Backyard Theater Forum

Backyard Theater discussions => Backyard and Outdoor Theater Showcase => Topic started by: Cherry Hills on May 27, 2006, 03:53:34 pm

Title: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on May 27, 2006, 03:53:34 pm
My theater setup is is based on one principle: efficiency. Or, put another way, as good as possible for as cheap as possible.

My screen is a piece of gesso-coated artist's canvas, 6x8 feet. Gesso's pigment is titanium white, which has a reflective gain of 1. It's mounted to a frame made of 1-inch aluminum angle, held in place with binder clips.

The projector is an Epson S1+, bought on eBay. It puts out 1400 lumens, which is plenty bright at the size and distance on the canvas screen. It's mounted on a aluminum stepladder with a purpose-made mounting platform so it will hang upside down, allowing it to project in "ceiling" mode and giving us more seating space in front of the projection stand. The stand is located about 16 feet back from the screen to give a full-screen 4:3 image. Here's the stand, without its black shroud, as seen in a previous thread:

The films and music are played on a Coby 7-inch portable DVD player, connected to the pj with a S-video cable. Sound is taken from the external 1/8" jack and run forward to a Pioneer stereo amp. This was hanging around in the garage, now "obsolete" because it doesn't do surround. Speakers are RS Minimus-7 and RS subwoofer (speakers from the garage, sub bought at a pawn shop). I actually bought the speaker stands new (!) from


We also set up a refreshment stand in the walled courtyard off camera to the left. We serve soft drinks and popcorn. I print up flyers the week of each show and take them around to our neighbors, or e-mail them to friends who don't live on our street.


It's simple but very effective. I always get comments about the quality of the image and the great sound. Of course, I see and hear the system's flaws, but they don't seem to bother our guests. It's not top-of-the-line studio-quality equipment, but it give us a heck of a good time, all for under $1000.

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: hiredpower on May 27, 2006, 04:00:56 pm
Very nicely done!

It's simple and looks good. I believe you have accomplished what you set out to do.


Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Pass_The_Off on May 27, 2006, 07:54:27 pm
Very clean job.  I like the equipment stand.

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: BrainGrenade on June 05, 2006, 04:33:30 am
I'm new to this site.... Infact I'm new to the whole projector thing. I'm shopping for one as we speak. Roommate had one and I'm hooked! anyway...Would this have worked as a rear projection from inside the garage? that way you can have a little more ambiant light and still have a nice viewable picture. Plus you wouldn't have to worry about seating infront of the projector or anything.

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: tlogan6797 on June 05, 2006, 09:27:09 am
Welcome BrainGrenade!

There is another thread about trying to come up with a DIY rear projection screen using clear poly. So far, it is an elusive goal. I find that placing the projector on a six foot stepladder works fine. I don't even use an additional mount the way CherryHills does in his picture.  I just use a board on the paint the tray and level it out. Mostly, it's only kids that want to run in front of the projector and they're too short to cause a problem!


Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on June 05, 2006, 10:25:23 am
The problem with rear projection, the way I understand it, is that you either lose a lot of brightness, or you get "hot spots" (where you can see the glare of the bulb through the screen).

Most screens (especially DIY screens) are coated with titanium oxide, which is almost perfectly reflective (gain = 1). This is what's usually used in latex primer paint, in gesso, etc. So, you get back exactly what you put on the screen, with no loss. You'll have to buy a more powerful projector to make rear projection work.

The commercial rear projection surfaces are kind of a neutral gray plastic, so if you're looking to make your own, I would suggest trying to find something like that.

Rear projection may help with ambient light - I'm not sure about it, though. Personally, I suspect that washout will still be a problem if a lot of light falls on the screen, unless the surface somehow absorbs light from one direction but not from the other. I've never heard of anything like that, though I dreamed about it as a kid.

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: rrg on June 05, 2006, 02:38:17 pm
I used the tent tarp 18'x20' in white, last year. Front projectoion is awful but rear projection worked very well for the price. It had no projection bulb hot spot. (I was using a 900 lumens at the time). The only draw back was the screen had a 3in seam horizontal and because the material was doubled there it looked darker than the rest of the screen. This bugged me.

