Incredibly Slow Films, Now Playing In Dazzling Color

Back in 2018 we covered a project that would break a video down into its individual frames and slowly cycle through them on an e-paper screen. With a new image pushed out every three minutes or so, it would take thousands of hours to “watch” a feature length film. Of course, that was never the point. The idea was to turn your favorite movie into an artistic conversation piece; a constantly evolving portrait you could hang on the wall.

[Manuel Tosone] was recently inspired to build his own version of this concept, and now thanks to several years of e-paper development, he was even able to do it in color. Ever the perfectionist, he decided to drive the seven-color 5.65 inch Waveshare panel with a custom STM32 board that he estimates can wring nearly 300 days of runtime out of six standard AA batteries, and wrap everything up in a very professional looking 3D printed enclosure. The end result is a one-of-a-kind Video Frame that any hacker would be proud to display on their mantle.

The Hackaday.IO page for this project contains a meticulously curated collection of information, covering everything from the ffmpeg commands used to process the video file into a directory full of cropped and enhanced images, to flash memory lifetime estimates and energy consumption analyses. If you’ve ever considered setting up an e-paper display that needs to run for long stretches of time, regardless of what’s actually being shown on the screen, there’s an excellent chance that you’ll find some useful nuggets in the fantastic documentation [Manuel] has provided.

We always love to hear about people being inspired by a project they saw on Hackaday, especially when we get to bring things full circle and feature their own take on the idea. Who knows, perhaps the next version of the e-paper video frame to grace these pages will be your own.

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Dynamic Macro Keyboard Controls All The Things

Keyboard shortcuts are great. Even so, a person can only be expected to remember so many shortcuts and hit them accurately while giving a presentation over Zoom. [Sebastian] needed a good set of of shortcuts for OBS and decided to make a macro keyboard to help out. By the time he was finished, [Sebastian] had macro’d all the things and built a beautiful and smart peripheral that anyone with a pulse would likely love to have gracing their desk.

The design started with OBS, but this slick little keyboard turned into a system-wide assistant. It assigns the eight keys dynamically based on the program that has focus, and even updates the icon to show changes like the microphone status.

This is done with a Python script on the PC that monitors the running programs and updates the macro keeb accordingly using a serial protocol that [Sebastian] wrote. Thanks to the flexibility of this design, [Sebastian] can even use it to control the office light over MQTT and make the CO2 monitor send a color-coded warning to the jog wheel when there’s trouble in the air.

This project is wide open with fabulous documentation, and [Sebastian] is eager to see what improvements and alternative enclosure materials people come up with. Be sure to check out the walk-through/build video after the break.

Inspired to make your own, but want to start smaller? There are plenty to admire around here.

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Waveshare’s Pi CM3 Laptop Arrives A Bit Too Late

The good news it that you can now buy a pretty decent laptop that’s based around the Raspberry Pi Compute Module (CM). The bad news is that it was conceived before anyone knew the interface was going to change for the new CM4, so it doesn’t have any of the features that would make it really interesting such as support for PCI-Express. Oh, and it costs $300.

Waveshare, the company that most of us know best as a purveyor of e-paper displays, also made some rather interesting design choices on their laptop. See that black pad under the keyboard? No, it’s not a trackpad. It’s just a decorative cover that you remove to access an LED matrix and GPIO connectors. Make no mistake, a laptop that features a GPIO breakout right on the front is definitely our jam. But the decision to install it in place of the trackpad, and then cover it with something that looks exactly like a trackpad, is honestly just bizarre. It might not be pretty, but the Pi 400 seemed to have solved this problem well enough without any confusion.

On the other hand, there seems to be a lot to like about this product. For one, it’s a very sleek machine that doesn’t have the boxy and somewhat juvenile look that seems so common in other commercial Pi laptops. We also like that Waveshare included a proper Ethernet jack, something that’s becoming increasingly rare even on “real” laptops. As [ETA PRIME] points out in the video after the break, the machine also has a crisp IPS display and a surprisingly responsive keyboard. Though the fact that it still has a “Windows” key borders on being offensive considering how much it costs.

But really, the biggest issue with this laptop is when it finally hit the market. If Waveshare had rushed this out when the CM3 was first introduced, it probably would have been a more impressive technical achievement. On the other hand, had they waited a bit longer they would have been able to design it around the far more capable CM4. As it stands, the product is stuck awkwardly in the middle.

