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Backyard Theater - Outdoor Movies

Backyard Theater - Outdoor Movies  

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Author Topic: Simplifying setup and breakdown  (Read 6349 times)
Cherry Hills
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« on: August 17, 2006, 11:06:20 pm »

Most of us don't have a permanent outdoor theater setup. So, we have to deal with setting up and testing our equipment before a show, then breaking it all down and storing it after everyone else has gone home to bed.

We have all come up with ways to simplify one or another task. Let's start a list here of "best practices" for making this operation as painless as possible.

My first solution is to use powered PA speakers.

I started doing outdoor shows using the satellite/subwoofer speakers from my computer. This was really easy to set up (once I got it disentangled from the wires behind my desk) and transport. Then, I wanted more power, so I switched to stereo equipment I had retired to the garage. I made a harness with cables for the speakers and subwoofer, all bundled with heatshrink tubing, but it was still more complicated (and weighed more).

Finally, I got tired of setting up a stereo for each show and bought some powered PA speakers. Now, it's back to utter simplicity: string the cable from the headphone jack of the DVD player to the screen, plug into a Y cable and then to each speaker.

It doesn't get any easier than that, and the speakers are designed for lots of clean output, so the wimpy sound from the stereo amp doesn't get swallowed up by the great outdoors.

I don't have a photo of them yet, so here's ChefTom's setup. Note the speakers.

« Last Edit: August 17, 2006, 11:15:35 pm by CherryHills » Logged

Cherry Hills Drive-way Theater
Cherry Hills
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« Reply #1 on: August 17, 2006, 11:12:37 pm »

Here's a great idea for a screen: installing a motorized roll-up screen under the eaves. Credit OrthoFunk with this great setup:

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Cherry Hills Drive-way Theater
Cherry Hills
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« Reply #2 on: August 17, 2006, 11:18:40 pm »

For ultra-simple wiring, try bundling everything into a snake  and then installing most of the wiring permanently under your deck.

Here's OrthoFunk's setup. You can't get any simpler or cleaner than this:

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Cherry Hills Drive-way Theater
Cherry Hills
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« Reply #3 on: August 17, 2006, 11:28:56 pm »

OK, I've stolen some good ideas from others to get this started. Now, everyone pitch in, please.

I remember seeing a really nice projector stand made from a PA speaker tripod with a wood shelf attached, but I can't find the photos. That's a solution that really should be here.

There were also some good pics of using a garden hose for a snake that I can't find right away.

Fire away with the ideas, folks.
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Cherry Hills Drive-way Theater
turnerx5
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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2006, 05:07:06 pm »


For me, buying dedicated equipment for outdoor use means I can keep it all in one place. Not having to tear apart my home theater to “steal” my center speaker means I can keep my gear for outdoor movies together, which leads me to:

Set up at least has been greatly aided by keeping everything together in two cheap "milk crate" type plastic containers from Target. I’ve also found that use of gallon sized clear plastic freezer bags helps – 1 for remotes, 1 for speaker wires, 1 for screen tie downs and stakes, 1 for screen cranks, etc., helps quite a bit.

Hope this helps, Tx5
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cheftom
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« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2006, 07:35:40 pm »

On my outdoor system I only have to attach 2 xlr cables from my rack to the powered sub and then 2 speaker wires to the speakers. A short S-video cable from the rack to the projector and 2 power cords, one to the sound and blower and one to the rack, the projector plugs into the rack also. 


* 2006 - 01.14.06 039.jpg (534.68 KB, 2048x1536 - viewed 190 times.)
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Cherry Hills
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« Reply #6 on: August 21, 2006, 08:27:46 pm »

Sounds good, Tom. The rack really helps.

Is it on wheels?

What about screen setup? (I don't remember - do you have the Sima inflatable?)

And what do you guys do for "tuning"? By that, I mean projector distance, focus, sound check, etc.
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Cherry Hills Drive-way Theater
Cherry Hills
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« Reply #7 on: August 21, 2006, 08:42:12 pm »

Lacking a way to permanently install my theater on the driveway, I keep the screen rolled up on a piece of 4" PVC pipe, with the frame parts shoved inside the pipe. So far, it's the weak link, as it takes a clean, flat space of about 10x12 feet and about 15 minutes to assemble it. I have hooks screwed into the corbels over the garage door, on which I suspend the screen. Once it's put together, it goes up quickly. I secure the bottom with bungee cords to the speaker stands.

All the audio components and cables are stored in a plastic trunk. The cables, remotes and extra battteries are in those sturdy cardboard boxes with locking lids, about 6x9", that computer boards come in. I have a wiring diagram taped to the inside of the cable box. For a while, I had a checklist, but I found that the diagram works faster. Every cable on the diagram is numbered, so I just start at number 1 and when I get to the last one, I'm ready to show the film.

I made some tidy tape outlines and spray-painted a mark on the driveway where the front of the projector stand goes. This helps me set it up before it's dark and get within a couple of inches of the optimal spot. Then, when it's showtime, all I have to do is scoot the ladder a little and adjust the focus. It's a little more complicated "on the road", though, so I take a tape measure and some duck tape or green spray paint to mark the spot indicated by the pj's owner's manual.

