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Backyard Theater discussions => General discussion => Topic started by: Cherry Hills on June 26, 2006, 05:37:29 pm



Title: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Cherry Hills on June 26, 2006, 05:37:29 pm
I'm going to start this topic and I expect it's going to get messy, but eventually I hope we can all contribute to something fairly streamlined that can be made into a sticky message or an FAQ item.

By way of introduction, I am an admitted cheapskate. My wife and I both come from farm families who grew up in the Depression, and it rubbed off on us both. So, I try to do everything in my "extravagant hobby" on a minimal budget. (Victor, I still haven't found any $20 projectors, but I'm looking!)

So, in the interest of making this crazy undertaking as widely accessible as possible, I'd like to propose some advice for starting a backyard theater as inexpensively as possible, but with as high a standard as can be achieved on the cheap. I think it will be more productive to go with guidelines, rather than product recommendations, since products come and go, every backyard is a little different, etc., but a philosophy and some techniques will help everyone.

Here's a first pass, straw man guide. Please look it over, give it some thought, and whack away at it. I definitely won’t be hurt if you think something needs to be added, deleted or changed, so give us your best ideas and experiences. There will be multiple approaches to solving each problem, and that's good. Some of what I include below is from personal experience, but a lot more came from reading these forums. A big list of alternatives is better than a "do this or forget it" approach, since it allows everyone to find the method that’s right for them and their conditions.

Remember, we’re not after an ideal setup, but rather an installation that’s as inexpensive as possible. We should be willing to sacrifice quality where necessary in order to let someone get into the hobby. They can grow into more expensive equipment as their budget and interest dictate.

Thanks in advance to everyone for your thoughts.

Vance


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Cherry Hills on June 26, 2006, 05:39:02 pm
To set up a backyard theater, you need the following components:
1. a video source (usually a DVD player)
2. a video projector
3. a screen
4. a sound system

Some people have all of these things already in a home theater, and if they can be easily disconnected and moved into the garden or on the patio, then you're ready to go. If not, then you'll have to acquire the items that you don't have or can't take outside. Mostly, this is an exercise in finding good prices on components that will do the job. Those components don’t have to be the same quality as a home theater; the crickets and starry night will more than make up for any differences in component quality.

The “weakest link” question: There are differing opinions on what is most important in the backyard theater experience, but almost everyone agrees that the first impression of any large projected image is WOW. This is true regardless of the quality of the projector, the screen or the sound. So, you shouldn’t worry about having to buy top-of-the-line equipment to get started. Just spend enough to get the job done; if something seems inadequate at the end of your first season, upgrade it, but only if other people complain about it! Remember, you’ll be the most critical viewer out there, so if it seems good to you, most of your guests will find it totally awesome.

There are many other things that can go into a backyard theater experience, such as popcorn machines, drink coolers, fancy seating and so on, but those are the four basic components to getting a picture on a screen. Let's take them one at a time, assuming that you must buy (or find) the item, rather than using something from inside:

1. Video Source.

- A laptop computer is an excellent signal source, since it can play DVDs, CDs, stored media, slideshow presentations, etc. (with the right drive type, of course). You don't have to have a state-of-the art laptop for this purpose, so if you don't have one, you can find an older model with a DVD drive and it will suit your purposes fine.

The free program VLC media player (http://www.videolan.org/ (http://www.videolan.org/)) allows you to take multiple source formats and merge them into a single show with previews, cartoons and the main feature.

- There are many portable DVD players on the market now, designed for people who can't travel without their DVDs, with built-in screens. A screen is a big advantage for putting on a "professional" show, since it lets you blank the projector and navigate menus on the built-in monitor without showing them on-screen. Many are available in the $75-100 range.

- Home DVD players in the lowest price range have fallen below $50. There's a small progressive scan player available at the big-box discount stores for only $30. These are no-frills players, but many have progressive-scan output for better picture quality, even though they lack some of the "bells and whistles".

You should be able to find a good DVD player for well under $100. Look for one that plays a variety of source formats: DVD, VCD, MPEG, Divx, etc.

2. Video Projector.

The cheapest models these days seem to be “business-class” LCD projectors. “Business class” generally means that a projector is designed to be used in different conditions than a home theater projector: it many be used in bright rooms, it will usually be used to show computer presentations. Bright rooms call for projectors that are relatively bright, but don’t have to have high contrast ratios. Computer inputs usually mean a 4:3 aspect ratio and resolution of 800x600 or 768x1024.

So, a typical business-class projector would project 1500 lumens at 800x600 pixels, with a contrast ratio of only 500. Business-class projectors can be found on every street corner for between $500-1000.

There are now DLP projectors available for under $1000, too. They generally have better brightness and contrast specs than LCD machines. There is a good Buyer's Guide available at ProjectorCentral.com that will help you find a model with the right features and price for you: http://www.projectorcentral.com/buyers_guide.cfm (http://www.projectorcentral.com/buyers_guide.cfm)

The near-legendary Victor D started a thread on how he finds inexpensive projectors here (http://backyardtheater.com/forums/index.php?topic=1317.msg10550;topicseen).

3. Screen.

Sizing the screen can be tricky. You want it to be big enough to give a wide view to your audience, but not so big that it overwhelms your space. The projection distance calculator at ProjectorCentral.com is a good place to start (http://www.projectorcentral.com/projection-calculator-pro.cfm (http://(http://www.projectorcentral.com/projection-calculator-pro.cfm)), but it is designed with home theaters in mind. If you're in a small space (patio, driveway, deck) then this is probably the ideal tool. If you have a larger space and audience, then it's hard to get a screen that's too big.

Victor D suggests 8-12 feet width for a small area, 10-16 feet width for a medium area and 20 feet or larger for a large area. (How big can you build it?) Of course, the size of the screen will influence what materials you use, whether it's portable or (semi-)permanent, etc.

If you have a large expanse of fairly smooth white wall, there’s your screen. (Obviously, lap siding and brick aren’t optimal projection surfaces.) While there are gradations of quality in projectors and sound, there is a go/no-go test for screens: if it’s flat and white (or some light color) and the surface is not too shiny, it’s good. Otherwise, you will grow tired of the quality very quickly.

The question of whether to mount the screen permanently or make it removable is left to you, as it will depend on the space you have to work with, how your family and neighbors feel about it, etc. Some of the following approaches are clearly only suitable for portable screens, while others can be put up semi-permanently or permanently.

Most of the materials below are portable and more or less easy to store, but require a rigid frame of some sort. This can be wood, PVC pipe, metal electrical conduit (EMT), aluminum angle or tubing, steel pipe, etc. Shop around for used or cheap framing materials; this may influence your choice of projection surface. If you have a fence, trees or some other structure that lends itself to use as a screen support, all the better.

Using standard parts from a hardware store (e.g. PVC tees and angles) can make it easier to design, assemble and tear down your screen.

- Cardboard, fiberboard. Pros: very cheap, ubiquitous. Cons: must be finished and painted before use, storage may be a problem (they don’t fold or roll up easily). May not hold up against repeated handling or weather.

- Bedsheets. Pros: widely available, cheap (free?). Cons: Only come in predefined sizes. Pro/con: light transmission through fabric means they can be used for back projection, but can also mean less reflected back to audience when projecting from the front.

- Tarps. Pros: cheap, durable, widely available, often come with reinforced grommets. Cons: Plastic-backed paper tarps can have permanent wrinkles. Plastic tarps are too shiny (will throw hot spots from the projector). Canvas tarps are very heavy.

- Dazian stretch fabric. Pros: durable, lightweight, easy to store, light transmission (see bedsheets). Cons: expense, light transmission (see bedsheets), not widely available. Note that Dazian comes in two weights. The heavyweight Dazian does not transmit light, so it is unsuited to rear projection, but has excellent front reflectivity.

- Blackout cloth. This fabric is used to line curtains so they block all light from passing. Pros:widely available at most fabric stores and even cheaper with coupons. Availablility also makes it easy ot replace. Durable, two sided (one brighter than the other - EXPERIMENT), no light leaks through and folds easily (may wrinkle, but not crease, so most fall out). Cons: 54" wide is widely available, so it needs to be sewn to make larger screens (although it IS cloth so it sews easily and the seam is virtually invisible). Wider BOC is available online, but is more expensive.

- Plywood. Obvious choice for permanent installation, but could be used for smaller portable screen, too. Pros: widely available, flat, durable. Cons: expensive, heavy, almost requires permanent installation.

