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DIY Projection Theater

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

While a home theater with a rear-projection TV can easily perform multiple functions, when you invest in a front-projection theater you should plan on giving it a dedicated space. This is mainly because a projection theater should be dark when in use. If your home theater goals are to watch television or socialize, you may want to go with a traditional large-screen TV. The room you choose will also have a bearing on the maximum size screen you can use. The ideal room, then, is rectangular, at least 12 feet long in one dimension, and windowless or easily darkened. It’s a good idea to have a specific spot in mind for your projector before you purchase it. It isn’t hard to calculate the appropriate screen size using the specs for your projector and your known room size. But a sure way to know you’re getting the correct screen for your needs is to buy the projector, set it up, and measure the image size. Then you can order a projection screen, or you may choose to make your own. You can also use a white or light gray wall, but the image quality will suffer quite a bit compared to a screen.

Tip: Projectors are image-output devices, and that’s it. When you set up your projection theater, you’ll need to accommodate input devices like a DVD player and a TV receiver to provide signals to the projector (which can be a bit of a tangle if you choose to ceiling-mount the projector). You’ll also need to provide a sound output device, presumably your home theater sound system, to connect to your signal source.


Turn a Wall into a DIY Projection Screen

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    Using your projector specifications and room size and desired aspect ratio, calculate your screen size. Or, set up your projector in the position you want it, turn it on, and measure the image size. In the project shown here, a 16:9 aspect ratio screen that’s 41⁄2 ft. high and 8 ft. wide is being laid out with masking tape (that’s a 9.179 ft. diagonal picture!).

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    Fix any holes, bulges, or cracks in the screen area and then coat the area inside the masking tape with joint compound, using a wide joint taping knife. Get the surface as smooth as you possibly can. Once it dries, sand it lightly. If it is not smooth, reapply and re-sand until it is.

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    Using a short-nap paint roller sleeve, paint the masked area with oil-based primer, let it dry, and then cover with two light coats of screen paint. There are several paints with reflective qualities on the market that are formulated to be used as a movie screen surface. Try to get the surface perfectly smooth.

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    Because the image will look dramatically better if the screen has a dark frame, frame it. You can use wood molding painted with fl at black paint if you wish. Here, a specialty tape called FLOK is being applied. Apply it straight and miter the corners. Your screen is finished. If you like, hang a curtain over it.

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