GhettoHardware.com - Home Theatre Screen on the Cheap

Introduction

This following is an overview of the results of my home theatre screen project. It cost me maybe 40 dollars and less than two hours of my time. The end result is stunning. Copled with my equally-ghetto 60 dollar projector I get a watchable image, 6 feet wide by almost 4 feet tall. Sorta makes me sad that I bought an expensive HDTV when this is more fun to watch. The lack of brightness makes dark films a nightmare with my rig. It's definitely best for comedies and other films with big bright scenes. Also great for winamp visualizations.

Inspiration

It would be wrong of me to not mention the hard work by the folks at the AV Science Forum who gave me the inspiration for the project. They brought to light this great material for screens. While at home depot, the guy there even knew about it's use as a screen for theatre. I guess the only store in seattle that still carries the material has a monopoly on us geeks.

Build Materials

The key to any screen is the screen material. I'm not expert, but the pros throw around funky terms liek gain, transparency, hot spots and the like. Essentially all that means is you want a surface that is the right color (tone and brightness), texture, and reflective/transparent. Since I have a cheap projector that isn't very bright, I want the brightest image I can get. I think hotspotting and other issues don't become as much of an issue until you are talking about bigger screens. To make a long story short, this amazing 1/8" plastic stuff looks good and is easy to work with. You can cut it with kitchen scissors!

  • 1x, parkland plastic material. 4x8 sheet ~ 15$
  • 4x, 1" x 2" x 6' board. I used stuff that was a bit nicer than pine, but anything straight will work. ~5$
  • 1x, 1" x 2" x 8' board. cut in 1/2. this is what keeps it rigid and where I attached the eye hooks. ~2$
  • 4x, 1/4" x ~2" bolts, (2 washers and one wing nut per bolt). 5$
  • pack of small tacks. I used about 15 of them. They need to be shorter than the thickness of the wood and parkland material stacked. ~2$
  • 10x, ~1.5" wood screws and washers ~3$
  • hanging hardware. I used 4 sturdy eye hooks, 2 s-hooks, 2 locking c-rings and 2 6 inch segments of chain. ~10$

total ~43$.

Building Instructions

Construction is simple. The goal is to cut the parkland to match the width of the 6' boards (which may not be exactly 6')

Then, sandwich the top and bottom of the screen in two boards. To do this, I first used the small nails to attach the parkland material to one of the boards. The side with the exposed nail heads will be covered by the second board so don't worry about them.

After tacking the material to the first board, lay the second board on the opposite side of the parkland material. Use the screws and washers to attach this board. I only added washers to make sure I was squeezing the boards together as tightly as I could, and to make it easier to take apart incase the parkland material warped (which it hasn't).

I use the 8 foot board cut in half to make vertical reinforcement to the screen. This doesn't give it a lot of strength, but as you will see it is quite enough.

I drilled 1/4" holes through both the horizontal board and the vertical supports. I attached the 4 foot reinforcements with the bolts, washers and wing nuts such that it is strong and removeable. The parkland material is somewaht rollable so I may as well keep my screen portable.

Screw eye-hooks into the end of the 4-foot boards and hang from your mounting hardware. Enjoy your beautiful and affordable (suprisingly not so) ghetto screen.

Conclusions

This project was a breeze to make and the results were very worth it. It looks good enough that I never take it down. Only minor nuisance is that the whole frame sways when the fan is cranked up all the way, but that is to be expected. All in all, a great project.

updates

2003/01/17

Here is a better image of the structural supports that make this work... Enjoy.

2004/10/12

A lot of people have been e-mailing me about my "60$ Projector". I regretfully cannot find any photos from that project. What I do have, however is a short howto.

Seriously though, you don't want to do this. The contrast ratio on this solution is not sufficient for movie watching or gameplay. It might suffice for Mario Borthers, or some other super simple game with high contrast, but it is not good enough for anything fun like watching The Matrix or playing HALO. Only point of this "hack" is to level up... tom.geek++;

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