Projects

Raspberry Pi Media Centre with KODI

Part 1

Mike Lewis

Issue 29, December 2019

Build your own Raspberry Pi Media Centre with hard drive storage.

BUILD TIME: 30 MINUTES
DIFFICULTY RATING: Intermediate

With streaming services increasing in popularity, the humble media centre has arguably become less useful. However, this project gives you apps, as well as hard drive storage capacity for your own content too!

THE BROAD OVERVIEW

This project uses the popular Raspberry Pi 3+ with the free and open source Kodi media player application to create a home theatre in your home (or bedroom).

We show you how to install the Kodi media player onto your RPi so you can play videos, music, podcasts and other media files from an SD card or hard drive onto a TV or monitor.

To get started, all that’s required is a Raspberry Pi 3+ and an SD Card. Next month, we will explore the option of adding an external HDD or two by building a powered USB Hub!

If you want to run more than a single USB Hard Drive from a Raspberry Pi, you’ll rapidly end up running into a power problem. Your Pi will struggle to keep the power going to a few drives. The build in next month's issue solves this by creating a USB power injection circuit to provide plenty of 5V power. This is then used to power the USB drives, and also the Raspberry Pi itself.

In next month’s article, we will also finish the build and provide a home theatre inspired 3D printed case with different hard drive configurations.

HOW IT WORKS

For this project, we have decided to use KODI (formerly XBMC) and the easiest way to get Kodi up and running on your Raspberry Pi is to use the Linux distribution called LibreELEC “Just enough OS for Kodi”. This frees up resources and ensures the system isn’t full of bloated code that may perform functions you’d never use in a media centre.

Out of the many OS variations available for Raspberry Pi, LibreELEC is one of the simplest to roll out. But we’ll still detail the steps.

It’s worth pointing out that Kodi should only be used for content to which you have the legal right to access. Some countries allow you to make a digital backup of your DVD’s but unfortunately here in Australia, it’s illegal to do so. Please check your country's copyright laws and make smart decisions.

SOFTWARE INSTALLATION

LibreELEC makes it REALLY easy to get going with KODI, by providing a bunch of pre-packaged options for the OS you’re using.

First, head over to https://libreelec.tv and navigate to downloads then download the creator for your OS.

Once downloaded, open the LibreELEC SD Creator and select your Pi version then click Download. Once the download is complete, you can then select your SD Card and Write.

Alternatively, if you have trouble with the SD Creator, as we did using OSX (it kept crashing). On the downloads page, scroll down to the direct downloads section and select your Raspberry Pi version and download the correct image.

Flash the image onto your SD card using your preferred application. We recommend Etcher: https://www.balena.io/etcher/

START YOUR RASPBERRY PI

Insert the newly formatted SD card, attach a keyboard and/or mouse and power on your Raspberry Pi. Once it boots up, you should be presented with a setup wizard. Complete the setup process with your preferred options. If changing the hostname, it cannot contain spaces.

Once complete you should be presented with the Kodi dashboard.

CONTROLLING YOUR MEDIA CENTRE

Chances are you will not want to control your media centre with a wired keyboard and mouse. Some good options are:

  • Wireless USB keyboard with trackpad
  • Setup IR on your Pi and use a remote (beyond the scope of this project)
  • Download the app

The app is a great way to control your media centre.

IOS

Official Kodi Remote: https://apps.apple.com/app/official-kodi-remote/id520480364

Android

Kore, Official Remote for Kodi: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.xbmc.kore

INSTALLING KODI ADD-ONS

Now we have our media centre but nothing to watch! A great feature of Kodi is it’s very easy to install add-ons. There are loads of free add-ons to explore but we will get you started with a must have YouTube.

From the main menu, navigate to Add-ons > Install from repository.

Select Kodi Add-on repository, then choose Video add-ons.

Scroll down and select YouTube. Select Install and choose OK if it asks to install software dependencies. Lastly, select Yes to Execute setup-wizard.

After the app has installed, go back to the Add-ons view and open YouTube

Now you can watch all your favourite DIYODE videos from the comfort of your lounge, huzzah!

FINISHING TOUCHES

To load your own media, copy your media to the SD card or an external USB HDD under the relevant directories.

From Kodi, navigate to either Pictures or Videos, depending on what you have copied. Select Files and browse to their location.

SAVE YOUR SCREEN!

Click the settings cog, then select Interface.

Select screensaver > Screensaver mode, then select Get more. From here, you can download the screensaver of your choice.

Click preview to try it out! Now if you happen to leave your TV on, you won't be at risk of LCD burn in!

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

Next month, we're going to solve the issue of powering a Raspberry Pi with a few extra drives, and open up network sharing to load media in from your favourite computer. We'll also build our media centre into a really neat 3D printed case! In the meantime you can enjoy the system in its raw form!

Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis

Staff writer and programmer.