Monday, November 18, 2013

How to play a video on a Raspberry Pi Desktop by double-clicking on a file...

The article describes how to open video, audio, and other media files in the Raspberry Pi desktop (the LXDE file manager) using the GPU-based player program.

Does double-clicking on a video file in Raspbian result in slow blocky playback in SMPlayer and VLC on your Raspberry Pi?

The short answer is that those video players will not work because at this time (Nov. 2013), they do not make use of the GPU on the Raspberry Pi. You need to use the hardware accelerated player, omxplayer, that is used in XBMC Live and OpenELEC.  The problem is that omxplayer is a command line player that is designed to be embedded in the XBMC based distributions.  I present below a way to make it play videos, if you double-click them in the Raspbian Desktop. Others have presented this method, but I've added a little bit of abstraction to make management easier. To start, open LXTerminal and the follow the process below.

Step One - Get rid of the CPU-based media players

sudo aptitude remove vlc smplayer

Step Two - Install omxplayer and xterm

aptitude install omxplayer xterm

I'm installing xterm, because its command line syntax is clear. To have keyboard control when omxplayer is run, it must be run from an open terminal. I don't know why this is, but this is what works. Simply calling omxplayer as the application to open a media file works, but you lose keyboard control. This means, for example, that you can't quit omxplayer in the middle of a video.

Step Three - Make a wrapper script with a simple name to start omxplayer in an xterm

sudo nano /usr/local/bin/vplay

Add the following contents to the file:

exec xterm -fullscreen -fg black -bg black -e omxplayer -o hdmi -r "$1"

The "-o hdmi" forces omxplayer to pipe audio through the HDMI cable. Leave this option out if you have your Pi configured to use the headphone jack.

Save the file and quit, then make it executable:

sudo chmod 755 /usr/local/bin/vplay

Step Four - Make the "vplay" script the default handler for each video file type

We will use "mp4" files as an example.

Find a video file with the "mp4" file extension.  Right-click on it and select "Open with...". Click the "Custom Command Line" tab. Type "vplay %f" into the "Command line to execute:" box. Check the box at the bottom of the screen with the label "Set selected application as default action for this file type".

Click "OK"

If everything is correct, the file will now play in omxplayer. Press "q" to quit the program.

From this point forward, double-clicking any "mp4" file in the LXDE file manager will automatically play the file in omxplayer.  Spacebar pauses. The arrow keys skip forward and back. "2" speeds up the playback. To stop the sped up playback, press the spacebar twice.

Repeat step four for any other file extensions you want to automatically play.

If you make a mistake in the last step, you can clean up your bad attempt by deleting the "user-*" files in ~/.local/share/applications/.

Using this wrapper script technique means that you can modify the omxplayer options at any time without have to make the changes for each file extension in the LXDE file manager. Just edit /usr/local/bin/vplay.

Note that this script works for audio files as well. They will play with a black screen. It makes for a lightweight way to play audio files without opening an full application like Clementine.

Hope this helps!