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Color E-Ink Display Photo Frame Pranks [Mom]

As a general rule, it’s not nice to prank your mother. Moms have a way of exacting subtle revenge, generally in the form of guilt. That’s not to say it might not be worth the effort, especially when the prank is actually wrapped in a nice gesture, like this ever-changing e-paper family photo frame.

The idea the [CNLohr] had was made possible by a new generation of multicolor e-paper displays by Waveshare. The display [Charles] chose was a generous 5.65″ unit with a total of seven colors. A little hacking revealed an eighth color was possible, adding a little more depth to the images. The pictures need a little pre-processing first, of course — dithering to accommodate the limited palette — but look surprisingly good on the display. They have a sort of stylized look, as if they were printed on a textured paper with muted inks.

The prank idea was simple — present [Mrs. Lohr] with a cherished family photo to display, only to find out that it had changed to another photo overnight. The gaslighting attempt required a bit more hacking, including some neat tricks to keep the power consumption very low. It was also a bit of a squeeze to get it into a frame that was slim enough not to arouse suspicion. The video below details some of the challenges involved in this build.

In the end, [Mom] wasn’t tricked, but she still seemed pleased with the final product. These displays seem like they could be a lot of fun — perhaps a version of the very-slow-motion player but for color movies would be doable.

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E-Paper Display Shows Movies Very, Very Slowly

How much would you enjoy a movie that took months to finish? We suppose it would very much depend on the film; the current batch of films from the Star Wars franchise are quite long enough as they are, thanks very much. But a film like Casablanca or 2001: A Space Odyssey might be a very different experience when played on this ultra-slow-motion e-paper movie player.

The idea of displaying a single frame of a movie up for hours rather than milliseconds has captivated [Tom Whitwell] since he saw [Bryan Boyer]’s take on the concept. The hardware [Tom] used is similar: a Raspberry Pi, an SD card hat with a 64 GB card for the movies, and a Waveshare e-paper display, all of which fits nicely in an IKEA picture frame.

[Tom]’s software is a bit different, though; a Python program uses FFmpeg to fetch and dither frames from a movie at a configurable rate, to customize the viewing experience a little more than the original. Showing one frame every two minutes and then skipping four frames, it has taken him more than two months to watch Psycho. He reports that the shower scene was over in a day and a half — almost as much time as it took to film — while the scene showing [Marion Crane] driving through the desert took weeks to finish. We always wondered why [Hitch] spent so much time on that scene.

With the proper films loaded, we can see this being an interesting way to really study the structure and flow of a good film. It’s also a good way to cut your teeth on e-paper displays, which we’ve seen pop up in everything from weather stations to Linux terminals.

Hands On With A Batteryless E-Paper Display

E-paper displays are unusual in that power is only needed during a screen update. Once the display’s contents have been set, no power whatsoever is required to maintain the image. That’s pretty nifty. By making the display driver board communicate wirelessly over near-field communication (NFC) — which also provides a small amount of power — it is possible for this device to be both wireless and without any power source of its own. In a way, the technology required to do this has existed for some time, but the company Waveshare Electronics has recently made easy to use options available for sale. I ordered one of their 2.9 inch battery-less NFC displays to see how it acts.

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New Part Day: Battery-Less NFC E-Paper Display

Waveshare, known for e-ink components aimed at hobbyists among other cool parts, has recently released a very interesting addition to their product line. This is an enclosed e-ink display which gets updated over a wireless NFC connection. By that description, nothing head-turning, but the kicker is that there is no battery inside the device at all, as it harvests the energy needed from the wireless communication itself.

Just like wireless induction charging in certain smartphones, the communication waves involved in NFC can generate a small current when passing through a coil, located on this device’s PCB. Since microcontrollers and e-ink displays consume a very small amount of current compared to other components such as a backlit LCD or OLED display, this harvested passive energy is enough to allow the display to update. And because e-paper requires no power at all to retain its image, once the connection is ended, no further battery backup is needed.

The innovation here doesn’t come from Waveshare however, as in 2013 Intel had already demoed a very similar device to promising results. There’s some more details about the project, but it never left the proof of concept stage despite being awarded two best paper awards. We wonder why it hadn’t been made into a commercial product for 5 years, but we’re glad it’s finally here for us to tinker with it.

E-paper is notorious for having very low refresh rates when compared to more conventional screens, much more so when driven in this method, but there are ways to speed them up a bit. Nevertheless, even when used as designed, they’re perfectly suited for being used in clocks which are easy on the eyes without a glaring backlight.

[Thanks Steveww for the tip!]