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Following up on my previous entry about my do-it-yourself
projector, when Alisa came to visit in May we built a screen for the
projector. We picked up a 6-foot long, 1-inch diameter curtain rod at
Home Depot, and 6 feet of blackout cloth at Jo Ann Fabrics. While at
first we were thinking of wrapping the cloth around the rod, we
discovered we could just tape it directly to the rod. The rod itself
is slightly fluted, which allowed us to easily line up the blackout
cloth in a nice straight line. Packing tape is in place on the two
ends, and regular masking tape is holding up the rest.

Blackout cloth, for those who don’t know, is white, not black. It’s
meant to be attached to regular curtains to block out all the light
coming in to the room. In fact, we bought some extra blackout cloth
to cover my sliding glass door and the nearest window to make the
picture more viewable during the day.

The picture quality has improved dramatically compared to the wall.
While my walls are white, they’re also textured and not quite
reflective enough. Previously, the contrast was poor with very dark
scenes being too dark and very light scenes being too light. Now the
picture looks great!

Picture of my projector in action

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5 comments to

  • Can you give me more info on this project (specifically parts used)? I tried to go to the old link, but it’s 404’d.

  • Are you still using this system? Have you put in any upgrades since? How is the quality compared to current display alternatives?

    • Yes, I’m still using it. In our new place, we didn’t have a good place for the rod and we wanted to be able to hide the screen away when we weren’t using it. I got two large pieces of cardboard (from some flat-pack furniture we bought), and glued them together using some other pieces of cardboard running orthogonally, something like this:

      -----------------------------------------------------
      |                                                    |
      |          ------                    ------          |
      |          |    |                    |    |          |
      |          |    |                    |    |          |
      |          |    |                    |    |          |
      -----------|    |--------------------|    |-----------
      |          |    |                    |    |          |
      |          |    |                    |    |          |
      |          |    |                    |    |          |
      |          ------                    ------          |
      |                                                    |
      -----------------------------------------------------
      

      With Alisa’s help, I pulled the blackout cloth over the cardboard and stapled in place on the back (much like pulling canvas). We punched two holes through the cardboard and cloth near the top and ran string through the holes so we could hang the screen. We hide the screen behind a bookcase when not in use. To set it up, we just hang it from two nails on top of the bookcase.

      Another issue I’ve faced is that DVDs with Macrovision copy-protection cause the movie to get brighter and darked because the projector auto-adjusts the contrast like a VCR. I’d say this happens on around 1 movie in 10. I’m working on getting a Macrovision filter to get rid of the problem altogether.

      It’s definitely a configuration that lends itself well to upgrades. You can get a) a better overhead projector (more lumens), b) a better transparent LCD display (higher resolution), or c) a better screen (better contrast). I’m still on a tight budget, so I haven’t upgraded anything yet. ;)

      The quality of my configuration is pretty good. It does require the room to be mostly dark. It doesn’t need to be pitch black or anything, but don’t expect it to work well in daylight. A plasma or LCD TV will work better if there’s more ambient light, but the projector is better at creating “mood”. :-) Also, the projector and screen can be tucked away easily if you’re the sort who doesn’t feel that a TV should be the centerpiece of a room.

      The price for LCD projectors has come down tremendously over the past couple of years, so with a bit more cash, it’s possible to just get one of those instead of an overhead projector plus a transparent LCD screen. It’s a lot more compact.

      The transparent LCD that I have only does 640×480, so it’s TV-quality and TV-proportions (4:3). Within a few years, I’ll be hunting for widescreen and hi-def.

      When choosing a projector (overhead or LCD), make sure to research how much the bulbs cost and how often they will need to be replaced. For my projector, they’re something like $5. For certain other projectors, they’re closer to $100.

      Bottom line: Personally, I’d definitely pick a projector again, but there are some good and bad points so it’s a matter of taste.

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