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HT on a budget, guide me oh gurus

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#1 of 6 OFFLINE   that1dude



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Posted April 07 2009 - 10:20 AM

I'm going to be building a theater in my basement. After several years of trying to convince myself its the most important thing I can do with that several thousand dollar investment, I've come to the conclusion that I don't really need all that. I just want it to be cool, not pretentious. Maybe pretentious isn't the right word, but my audio will be coming from a $200 Panasonic 5.1 home theater in a box that's served me just fine upstairs to this point, not some acoustically perfect $20,000 system. My theater will be relatively pretty, but not acoustically perfect, and will have no back wall so I can see it from the game room to shoot pool while watchin' sports. Basically, my interest is having a BIG picture down there. It should be awesome for watching sports & races, great for movies, and fun for playin' Wii. The more I read through here, the more I see the fine art of home theater is infinitely more involved than I'm planning to do. I'm looking into going the used route for my projector to save substantial amounts of money.

I found a Panasonic PT-AE900 for sale used. Its got a little over 800 hours on the lamp, and they want 500 bucks for it. This seems like a good price to me since the lamp should last 3000 hours and the specs are considerably better than those of anything else in this price range I've seen so far, including used stuff. Basically the way I see it is that I've got 2000 hours left, so at 4 hours per movie/race/game/party, I get to use it 500 times, so I've got a huge screen for about a dollar a day. I see lamps for it online for around $315 shipped, so if I replace the lamp down the road its still not as expensive as buying a comparable projector for $3,000+. What am I missing here?

Then, after the projector, Any reason not to get a cheap screen too? Keep in mind my goal is not the ultimate cinematic experience. I've seen 120" screens for as little as 80 bucks online, will those suffice? Whats an $800 screen got that those don't?

So, for projector, screen, and audio, I'm looking at <$1K. We've established I'm a cheapskate, but am I an idiot too? Posted Image

#2 of 6 OFFLINE   Jim Mcc

Jim Mcc


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Posted April 07 2009 - 12:34 PM

I would not pay $500 for that projector. Even if I knew the person, and nothing was wrong with it. The bulb might last 3000 hours(in low power mode) but chances are it won't. Bulbs can go out at any time. There are new 720p projectors out there for as low as $600. Do you have to have an LCD projector? I'm not familiar with the screens you're referring to, but I made and painted my screen for about $40 and it works great.

#3 of 6 OFFLINE   that1dude



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Posted April 07 2009 - 01:11 PM

actually, I have no idea if I have to have LCD or not. Posted Image I know very little about projectors still. I know what I want it to do though if that helps...I know I want to be able to hook up a Wii, DVD, cablebox, computer, and eventually PS3 or blueray to it. I know my basement is currently 25'x40' in the area thats going to be finished, and of that I'm planning on a 12' wide media room thats open for the full 40 feet back to my bar & billiard room. I have no windows to worry about so I know light isn't going to be a problem. I have a 42" 720P LCD upstairs, so I know I don't particularly need 1080P downstairs, I won't know the difference. Where can I get a $600 720P projector new? What do I really need? Maybe I could get an even cheaper one if its not 720P & still be happy?

As for the screen, pricegrabber.com has a plethora of options. I have no idea which ones are good & which ones are junk though. Making my own sounds like a good idea, I hadn't even thought about that. I'm guessing somewhere on here I'll find a tutorial explaining how?

#4 of 6 OFFLINE   Ennsio


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Posted April 08 2009 - 05:28 AM

If you want a projector home theater system on a budget, building your own screen is definitely the way to go. My brother and I built a 100" screen that looks great, cost less than $100 and it was super easy to do.

Here are some guides:
How-To: Make a custom projector screen

Do-It-Yourself Home Theater Screen

The first article is for a 2:35:1 screen (super wide), but we built a more typical 16:9 screen by changing the dimensions of the frame accordingly.

That will free up a lot of your budget for a projector and sound system, although it will be pretty tight at <$1000. In the future, you can always paint your DIY screen if you want the picture to stand out more to come closer to matching the performance of the $1000+ screens. There are online guides for that as well. I doubt you will have any problem with the performance of your home made one though.

#5 of 6 OFFLINE   that1dude



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Posted April 08 2009 - 10:24 AM

awesome, that looks easy enough. If I'm going to do a 96" wide 16:9 screen, (which is the size I was hoping for), I'll need it to be 96x54, right? It says on there that the fabric is going to be 54" wide, so I'll come up a little short...would it be okay to sew a 6" strip of black felt or something around all sides to give me some material I can staple to? last thing I want is to pick the wrong way to staple it & have the screen pull itself off its frame a week after hanging it. Where are some good places to shop for decent projectors? Is there a price point that makes a used projector acceptable as a temporary solution? For example, if I don't need HD, Craigslist is FULL of 480P projectors in the $1-300 range. I know some of the hardcore home theater junkies are probably cringing at that question, but if they're good enough to satisfy me & last me a year or so while I build everything else, then I can go back & buy a good projector later, ya know?

#6 of 6 OFFLINE   imjay



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Posted April 09 2009 - 12:44 PM

We bought a 900U about two years ago in a closeout shop for $600 (floor model from a big store) with 88 hrs. on the lamp - now we have about 800 hrs. and it is working great and I expect it to continue to work great. The 900U can do a very good job in econo-lamp mode - we have always been happy in low lamp mode. If you are a determined shopper you can find a Panasonic 200U for well under $1000 - newer model to the 900U and a better choice - IMO. Screen? We started with a 16:9 white - it live in its' box in the garage - we are MUCH happier with a Da-lite gray fixed square or 4:3 screen - 96X72 - why happy? We learned that just like in most commercial theaters a bigger and more square screen give you a LOT more flexibility with zooming and image sizing when projecting different content - just remember - most films are shot/produced at much wider aspect ratio than 16:9. So, with a larger and more square screen you will have a lot more image size and zoom flexibility. We are Bargain Hunters and bought our wonderful Da-lite, Da-snap screen at same closeout store for $50.00 - retail is about $900.00. I guess my point is that if budget is an issue you should get creative and search for good buys - I wouldn't worry too much about a "factory warranty". Our 900U had no warranty but it has outlived warranty by quite a while and works great. Best of Luck 16:9 is the USA HiDef television aspect ratio - few movies are produced in 16:9 -

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