How I built my outdoor theater
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First things first, TIME FOR SHOUT-OUTS:

Frist 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 complacent once you enter the world of backyard theater!

Second shout-out goes to my good buddy Jeff. He used to live about 2 blocks from me but we met on the now defunt backyardtheater.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 Jeff. Thanks homie!


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. 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 quickly 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.



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". 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.

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 (R.I.P.), 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 my other buddy Hector 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.


When we were cutting the tarps in my driveway, I kept feeling paranoid that my screen was gonna end up looking 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! Jeff 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 BYT.com member "oldalgebra" for the spreader bar idea

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. He made all 4 for $28 total; 2 for me, 2 for Jeff. Cheap!

I made these plans at work while I should have been working after seeing similar plans from someone else on BYT.com

One of the things that really lit a fire under me to get started on my screen was seeing that other dude's plans. They weren't very special, but something about coming across those 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!!

Most nights, I bring my Apple TV outside and stream live TV, Netflix, YouTube, Disney+ (& some wrestling), all in full 1080p

LIVE TV via the Apple TV, but I can also connect my indoor cable box with a 50' HDMI cable



We also play a lot of Wii, Wii U, and PS4 outside...


...but we keep it old school too:

(Ask your parents, kids)

My 11yo's birthday party:


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 BenQ MX711. I bought it used on eBay for about $400 and it works great. CLICK HERE for all the specs.

Thanks for checking out my build story! Any questions?