If you can find a tarp with no seams than a rear projection works fine for such a cheap price $32.00. Cheaper if you need a smaller screen. And if you upgrade later like I did I now use the tarp for picking up my leaves in the fall, dual purpose. :D

I viewed my Trapeze (regular stuff) from the rear and there's a bright hot bulb spot. So my setup is being tweaked for only front view off a 8' ladder, to avoid people walking in front of it.

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cinema BBQ on June 26, 2006, 04:26:17 pm
Nice set up. Thanks for the added inspiration.

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on September 23, 2006, 12:49:03 am
Well, things are changing slowly in the CHDT hardware department.

I acquired a pair of Anchor 1000 powered PA speakers on eBay to replace the stereo amp and Minimus-7 speakers. They sound great and are much more portable than the home stereo equipment, but of course it came at a price (the stereo was stored in the garage, unused).

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: hiredpower on September 23, 2006, 01:19:37 am
Congrats on the new gear purchase and taking it to the next level.

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Danoplex II on September 23, 2006, 08:22:10 am

Snap a photo of thos speakers.  Dano wants to see.  I am thinking they are similar to my JBL EONs but they are powered.  My EONs are not.  I still love them.

It does make a difference to have stuff that is designed for portability doesn't it?  Hey, if I cant continue movies in my yard, there is going to be one heck of a audio/video yard sale in Plainfield!


Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on September 23, 2006, 08:00:20 pm
Actually, they're much smaller than Eons. They're not much bigger than the Minimus-7s I replaced: 8"w x 5"h x 10"d. I use the same speaker stands as before (the ones in my profile photo).


The speaker is only a 4". The amps put out 45 watts and will move just about enough air for a typical CHDT movie crowd (up to 50 or so people) at half volume. Their low end is weak, as you would expect, so a sub is definitely needed for the extra kick, but the sound is clear and well-balanced.

Although this is an upgrade for me, they were still cheap. I got both for about $150 on eBay, whereas the cheapest Eon I've seen was $275 (for a battered Eon10, early model). And, of course, they're much smaller than the Eons, so they're easier to schlep around and store (but the required sub negates some of that space advantage).

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Biotron2000 on March 13, 2007, 10:33:05 pm
It looks like your pictures are gone. Would you mind posting a picture of your projector stand/ladder setup? I think I have an idea of how it works from the description, but I'd love to see the picture. I'd really like to get my projector up high.


Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on May 13, 2007, 09:16:37 pm
Saturday night, we held a test run for the season and everything went splendidly. It's still a little cool here at night, but with sweaters and blankets, we were cozy and really enjoyed "Cars".

Next Saturday (May 19) we officially open the season with "Happy Feet", plus either Chilly Willy or "Frigid Hare" with Bugs Bunny.

Here's the flyer for the 2007 season:

I love making these things. I have a collection of about 25 old flyers and they have given me a feel for the style and look of the day. It's just another way having an outdoor home theater gives me pleasure!

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on May 20, 2007, 12:56:18 am
Our first show of the season went splendidly tonight. We had almost 40 people and everyone loved "Happy Feet". The pre-show slides and trailers were a big hit. I snuck the "Stunt City" ad in there, too, which was well received.

It's great to be throwing photons at a big white thing again!

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: KMac on May 20, 2007, 02:10:18 am
Hey everybody,

I plan on showing Night at the Museum"  or "Spirit" .  Star Wars will be coming soon. 8)

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: DharmaJeff on May 21, 2007, 08:45:21 pm
I like your style!

Real cool that your neighbors aren't dicks and join in on the fun.

WAY COOL you showed HELP! and will show a Hard Day's Night this year.
Last year I watched the Shea Stadium conecert. ;D

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on May 22, 2007, 11:48:04 pm
Yeah, watch is about all you can do on that one! You can hardly hear the boys over the screaming, and since they can't hear themselves, they're awfully out of tune a lot of the time. It's easy to see why they decided to stop touring after that concert.

