Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Backyard Blockbusters

Create Your Own Backyard Theater

When I was a kid, sometimes we'd drag the television out on the back porch and watch TV while we were eating supper. I used to love to do that, even if you did have to slap mosquitoes and dodge incoming June bugs.  You can do that outdoor TV thing one better nowadays for not very much money.

What You Need:

  • Digital projector
  • DVD player, VCR or laptop with a DVD player.
  • Plywood, cardboard, fiberboard, bedsheets, canvas or plastic tarps, Dazian stretch fabric, white blackout curtain fabric or vinyl billboard signs 6 feet high by 8 foot wide.
  • Two ten foot posts
  • Two 8 foot 2x6's
  • Post hole diggers
  • Hammer and nails
  • Bungee Cords and a grommet kit if needed

You need to figure out distances and the size of the projected image. Thanks to a website called Projector Central  you can look up your digital projector and by entering either the size of the image you want to project or the distance the projector needs to be from the screen, the calculator will help you either figure out how far back to set up the projector or how big a screen you need. You can also project the image from the back of a suspended sheet or lightweight rear projection screen material, so consider a rear projection setup too when planning your outdoor amphitheater. 

Pick a spot for putting up the frame.  A screen nailed over the garage wall or strung between two trees will work fine.  For something a bit more permanent, build a wooden frame to attach the screen to.  For a 6 foot by 8 foot screen, dig a pair of post holes 8 feet apart and two feet deep.

Set the posts in the ground and tamp dirt around them.

Nail the 2x6's to the posts, one on top and one two feet above the ground to make a 6 foot by 8 foot frame.

Nail the plywood or tie whatever cloth, vinyl or other flexible projection surface you've chosen to the frame with cords. If the fabric doesn't have grommets, install them at the corners and center of the edges, so you can pull the fabric over the front of the frame and stretch it with bungee cords across the back.

Note: Make sure the projection screen is not too reflective. Shiny or glossy finishes make poor projection surfaces. A nice bright white is best. If you can find an old home projection screen at a flea market - even better. Just mount the rollup carrier to the top of your frame, pull it down and voila!

Now that you've got a nice frame you can screw on your painted sheet of plywood or (as shown) use bungee cords to stretch flexible screen material to the frame. 

Now it's just a matter of running a heavy extension cord to where you set up the projector, hooking up the DVD player or laptop and focusing the image onto the screen.

Set up folding chairs or throw blankets for everybody on the ground, make up a big bowl of popcorn and some drinks and you're ready for your own drive-in movie (without the driving).  


Projector Central: http://www.projectorcentral.com/projection-calculator-pro.cfm

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