- Inflatable. This was once the province of the professional only, but the recent introduction of inflatable screens priced under $200 makes them affordable for the backyard hobbyist, too. Pros: very fast setup and breakdown, simplicity (no construction needed), price. Cons: fans can be to noisy for some situations.

- Commercial roll-down screens. If you have a protected eaves or a children's swing-set, you might consider mounting a pull-down screen there. Some people even use them as portables. Pros: ready-made, relatively inexpensive, widely available. Cons: tend to permanently wrinkle and bend in the breeze, flat-tensioned screens much more expensive, limited mounting possibilities.

- Vinyl sign material. Several people use vinyl screens made by sign shops. In many ways, this material is ideal, since the requirements for large signs are very similar to those for large movie screens. Sign shops can put grommets in the screen, with tough reinforcement, and the material is very durable. But if you work it right, you might be able to get a billboard-sized piece of vinyl free. Of course, it will have an ad for something like an ambulance-chasing lawyer on the back, but that's not the side you care about!

Estimating the typical price of a low-end screen is difficult because there are so many variables This could end up costing you nothing (using scrounged or dirt-cheap material) or thousands. The price of all the other components depends on finding the lowest-cost product that will fill the need. The screen is the one place where your ingenuity and elbow grease will really make the difference.

4. Sound system.

Remember going to the drive-in, before FM radio transmitters? If you don’t, you won’t believe what people had to put up with: an ultra-cheap 4-inch speaker, encased in a cast aluminum housing about the size of a fat cookbook, which you took from a pole and hung on the window of your car. Mostly, you could understand the voices, but music, sound effects and such were mangled. No one much noticed, because that’s all there was and it was fun just being there.

So, if you can do better than that, you’ve already made great progress. You don’t really need surround sound outdoors, though it’s very nice.

- You can use a stereo amplifier and achieve great sound. When surround systems appeared, millions of people upgraded and left the simple stereo amps behind. If you don’t already have an old one stashed in a closet or the basement, thrift stores and pawn shops are overflowing with them, cheap.

The same is true for speakers. Everyone wants tiny satellites and big subwoofers, but the floor-standing speakers of the past are still great for the BYT. Your audiophile friends might sneer at an old Pioneer tuner and Cerwin Vega big box speakers in your den, but they'll love them in your drive-in. Be sure to check the foam rings around the speaker cones, however. These can deteriorate over time and must be replaced for the speaker to work properly. Pop off the grill and see if the material surrounding the cone is still soft and flexible (just push gently with your finger).

- Computer speakers, especially those three-piece sets with subwoofers, often have good sound at a low price. They are self-amplified, so they’re easy to store and set up. And you may already have a set in the home.

- Boom boxes or other compact radios/CD players. These must have auxiliary inputs, similar to those on the back of a home stereo amp. They are very portable. Some of the “premium” table radios (e.g. Bose, Cambridge) have excellent sound in a very compact form.

- “Home theater in a box” sets (HTIB). These are (often) inexpensive packages that include DVD player, surround-sound amp and speakers all in one. Sound quality varies, but they are widely available, may be inexpensive and offer high convenience factor for a backyard setup.

- Check the big-box stores for demo models, open box returns, etc. Places like Best Buy often have a "clearance" table of these things at big discounts. Often, you can get a 5.1 surround system quite inexpensively.

Optional equipment:

- For the dedicated components that don't go back into your TV room, it's a good idea to have a storage box of some sort to keep them clean and dry between shows. The big box hardware stores carry molded plastic trunks that will store equipment safely and inexpensively. They also have rolling plastic storage units that look like a cabinet on wheels. Open the front doors, flip up the top and you're ready to go.

- Wiring management is important, both for quality of operation and for safety. A garden hose can be split open lengthwise (leave an inch intact every couple of feet) to use as a conduit for your cables. (Pro sound people call this bundle a "snake".) Then, after the show, you can roll all the cables up in the hose for storage.

- Projector mounting. Most projectors are designed to be placed near the top or bottom edge of the screen. So, you want to have a mounting platform that is a little taller than the bottom edge of your screen, or a little shorter than the top edge. Low-mounted projectors may just be set up on a table or on a purpose-built platform. Pros of low mounting are simplicity. Cons are the space “taken up” by the projected cone of light, where guests can’t sit without blocking the image. Projectors can be mounted high under a deck cover, on a ladder, purpose-built platform, etc. The projector must have a setting for ceiling projection, which inverts the image while the projector is hung upside down. Pros are increased seating around and in front of the projector. Cons are complexity of mounting.

Some people are able to mount the projector permanently in a “projection booth” – by a window inside the house or in a shed in the garden. This simplifies everything, of course, since you don’t have to consider the setup/teardown issues, weather, and other nuisances.

Thanks to rfisk, tlogan6797, p_og, victor-eyd and hiredpower for their contributions!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: movieman on June 26, 2006, 07:32:46 pm
All I can say is, if you are going to do it- do it right. Be proud of you outdoor theatre and the work you put into it. I may have gone overboard on mine, but it's what I wanted. Found the time and the money to do it. A long time ago I ran several Drive-in theatres. When D-I's were D-I's.  I love D-I's and the fun and enjoyment it gives people. My outdoor theatre is run like a D-I and people love the feeling they get when visiting.  rg  www.skyvueoutdoortheatre.com


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Cherry Hills on June 26, 2006, 08:31:11 pm
I understand your point of view, movieman, but you have to realize that there are a lot of people who can't afford to spend $5-10k on a backyard theater. Or, maybe they could eventually, but have to start out small and simple. I'm aiming to help people who can't or don't want to spend a truckload of money get started having fun with it. Then, they can upgrade gradually.

I would really appreciate reading contributions to that goal. Thanks!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: rfisk on June 26, 2006, 10:53:33 pm
Bowing to Vance.  Well done, sir!

If you had any idea of how many pieces of that very post I have scattered around in various files that haven't successfully made it to the website, well, you'd be particularly impressed with your post too.

I have been working on the FAQ section, a "How To" section, “Tools” , “Downloads” and a new menuing system.  They're nearly ready for content, and I can't wait to link to this thread.  Trust me, you’ll help a lot of people get started.

One thing that has been difficult for me on this site is that there is no perfect answer for most questions posed or sent via email.  So the answers/suggestions end up really verbose so as not to short someone who expects higher quality, and not intimidate someone who wants to start on a shoestring -- and can.  That's why our forums and feedback from everyone here is so important.  Many of us here now are very hands-on and sharing what we learn along the way is helping a bunch of people learn quickly about, and select options that best apply to their environment, expectations, and budget. 

Cheers Vance, great post!

Randy




Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: tlogan6797 on June 27, 2006, 08:20:32 am
Yes, let me add GREAT POST!

I started out trying to do it as cheap as possible but with the best results I could get. I always knew I would be making a compromise, but I think it's worked out great. So far I've felt that if soemthing just isn't right, I haven't really invested that much in any one area to not just start that area over again. I too did a LOT of reading here and in AVS to get started, so gathering this info in one place would be a GREAT help to others trying to start out.

With that, let me add to CherryHills' post

Video Source -

I've actually found a perfectly acceptable DVD player, brand new for $30.00 - progressive scan AND digital output. It's small and easily portable. If it fails, I'm only out $30.00 - I'll replace it!

Video Projector -

In the $500-1000 range, you should be able to find a great DLP projector

Screen

- Blackout Cloth ( often referred to as BOC). Pros - widely available at most fabric stores and even cheaper with coupons. Availablility also makes it easy ot replace. Durable, two sided (one brighter than the other - EXPERIMENT), no light leaks through and folds easily (may wrinkle, but not crease, so most fall out). Cons- 54" wide is widely available, so it needs to be sewn to make larger screens (although it IS cloth so it sews easily and the seam is virtually invisible). Wider BOC is available online, but is more expensive.

Sound System

Also be sure to check the "big box" stores for open items and floor samples and such. I found a great deal at CC for $149. Again, if it fails, I'm not out a lot, and I know I can find something even better at that price point now.


In General

While building my PVC frame, I tried to keep everything simple and to use standard size hardware so that I can easily replace any missing or broken peices.

Good luck to all!
Tom


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: p_og on June 27, 2006, 09:03:28 am
VERY helpful Vance!  Thank you!

The great advantage to starting off with an inexpensive system is that it works as a "proof of concept" to show those around you (and prove to yourself) why the backyard theatre is so great!

Video Source:

If you're going out and buying a DVD player (rather then using an existing one) then may I HIGHLY reccomend buying one that is DivX compatible.  I bought one for $50 but have seen them as low as $30.  I've even seen portable ones for around $100.  Just look for the DivX logo on the front.

