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Projector Screens

Discussion in 'General Hardware' started by TIGR, Feb 15, 2010.

  1. TIGR

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    So I just got a projector. It's nothing special, just an old Dell 2300MP. I mainly got it because it was only a couple hundred bucks and the biggest screen I previously had to watch movies on is my 24" LCD. Now I'm trying to decide what to go with as far as a projector screen.

    The previous owner recommended painting a bed sheet stretched over a wood frame. Hundreds of retailers and Ebay sellers have projector screens of incredible price variance, and even more web sites and forums have instructions for DIY screens. I've now read about more kinds of paint and materials than I previously knew to exist.

    Finally, overwhelmed, flabbergasted, and with a slight headache, I decided to come and ask my good friends here at TPU. What do you guys suggest for a projector screen?

    Things to be aware of:
    · a dark environment is available; this will be going in a basement room with no windows
    · I'm removing the wall paneling from where this is going an replacing it with sheetrock or whatever is recommended, if using the wall as the screen is suggested
    · current projector may be unimpressive, but may be replaced with something better/higher res later on, so I still want to do this as nicely as possible in my budget
    · my budget is only ~$100, but so other people can be helped by this topic as well, general advice and all ranges of projector screens are welcome
    · for the sake of room acoustics, I would prefer a screen that does not reflect a lot of sound, so some type of acoustically transparent surface (fabric) would be ideal, but I can work with anything (acoustic foam will be elsewhere in the room, amount and placement dependent on other factors including this screen)
    · due to room limitations I can only place the projector about 15' from the screen
    · for noise control, the projector (and computers) may be placed outside the room and project through a window—I'm open to suggestions on said window (plexiglass?)

    All in all, I have found a lot of experience, insight, and knowledge resides here at TPU so I hope to get a good conversation going that will help others on this topic as well. I'll update this first post with the most useful info put forward in this thread.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2010
  2. jasper1605

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    I've built 2 separate screens for a projector in the past and used cotton and PVC pipe. Depending on where this thing is going and if you ever need to move it the pipe is awesome. Just build the frame to the right ratio of the projector and go onto projectorcentral.com to see how big of an image you can make from 15'. The cotton has awesome reflective properties for light but its lightweight and if it ever gets dirty you can just wash it! As long as you can get the fabric ends hemmed in so they don't fray after time and put some loops in it as well to wrap around the pipe to hold it up as an anchor. Also, make sure the frame isn't just the 4 sticks on the outside, you'll need a vertical post in the middle at least to add some structural support too.
     
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  3. TIGR

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    Thanks jasper, I hadn't thought of PVC but I should have. Any particular color or kind of cotton sheet? I'd probably try to just find one online if I went that route as I'm in the boonies and don't know of any fabric stores anywhere nearby.
     
  4. jasper1605

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    White is the best bet for your color. The expensive screens that you see online have bits of silver in them too but that's for getting the image a better reflection. Otherwise they're 99% white. What aspect ratio will that projector run? I'll figure out the size of the screen and find some fabric online for ya if you shoot from 15'
     
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  5. TIGR

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    With this projector and throw distance it seems I'm looking at about 100" of 4:3 screen. However, to allow for the possibility of a future upgrade, I'd be up for oversizing it a bit. From the instant I turned this thing on, I've been hooked and now I realize how much I want a higher-res projector (but still planning for this one, for now). Right now I'm projecting onto a slightly wrinkled and dirty off-white bed sheet and I still love it. :laugh:
     
  6. jasper1605

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    gotcha. If you want to move up to a high res would you make the measurements in 16:9 or 4:3?
    Also, with the fabric, most places have various widths that they sell in. 110" and 120" are the two largest ones that I'm aware of (at least within an affordable price range) and being that my step-mom was a fabric trader and that what's she told me I'd have a feeling that's right :) I guess regardless of what you go with just use projectorcentral.com search for your projector on it then look at the throw distance calculator. It's saved me many a headache. Also, if you're shooting for an image with a horizontal of say 120" make the frame 116". The spacers from the T joints and elbow joints add size and make sure the fabric has at least 4 inches extra on each side so put that at 128".

    Use 1 1/2 " piping since that's your best option for finding fittings, 1" is ok but I could never find the right amount of fittings for it. Also, before you glue any of the joints together, make sure the red lettering on the pipe is not facing the fabric, it shows through really easily. Last piece of advice from me (I think), is to also get some black fabric (shiny if you prefer or matte either way works) and put it around the pipes that will run behind the screen. They don't show up when there's light on them if they have black on them, if they're white though it can look like a giant cross hair about to shoot your screen :laugh:
    And for a more movie theater effect, you can trim the outside of the screen with 12-18" black fabric. It really pulls the focus in on the screen and hides any method you used to fasten the screen to the pipe. It's amazing how much better it looks when it's framed with the black. I'll try finding a before and after pic for demo :)
     
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  7. TIGR

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    Thanks, and yes if I bumped up to a higher res I'd definitely go wide screen 16:9 or 16:10, whatever is available.

