First things first, TIME FOR SHOUT-OUTS:
Shout-out #1 goes to the forums at www.BackyardTheater.com. Their website is full of helpful folks from all over the country sharing tips, tricks, instructions, good ideas, AND PLENTY OF PICS of their own homemade backyard theaters (but look at mine first!). From giant yards and expensive setups to tiny patios and portable bedsheet screens and everything else in between! If I hadnt found that site and stolen all of their fantastic ideas, there's no way I couldve done any of the work you see below. It really is easier than it looks, but I still couldnt have done it without them. You'll see me shout some of the folks out individually below.
Second shout-out goes to my first backyard setup above. My old screen was 8 feet wide by 6 feet tall, producing a 120" (10 foot) diagonal picture. Pretty impressive, but it's hard to stay impressed with ANYTHING you've done after spending any time at BackyardTheater.com
I've spent most of the last few months pouring over oldalgebra's website (one of the members at BYT.com). BIG BIG BIG shout-out to oldalgebra and all of her awesome ideas that I openly stole below. Even the idea of documenting all of these "behind the scenes" steps of what I did to put my BYT together is an idea I stole from her, so I'm warning her (and you!) in advance that what you see below is gonna look alot like the link to her site above. Thanks OA!
ONE MORE SHOUT-OUT: My good buddy Jeff, aka Underdog66. He lives about 2 blocks from me but we met on BYT.com. He's upgrading his BYT too (but I finished first, ha!) and he's helped me a great deal. We worked pretty much side-by-side (LITERALLY) on our new screens & BYT's over the last few months, so when you see me refer to "we" and "us" below, I'm talking about me and good old UD. Thanks homie!
NO MORE SHOUT-OUTS, LET'S GOOOOOOOOOO!!
Me and Jeff spent months last year plotting and planning our BYT upgrade plans. PVC (plastic tubing) or EMT (metal tubing) frame? Homemade "Black-Out Cloth" screen or something from Carl's Screens maybe? Where can I find some vinyl??? We went back and forth a few times about what to make our frames out of before FINALLY settling on metal. Jeff just stopped by as I was typing this and reminded me that the "EMT" frames we decided on are not made of actual EMT, but more on the frame later.
Let's talk about the screen first:
We decided to go with billboard tarp pretty quickly because A] websites selling it always had it cheaper than sites selling BOC, B] we're both too lazy to make our own BOC screen (yes, Jeff can sew and sew well, but we're still pretty lazy), C] billboard tarp comes in bigger pieces than BOC does, and most importantly for me - D] billboard tarps are made SPECIFICALLY to stand up to the elements (wind, rain, sun, snow, WHATEVER) while being left outside for long periods of time. I knew in advance that my new setup wasnt going to be the "take it down after every show" type and I'm not hating on Carl's or anybody elses BOC, but it had to be billboard tarp for me. But where to find some??
There are a few websites that sell recycled/used billboard tarps, but we focused on www.BillboardTarps.com after reading everette's reccomendation (I was really rooting for an Arby's ad too ). We always planned on buying one giant tarp and cutting it into 2+ pieces to share, but the size we wanted was always sold out. Then out of the blue it hit me: Didnt our neighbors at my old job used to have piles of this stuff in their warehouse for re-purposing into handbags & backpacks?? So I called them up and they gave me this 30' x 11' beauty for FREEEEEEEEEE:
It's half of an ad for a condo development or something but dont bother calling.
I'm sure all the good spots are taken by now
After a few weeks of good old fashioned procrastinating, we finally got around to laying it all the way out. Neither of our backyards or driveways were big enough for it! Our only other options were to take it to the park down the street super early one Saturday morning before anybody else got there, OR take it to the top floor of my job's parking structure a little less early on a Saturday morning. We obviously chose the parking structure. What we also chose was the ONE day that month that it rained!! We quicky wrapped up the tarp & headed down to one of the lower levels to cut before we got too soaked. We also encountered a very friendly security guard who Jeff sweet-talked into leaving us alone.
We knew the absolute max height of both of our screens was going to be 9'. Jeff knew he wanted 16'x9' already, I was still deciding on my final size. So we cut the height to 9' all the way across, then cut 16.5' of length for him and 13.5' for me. His is on the right. We cut the leftover piece on the bottom into "test strips" we used to see what type of abuse the tarp could stand up to. We *tried* to tear one (nope), we left one out in the sun for a few days (no sweat), we burned one (stinky melted mess), and I soaked one in water overnight (all good). I sure am glad we chose billboard tarp.