Once you have this, you can play any .avi file that you burn onto a CD or a DVD.  Admitidly, the quality won't be quite as perfect as a DVD but it's very VERY close.  The real advantage is that you can 'build shows' as you burn your DVD!  You would basically just drag and drop your favourite preshow cartoons, trailers, ads, movies etc using most basic burning software (in data mode) and once it's burnt you can just hit PLAY on the DivX DVD player.  These players will just play everything on the disc in the order that it's burnt, allowing you to enjoy the show with everyone else instead of switching discs etc.  Of course you can also use the player as a normal DVD player too!!

If you're planning on using your laptop as the source then look into VLC media player.  ( http://www.videolan.org/ )  It works on just about every platform and it's FREE!!!  The best part is that it also allows you to build shows.  I haven't had much experience with this but I believe that you can set it up to play your preshows, cartoons etc from video files and then play the Feature off of the DVD!!  (or whatever you'd like)

I hope this helps!

p_og


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: tlogan6797 on June 27, 2006, 09:40:43 am
Quote
Mostly, you could understand the voices, but music, sound effects and such were mangled. No one much noticed, because....

we were in the backseat "otherwise pre-occupied!"

Actually, I was in the front seat of my 1970 Plymouth Fury III with the bench seat pushed all the way back. MUCH more room than the backseat!

Tom 


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: victor-eyd on June 27, 2006, 06:01:09 pm
Excellent primer on backyard theaters!

Perhaps Randy could include photos to further visualize the concept. Of course, there are plenty of oht's on display already but using this as a guide sure helps!

I agree: business projectors are your best bet in terms of an outdoor theater concept. All of the problem we ht buffs have with them as dedicated home theater use are completely the opposite in an outdoor theater setup.

As to screens, semi permanent or rigid-based screen I feel are the best, since and wind or breeze can easily disrupt an otherwise great showing of a movie (not that most would notice anyways, just you). But the reduction in prices of the inflatables, now as low as $189 (see my other thread) just makes the whole concept totally doable for way under $1000, which includes pj, dvd player, stereo, and screen.

Victor



Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: cafemom on June 28, 2006, 09:15:23 am
I am so impressed with this site!  So many great ideas and helpful folks!!!
I would be very interested in more screen "options".  We usually hang a sheet from the patio but would like to upgrade a bit this summer.  The limited sheet size can be a drag and I will be in search of other screens from the ideas previously mentioned.  I'm interested in the PVC piping idea as well - sturdy enough but able to take down inbetween shows.  I look forward to future posts for more ideas!
Cafemom


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: victor-eyd on June 28, 2006, 01:41:10 pm
Let's keep this thread going since it will help many people out there just starting on the whole outdoor concept but have not yet figured out how to do this:

Screen and lot sizes

Let concentrate on three sizes that can determine screen size: small yard, medium yard, larger/very large lots.

This is an example of a small yard. Assume that the space of the deck is size of the yard, and you get the idea:

Best sizes 8-12ft screen width
(http://i3.photobucket.com/albums/y63/bubsdaddy/Woods%20Theatre/decktheatre4.jpg)

Medium yards are larger, you actually have more than enough space to mow the lawn and have a garden, perhaps even a small pool:

Best sizes are probably between 10-16ft across

(http://members.cavtel.net/thomaslogan/gallery2/images/100_1874.jpg)

With large/very large yards, its anything goes. You'll want at least 12ft across for screen width and some have up to 24 or larger. Here's a 14' to 28'

14'
(http://gallery.digimark.net/d/3772-2/overview.JPG)

20'
(http://shim1.shutterfly.com/procgserv/47b6df08b3127cce98548e8c793c00000017108AZtmjZs5ctS)

28'
(http://www.inkedmonkey.com/drivein/frame.jpg)

There are obviously many variations in between but this should at least be fair set of standards to start.

Victor


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: JoeMcGin on June 28, 2006, 02:55:36 pm
Wow, I never saw that medium setup before. Very impressive. Who's the proud owner of that?

Joe


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: victor-eyd on June 28, 2006, 03:54:28 pm
its avs member reveille

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?p=7692335&&#post7692335

The screen is actually deceiving- its a 20ft wide, so this pool is really huge!
I'll have to use a different medium setting

Victor


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Cherry Hills on June 29, 2006, 10:31:25 am
I've taken the comments and suggestions above (but not the photos, alas) and incorporated them into the original post. Thanks, everyone, for your contributions!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: victor-eyd on July 01, 2006, 02:30:42 am
Video Source-

An alternative to videolan is the old tried and true dvdshrink

Guides
http://www.videohelp.com/guides.php?tools=155&madeby=&formatconversionselect=&howtoselect=%3B&orderby=Date&listall=1&hits=25&archive=0&listallusers=&search=Search+or+List+Guides

Download here:
http://www.videohelp.com/tools?tool=DVD_Shrink

Similar to videolan, you can rip out shorts and segments (primarily from other dvds) and create a brand new dvd playing what you want in the order created.

Additionally, you can create still images or timed slides similar to the coca cola slides you see in the theaters.

I have used dvdshrink extensively and it is a very easy and powerful tool to use when making a dvd that simply plays certain titles in order. Alternatively, you can save it as a file on your hard drive and play it from the pc using a dvd player program like windvd or powerdvd. If you do burn, you might need a burning program like Nero to enable the burning process. I prefer to have everything on the hard drive since (a) I don't waste a blank dvd and (b) once I'm done I can delete the whole file easily.

Screen Ratio:
For business projectors, the native ratio is almost always 4:3. Although this makes for a great height imagewise, it's can make the screen quite ungainly and unstable if too large. Since most of the movies that we will be viewing outdoors are in widescreen, the most adviseable design to use is the 16x9 ratio screen size.

Inflatables:
There is only one type of inflatable screen that we consider affordable (under $500) if diy is not an option.

Gemmy makes only one screen, which is 149" 16x9 diagonal. There are some issues with fan noise as it is required to continously be on but I'm sure someone will develop a hushbox or hack to fix that. To that, it is the most affordbale at only $189. It is available online and possibly at your local Walmart

Gemmy 149"
(http://images1.snapfish.com/34735%3C%3B75%7Ffp342%3Enu%3D3238%3E662%3E6%3A7%3EWSNRCG%3D323383%3C54%3A469nu0mrj)

Sima makes 2 models, the XL-8 which is a 96" 16x9 diagonal XL-12 which is 144" 16x9 diagonal but their price are much much higher. Its possible that this site will have them at price closer to $500 in the near future.

(http://www.simaproducts.com/images/products/xl_large.jpg)

Victor


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: turnerx5 on July 01, 2006, 02:43:55 pm

If you are looking for components on the cheap and live near a medium size or bigger city, try Craig's List, a free online classified:

http://sfbay.craigslist.org/  (State and city listings are on the right side of the page)

I bought a used 5.1 surround receiver for $20 from a local college kid who was upgrading his system. Likewise, there are lots of projectors and speakers, etc. for sale there. Standard be careful on the web rules apply, but for me Craig's List worked out great.  I'm sure you could also find an old receiver from a reputable eBay seller for very little.

Good luck.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: victor-eyd on July 01, 2006, 03:09:38 pm
or a projector ;D


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: hiredpower on September 01, 2006, 01:19:58 pm
- Dazian stretch fabric. Pros: durable, lightweight, easy to store, light transmission (see bedsheets). Cons: expense, light transmission (see bedsheets), not widely available.

I respectfully disagree with the above statement. The Dazian Heavyweight fabric does not have this problem!

Thanks for all your hard work pulling this info together guys.

This should be required reading for first timers.




Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Cherry Hills on September 01, 2006, 03:40:07 pm

I respectfully disagree with the above statement. The Dazian Heavyweight fabric does not have this problem!


That's great information. Thanks for adding it! I'll insert that into the first post, so people will see it right away.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: JonesCinema on September 04, 2006, 10:30:32 pm

Inflatables:
There is only one type of inflatable screen that we consider affordable (under $500) if diy is not an option.

Victor

I agree that an inflatable needs to be under or around $500 to be a viable option for the average back yard.  However, I think it is always important to know what we are missing out on when we do it for cheap (relatively).  The Gemmy Screens all seem to have really saggy projection surfaces.  I have yet to see a good (non doctored) picture of a gemmy screen.  It seems like that is too much quality to give up in exchange for fast setup. 