Anyway, thanx for the shout out! Several of our younger viewers are Beatles fans, so I'm playing to the mid-teens here, both to encourage their Beatlemania and also to get them hooked on outdoor cinema. Two birds with one stone!

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on May 27, 2007, 09:50:24 pm
Last night the wind and afternoon rains finally cleared out, so we tried something different. We took the driveway theater to the backyard.

I know, most of you think this is the only way to do it. But our backyard is not typical. The yards are kind of small in our area, and ours is on two levels. The top level, closest to the house, is xeriscaped with a big semi-circular covered patio. It's really no place to show movies.

But the lower level, about three feet lower, is about 10' x 40',  grassy with fruit trees along the back wall (the long dimension). Yes, that's where the "Cherry Hills" name comes from. It's very cool, very cozy, and down behind a 6-foot cinder-block wall so the sound doesn't escape too much. But there is only room for maybe 15 people, max.

Anyway, we decided to give it a try. We set up the FastFold screen and as we were doing it, our neighbors across the back fence peeked over. So we invited them over and we watched "Muppets From Space", which was a hoot. They brought over four kids and a bottle of wine and we had a great time.

I will definitely have to get a tripod to mount the projector if I want to do this for a group, though. The ladder blocks way too much view.

It's nice to have multiple possibilities for the venue. Showing stuff on the driveway pretty much requires inviting the neighborhood. But if we want to show something that's a little too scary or whatever, this gives us another option to invite over friends.

Title: Updated photo
Post by: Cherry Hills on June 23, 2007, 06:27:36 pm
Since most of the front-of-house equipment has changed since I posted the original pics, I thought I should probably update the visuals.

The screen went from a DIY canvas on an aluminum frame to a used DaLite FastFold 8x8' - $40 from eBay. We are ecstatic with the ease of setup, the sturdiness (we had some strongs winds last night, but the screen just rippled a little and never budged) and good image.  The sound went from a surplus stereo amp and RS Minimus 7 speakers to powered Anchor 1000 PA speakers. The stereo is back in my garage workshop, but I kept the subwoofer to augment the Anchors.

I'm still projecting with the Epson S1+, but after last night's showing, both my wife and I said, independently, "that image seemed a little fuzzy, didn't it?" We've moved to an XGA projector inside, so it looks like we've become spoiled by it and I'm going to have to use it for the next outdoor show. Time to pass the Epson along to the kid, I guess. Luckily, both projectors use the same mounting screws on the bottom side.

Funny how the upgrade bug strikes everyone involved. In addition to the projector comment, my wife also mentioned that it would be nice to have one of those glass-sided popcorn machines, if it has a warmer in the bottom. We'll have to look into that!

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Bedrock on June 25, 2007, 03:11:53 pm
Great Job!!!  :o

And I'm sure that you will keep up the good work... :D

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: KMac on July 01, 2007, 01:07:44 am
I love that screen, Cherry Hills! I might get one of those, too!  Enjoy!

KMac 8)

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on September 16, 2007, 12:45:39 am
Tonight we closed out the 2007 season with "Mr Bean's Holiday". It was a TERRIFIC night. We had a record crowd, around 40 people, which is about the capacity of our driveway. If we get more successful than this, we're going to have to do some serious landmoving in the back yard, or get a new house!

Based on last year's weather, we didn't even plan for a September showing, but the weather has been just fantastic all summer, so we decided to go one more time. It was the best show of the season, for sure.

I hastily updated the flyer, not because I'm going to hand it out, but because I like to thinker with these things. It's a quick and dirty job, but a record of what we showed this year.

"Mr Bean's Holiday" is strongly recommended for BYT programs. It's a brilliant comedy of the old school. You just don't see good-hearted slapstick like this anymore. He has kept the art alive and deserves the huge fame he has in Europe. I don't understand why American audiences don't love this stuff to death ... we sure do.


Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: tlogan6797 on September 17, 2007, 08:20:53 am
I'm really liking the flyer. Maybe I'll do something like that for next year, make it stand a little more. We usually just add the dates and titles to the end of one the regular flyers that go out in the neighborhood.


Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on September 17, 2007, 10:43:07 am
Thanks, Tom, the flyer is really a fun thing to do, and it's also eye-catching for anyone over 40, who will dimly remember seeing these things at the real drive-ins.

You mentioned (in your theater's thread) that you got a reaction to your flying logo intro. I have been getting really good reactions (usually "WOW! Where did you get that?"), but last time, the audience actually applauded it. I have to say, that's a really good feeling.

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Metric on September 17, 2007, 03:02:46 pm
Do you have a bigger version?

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on September 17, 2007, 03:24:31 pm
Well, if you right click and choose "view image", it gets pretty big. Is that what you had in mind?

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cinema BBQ on February 04, 2008, 08:37:13 pm
Great job with the tickets.

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on July 15, 2008, 04:49:31 pm
Well, we finally got our season started! One of the things about being in the mountain desert is that the sky is usually clear and the nights are always cool in the summer - perfect outdoor cinema weather! Well, usually. This year, we had high winds all through May and much of June.

So, our opening night in May got cancelled. We were going to show "Surf's Up", but ended up having a small party in the theater room indoors.

June 24 was our second show (or first, if you count only successes), a benefit event for the local Marriage Encounter organization. We showed "When Harry Met Sally" to a really enthusiastic crowd and had a great time. Since it's rated "R", we moved the theater to the back yard, so as not to offend the neighbors. When the dark clouds moved over the mountain, we just stared hard at them and they went away. Whew!

Last Saturday, we had the first real driveway movie neighborhood party. Finally! We showed "Ratatouille", plus a "Chip and Dale" cartoon and some good shorts. This is the season of afternoon or evening rain showers here, but we got lucky on Saturday and no rain came up in the evening.

We'll try our hand at a show in August, and then again in September, and then our season is over, all too quickly!

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on June 30, 2010, 06:31:47 pm
We've continued to change equipment, slowly but surely, as is the ancient custom among our people (backyard theater nuts). And we've moved some of the shows from the driveway, where all the neighbors can just drift over, to the backyard, where we can invite people and have a more intimate party.

Screen continues to be the 8x8' DaLite Fastfold. Projector is a Sharp XR-10. We've moved to Blu-Ray (for selected films), which allows me to play pre-show stuff on the Coby portable DVD player, then switch to the Blu-Ray player for the main feature. Just like at a real drive-in!

Audio is two powered PA speakers, each 50w with a 4" speaker. I had been using a Radio Shack subwoofer I got at a pawn shop, but it dawned on me that a 50-watt amp should have no trouble driving a big speaker, so I hauled out the cab from my bass guitar amp (15-inch Jensen) and plugged it in. Oh, yes, it worked!

We've infected another friend with the BYT fever, so we're going to his house on July 4 for a barbecue and a screening of "Independence Day". Wooooo!

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Oldalgebra on July 18, 2010, 10:00:22 pm
Cherry Hills,

Can you give me some advice as to how you made your "purpose-made mounting platform" that attaches to the ladder?
Thank you.

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Cherry Hills on July 19, 2010, 11:55:26 am
It's a piece of 3/4" plywood, with holes drilled to match the mounting screw locations on the bottom of the projector. It's elevated above the ladder top by four pieces of 3/4" aluminum angle. The two pieces at the back are just screwed into the sides of the ladder. The front two pieces have slots which allow them to slide up and down to adjust the projector angle. The attachments are made with screws that stick out (heads on the inside of the legs) and thumbscrew nuts that allow easy loosening/tightening. The aluminum parts are pop-riveted together, and wood screws attach them to the sides of the plywood piece.

I don't have a plan. It was all done ad hoc, as I had to experiment with where the screws would be located, how long to make the slots, etc. I knew about how high the projector would have to be, then started working from there. You'll just have to wing it in figuring out the rest, depending on how high your ladder is, how high your screen is, how far above/below the screen edge your projector needs to be, etc.

Did that help?

Title: Re: Cherry Hills Driveway Theater
Post by: Oldalgebra on July 19, 2010, 01:29:51 pm
Yes, it did help. It's a little out of my skill range however. Maybe I can find a friend who can help make something similar.
Thank you so much for your quick replay.