Video Image Display for a Photo Show

In May 2020 I have a solo street photography show and I will have over twenty prints in the exhibit. A friend made the recommendation to supplement the print exhibit using digital images. At first I balked since the idea of a monitor or projector connected to a computer or laptop in the gallery seemed cumbersome. Since it was an idea that had merit, my mind churned on it in the background until I came up with a solution that I plan to use.

My solution combines a 23″ monitor on an easel with a Raspberry Pi microcontroller to run a video. The monitor size is important since people will be viewing the images at close range. I think that 23″ is nearly the maximum size for that reason. Mounting the monitor on an artist easel makes it feel less like an electronic gimmick and more like art.

As with many projects of this type, following the steps below may not work for you for some reason. I did some hacking and debug to get it to work and you may find it necessary to do so as well. My objective is to describe the steps that I took and to provide a starting point. For help in getting through problems should you decide to try my approach, I refer you to the many Raspberry Pi resources on the Internet.

For the remainder of this discussion you will need to be reasonably well-versed in the use and configuration of computers. The steps discussed assume that you have a recent model Raspberry Pi. I am using a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B+ that I have in a plastic case as well as Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. After following the steps below, the keyboard and mouse will not be necessary when the setup is in the gallery because powering up the Pi and the monitor will start the video at boot. The discussion also assumes that you can navigate the Pi Raspbian Graphical User Interface and the nano editor.

For help getting the Raspberry Pi to display a video I turned to Adafruit and their video looper project. I followed the steps exactly and was able to run a trial video on the first try. Some changes must be made to adapt the video looper to begin playing at boot. To automatically begin play at boot, the video must be copied to a directory on the flash boot drive and the video_looper.ini file must be edited.

To copy the video I used the Raspbian GUI file manager to copy from a thumb drive to the /home/pi/video folder. Plug the thumb drive into the Pi and open the GUI file manager. Navigate to the /media/pi folder to find the thumb drive. If you attempt to copy to the video folder you may get a “permission denied” message or something like that. To get permission, go to the file manager Tools menu and select “Run a Command in Current Folder”. In the command window, enter “gksudo pcmanfm” followed by the “Enter” key. This will open a new window where you will have the necessary permissions. In the new window you will be able to drag and drop the video file from the thumb drive to the video folder.

The next thing to do is edit the video_looper.ini file. The best way to do that is to enter  sudo nano /boot/video_looper.ini in the command line window. The command opens the configuration file in the nano editor. Find the lines with the file_reader option. Change file_reader = usb_drive to a comment line by adding “#” to the beginning of the line. Delete the “#” from the file_reader = directory line. This sets the video looper to play the video from the /video directory instead of the thumb drive.

The remainder of the setup is mechanical and depends somewhat on personal preferences. I plan to hide the Raspberry Pi and the monitor power brick behind a placard hanging at the bottom of the monitor. The idea is to keep all of the electronics invisible except for the monitor itself. The power cords will be strapped to an easel leg and led down to a power strip on the floor.

The other bit of mechanics is developing the video itself. I use Photoshop CC to develop the main title, image titles, and the credits frames and I use Cyberlink PowerDirector to do the editing and rendering of the video. The image frames are exported from Lightroom Classic CC and imported in to PowerDirector. My video is a kind of slide show where each image title and image get about fifteen seconds of viewing time. I have ten images and the total length of the video is two minutes and forty five seconds, including a title at the beginning and a credit frame at the end. Each image title is numbered “N of 10” so that visitors know what to expect in terms of video duration. My recommendation is to keep the video short to hold the attention of the gallery visitors through the entire video.

This is something new for a gallery photography show and it will be exciting to see what kind of reception it gets from critics and gallery visitors. This approach is a method to get gallery visitors engaged in a different and unexpected way. At this point in time gallery exhibitions need all of the help they can get.