As far as the more expensive Sima screens, I don't think they work either. I actually got a Sima screen.  I used it about 5 times then it would not stay inflated.  For the first few times it was amazing except for the fact that it took a while to inflate and deflate.  The fourth time I used it, I had to pause the movie twice and re-inflate the screen because it began to sag at the top.  The fifth movie I watched was a complete disaster.  I had to inflate the screen every 12 minutes!  The next day I searched all over the screen looking for a hole but could not find one anywhere.  I believe that the glue holding the seams together simply melted in the heat of my car or something, making it impossible to hold air.  That is the real problem with any screen that does not have a blower constantly on.  I returned the screen.

I have seen really good inflatable screens however.  Open Air Cinema has screens in all sizes from 9'x5' to over 40' wide. www.openaircinema.us (http://www.openaircinema.us).  The projection surface is like a spandex material so it is always completely smooth with no wrinkles.  It uses big zippers to zip on or off, so you can wash it if it gets dirty.  They say the 16 foot by 9 foot screen inflates in less than one minute, and deflates in much less.  And it is constant air, so even if it gets a big rip, the screen will stay up just fine.  It is also self standing, but comes with tethers and stakes in case it is windy.

Of course they are out of the price range of most of us.  You would have to have a pretty sweet yard by itself to be able to afford one of these screens.  I just wanted to share what I have learned so that we all know what we are giving up by going less expensive. Here is a picture from their site.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Cherry Hills on September 04, 2006, 11:04:22 pm
It's sad, but true, Mr. Jones, that you get what you pay for.

The main idea of "do it cheap" is to get people started so they can learn while they enjoy the theater. In the long run, there probably is no "cheap" backyard theater that you will enjoy for years.

But when you start cheap, you learn where the weakest link is, and you upgrade it. Then, another weak link becomes evident and you upgrade that. These are smaller costs then investing in a top-of-the-line theater from the first. And they are spread out over the course of many months or years, so they don't hurt as much.

And some of the things you got at the first will turn out to be just fine. You don't have to buy professional quality everything, so this way, you find out as you go what needs to be changed and what can stay like it is.

To my mind, this is the way to absolutely optimize your theater investment - you will get exactly the quality you want, while spending exactly the minimum required to get it. It's slower, to be sure, and you may have some surplus equipment you have to donate to your in-laws or someone, but you'll be right where you want and won't sit around wondering if you really had to spend so much on the _________.

In your case, the first try didn't work out with the screen, so you're moving on to something better. I hope you were able to return the obviously defective Sima.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: JonesCinema on September 04, 2006, 11:39:18 pm
Cherry Hills,
Those are all great points.  You have made a very useful and accurate summary of the "do it for cheap" mentality we all share.  I just wanted to add a little more info from my experiences.  It seems to me that whether it is a sheet, board, wall or what ever, a top priority for all of us is to have a smooth surface without ripples, wrinkles etc.  Maybe the perfectionist in me demands a smooth screen surface while it is not as big a deal to everyone.  I want some gemmy screen owners to prove me wrong.  I really wish they were made better, because that would be such a great solution to portable cinema.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: hiredpower on September 05, 2006, 03:55:17 am
As far as the more expensive Sima screens, I don't think they work either. I actually got a Sima screen.  I used it about 5 times then it would not stay inflated.  For the first few times it was amazing except for the fact that it took a while to inflate and deflate.  The fourth time I used it, I had to pause the movie twice and re-inflate the screen because it began to sag at the top.  The fifth movie I watched was a complete disaster.  I had to inflate the screen every 12 minutes!  The next day I searched all over the screen looking for a hole but could not find one anywhere.  I believe that the glue holding the seams together simply melted in the heat of my car or something, making it impossible to hold air.  That is the real problem with any screen that does not have a blower constantly on.  I returned the screen.

Wow! My 12' Sima only takes 4 minutes to inflate or deflate and no sagging ploblems. Sorry to hear you had a dud.

I am in the same camp as you when it comes to a smooth surface.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: movieguy on November 02, 2006, 10:55:41 am
Like many on this board, I'm new to backyard movies.  I definitely have a strong interest since both of my sons are bidding filmmakers (one graduates from fiim school in May, the other starts film school in Sept. 2007).

I constructing the screen, I have benefitted from several posts.  I have two closely grown trees to which I will mount brackets.  I have made 2X4 top and bottom supports that will slide into the supprts on the trees.  The question that I have is about the screen material.  As someone suggested, I went to Lowes and bought a white heavy duty 9X12 rubberized canvas painters tarp.  I intend to attach it to the top support via either staples, screws and furnture tacks, then drap it down and attach it to the bottom support via a similar procedure.  This will be a temporary installation so I will need to take it apart. 

Any advise as to which attaching method would be the best based on your experience?

I will be putting it together tomorrow so you thoughts will be appreciated.

 



Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Gadget on March 13, 2007, 10:17:58 pm
I just ran across this thread.  Before I was doing outdoor movies, we had a big screen setup in the house.  I try to be as frugle as possible, so my screen solution was a white roll-up window shade mounted to the ceiling.  If you go this route, make sure you get the blackout version.  The biggest one I found was 72" across, perfectly reasonable for a living room or other area.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: chriscross on March 25, 2007, 11:49:58 am
Great forum! Thanks for the help but I bought a screen from thebackyarddrivein.com I've only had this screen for the weekend but I love it!!! Its so much fun being outside again!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: wirebiter on March 30, 2007, 03:39:08 pm
Great forum! Thanks for the help but I bought a screen from freeadvertising.com I've only had this screen for the weekend but I love it!!! Its so much fun being outside again!


Not exactly cheap.


Ya know, I don't think you've mentioned the website enough, perhaps you could mention it a few more times ::)



Maybe the owners of that site would be interested in contacting backyardtheater.com and see about advertising on this site. Or even better for me...give a BIG discount to backyardtheater.com posters.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: rfisk on March 30, 2007, 04:09:37 pm
Maybe the owners of that site would be interested in contacting backyardtheater.com and see about advertising on this site. Or even better for me...give a BIG discount to backyardtheater.com posters.

I vote BOTH! :)

Randy


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Danoplex II on March 30, 2007, 05:32:38 pm
Criss?  Are you one of thos bots like on a dating site..?  You seem to be trying to lead us to another website fom here...lol

Dano


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: ImUhMess on April 27, 2007, 02:05:25 pm
Hi Guys, I am back with some pictures this time.  I am having so much fun with this !  I have a gemmy inflatable for outdoor use, but I also have a barn. Sooo  . .  I made my system mobile by putting it on a wagon to use in my barn or in the yard with the gemmy. My wagon holds everything I need and with 2 portable dvd players and an old game monitor I can see what is being projected at any time. I purchased a switching unit at radioshack and a heavy duty power strip witch I also attached to the wagon. For outside sound and mobility I use a JVC Kaboom box, witch works well.
In the barn I used curtain backing from walmart and framed it with cheap door trim. I am using a cheap surround sound system from walmart in the barn with the center speaker mounted behind the screen. Screen size in barn is 12'6" x 8. WORKS WELL !
I am including a few designs I created and use with old drive-in adds. Using windows movie maker I can create some cool stuff for before and after movie. The game monitor on my gear-wagon allows me to cue up the movie so it all blends nicely.   AND I LOVE THIS SITE !!
P.S. (The Fruit Stand Thing is a joke !)


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: sarava on May 02, 2007, 08:55:27 pm
hey guys im new here and ive got a big backyard and a new home ive been in for 2 yrs and i love this site.

im going to buy one of those inflatable screens, how do i get live t.v. to the screen.

my best guess is i need a line of cable on outside of home and a projector and a cable box?

any help appreciated thanks jl. aka - sarava


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Cherry Hills on May 02, 2007, 09:15:56 pm
You still have to have some kind of tuner box. You can use your VCR for this, for example. Run the cable into the VCR, then VCR output into the projector.

