A projector screen for outdoor movies is the perfect thing for sleepovers, family bonding time, entertaining overnight guests, playing video games or providing entertainment for the whole neighborhood, church group or Boy Scout meeting.
However, the price for the setup might be beyond your budget. Have you considered making your own? It’s entirely up to you how much money and work you want to put into you DIY projector screen.
You can also decide how portable you want it to be. If you have a place to store your screen in inclement weather, then perhaps you won’t need something that disassembles into a box you can keep under your bed. If you don’t have adequate storage, consider something more mobile.
Your handyman skill is another consideration. If you are able, you certainly can create a projector screen with grommets, snaps, spikes and carved wood. If you aren’t so technically abled, you might consider a less complicated construction.
Finally, you should think carefully about the location of your projector screen. Is there a way you can use the landscape already present in your construction? Are there trees you can incorporate in the design? Do you have a deck that would be perfect for frame mounting?
With these factors in mind, let’s take a look at some DIY projector screen projects.
Quick and Easy DIY Projector Screens
The easiest way to watch movies outdoors is to project the film on a white wall. The drawback is that every little bump and uneven space will impact the move viewing quality.
If you don’t happen to have a white wall large enough for movie projection, you can paint a large piece of plyboard, or several pieces of plyboard, and mount them directly on a wall. You may have the same problem with uneven sections since plyboard isn’t the smoothest surface.
You also may not have a place you want to mount such a large structure. That takes us to our next option.
You can make your own projector screen using a white sheet, white canvas, curtain backing, or blackout cloth. A white sheet, while probably the most economical, might not be thick enough to reflect the projected image, especially if you start the movie before it’s completely dark. Canvas is a heavier material and will not let as much background light through.
The best options for your DIY projector screen are curtain backing or blackout cloth, available at most fabric stores. These fabrics are thick and sturdy. Blackout cloth has a smooth and foam backed side. When hanging your screen, make sure the smooth side is what you will be projecting on, not the foam side.
You might also consider using seamless white photography backdrop cloth. You can order this from shops that cater to photographers. The advantage of this type of cloth is that is has finished edges, adding to the durability.
Photography backdrop cloths are made of non-reflective materials
and are thick enough not to allow background light to shine through.
There are several different ways you can suspend the cloth. If you have a wooden fence or clothesline, you can drape the sheet over the top and use clothespins to hold it in place. If you have a place to tie a rope or wire, you can run the cord through the top seam of the bedsheet and suspend it between two trees.
Using one of these methods, however, doesn’t take into account a wayward breeze that might cause your movie screen to undulate, distorting the move projection. To reduce some of that floating about, you might consider attaching a weighted rod or PVC pipe at the bottom.
You can either sew or use a hot glue gun to make another sleeve at the bottom of the sheet to insert the weight. You might still get some movement with a stiff wind, but it won’t be as drastic.
Any wrinkles in the cloth will contort projected images, so make sure the weight hangs evenly at the bottom. You should iron your material for a smooth screen and minimal distortions. Hanging red or black curtains on either side of your screen gives you the whole classic movie theater look.
If you are looking for something a little sturdier, you can construct a frame for your DIY projector screen. If you are using wood, make sure you make the structure large enough that the sheet lies flat when you attach it. You can use staples, nails or a hot glue gun to fasten the canvas to the frame.
The nice thing about using wood for framing is you can add a bit of creativity and make it resemble a large flat TV screen or add some sparkly paint for a high-class movie screen.
A wooden frame is a little heavy, so might consider PVC to mount your sheet on. PVC construction also tends to be cheaper and more portable. Use at least 2-inch diameter PVC. Otherwise, the frame will be too flimsy.
You won’t be able to staple the fabric to the PVC, so consider sewing a sleeve that you can slide the pipe through. You could also use snaps or ties spaced regularly on all four sides to attach the cloth to the frame. Remember, the tighter the fabric, the fewer wrinkles there will be.
Either the wooden or PVC frame can be hung on or propped against fences or walls. You also might consider adding a prop made of wood or metal behind the structure to support it, similar to a picture frame.
So what happens if you don’t have any space suitable to mount a framed projector screen? Consider making a screen with a stand.
PVC DIY Projector Screen
To make a PVC projector screen with a stand, you will need:
- 12 two-inch diameter PVC pipes cut into 7-foot sections
- 2 two-inch diameter PVC pipes cut into 6-foot sections
- 2 two-inch diameter PVC pipes cut into 3-foot long sections
- 12 two-inch diameter PVC pipes cut into 2-foot long sections
- 2 45-degree elbows that fit two-inch diameter PVC pipes
- 4 T-fittings that fit two-inch diameter PVC pipes
- 1 full-size white sheet
- 6 18-inch ties or sturdy ribbons
The 7-foot pipes are the top and bottom of the screen. The 3-foot pipes are the legs. The 2-foot pipes are the feet that hold it up. Use the T-fittings to assemble the frame. Use the elbows to attach the feet.
Slide the top hem of the sheet onto the high PVC pipe. Measure where the bottom hem needs to be. Take the cloth off and sew the base sleeve. Add ties along both sides.
Put the bed sheet back on the frame. Slide the PVC into the hems on the top and the bottom. Tie the sides to the PVC pipes. Make sure the cloth is tight and wrinkle-free
You can glue the pieces together to create a lightweight
permanent structure if you like. Otherwise, this projector screen
disassembles in minutes for easy storage.
You may find that your DIY PVC projector screen is still a bit flimsy. Anchoring the feet with 1-inch spikes may help. You could also use sandbags to keep the wobble from becoming distracting.
Another, more creative setup, includes cementing the two side PVC pipes into flower pots, then covering the cement with decorative stones or shells.
If you aren’t particularly handy, several sites offer DIY projector screen kits. The fabric is already cut to size and hemmed. The frame is ready to assemble. In minutes, you’ll have an outdoor projector screen.
With your screen set up, you can begin your amazing movie night under the stars with just a few more bits of equipment. Plug your laptop or DVD player into a projector. Organize your speaker system for optimum surround sound. Prepare a couple of batches of popcorn and pop the movie in. Sit back and enjoy!
Keep in mind that there are some legal issues when showing a movie in public. If you and the kids are the only audiences for backyard movie extravaganza, then there’s no problem. However, videos that are streamed, rented or purchased are copyrighted and intended for private use only. Therefore they require a license when shown in public.
If you are part of a church group and your summer camp wants to host a movie night with your brand new projector screen, then you might want to look into getting a Church Video License. Otherwise, community groups seeking to host a public showing as a fundraiser should check out the requirements for Motion Picture Licensing.
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