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How to Build an Outdoor Movie Theater Part 2: the Projector

You built the screen with "part 1 of Howcast's series": Now all you need is the projector and the red carpet. … OK, maybe not the red carpet.


  • Step 1: Find a projector Find a digital projector to fit your needs. Take into consideration cost, picture quality, and how often you'll use it. Look for projectors that track lamp life and have more than 600 hours of life left.
  • TIP: A projector with a lens shift feature lets you adjust the image without moving the projector.
  • Step 2: Pick a video source Pick a video source. Laptops can screen a variety of file types. If screenings will rely only on DVDs, use a home DVD player.
  • TIP: If you plan on renting HD downloads, look into an HDCP-compatible projector, which prevents digital content from being copied.
  • Step 3: Choose an audio source Choose an audio source. If you already have desktop computer speakers with a subwoofer, or a stereo with auxiliary inputs, use one of those. For a louder, more professional setup, get an amplifier with the appropriate speakers.
  • Step 4: Get cables Get connecting cables. If you're using a DVD player, use a component video cable to connect to the projector, and an RCA cable to connect to the sound system. For a laptop, use a VGA, DVI, or HDMI cable, plus an adapter if you have a Mac, to connect to the projector, and a mini stereo or mini stereo-to-RCA cable to connect the audio.
  • TIP: If you're confused about which cables to get, take pictures of the inputs and outputs on each of the devices and get help at an electronics store.
  • Step 5: Set up the projector Set up the projector 10 to 15 feet from the screen on a table or other flat surface that's slightly taller than the height of bottom of the screen. Make sure there's enough room for your audio and video sources.
  • Step 6: Connect the components Connect the video source to the projector and the audio source. If necessary, place speakers in the desired locations and connect them to the amplifier with speaker wire. Run an extension cord from the nearest power source to a power strip, and plug the components in.
  • TIP: Tape loose cords and wires to the ground, or put blankets or rugs over them to reduce tripping hazards.
  • Step 7: Take a practice run Turn on the devices for a practice run before showtime. If you're using a laptop, select an auxiliary screen by pressing one of the function keys, often F5 or F7, depending on your model. Adjust the focus, and experiment with different distances between the screen and the projector to get the largest, sharpest image.
  • Step 8: Hold a screening Wait until dark. Then, pop some popcorn, put on a movie, and enjoy the fruits of your labor with friends and family.
  • FACT: The private movie theater in the White House, for use by the First Family, was converted from a cloakroom in 1942.

You Will Need

  • Digital projector
  • Laptop or DVD player
  • Computer speakers
  • stereo
  • or amp
  • Component video cable
  • RCA cable
  • VGA or DVI cable
  • VGA
  • DVI
  • or HDMI adapter for Macs
  • Mini stereo
  • or mini stereo-to-RCA cable
  • Flat surface
  • Speaker wire
  • Extension cord
  • Power strip
  • Popcorn
  • Movie
  • Digital camera (optional)
  • Tape
  • blankets
  • or rugs (optional)

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