All projectors do is show pictures - they don't know anything about tuning TV stations.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: sarava on May 03, 2007, 04:33:08 am
lol that figures, seeing thou as i finally threw out my vcr cause i only use dvd player now.

practically brand new.alright so buy a tuner box and speakers and the other stuff and im all set? thanks cherry hill.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: wizochelle on May 31, 2007, 08:40:39 am
hello all,
I didn't wanted to start a new thread. I was offered this system for $500 and I am tempted; I would like some advice/input.
do you think the price is fair?
I want to buy a system and this looks complete to me but I am not sure about the price. the guy told me the system was lightly used.
any questions I should ask?
thanks.
here are the specs:
INFOCUS 4805 Digital Projector (New, used condition)
8' Draper Luma Screen (New, used condition)
Leap Frog 2.4ghz Wireless Transmitter
Leap Frog 2.4ghz Wireless Receiver
INFOCUS Projector Remote


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Cherry Hills on May 31, 2007, 10:53:17 am
This sounds like it could be a really good way for you to get started. The InFocus 4805 was one of the standard "must have" projectors a couple of years ago. It was a really good home theater projector, but at 750 lumens, it is going to be marginal for an outdoor theater. I know some people have projectors with that kind of lighting power and think they do fine, but personally I found 1400 lumens barely adequate. If your yard isn' completely dark, I suspect it's not going to do a good job for you.

But you really should look this horse in the mouth. You need to know how many hours are on the lamp, first.  They should last at least 2000 hours. A replacement costs around $350. So, if you have to replace the bulb next month, your $500 deal is now a $850 deal. And you should factor into that how trustworthy the seller is. If it's someone you know well and trust, then the lamp timer is probably accurate. But they can be reset manually, and if the hours shown on the projector are really low you should ask to see the receipt or box for the "new" bulb.

So, that's my take. There are a lot of variables there that you will have to sniff out yourself, but the technical side is that the projector will do an OK job, if not fabulous, the other equipment looks very useful, and the price looks good. You'll just have to try to figure whether the bulb still has life in it, and whether you have a dark enough place to use a 750 lumens projector on that size screen.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: wizochelle on May 31, 2007, 02:40:05 pm
That really helps; Thanks Cherry Hills!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: marsh on May 31, 2007, 04:16:06 pm
We purchased a Infocus 72 from Tiger Direct for $450 after rebate.  There was a $200 rebate that we had to wait 12 weeks for.  I would highly recommend the projector.   


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: ThriftStoreKing on July 20, 2007, 05:58:20 pm
I've been quite fortunate in finding various bits and pieces for my backyard theater at local thrift stores and furniture consignment stores.  I found a proxima 8400 projector for $50 in a furniture and home decor consignment shop and it has been a great projector.  I'm just crossing my fingers on the bulb life.  I have found 3 AV receivers with Surroundsound processors for under $15 each at local thrift stores.  My speakers are thift store finds with brand names like Marantz and Infinity and only had to replace old foam surrounds on the woofers... again $15-$20 a pair.  I strap my equipment to a food/microwave cart for portability and my screen is a $20 sheet of Plas-Tex sheeting that I picked up at Home Depot.  Cruise thrift stores and look in the nooks and crannies.  Leave no box unopened.  Also make a friend of the folks that work there and let them know what you are looking for.  Hope this helps.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: pokeys on September 08, 2007, 10:54:29 am
Hello All,

I am new to Backyardtheatre, this is a tremendous site, have gotten many great ideas. 

That being said, I am looking for a projector, am looking to spend about $500.   I dont need to biggest or best, need someting to put out a decent picture appx 10-15 feet from screen(appx 90 inches diagonally)  I have been on ebay, craigslist, all the electronics stores(Best Buy, Circuit City etc...)  Can anybody help.   I want a good picture(better contrast and resolution) and willing to trade off Lumens(need probably 1000) to get.  I cant seem to find the right combination. 

ANyway, thanks, let me know your ideas!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Cinema BBQ on December 24, 2007, 06:37:09 pm
Do you know of any poles made from powder coated aluminum?


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Dalefan3n88 on July 07, 2008, 07:04:23 am
Fantastic ideas, I LOVE this site. I'm still putting together my setup but this gives me allot of ideas. I didn't know business class machines were better but it makes sense.

I'm thinking of using old Drive in trailers and intermission videos downloaded from youtube in between movies to give it the nostalgic feel for us older folks where actually knew what drive in's were like.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: turnerx5 on August 11, 2008, 06:26:06 am
Right now, InFocus is selling the venerable X2 as a refurbished projector for $273, plus shipping (link below). No, that is not a typo on the price. Heck, bulb replacements for this PJ are $250!  The PJ comes with a 90 day warranty, 6 month bulb warranty. Several board members have used this projector and give it high marks. It is probably not high enough quality for inhome theater, but for outside it should work great! Good luck,

Turnerx5

If for some reason the link doesn't work, just go to the Infocus online store, and click on the business section, scroll down abd it's there!

http://store.infocus.com/Stores/Consumer/Product.aspx?ProductId={F62A83B8-E047-40BC-87BC-26E7C8401A79}


.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Sparge on August 11, 2008, 07:56:16 am
Right now, InFocus is selling the venerable X2 as a refurbished projector for $273, plus shipping (link below). No, that is not a typo on the price. Heck, bulb replacements for this PJ are $250!

That's a wonderful price, especially given typical bulb costs.  This would be a great way for many to get into the hobby and a good back up projector for some of us.  But alas, the InFocus web site already says "temporarily backordered".   :(

-Sparge-


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: PTFI on August 22, 2008, 02:16:25 pm
This has got to be the BEST site on the entire WWW

I got the Deluxe 12X12 widescreen blow up screen from Walmart.com for $189
A new Infocus projector for $298 from thenerds.com
(Media Friendly with component inputs Model # GAUD300-WW)

I already had a spare DVD player and a spare Technics Receiver with speakers and sub.

I'm going to hook up my U-verse STB (w/component outputs) and show Disney's Cheetah Girls New Movie tonight!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: piratetv on September 03, 2008, 09:59:23 pm
http://www.i4u.com/article4200.html
 
im not sure how the picture is but $289 for a dlp projector with dvd inside isnt too bad


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: victor-eyd on September 03, 2008, 10:34:16 pm
This projector is not dlp, its lcd.

This projector has a horrible resolution and here is the thread showing it
http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showthread.php?t=756397
note: pictures are missing from the original thread but I have a few if you need it

Although some might say its okay at 50", anything above that the light is too dim to show anything imo

Victor


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: gopsu on October 02, 2008, 08:49:14 am
Help! I am new to all of this and this is so much information in this forum, that I feel overwhelmed.
I'm finding a great deal of information on movies and feel I understand how to start in that arena.
What I want to do is surprise my husband by hosting a backyard tailgate party and watch a football game. Everything I'm reading pertains to movies/dvd's. How do I go about showing a TV program, once I get my screen up?
I'm not that technicial, but can follow directions. (I do all the electronics in our home) Any adivce or suggestions will be greatly appreciated!
I am willing to make, rent and or buy what I need. I have until 10/25 to pull this off, will that be enough time?
Thank you in advance!
KK


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: victor-eyd on October 02, 2008, 09:18:56 am
Start with the basics: you need a projector. Check your budget- if you can only spend under three hundred there's a great deal going on right now on infocus' website for a refurb X2

http://store.infocus.com/Stores/Consumer/Product.aspx?ProductId={F62A83B8-E047-40BC-87BC-26E7C8401A79}

This will be more than enough for a backyard theater in most cases. If you want to spend higher (for resolution and/or for a widescreen version) there are always deals on woot or dell or even amazon. You could try craigslist or ebay but considering you can get a pj with a factory warranty I'd be reluctant to go any other way.

As to the screen, you have the choice of a premad inflatable, like the gemmy, which you can get at walmart for undr $200, or make your own, whether its bedsheets, white paneling, trapeze spandex fabric, or whatever flat material you can paint white and put against the wall.

Audio is easy. You can get a HTIB, or simply rummage around your house for unused audio gear and play away. As to your question about TV hookup, all projectors have video inputs for dvds and cable boxes. Find out what outputs you have on your cable/sat box and hook directly to the pj. The best is HDMI, followed by DVI, VGA, S-video, and finally composite (yellow RCA). Don't get me wrong, even composite will render a watchable picture, just not as good as the other formats
 
See, it wasn't that hard  ;)

Victor


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Cherry Hills on October 02, 2008, 10:42:13 am
You need a TV tuner or a cable box, and you need to be able to get the signal from there to your projector. If you have a HD tuner already, you should be able to drag that out to the yard with your projector. If you're connected to cable, you will have to figure out how to get the cable and decoder box out there, or how to run a cable from the decoder to your projector.

If you don't have a HD tuner already, you can pick one up relatively inexpensively and you'll be able to use it on that spare analog TV that will be useless after February without it. That seems like the simplest to me (assuming you can get the game you want to see over the air).


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: matt314159 on January 07, 2009, 06:24:16 pm
interesting thread!