A few weeks after THAT, we cut the tarps into our final sizes in my driveway.
(I'm telling the story out of order, sue me)
My 12.5' x 7.5' is on the left, his 16' x 9' is on the right. I probably could've gone bigger, but the size I chose really fits my yard best. But my tarp sure looks tiny next to his! And to make matters worse, he used a couple tape measures to map out the size of his OLD screen on top of his NEW screen, making MY screen look EVEN SMALLER. (Kinda hard to see the tapes in this pic)
To make myself feel better, I did the same on my
new screen to compare to my old one (8' x 6').
Now I feel better
Woo wee, that screen is filthy!!
I used some car wash soap & water with a car wash brush and that did the trick quite nicely. I'd say 95% of the footprints, stains and "dirt crease lines" on the tarp came right up. The other 5% are negligible and canNOT be seen when the movie is playing. All the BYT vets are smiling and nodding their heads in agreement and all the n00bs reading this probably dont believe me. That's cool.
ATTENTION n00bs: I WAS ONCE ONE OF YOU AND I DIDNT BELIEVE IT EITHER, BUT TRUST ME: YOU WILL NOT NOTICE ANY OF THE DIRT, SCRAPES, MARKS, SPOTS, OR OTHER SCREEN IMPERFECTIONS YOU'RE STRESSING ABOUT BEFOREHAND ONCE THE MOVIE STARTS, I PROMISE. AND YOUR GUESTS *REALLY* WONT NOTICE THEM!!! AND THE WRINKLES REALLY DO COME OUT ONCE YOU STRETCH OUT THE SCREEN IN THE SUN FOR AWHILE, I SWEAR!!!!!!!!
Back to the frame for a moment:
Somewhere in between getting rained on at the parking structure and cutting our screens in my driveway, we drove to Paramount, CA (about 20 minutes from us?) to PTM Tarps Inc, "Supplying Tarps, Canopies & Party Supplies since 1979", based on tronn4's recommendation. That place is AWESOME and they have everything: stainless steel pipes, bungees of all sizes & colors, like 6 sizes of pipe fittings (3/4", 1", 1.25", 1.5", 1.75", and so on), tarps (the shiny kind, not suitable for BYT), ALL DAT. And no disrespect to Carl, but PTM's pipes & fittings are crazy cheap, and STURDY too!
Here's a couple shots from our first of many trips to PTM:
And these are ALL of the fittings I used for my frame:
Told you they were good & sturdy! More about those weird "hook"-looking pieces in the middle later.
As soon as we got back to Jeff's house, we cut our pipes and assembled our frames.
Mine (13' x 8') is on the left and Jeff's (17' x 10' + legs/feet) is on the right. If you squint really hard at Jeff, you can see my frame behind him being DWARFED by his insane frame. That jerk.
My frame will leave 3" of space all around the screen, Jeff opted for 6" around his.
After looking around and asking the helpful peeps @ BYT.com, there doesnt seem to be a uniform amount of space people go with, so go with whatever works for you.
This is my frame FINALLY hanging on the back of my house from the over-priced hooks I bought at Home Depot because I was in a hurry to hang it.
I originally planned to strap/bolt the frame to my side wall but this hanging setup I stole from tronn4 works out much better for me, both in protection from the wind (more on that later) and because of how much more space it left me for seating based on the size/shape of my backyard.
FRAME + SCREEN = !!!
When we were cutting the tarps in my driveway, I kept feeling paranoid that my screen was gonna end uplooking like some sort of weird trapezoid-like shape because I didnt know what the heck I was doing. So even though I wasnt ready to hang my screen yet, I had to lay it down against the frame on the ground to ease my fears (I took this pic before I washed the tarp):
WHEW!! They're both the same shape (mostly )
At this point, I'm running out of reasons to stall, so I FINALLY mount my screen. TA-DAAAA!!!
Looking good, right? Thanks!
Jeff found these "Tarp Grabbers" online a few months before we even started cutting the tarps. We went with these instead of traditional metal grommets because we were afraid of what the sharp metal edges of the grommets might do to our screens (probably skurr'd of nothing, in hindsight), and those grommets are a BISCUIT to put in. These big boys just need to be hammered or malleted together. I ended up squeezing them shut by hand with pliers in no time. Really easy & quick. All 4 sides took me less than 10 minutes.