    For that white cotton, how much does thread count matter and what do you recommend?

    Appreciate your input very much. :toast:
     
  8. jasper1605

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    Higher thread count means softer, not necessarily much better on the brightness and quality factor. 120 seems to be standard (most sheets are that) But if you found something that was 200 it'd be nice though I'm not sure how much of an improvement you would see. If it's like a buck more per yard then I'd say 200 is good, but double the price definitely stick with 120. Unless you'll be sitting 3 feet from the screen then you'd see the patchiness but if you are 9-12' back I highly doubt unless you have superman eyes you'd be able to tell. Here are the before and after (kinda) pictures. [side note the after picture is taken when the Muli Children's Family were performing at "The Barn" our Bible study. Sorry it's not a straight on but it was the best I could find].

    Edit: That screen has a 19' diagonal and folds in on itself in the middle so we can store it away from the wildlife better :)
    Edit#2: the top kids head is over 20 feet above the ground. They stack themselves together like that. Some of the most amazing acrobats I've ever seen. Also, ygmp TIGR
     

    Attached Files:

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  9. TIGR

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    Jasper, thanks for all the help. The link you sent is perfect, and made me realize I have an opportunity to combine projects here. I've been looking at white muslin for a photography backdrop and if I could use the same fabric for projector and for photography, it'd be even more worth the investment. The gears in my head are turning.... By the way, it's fine to post links like that in the forums so here it is for the benefit of others as well (hope you don't mind me sharing):

    Muslin Double Bleached White Cotton Fabric - 72" Wide

    Unfortunately I only have seven feet of vertical space (drop ceiling) to work with in the room; fortunately however, that means I really need not look for anything beyond 72" wide fabric. At 16:9 that would still allow me to go up to 128" wide for an almost 150" [diagonal] screen, depending on possible future projector upgrade, which to me is a heck of a big screen.

    Anyway, the idea of this having dual-purpose capability (projector screen + photography background) warrants further thought and investment to me. It would require a different type of setup, however. The type of photography backdrop I'd like to use would be configured like this:

    [​IMG]

    It curves and lies on the floor at the bottom to provide a seamless backdrop. I would want both black and white backdrops and since it seems having black fabric behind the white projector screen for opacity/light leakage is a good idea anyway, I might as well put them together in a convertible and reversible setup. It also means I have to put more thought into it and beg for more suggestions. :laugh:
     
  10. jasper1605

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    More thought indeed. My initial thought would be to set it up kind of like some of the hand dryers in bathrooms that don't actually give you an individual sheet of paper it's just a revolving roll of cotton fabric. So you'd need 2 sets of both the black and the white fabric at equal lengths effectively giving you 4 pieces. You could sew 1 of the black ones to one of the white ones. Throw that seam over the top cross bar of the pipe frame then sew the bottom seam together too. That would act as the revolving fabric, if you needed to switch it around you just tug it around and it will double as a great anchor for the fabric so it won't fall off the screen. Next, you would just have to sew on the extra pieces to their respective colors at the bottom of the screen. For storage you could just get some small clamps, fold the extra fabric into itself, and then clamp it into the fabric already sewn on the pipe frame. It's definitely a MOD community worthy idea lol.
     
  11. TIGR

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    First off, sorry for the pics. To get good photos from my camera I have to use a tripod and excellent lighting, and I wasn't devoted enough to it to go to the trouble tonight. :laugh:

    I have an idea for how I want to set things up permanently, but first, I did a little side project. Slapped together a frame to test out different materials as projector screens:
    [​IMG]

    As of yesterday I had set up temporarily with two off-white bed sheets draped over some plywood boards. I tried slipping some mylar behind them and found the whites got whiter, colors truer, and black stayed more or less as black. If I put the mylar behind just one sheet, there was some glare.

    A 54" roll of mylar:
    [​IMG]

    I decided to toss some mylar on my frame to go behind the screen materials to be tested. Did a quick job with some duct tape so I can easily take it off later (duct tape out of focus, what is in focus is the reflection of the counter and window, in the mylar):
    [​IMG]

    Note the stretch marks in the mylar. They could be removed with a better job of stretching the mylar, but I left them to see if they'd make a visible difference through the screen.
    [​IMG]

    The 54" x 72" frame on its side. I went with this smaller size to match the width of my mylar roll. This will provide (diagonally) 90" of viewing real estate. That's a bit of acoustic foam in the background.
    [​IMG]

    I leave the room for five seconds and Bella (my black lab) knocks the frame against a chair, putting a dent in the mylar. Well, we'll see how this impacts (no pun intended) the picture later.
    [​IMG]

    The frame lying on the bed sheets.
    [​IMG]

    Bed sheets clamped down. Clamps would not be good for a finished screen as they (mine at least) don't provide enough tension to keep the screen completely taut/wrinkle-free, but I wanted to use them so I could easily and quickly try some different materials.
    [​IMG]

    My camera seems unable to focus on the projector screen (beaten up old Canon Powershot A520), so these photos won't be able to show the clarity of the projected images, only the colors and contrast.