One tip for getting the best projector for your buck, if you are very careful, discerning, and technically adept, and know what to look for, is eBay. 

Specifically, if you can find a projector that is missing the lamp, they usually go for between $100 and $150, even some of the higher end models.  Then a new lamp usually costs $200 - $300. 

Last summer I got a Toshiba 2500 Lumen, XGA DLP video projector without a lamp for roughly $150 on ebay.   Bought a new lamp for about $250, making the total just over $400.  At the time that was pretty good, I think.

But you've got to be careful.  You need to make sure it's from a very reputable seller, and you need to make sure you are confident that all it needs is a new lamp.  It can really be a gamble so it's not for everyone.  If you get a projector that explodes your brand new lamp, you can be sorry.   

But for me, sometimes the gamble is half the fun.  Lamps sometimes just explode, it's a fact of life.  A lot of times, somebody's home theater projector's lamp might go bad, and instead of spending $300 on a new lamp, they just put the projector up on ebay for whatever they can get, and buy a new projector. 


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: reg71 on March 28, 2009, 07:59:25 pm
Ok, I realize I am coming late to this party.  I like the OP am shall we say 'on the frugal side'.  More commonly referred to by my family as a cheap bastard.  Anyway, I heard that you could essentially build your own projector a while back from my teenaged so so he went on the lookout for old overhead projectors from craigslist.  He ended up finding a couple that we gave $25 for that were retired from the local highschool I believe.  He also researched bulb prices on the models we were getting before we bought them.  The high cost of typical projectors was something we wished to avoid.  Now, he lives with my ex so he took his projector back home and worked on it there.  I left mine up in the attic and forgot about it until last week.  Since remembering, I have created what might be the cheapest backyard theater solution I have ever heard of.  I have a total of $65 invested.  Now if I'd had to buy a couple of things that I happened to have it would have been closer to $100.  Here's what I have:

Apollo portable overhead projector - $25 used on CL
Two new bulbs for said projector (50 hours ea and works good with just one on so I could have halved this) $20 total
Old comp speakers that plug into earphone jack of DVD player - originally around $15 or less but I already had
Portable DVD player with tiny 3x4 screen - donated by my stepson but I think they can be had for $30ish
1/4 hardboard - $9
paint - on first iteration I used leftover white housepaint but repainted today.  will retest tonight

new paint was around $10 and is the Behr shade nicknamed 'silverscreen'.  I suspect the qulaity will improve slightly.

Now, I realize the quality of this is far below most of the systems on here, but so is the cost.  Mainly I wanted to see just how cheap I could do it, and if it would work.  Our first movie was 'The Princess Bride' and we watched it for my wifes birthday in our backyard with an audience of 4.  I must admit although it was a tad blurry due to blowing it up probably way more that I should have (around 8 ft wide) and the low resolution of the portable DVD, we had a great time.  Did I mention I also have a kegerator which greatly improves the bakyard theater experience IMO. 

The next upgrade will be in the screen and in doing it this way I am able to start wathing the movies now and have a good time and get better sound, bigger screen, etc. whenever a good deal pops up.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Rhizzlebop on May 21, 2009, 11:11:53 am
Hi, I'm brand new here, and have been reading a lot of threads.  I've been using a projector indoors as my main TV for years.  Now, I'm moving outdoors and have movies around the new deck I'm building.

Heres a question and a suggestion.  I'm attaching a pic of my deck and back yard.  Trying to decide whether to go 14' wide which is 190" diag image, or 16' wide.

Also, trying to decide whether to use 1 1/2" PVC, or 2" PVC.

I'm strongly considering doing rear projection.  I bought a cheap 5 dollar 12'x9ft vinyl painters drop cloth at Lowes the other day, and just did a quick test with my Panasonic AX100U and the image looked better doing rear proj, rather than front. It was brighter, and seemed oddly clearer.

So, my screen idea involves an outer rim frame, and then a top and bottom PVC member, sleeved through two pieces of this vinyl drop cloth.  Supported at both ends and the middle, and tensioned, so I can do either front, or rear projection.

Thoughts?

One screen spot would be directly off the end of the deck, down beyond that fireplace.

The other would be out in the yard, to the left of the picture.  However, with the top of the screen up around 11 or 12ft high, I'm concerned about some limbs blocking the view if you were all the way at the near end of the deck.



Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: OUTBACKMOVIES on May 27, 2009, 10:27:28 pm
Hi, I'm brand new here, and have been reading a lot of threads.  I've been using a projector indoors as my main TV for years.  Now, I'm moving outdoors and have movies around the new deck I'm building.

Heres a question and a suggestion.  I'm attaching a pic of my deck and back yard.  Trying to decide whether to go 14' wide which is 190" diag image, or 16' wide.

Also, trying to decide whether to use 1 1/2" PVC, or 2" PVC.

I'm strongly considering doing rear projection.  I bought a cheap 5 dollar 12'x9ft vinyl painters drop cloth at Lowes the other day, and just did a quick test with my Panasonic AX100U and the image looked better doing rear proj, rather than front. It was brighter, and seemed oddly clearer.

So, my screen idea involves an outer rim frame, and then a top and bottom PVC member, sleeved through two pieces of this vinyl drop cloth.  Supported at both ends and the middle, and tensioned, so I can do either front, or rear projection.

Thoughts?

One screen spot would be directly off the end of the deck, down beyond that fireplace.

The other would be out in the yard, to the left of the picture.  However, with the top of the screen up around 11 or 12ft high, I'm concerned about some limbs blocking the view if you were all the way at the near end of the deck.



My outside screen is 2.9m wide and can be viewed from 12m away on my deck and it is large enough.Even playing Wii thu a 2000lm short throw projector it is fine. Obviosly if you wack a more powerful projector up you can get a brighter picture but it is even fine with a 1400lm panasonic out there but that is used inside and again is fine on that screen which is 2.4m wide.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: jerryc on June 02, 2009, 04:40:44 pm
I got My Projector on craigslist brand new 4 hrs on the bulb for $280
reciver i have speakers i have i think my back yard theater with projector and screen will cost me $500 if i was you id shop look on ebay craigs list i took me a year to find a good deal on the projector.With the econemy the way it is the guy needed money.Just look and keep looking deals are out there


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: bad_camaro on June 09, 2009, 03:16:08 pm
Well, it is rainy outside and I don't have school or work today, so I thought I would tell about my setup in hopes it might help someone.  Here it goes:

Projector-
I was able to pick up an InFocus LP70+ DLP projector for $249 from a company named NPS (National Product Sales).  NPS is a freight recovery company that is near us, but I noticed they are on eBay too.  The projector had less than 50 hours on it, but it was used, so I was a bit nervous.  Turned out I had nothing to be afraid of, and my sister bought an identical one that had 50 hours on it for the same price.  It came with a hard case with custom foam for traveling with the projector and all the standard cables.   The unit weighs 2.5 lbs and is very portable.  People have been so impressed with the projector, that they have asked to rent it from me.  I only rent it to people I know and tell them $50/night with the understanding if any damage is done they will be responsible for replacement. So far I've made $150 of the price back with more to come this summer I'm sure.

Screen-
My first screen was made of some fabric that our new leather couches were covered in when we picked them up from the store.  We cut it into a nice size, then double layered it and safety-pinned it.  The screen is roughly 12' X 9' and I just attached it to the rain gutter on the house. I'll have to add a picture so you can see the fabric.  It worked nicely for both front and rear projection.

The second screen I got for myself for Christmas  :) It is an indoor motorized screen that I got for $116 from "Serious-Sounds" on eBay. It is a 100" diagonal screen 4:3 format. Since it is for indoors, I won't go into detail.

My newest screen is a 12' widescreen Gemmy screen that I bought off of Walmart.com for $180 after taxes. I setup the other night just to see how easy it was (very easy, about 20 min. the first time by myself.  I'm confident I could do it in 5 with someones help). This weekend will be its first use, but it looks like a great value so far, plus my son seems to love how big it is(me too).  ;D

Video Source-
I mainly use my laptop (that I bought for school purposes, so I don't count that as a BYT expense) for portability, quality, and ease.  I also occassionally use the DVR for sporting events.

Audio-
This is the next area that will be upgraded, but probably not this season.  Currently I run computer speakers that were given to me for free.  They actually sound pretty good because they have a little sub and two satellite speakers.

Remember when you are going cheap, I've yet to have anyone complain about the sound or any aspect of my setup~ We are our own toughest judges.  Kids/adults don't care if you have the fanciest setup or how many gigawatts your speakers put out, they just enjoy an outdoor movie.  My first movie showing, l was into my system less than $250, and even now I am still under $450 for my outdoor equipment.

