Video Livestream Wallpaper For Your GNOME, Xfce Or bspwm Desktop

Livestream wallpaper Linux

This article explains how to use a livestream as a desktop wallpaper on GNOME, Xfce or bspwm with X11 (it does not work with Wayland). The live video stream can be any stream you like (a live city cam or the ISS live feed for example), as long as it's supported by Streamlink.

It's important to note that you'll lose the desktop icons functionality by using this livestream wallpaper. That's because the desktop icons will be shown behind the livestream video wallpaper. This is the case with Xfce, and both GNOME desktops in which Nautilus draws the desktop, and using the Desktop Icons GNOME Shell extension. This is not an issue if you use multiple monitors, as you could have your desktop icons on a different monitor than the livestream video wallpaper.

You're probably thinking this uses a lot of CPU. On my Ubuntu 19.04 desktop, with mpv set to use hardware-accelerated video decoding, an 1080p live video feed used as my desktop wallpaper only uses around 2-3% CPU according to htop (so 2-3% of a single core), so it's basically negligible. Without hardware video decoding though, mpv used between 30 and 35% according to htop, so yes, that's a bit too much. So make sure you use mpv with hardware acceleration for this.

This is a short video showing the livestream wallpaper on my Ubuntu 19.04 (GNOME) desktop, using a live video feed of New York:


What you'll need:

  • Use GNOME, Xfce or bspwm with X11 (other desktops might work, but in my tries it didn't work as it should with KDE Plasma or MATE; I didn't try others)
  • A live video stream, be it a YouTube video livestream, an ISS live feed, some city live webcam, and so on
  • Streamlink to extract the stream and play it with mpv
  • mpv 0.29.1 or newer to play the livestream video (it might work with some older versions, but while testing this with mpv 0.27.2, the window borders did not disappear, so in case you run into this issue, you probably need a newer mpv version)
  • Xwinwrap fork (the link points to a fork of Xwinwrap with some enhancements, other versions might not work correctly), which is needed to stick mpv to the desktop background

These are a few live video feed examples you could use as your GNOME or bspwm desktop wallpaper:


Related: Embed An Audio Visualizer On Your Linux Desktop Background Using GLava (PPA Installation And Configuration Guide)

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