to better ensure DVDs can be ripped. Once the DVD has been ripped, it will need to be converted into a file format used by the media player. We use a free software created by Handbreak. Convert the ripped DVD movie and copy to your portable hard drive.

That’s it! It’s inexpensive and easy to build. Have fun with your own Raspberry Pi RV Media Player.

Below are links if you’re interested in purchasing the products discussed in this video. Please note: Prices and availability of the products mentioned in this video are subject to change.

CanaKit Raspberry Pi 4 Extreme Kit – 128GB Edition

Air Mouse Remote Control and Mini Keyboard

Software used for the RV Media Player

LibreELEC with Kodi (Free to use. Raspberry Pi media player software.) – https://libreelec.tv/downloads/raspberry/

Etcher (Windows and Mac Versions. Flash LibreELEC on the MicroSD card.) – https://www.balena.io/etcher/

DVD ripping and conversion software:

DVDfab (Used to rip the video files from the DVD) – https://www.dvdfab.cn/

HandBrake (Free to use. Converts ripped DVD video into a format for the media player.) – https://handbrake.fr/

raspberry pi media server
RV AccessoriesNot sure about what RV accessories you need as you start RV travel? Check out our RV Accessories page where we have listed a wide range of products from essential items to those “nice to have” RV products to make RV life more enjoyable. Every item listed is being used or has been used by Joan and I as we’ve traveled across the country in our RV.

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