Hope that gives someone some ideas!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: stingrayracing on March 30, 2010, 07:07:45 pm
Like some here I am new to BYT and to this forum.  My wife and I got the idea a couple of years ago while floating in the pool.  She said "wouldn't it be nice to watch a movie at night while in the pool".  Well, that's all she needed to say and the rest is history.  I am finally getting my stuff together for this summer.  I bought an Epson MovieMate 60 off of Ebay new for $520.  It is 2000 lumen, built in DVD, speakers and plenty of outputs/inputs for additional sources and sound.  It has a good warranty and the replacement bulb is only $150.  The one that came with it is rated for 5000 hours.  For my taste I think it is great!  Very bright and good picture resolution.  I made the 48"x96" screen out of 1x3 pine and BOC.  It is hinged in the center for portability.  I have plenty of old speakers and I just bought a AV receiver on Ebay for $4.25 that I think will do the trick.  Can't wait to get things going in nice weather.  We have already set it up in the family room and watched Netflix movies streamed through the laptop.  I have to thank the many members on this forum for all the good ideas I have capitalized on!  This place rocks!

Rocky


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: RecycledCinema on July 07, 2010, 04:40:39 pm
Thanx for all the advise. I'm new here and trying to do this on no budget. I got lucky and got my projector as a lost and found item at my work ;D. Currently using a Dell projector, laptop, and my old surround speakers. We do rear projection onto a twin size bed sheet. Thanks again and keep it up. This is a great site that has shown me a lot of good info.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Cherry Hills on July 09, 2010, 04:41:19 pm
And you'll find that you have as much fun as the people with the $7000 projectors and 7.1 surround systems. They're more refined, but the fun level hits maximum right after you get the first picture on the wall, and it never quits.

Have fun, and welcome to the nuthouse!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: BYDoug on August 17, 2011, 07:48:24 am
I got lucky. I have 2 pine trees in my backyard that are 12' apart. So with a 9'x12' canvas tarp from Home Depot, a gallon of white paint (from the returns) and a grommet kit I'm on my way! I screwed a 12' long 2x4 horizontally between the trees at about 10' off the ground. Then I put 4 bolts in it to match the grommets. A few bungie cords around the top middle and bottom and I'm done. Total set up time - about 10 minutes. I store the tarp on a 4" dia. 12' length of PVC.

For a projector I got a NEC refurbished online for around $500 with a brand new bulb and it puts out about 2600 lumens! I picked up 4 floor speakers at different garage sales for around $20 and they sound awesome. A roll of speaker wire and I can run wire from the cabinet (more on that to follow) to the front and around one side to the rear. (Running around one side means that people can walk across the yard and not trip on wires)

Then it was off to Walmart to get a $30 dvd player. It works great. I hook an S-video cable from it to the projector and sound connections out to the receiver and that part's done!

I had an older (70's) Pioneer receiver that has dual speaker connections (A&B) so for "on the cheap" outdoor sound I run the fronts to A side and the rears to B side.

I had one of those monster indoor wall unit that my neighbor and I cut down to hold the new LCD tv's. So with all the extra wood from the sides I built a cabinet to hold the receiver, the dvd player and the projector.

All in all I can be totally set up in under 30 minutes and get everything put away and the yard back to normal in 20.

The last movie we did was Eric Clapton's concert for Antigue. Well with the sound cranked I swear we had lawn seats to one of the best shows around.

I'll have to get some pics of the set up and post them here for everyone to see.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: SR on August 01, 2012, 01:26:26 am
This is my first post.  I am new to the forum but not to backyard theatre.  We have had ours for a few years now.  And it is defiantly done on the cheap, but it is a good kind of cheap... I think at least.  I also wanted it to have a drive-in kind of feel.  So I thought I would share my setup here.  I hope to become an active contributing member to the forum.
 
Our projector is a older Epson I picked up at a garage sale for $50.00.  It is LCD and 2000 Lumen and had about 75% bulb life at the time.  Since it is an older projector it is a 4:3 unit as such so is the screen.

For a screen I went with wood.  Why, mostly because I had a ton of used 12 foot 2X4s, so that helps keep costs down.  I bought 3 sheets of plywood for the project on sale for $15 each for a total of $45.00.  I used white roofing seam sealant on the joints of the plywood, then a quick coat of primer, and a few coats of Flat white paint (craigslist free so no cost primer and paint).  Maybe not the ideal surface, but I've never had any complaints.  There are no visible seams or distortions in the image, and the 2000 lumen projector produces a image that is plenty bright enough.  The best part about the permanent screen install is I don't have to mess with it before the movie.  A quick pressure washing in the spring and a coat of paint if needed and it's good to go. BTW it is about 10X12 feet.

For a Media player I just use my laptop, nothing I bought for the theatre, it was what I already had.

Sound.  I have to admit the first time we watched a movie outside this was my biggest short coming.  Standard desktop style computer speakers won't cut it.  They just don't get loud enough, we could hear the movie if we were close enough to the speakers but it was definitely not satisfactory, we used the theatre twice before I figured out my next move.  I had nothing else to use, and didn't want to invest in a $100 + in speakers and amps, then I remembered that we have a broadcast unit for our holiday light show.  So people can pull up to the front of the house tune their radio in and see a light show sincro'ed to music (built that setup back when I had money but thats a different story).  So we took the AM C-quam stereo transmitter from that for the theatre.  The broadcast antenna is attached to the side of the screen.  That way we could just bring a radio outside and listen to it on that.  Initially I thought that was going to be a temporary solution, but we are still using it that way to this day.  It has worked out well, especially for my friend that is hard of hearing.  He just brings his walkman and tunes in.  Could it be better, sure.  FM would be better, but that would be a $300.00 upgrade, maybe one day.  And if someone is looking to broadcast their sound on the cheap, used talking house transmitters can be found on E-bay for less than $50.00 it is just that those aren't stereo. 

So my setup cost.  $95.00 and two weekends of screen building and painting.  Add $50.00 for the cheap transmitter, if someone is looking to do something like I have.  Yes, the projector was a lucky find, but they are out there.  The rest you can find on Craigslist free, for the wood and paint.  No my $95.00 theatre isn't perfect, but it works for us, and I have never had a complaint. 

Rob


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Coon Creek on April 27, 2013, 10:37:12 am
On The Cheap..This is funny

Your BYT Is a money pit, close to buying a boat & may end up a bit cheaper

Showtime getting close !!!! New batch of COON CREEK DRIVE IN Tee Shirts going to print in the next few weeks. Sytem check and new rack set up. 8 New Drive in speaker posts installed this year with 4" JBL full range via Crown D75 bridged mono amp pushing them....


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Oldalgebra on April 28, 2013, 10:01:36 am
CC,

Sweet!

OA


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Ed Crew Guy on May 03, 2013, 12:40:26 pm
On The Cheap..This is funny

Your BYT Is a money pit, close to buying a boat & may end up a bit cheaper

Showtime getting close !!!! New batch of COON CREEK DRIVE IN Tee Shirts going to print in the next few weeks. Sytem check and new rack set up. 8 New Drive in speaker posts installed this year with 4" JBL full range via Crown D75 bridged mono amp pushing them....
We're doing a systems check this weekend in preparation for our debut show the following weekend.  Sah-Weeet!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: SR on July 06, 2013, 02:18:13 am
On The Cheap..This is funny

Your BYT Is a money pit, close to buying a boat & may end up a bit cheaper

Showtime getting close !!!! New batch of COON CREEK DRIVE IN Tee Shirts going to print in the next few weeks. Sytem check and new rack set up. 8 New Drive in speaker posts installed this year with 4" JBL full range via Crown D75 bridged mono amp pushing them....

I can see how BYT could be a money, however as someone that has had there theatre going for the last.. Almost 10 years now, I have managed to keep it on the cheap.  I bought a good used projector that I still use today, and built a screen out of 2X4's and plywood that I was able to obtain as used free wood.  And as some of you know I just did a bunch of work to my screen, again done with free wood, however the paint I used this year I actually bought, the first time I have paid for screen paint.  I would guess that I have spent less than $500 total though the years on my BYT.  But I do see the temptation, for sure it is there.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: dewey on August 18, 2013, 12:15:06 pm
My new 9 x16 screen.  Bought connectors from Carl's.   made my own screen out of
Billboard vinyl.   


