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Design(s) for Temporary Large Venue Home Theater Set-Up's (1 Viewer)

Nils Luehrmann

Senior HTF Member
Mar 21, 2001
How much do I love my home theater?

Well, it has been over a year since the last time I have ever gone to a commercial theater where I was not being paid to do so, but the one thing I do miss about commercial theaters is the energy level a capacity crowd can add to the experience. For certain films, like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Bond films, the energy can be so electric that it elevates the excitement and creates an exhilarating experience. Or for comedies, large crowds can make the film more enjoyable as laughter is contagious and even if the humor isn't that great, just hearing a large number of people laugh out loud instinctively leaves the impression that it was funny.

My wife and I have always enjoyed inviting neighbors, friends and family over for movie nights, but our home theater can only squeeze in about 15 adults (and that's with some furniture modifications). While this is a good size crowd for raising the energy level among participants, it still doesn't come close to matching the impact a commercial theater offers with a capacity crowd. That and comfort level in the home theater suffers.

The other problem with large crowds in a home theater is if kids are part of the equation, you might as well be prepared to call a HAZNET toxic waste clean-up crew. ;)

We thoroughly enjoy inviting all the neighborhood kids over to watch movies, especially during the dog days of summer when they are stuck inside due to the heat, but cleaning up after them can be quite a chore - and you have to child proof all the equipment, and be prepared for "accidents".

It is for all these reason that I have been considering some kind of large temporary our door home theater that I could quickly set-up and break-down for each screening.

I have considered so many different designs over the last year. The one that came the closest was the following:

Large 14’x8’ screen (made from 4 4x8 waterproof building material – like PLASTEX or shower board) set-up in back yard.
PRO’s: Large Screen; Plenty of Room; Best Possible Screen (with the right paint – screen could offer the best picture quality)
CON’s: Equipment (Projector, DVD player, AVR, Speakers, and Screen would all be vulnerable to the elements); Yard Damage from Large Crowds; Lengthy Construction & Set-up Time.

I then took that design and modified it such that I would place the screen in front of the garage so that at least the yard is safe from crowd damage and set-up would be slightly easier because I could store all the material in the garage thus they would be easy to get to. The problem still is having your equipment open to the elements.

Thanks to a member on AVS I believe I have finally settled on a design that will meet most of my desired attributes for a large venue set-up.

In a nut shell, I now have a design that would allow me to temporarily turn the garage into a giant RPTV. :)

I have a 2-car garage and an attached single car garage. The dimensions of the 2-car garage opening is 16'x7' and the single is 8'x7'. So I went ahead and picked up a 10x25 roll of 6mil visqueen at Lowe's. I then cut two sections. A 10x18 for the 2-car garage door, and a 10x7 for the single car garage door, and then trimmed them accordingly to fit the garage opening with about a 3” border for taping to the inside of the garage. I used good old fashioned duct tape which did an excellent job, but I believe I'm going to use velcro in the future as it will make it far easier to remove & reinstall quickly, and will likely allow me to stretch the visqueen such that the surface is nice and flat with little to no wrinkles.

A nice discovery was that I was able to lower the garage doors completely with the screens in place! This was important as I wanted to set up the screen the night before Halloween in order to test it out, but I didn't want to take it down only to set it up again the next night. Obviously I wasn't going to leave our garage doors open over night, so I carefully lowered the doors to see if they would close without disturbing the screen and they closed just fine with no ill effects on the screens. In fact they helped protect the screens from strong winds over the night.

Being able to lower and raise the garage doors with the screens in place made for an entertaining start to the outdoor theater as the doors acted like curtains, where I had them closed until the film started then used the garage door opener to open the doors and reveal the film. I was also able to use the garage door as a mask for the top edge of the screen. this turned out to be a very useful element to the theater as it blocked the lens of the projector from most of the viewers outside.

Another nice feature of this kind of screen is that it is completely water proof (as tested last night when a large thunderstorm rolled through).

As for the projector placement, the garage is about 25' deep, so I placed the projector (Panasonic AE700U) such that the lens was 22'6” from both screens (just have to love that 2x zoom!).

The large screen makes an almost perfect 210” 2.35 screen (192x82), but here are the following image sizes I got for different aspect ratios and zoom settings:

210” 2.35 (192x82) w/2.00x zoom
177” 1.85 (155x84) w/1.61x zoom
171” 1.78 (150x84) w/1.55x zoom
163” 1.66 (139x84) w/1.55x zoom
140” 1.33 (112x84) w/1.55x zoom

For the single car garage I get the following image sizes:

104” 2.35 (96x41) w/no zoom
109” 1.85 (96x52) w/no zoom
110” 1.78 (96x54) w/no zoom
112” 1.66 (96x58) w/1.06 zoom
120” 1.33 (96x72) w/1.32 zoom

At first I set the projector’s lens to be centered to the mid point of the screen (0 lens shift), but the problem I had was that the light coming from the lens was so bright that it created a blinding hot spot on the screen especially in scenes with white or gray. Fortunately the AE700 has a very useful manual lens shift such that I was able to raise the projector such that the lens was now aligned above the top of the screen and thus the hot spotting was only noticeable if you sat close to the screen and squatted down.

The other problem was that it was not possible to keep the visqueen completely flat with the large screen as there was simply too much open real estate. Where as with the smaller screen in the single garage door opening, I was able to keep the screen relatively flat with just duct tape.

Wind was also an issue, but it was only a distraction for the large screen, and it helps to weigh down the bottom edge of the screen with bricks so the wind can’t get under the screen.

As for audio, I simply plugged in an extra AVR near the projector and DVD player and ran only the front speakers which were placed near the edges of the screen, but inside the garage. I did not place surrounds out in the driveway for Halloween, but for neighborhood outdoor screenings I would.

For Halloween I decided to only set it up with the single car garage as the winds were very strong and we were also expected to have some thunderstorms later in the evening.

We started at about 5pm with a screening of Monster’s Inc., then we followed that up with a screening of Tim Burton’s brilliant short film Vincent as an introduction to the next film, Nightmare Before Christmas. After that we played a few scenes from Star Wars IV:ANH, and the first half of the recent version of Peter Pan – which BTW is absolutely brilliant, with not only superb acting, writing, and direction, but the cinematography is absolutely breathtaking! I simply can not recommend this film enough.

The image off the Panny AE700 and visqueen was fantastic, and even at dusk, it produced a very nice picture. It was a huge hit with both adults and children and at one point there were probably about thirty or more people hanging out in front of the garage to check out what was affectionately labeled “The World’s Largest RPTV”. :D

Randy Fisk

Jan 22, 2005
I'm using a screen material now in the backyard theater called Trapeze. 50% stretch both directions. It's fantastic. Great for front or rear projection and washable.

I used a wooden screen for a few years but it was killed by a windstorm.


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