    Matrix Revolutions:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Yes Man:
    [​IMG]

    Transformers:
    [​IMG]

    Again, my apologies for the blur of the pictures; that's my camera, not the projector or screen. The clarity is fine in person (although my projector is XGA [1024x768] only).
     
  12. jasper1605

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    Nice work putting all that together. It looks a lot better than what I would have come up with! A case where the apprentice has become the master lol.
     
  13. TIGR

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    Haha no no no jasper, I don't think so. I have a lot of learning to do. I'm glad I tried out that mylar though (dumb luck, was just curious); if I get less lazy at some point here, I'll take it off and take pics with just the sheets to show the difference. It's pretty significant.

    Don't know if I mentioned this earlier but I did order that muslin you found on Ebay. I also stopped by a fabric store that I happened to drive by today and looked at what all they had (not much of use). Looking forward to trying out what I ordered. I haven't found "double bleached" white muslin in that perfect-for-me 72" size anywhere else so I have to thank you again for finding that.
     
  14. jasper1605

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    You're quite welcome sir, it was dumb luck that I found it. I just typed in a generic thing into google and one of the commercial ads up top was a link to that lol. Have you looked into an upgrade on the projector or are you holding off on that for a bit?
     
  15. TIGR

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    Oi, I have looked into a projector upgrade indeed and opened up a can of worms. I started looking at some articles and forums (link) about DIY projector building. I decided if I can build a 1080p projector for under $500, I'm going to do it. Those guys are doing it with 15.4" screens, metal halide bulbs, fresnel lenses and projector lenses in their own custom boxes. There are lots of build logs on the LumenLab forums that look great.

    Edit to add: I'm confused about LumenLab though ... their site has links that are supposed to be to DIY projector parts and kits but when I click on them, it goes to other products (micRo), so I'm not sure whether or not they sell projector stuff any more.
     
  16. jasper1605

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    I know that DIY projectors is way out of my league so yet again I wish you the best of luck!

    Side Note: my girlfriend is from Minnesota too! You guys got hit hard this winter with ice and snow; that was crazy lol.
     
  17. TIGR

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    Haha it may be out of my league too, we'll see.

    There was a stretch in January when it stayed below -15 Fahrenheit (mostly -20 to -30, not counting windchill) for two weeks straight here. It hasn't been warm enough for snow to melt all winter so we've got plenty of that. I live on a gravel road, and I'm the only one who lives on it so it's the last to get plowed. So all in all ... haha yeah I'm feeling the winter this year.
     
  18. Jizzler

    Jizzler

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    No worries, I'll set the bar low for you :)

    [​IMG]

    Low-end, but fun and free DIY projector using a classic overhead (200w halogen) and old 15" 1024x768 screen.
     
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  19. TIGR

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    Jizzler, I'd love to hear more about that project. Do you have a build log, more pics, etc. anywhere?
     
  20. Jizzler

    Jizzler

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    Naw, it was just a quickie project. I had the above and below pics already uploaded, will look around for more.

    [​IMG]

    Two jobs ago I was going through storage and found the old-school overhead projector and the Viewsonic LCD. Was an analog model with VGA, S-Video, and composite inputs. Also had an audio input board but I didn't use it or the integrated speakers.

    Motherboard standoffs made it easy to mount the boards to the projector. The LCD panel was just laying on top and as you can see, part of the panel wasn't lit. The 200w halogen was 'just' enough for a dark room, but it was very warm in color and hot in temperature.

    Some things that would have made it better,

    - Replace light and fan.
    - Internally mount the hardware.
    - Build a mounting box for the panel, along with cutting out more of the plastic.


    Hmm... this reminds me that I picked up one of those portable DVD players with a 10" screen for free a couple months ago (it's back light was dead). Might try for a DVD projector...
     
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  21. TIGR

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    I've been reading in some other places online that the projector builds with MH bulbs, fresnel lenses, etc. are a needlessly complicated and that using an OHP with an LCD screen achieves the same result. I guess I have some more reading to do....
     
  22. DanTheBanjoman Señor Moderator

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    Building your own projector is fun, though after a while you decide it's too large and clumsy :)
    I built myself one as well like 2 years ago. I have an actual projector now. I've been projecting on a white wall, which works fine in most cases, though when using 3dvision it becomes clear the colors aren't as they should be, manually maxing out red makes it work mostly, though it's not perfect (compared to my LCD). I've been thinking about buying special paint to paint my screen on the wall, not sure how much of a difference it would make though. Would love to ehar from someone who has used the stuff.
     
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  23. TIGR

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    Thanks Dan. The gentleman I got my projector from used Behr Silverscreen paint (from Home Depot, so not sure if that helps you in Netherlands) for his projector screen, but I don't know if it would be different on a wall because he used it on a king size sheet stretched across a wood frame.

    What kind of projector did you build, any build log/info/pics on it available? I'm interested in doing it for learning something new and because I want a projector that will be in a set location, never really moved—so big and clumsy is okay for me. Maybe down the line when I have more money I'll just buy one.
     

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