Backyard Theater

I became interested in a backyard theater while camping. There was a guy there who had just a white sheet, DVD player and a projector. It was awesome, they (him and his family) sat by the campfire and watched movies all night. It reminded me of the old drive-ins, just watching movies in the night air.

After getting home, I set out to build a system of my own. I had a few basic ideas and must-haves.

  • Cheap – Get used or make parts
  • Portable – In case I want to take it camping or a friends house
  • Bright – I want it easy to see, even in the moonlight of a full moon
  • Simple – Easy to setup/take down

After spending about 5 seconds looking at prices of new projectors, it was clear that Ebay was the way to go. There were some great deals that could be had on Ebay, but like anything else, you need to do your research. With projectors, there are so many specs on them that it can make your head spin. I’ll go over the major ones to look at:

  • Brighness / Color Light Output – Rated in lumens, this is the amount of light coming from the projector. The bigger the better, but get at least 2000, anything less will seem dark and not work very well with other light, such as moonlight.
  • Resolution – This is the number of pixels that can be displayed. The higher the better, but I recommend at least 1024×768.

I found a Epson 3LCD LCD Projector PowerLite 85 H295A but it was listed as Non-Working/Parts and didn’t have a bulb in it, so I checked Ebay again to find out how much bulbs were and since they we cheap, I bought the unit.  After installing the new bulb, the unit ran perfect.

Next thing on my list was to create a video source for it since I didn’t want to lug around my DVD player everywhere I went.  My solution for this was to load up XBMC on the RaspberryPi and run my videos from there.  The only issue was the projector had a PC VGA input, so I picked up a 1080p Hdmi Male Input to VGA +Audio Output Cable Converter Adapter on Amazon.

For audio I needed something loud, so I used an old pair of computer speakers that had a amp and subwoofer built in.  It worked out perfect, the HDMI adapter had a 3.5 mm plug that plugged right in.

Last, but not least, I needed a screen.  I found Ron-Loc Budget Blackout Lining at Joann Fabric.  This heavy cloth reflects light well and prevents light from going through.  If you’re on a budget, a white sheet works well too.

Overall, I spent less then $200 on the system for those hot summer nights to watch our favorite movies outside.


Making a J-Pole antenna is very easy to do.  The antenna can be made from various materials, such as copper pipe or 300 ohm twin lead.

A – Long Section
B – Short Section
C – Feed Point
D – Gap