Build a Projection Screen for under $100
In my quest for the biggest and best home theater I could get for my money, I have learned about various technical terms such as the Lumens Rating and what this means for me. I have also been fortunate enough to have a friend let me borrow a Panasonic PT-AE1000U to let me get that home theater experience. The torture and agony I felt as I had to return his Panasonic projector, it was almost like family already. Of course this only fueled my hunger for the big screen experience. Now in my past article I talked about how I had a used screen which I used in conjunction with my friends projector. Unfortunately, while this screen looked absolutely fantastic, it was just way too big for my little apartment. This of course means I need a new screen to go with the new projector I plan on buying.
The dilemma here is that I would rather put more money into the actual projector than a screen. My thinking (until I did some research) was that a good projector would work well even if I displayed the movie on a wall. After all, my walls are white, right? Wrong.
From what I have found the projector as good as it may be is only as good as the screen surface it is being projected onto. Think of it like an artist painting, but with no canvas to paint on. My screen surface needed to match the quality of my intended projector. Even more, I found that a good screen can actually make an average projected image even better. Think of it as steroids for the projected image. The color and reflective quality of a projector screen or projected surface greatly affects what you see.
But with a limited budget, the real question is how do I get the most bang for my buck with purchasing a projector; or dare I say, make a projector screen. Make a projector screen you say, that's silly, in today's fast food world of everything made to order, why would I want to get dirty? Simple answer, it can be cheaper of course. In fact, with projector screens running an average $500 to $1500, I suddenly saw my projector budget running lower than I anticipated. Meanwhile a do it yourself projector screen can run a meager couple hundred dollars. I even found one article on the web claiming you can build a projector screen for under $100! Hmm, this needed some investigation. With these kinds of savings I could easily put more money towards my projector purchase.
The biggest question however, is how good would such a cheap screen be? After all, if the projected screen surface is horrible then my in home movie experience will be terrible as well.
I reviewed the less than $100 do it yourself projector screen article to find it did not sell me very well. Even worse, that may have actually been their point. Stupid sales gimmick, got to love them though. Now this is just a hunch, but maybe, just maybe this article, was really written just to get me to come into their site; so they could sell me something else.
By the end of the article I found that you really get what you pay for. The cheap screen was made with wood, Elmer's glue and Super-white seamless paper. Uh, white paper, really, is this a first grade science project? No, I am trying to build my home theater on a budget, not trying to play patty cake. The good thing about the article is it actually showed screen shots with the DIY projector screen in comparison to a Stewart Grayhawk projector screen. Both were using screen shots projected using an Optoma HD7100 projector.
As expected, the Elmer's glue projector screen performed below average next to the Grayhawk projector screen. The images were dulled out and the contrast was horrible. Seriously, I can't have my friends over to watch a game on a second grade art project called a projector screen. Paper products are best left to other uses, such as toilet paper. There has to be a better alternative.
A little more research and I ran across a product called Screen Goo. Made by Goo Systems, Screen Goo comes with everything needed to build a simple do it yourself projector screen. Again, the question comes up, is this really the solution. The price was about what I wanted to pay as it runs $200 to $300 depending on where you buy it, and thankfully does not come with Elmer's glue. It does however; contain all the various base paint, top paint, paint tray, rollers and even a self-adhesive border tape called flock. I checked out the company's website and found that they had some pretty impressive screen shots o f this product in use.
The product looks like a good buy, but it is made to be painted onto a surface such as a wall. This is an awesome product for someone who owns their own home. However, this would not work for me since I live in an apartment, but I could paint Screen Goo on some other surface such as wood, plexi-glass or anything else to help make it portable. After all, I don't want to leave my really cool DIY projector screen for the next person who moves into my apartment. But this got me to thinking; if I need to go to my local Home Depot or Lowe's to get materials for this make it yourself screen, why not get the paint and brushes there too?
Well, with a little more research I found that there is a difference in the technical aspects (chemical ratios and such) of these paints. So it is probably best to buy special paints specifically formulated for the purpose of being used as a material for a projector screen. Also, I found a competitor to Screen Goo as well. Competition is always good to help in finding lower prices.
DIY Theater sells a product similar to Screen Goo, but you have to pay attention to what is included. Both companies' sell a two coat product which gives superior quality over the less expensive one coat product by DIY. The Screen Goo two coat products are just a little cheaper than DIY's two coat pushing me towards Screens Systems. Also, you have to look at shipping cost on the product; some companies actually offer free shipping, so do your homework.
Of course, now that I am looking at spending a little over two hundred, I am beginning to wonder if I should just wait a little longer and fork over the dough for a real screen. Looks like the next topic to cover will have to be a comparison of screens within my budget.
In the long run, and with just about anything, there is an old saying that is so very true, you get what you pay for. Could you build a projector screen for under $100? Sure. Do you really want to? I would venture to guess, probably not. However, there are definitely some great products out there for the do-it-yourself kind of person who wants to build a DIY projector screen.