Check out my SWEET KNEE PADS!
Since we didnt go with traditional metal grommets we had to figure out another way to put holes in the tarp. That was an adventure by itself! UD had a hole-puncher gadget made to punch holes in things (duh) to add grommets later but that thing was no match for the billboard tarp, either was the "school supplies" hole puncher we bought at CVS. Turns out the billboard tarps are a 3-ply vinyl + nylon mesh + vinyl sammich. That vinyl mesh is NO JOKE! We ended up having to melt holes through them with a soldering iron, but even the soldering iron had trouble getting through the mesh. I sure am glad we went with billboard tarp.
I went with the super long bungee balls, also from PTM Inc. The cashier lady tried to talk me out of this size but I wouldnt listen. Now I have to wrap them a few times around the pole to make them tight.
I could've gone with the 6" bungees instead but I'm glad I got the longer ones. Why? Well, you never know what else you might use the longer ones for...
...like tying the back of my frame down to the house to keep the wind from lifting my screen off my over-priced Home Depot hooks and sailing away! Since this pic was taken, I had to reinforce the screen TWICE because of a freak wind storm (we never get those!), and finally bolted the bottom of the frame directly to the brick steps below. Like I said, I dont plan on taking my screen down very often, so "ease of removal" was never an issue for me.
Shout-out to oldalgebra (AGAIN!) for the spreader bar idea (that she "borrowed" from matt314159)
Here's a shot of the back of my screen, my spreader bar (keeps the top & bottom of the frame from bowing under the bungee tension), and a close up of one of the infamous "Spreader Bar Hook" pieces. Kindly pay no attention to how crooked the bottom of my screen edge is
I brought 2 "straight through" couplers to my local welder and asked him to cut each in half and make 4 spreader hook pieces out of them. I even gave him pics of oldalgebra & matt's pieces as examples. He made all 4 for $28 total; 2 for me, 2 for Jeff. Cheap!
(Based on similar plans I stole from BYT.com user Murf)
One of the things that really lit a fire under me to get started on my screen was seeing Murf's plans. They're pretty similar to other's plans on BYT.com, but something about HIS plans made me say "I can do this!". I hope reading my build story has a similar effect on someone else out there (maybe YOU??).
Enough of all that, BRING ON THE SCREENSHOTS!!
This pic is 100% untouched. Most nights, I run 50' RCA component cables (red/blue/green) from my bedroom cable box to the projector and watch live TV, in (1080i) HD!!
I lightened this one up a little so you can kinda make out the back of my house.
For perspective (and lightened up a lot):
I also have a 50' VGA monitor cable I run from my bedroom Media PC so I can play DVDs, Blu-Rays, surf the web, search YouTube, ALL DAT.
It feels good to be a nerd!
I happened to have have a Nintendo (NES) and a SUPER Nintendo (SNES) emulator for Mac & Windows and 750+ games for each, too (I didnt know they made that many games either!!).
In your FACE, PlayStation!
Seating area shot
For sound, I either go with this "Griffin Amplifi" iPod dock w/ line-in input or wireless headphones.
The iPod dock sounds beefier than it looks (I promise!), thanks to the floor-facing sub-woofer.
But when I really wanna crank up the volume without disturbing my neighbors, I go with the wireless headphones. If they look familiar, it's because they're of the "AS SEEN ON TV" infomercial variety. They work & sound great!
I TRIED to take advantage of the buy-ONE-get-ONE-free offer, but their shady website tricked me into paying for TWO pairs! In the end, they sent me the two I paid for + another free pair for each pair I bought + two more free pairs by accident(??) = SIX PAIRS TOTAL FOR THE PRICE OF TWO! Don't ask me how that happened.
And here's my new-to-me projector!
It's a Sharp PG-MB60X. I bought it used on eBay for less than $200 and it works great. CLICK HERE for all the specs.
And last but not least, this is my FAVORITE SELFIE OF ALL TIME:
Thanks again to everyone mentioned above and all the other folks at the BackyardTheater.com/forums I harassed about their setups!
I'll probably keep tweaking my setup for as long as I own it and I'll add more updated pics as I go, so check back often!!