Lightroom 2018 and the Cloud

I like being able to access files across multiple platforms. The suite of Lightroom CC Classic,Lightroom CC, and Lightroom Mobile provides that for me with my image files.Because of complaints posted online, I waited for some time before upgrading. The new versions caused some confusion because of the names of the applications. The old Lightroom CC became Lightroom CC Classic and in my opinion it remains a strong desktop tool. The new Lightroom CC is cloud-based and it compliments Lightroom CC Classic on the desktop as well as other handheld platforms. Lightroom CC provides the platform independence that I like. If you subscribe to Lightroom CC, you can access your images on handhelds using Lightroom Mobile. More about that in a moment.

People blanch at the cost of the Creative Cloud software since it is now sold as a monthly or annual subscription rather than as a license that you purchase once. As an amateur photographer, I have justified paying for the subscription since my software will never be out of date and I will not need to go through the upgrade machinations every so often. Software is constantly being upgraded to accommodate new hardware, to fix bugs, and to add new features. I want those things and would rather not be bothered with the timing and cost of license upgrades.

Once past the sticker shock, the new Lightroom suite has great potential. Lightroom CC Classic works pretty much like the old Lightroom CC. It has some updated editing features and presets that I like. When installed, it converts your catalog and moves it to a new directory to complete the installation.

Lightroom CC is a different story. It is cloud-based. It has a more streamlined appearance than Classic and less functionality. Lightroom CC allows you to share your images seamlessly among all of your devices from desktop to handheld to smart phone. You have access to your presets and to most editing features across all of the platforms. Many professionals are concerned that the cloud storage is too costly given the sizes of their libraries. I agree, but my approach is to manage the amount of cloud storage that I use.

Between Lightroom CC Classic and Lightroom CC, I use a different workflow. Classic is work station based, which is fine, especially when you are dealing with large libraries. My flow goes from memory card to Windows folder on a scratch drive for sorting and selection. Selected images go into another folder on a drive that is backed up and that folder gets imported into Lightroom CC Classic for processing. From there I do a final screening before digital or print.

Personally, Lightroom CC is not as suitable for that type of flow unless you want to commit to using the Adobe cloud. For me it is more suitable for another type of flow. Since it syncs with iOS Lightroom Mobile, many options are available for mobile photographers. Images can be synchronized among iPhone, iPad, and desktop computer and with Lightroom CC Classic. Images can be edited and shared with fewer steps.

As a street photographer, Lightroom Mobile is a motivation for shooting more using the phone. In a pinch, I like having that option, but I still prefer my cameras and lenses. In my trial run, I took some images at the local Independence Day parade using my iPhone. I did my initial image review on the iPhone and deleted my rejects. The second pass was cropping and edits that I would usually do on my desktop. In some cases, I use presets and my personal presets are available on my handheld devices as well as the desktop. I was happy with the results.

Once edited, Lightroom Mobile provided many options for sharing the images. Images can be shared with popular apps such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Images can be copied to cloud services such as Google Docs. Images can be printed on compatible WiFi printers.

One downside is that when I take pictures using my iPhone, they are automatically imported into Lightroom Mobile. That’s not helpful when I’m at the hardware store taking photos of flooring. I haven’t found a method for selectively importing. So, I delete the flooring photos from Lightroom.

On my desktop, most of my editing and library management is done using Lightroom CC Classic. If I want to share specific images, I set up collections that automatically syncs with Lightroom CC. Lightroom CC syncs with Lightroom CC Classic, so anything that I captured and edited using the mobile apps is not lost or relegated strictly to the cloud.

I manage my cloud storage because I do not want to commit to storing everything on the Creative Cloud. I love being able to sync and edit anywhere, but I still rely heavily on Lightroom CC Classic to manage my entire catalog. To accomplish this and avoid making a mess of my catalog, I use Lightroom CC to screen and delete unwanted images before I sync with Lightroom CC Classic. I have Lightroom CC Classic sync turned off until I’m ready to commit. If you enable sync all of the time you will get images that you do not necessarily want to keep.

I delete images from Lightroom CC and from the cloud on a regular basis to control the amount of cloud storage that I use. Those extra steps are the price to pay for mobility. Lightroom CC and Lightroom Mobile are probably not for everybody, although understanding the capabilities gives you options that can be useful.