The audio cables are the low-numbered ones, followed by the DVD player. That way, I can start playing music almost as soon as I start, which makes me work better and gives a more festive atmosphere if anyone shows up early.

Always have extras on hand:
- small flashlight
- batteries for remotes
- audio/video or S-video cables
- extension cord w/ 3-outlet end
- those long, thin balloons, so you can entertain people if something goes really wrong.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2006, 08:44:00 pm by CherryHills » Logged

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cheftom
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« Reply #8 on: August 21, 2006, 08:58:01 pm »

I have a 16' X 9' Bigg Air screen.

In order to get the distance correct, I use a very scientific method... I have a piece of string that I tie to the leg on the projector stand and run it out toward the screen, where the string ends the screen begins. It sets up without the use of the zoom on the projector so I can use that to tune the size just right.

The rack is not on wheels, I have a hand truck that I can put everything but the screen and speaker stands and only make one trip to the trailer with it. the screen and stands are the second trip.

I usually try to get the trailer as close as possible to the set-up location, this allows easier set-up and breakdown.
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« Reply #9 on: August 21, 2006, 09:07:11 pm »

Damnit Tom!!!  Why do you do me this way?  Now I have rack envy.  Woe is me.

I really like ALL your gear.  It looks first class.  I did buy some lottery tickets this morning so, if everything goes OK I will be right there with you!

Actually, I think I probably have the most complicated setup with the longest setup time!  Even the drivers that come in last at the Indy 500 get something.  :-)

When I actually take this on the road for video gigs, I can do it fairly easy.  I have a rack with 2 amps, and a power conditioner.  I will grab that, my tow 15" JBLs and the stands, the screen and the projector and I am ready to rock.  I bet I could set it all up in about 30-45 minutes.  So that really isnt too bad.

I been working on my screen this evening.  The frame is done and I am going to do a test with the actual canvas tomorrow evening.  It looks really good nd works like I had planned.  Got to get some rope for wind and I am set.  Maybe I will shoot some PICs tomorrow night.

Dano
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« Reply #10 on: August 21, 2006, 09:14:32 pm »

My tuning is not too hard.  I have this big bald area of grass in my yar and set the stand for my PJ up about a foot behind it.  I wait till it is getting a bit darker and try to find a bright scene in the movie I am showing.  I eyeball it and  tweak it a bit at the beginning of the movie.  Saturday I had it right before anyone get here.

My sound is all setup and the only test I really do is run the test tone on my DVD player to make sure I have the wires patched properly.  So far I have done well.  I did take a sharpie and made small dots on my mixer (wioes off with alcohol) for levels.  My amps, I just count off abuot 10 clicks on each one.  It usually give me pretty even sound and it is consistant.  I probably should measure the distance from the screen to the PJ for when I go on the road.

Dano
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kelemvor
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« Reply #11 on: August 21, 2006, 10:11:39 pm »

With some help, my setup can be torn down in under 10 minutes.  Maybe 15...  Setting it up take a lot longer because plugging things in you have to pay attention to where they go.  Unplugging things you just grab and yank.

Unplugging the cables takes under a minute since it's just pull them all out of the receiver, speakers cables from the 3 speakers, audio and power from DVD and video and power from the projector.  Then all those components can just be taken inside by whoever is available to carry them.

The part that takes the longest is the screen but even that we have down.
1) Remove the horizontal feet sections
2) Lay the whole thing down
3) Walk aroun with a hammer popping out the various joints
4) Remove all the horizontal pieces and all but the outer vertical pieces
5) Fold screen in half and roll it up
6) Take screen and PVC pieces into garage

And boom, we're done.
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cheftom
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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2006, 10:23:35 pm »

My screen comes down really quick, I open the zippers and turn off the blower and it is flat by the time the rest is packed up. We fold it, roll it and put it in it's bag and off to the trailer we go.
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« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2006, 06:03:17 am »

Someone mentioned a piece of 4" pvc to wrap their screen around.  I went to Lowes and asked them for a 12' tube that their carpets by the foot come on.  They gave it to me!  It works like a champ!

Dano
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BigScreenThrills
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2006, 11:31:53 pm »

I'll throw in a word of caution for anyone wrapping their screen in PVC.  I have been doing this for several months now (I am using the 12' SIMA inflatable screen).  Actually I first wrap the screen around a piece of 1" PVC, then slide that into a piece of 4" PVC for protection (and then cap both ends).



This was working great, until a party a few weeks ago.  When I was cleaning up there was a lot of moisture on all of the equipment (damn humidity), especially the screen.  I was in a hurry and rolled up the screen wet with the intention of unrolling it the next day to dry it.  Unfortunately I was too late.  The black printing on the PVC had 'burned' into the screen, and it won't come off.



Since it is at the very edge it is not very noticeable, but to anyone doing something similar, take heed.  I have now wrapped the inner 1" PVC with clear packing tape to prevent a repeat accident.

Doug
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