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: dewey on August 18, 2013, 12:16:59 pm
Cleaning the bad boy


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: dewey on August 18, 2013, 12:17:51 pm
Another


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: dewey on August 18, 2013, 12:18:52 pm
Back view


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: dewey on August 18, 2013, 12:20:11 pm
Movie night!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: dewey on August 18, 2013, 12:21:50 pm
Another pic


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Player on October 01, 2013, 09:20:43 am
I just got my access to this forum and thought I’d start here with a little history. My BYT actually started back in the late 70s with a Eumig Super 8 sound projector and a 50” screen. Later added a 16mm Projector, but eventually ran out of material (Library quit lending films). Fast forward about 30 years… since I couldn’t convince the wife to invest $100s in a PJ, I found an Epson S1+ on ebay “untested” for $40 including shipping (said they didn’t have a power cord). Plugged it in and it worked like a charm with about 1200 hrs left on the bulb (still going strong). I hung a twin sheet on the back of the garage and started a tradition that has grown every year. Recently upgraded to the Home Cinema 725HD (with the wife’s blessing) and a 15’ x 10’ tarp on an EMT frame. Have a popcorn machine and a friend at Gold Medal that keeps me in supplies. About every other weekend we’ll have 30-50 people show up and have a great time. 


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: FrostyFreeze on October 01, 2013, 11:27:34 am
I just got my access to this forum and thought I’d start here with a little history. My BYT actually started back in the late 70s with a Eumig Super 8 sound projector and a 50” screen. Later added a 16mm Projector, but eventually ran out of material (Library quit lending films). Fast forward about 30 years… since I couldn’t convince the wife to invest $100s in a PJ, I found an Epson S1+ on ebay “untested” for $40 including shipping (said they didn’t have a power cord). Plugged it in and it worked like a charm with about 1200 hrs left on the bulb (still going strong). I hung a twin sheet on the back of the garage and started a tradition that has grown every year. Recently upgraded to the Home Cinema 725HD (with the wife’s blessing) and a 15’ x 10’ tarp on an EMT frame. Have a popcorn machine and a friend at Gold Medal that keeps me in supplies. About every other weekend we’ll have 30-50 people show up and have a great time. 

Welcome aboard Player! Got any pics of that original 70's setup you can share? I'd love to check that out.

Also, what are you using for sound now?


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Player on October 01, 2013, 11:53:29 am
“Got any pics of that original 70's setup you can share? I'd love to check that out.”
If I do they’re buried somewhere.  ;) I’ll look.
For sound I use a little Pyle like 30 watt amp (they call it 120 watt ha, ha), a pair of 6” aiwa bookshelf speakers and an 80 watt Dayton sub. I have plenty of headroom for the crowds we get. If I need to go bigger, I do have a 500w Behringer P.A. system I can pull out.
Here's a Shot from the current setup. (in Eco and Cinema mode)


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: Player on October 02, 2013, 07:11:51 am
No luck on the 70s pics (8mm era), but I’ll keep looking.
Here are a couple of the current setup. The 725HD does pretty well even while the sun’s still out.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: SR on February 20, 2014, 11:33:10 pm
While this thread is "How to build a backyard theater on the cheap", and I DID do that. It has become more like How to operate a backyard theater on the cheap or how to keep the movies going on a shoe string budget.

Typically our season starts in late May or early June, and I usually get out there and inspect the screen (perminite  wood frame / plywood surface) about a month or so before so I have time to paint or make repairs before the season starts. 

Since I am currently unemployed, and had some dry weather today, I decided to do my inspection early and I took a look at things this afternoon.   

Projector and backup PJ are working good and still have lots of bulb life. Check.
FM Transmitter working good.  Check.
AM transmitter working as good as it can. Check.
Sound processor working good. Check.
PC & DVD player working good. Check.

Ok, we did good there time to go inspect the screen.  Surface looks ok.  Paint is still good just a little bit of streaking from the winter weather, so I should be able to just get away with a quick pressure washing when we get closer to opening which is great because I hate having to paint that thing.  Not only is a litte challenging because of it's size but also  because of the rain we get here in the fall / winter / spring seasons.  So good so far everything has gone well.

I walk around the backside of the screen and start inspecting frame.  The actual 2X4's that vertical and the back frame for the screen surface is still looking good and solid.  However the back bracing supports that runs from the top of the screen down to the ground at an angle are not so happy looking.  Parts of the back bracing are getting so soft I now need to start worrying about it coming down in a windstorm now. 

I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet to replace the support boards.  Remember the screen was initially built with 100% salvaged wood to begin with, much of it being who knows how many years old to begin with.  I did replace the screen surface plywood a year or so ago and at that time the support braces were still looking ok.  It always amazes me how fast wood deteriorates once it gets soft enough to notice. 

So it looks like I will be hitting the craigslist "free" section to try to find some used 2X4's and maybe even some 4X4's if someone is tearing down or replacing a deck there is often some nice long useable boards in that. 

I guess what I am saying here is running a backyard theater on the cheap has some unique issues.  I see a lot of people here that don't typically wear out their equipment, as they are constantly changing and upgrading things.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, it's just that for me at least I have to keep my backyard theater budget to an absolute minimum.  And since I bought a really nice used FM transmitter to replace the nearly wornout AM unit, last fall I can't spend a bunch of money on wood right now, especially without a job at the moment.  keeping operation and repair expenses to an absolute minimum is key for me to be able to keep the movies rolling.


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: BYDoug on May 08, 2015, 03:04:13 pm
There's been a couple of changes since I last posted. I upgraded my receiver to 5.1 and added an 18" Sony sub that I set on a 4'x4' cut piece of plywood to help distribute the low frequency. I still want to get some pics up here because it's such a cool and easy set up and the sound now is like bringing the indoors outside. I added a couple of front speakers that were FREE on Craigslist. They're vintage Realistic towers and for the front they sound amazing. I coupled those with two Pioneers floor speakers (again vintage) in the back and an older KLH cabinet speaker for a center channel. All big speakers with plenty of sound!

The last movie I did all the folks that came over were blown away with the sound quality. I normally start out the evening with a concert (usually Clapton from the Crossroads series) while it's still too light to see. Then as the image starts to appear I can tweak the video settings to make it clear and crisp. With the horseshoe pits and a few other games we're good for the afternoon. We'll fire up the grill or the smoker and make a day of it!

Let me know if I can help anybody with suggestions or ideas on how to do this on the cheap. I'm thinking next of possibly going 3D... and maybe 7.1... blue rays are getting cheaper so if anybody has any ideas on that that they would like to share then please reply to my post!


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: genesis76 on May 10, 2015, 04:00:48 pm
There's been a couple of changes since I last posted. I upgraded my receiver to 5.1 and added an 18" Sony sub that I set on a 4'x4' cut piece of plywood to help distribute the low frequency. I still want to get some pics up here because it's such a cool and easy set up and the sound now is like bringing the indoors outside. I added a couple of front speakers that were FREE on Craigslist. They're vintage Realistic towers and for the front they sound amazing. I coupled those with two Pioneers floor speakers (again vintage) in the back and an older KLH cabinet speaker for a center channel. All big speakers with plenty of sound!

The last movie I did all the folks that came over were blown away with the sound quality. I normally start out the evening with a concert (usually Clapton from the Crossroads series) while it's still too light to see. Then as the image starts to appear I can tweak the video settings to make it clear and crisp. With the horseshoe pits and a few other games we're good for the afternoon. We'll fire up the grill or the smoker and make a day of it!

Let me know if I can help anybody with suggestions or ideas on how to do this on the cheap. I'm thinking next of possibly going 3D... and maybe 7.1... blue rays are getting cheaper so if anybody has any ideas on that that they would like to share then please reply to my post!


Sounds great     Clapton with Phil Collins on drums.....Right? ;D


Title: Re: How to build a backyard theater on the cheap
Post by: ThriftStoreKing on June 21, 2017, 01:16:29 pm
I have been fortunate to find some good projectors for around $30-$50 bucks at thrift stores.  They are by no means Super High Def but they work for outdoor activities.  My sound system was my biggest investment.  I have a system that will shake foundations... the only problem is that it is a bear to haul around.  So I'm currently trying out a smaller system that will adequately work for a back yard, and yet will be much easier to transport.  Folks have started making requests to have the movies in their back yards and I'm getting too old to haul the big stuff around.  My screen is a 7 x 12 foot piece of canvas that has been very durable.  Contact local schools and colleges to see if they are upgrading their AV equipment and you might just score a good deal on a projector. My 2¢.