In the face of today’s high-tech games and fast-paced technology, retro gaming is making a major comeback. The BBC reports that more people are collecting and playing with games on systems that dominated the early days of home gaming. These include the Atari 7800s, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, and Sony PlayStations of the 80s and 90s, and the classic titles everyone played with as children.
The projector screen we’re going to be building is made of PVC and will hold steady in windy areas like where we live. It provides a great picture and is perfect for outdoor movie nights with family and friends.
For this project I used a good quality screen material that I purchased from Amazon. This is Carl’s Blackout Cloth, which you can pick up for about $35. Links are in the description. While you can use a bed sheet or other material, this cloth is designed for projector screens. There is a finished side and a back – you can hear the difference. Lie the screen on your carpet, scratchy side up, and folder over each side about 3-4 inches (8-10cm). To make the pockets for the PVC you can either use StitchWitchery, which is an adhesive strip for fabric, or just sew it. I tried both and the Stitch Witchery stuff, while a great option if you don’t have access to a sewing machine, is kind of a pain. It requires you to lay it down between the fabric, put a towel under it so as not to melt your carpet, put a damp cloth over it and then iron each side for about ten seconds each, all the way along the length of it. I tried this for one side and it took a while so I headed over to the sewing machine and sewed the other three sides. Both held up equally well but the sewing machine was much faster. You don’t need to be an expert tailor or seamstress – this is what I call “functional sewing” – it just needs to get the job done.
When you’re done with each side, cut a square in each of the four corners so that you can push the PVC pipes through. When you’re done, you should have a screen that is approximately 16:9 ratio – it should look roughly like this.
Next I did a bit of man sweeping in the garage to keep my screen from getting too dirty, then laid it out and started getting my measurements. Be sure to take multiple measurements in case your sides aren’t perfectly straight.
For my screen, the measurements were 102” wide by 58” high. I’m using 1 ½” PVC for this bhild. Take your width measurement and start by subtracting 2” to accommodate for the 1” depth of the elbows. For the top and bottom rails, I’m going to break it into two sections so that the kit is more portable. You’ll lose about a ¼” because of the coupling, so you’ll need to subtract that as well. Lastly, divide the result by 2. You’ll need four pieces (two for the top and two for the bottom). The sides are much simpler – just subtract 2” from the height and you’re all set. You should end up with four identically sized pieces (for the top and bottom rails), and 2 slightly longer identical sized pieces for the sides.
You’ve got several options for cutting the PVC. The first is to use a PVC Pipe Cutter. These are pretty inexpensive (links are in the description) and super easy to use. They’re also the cleanest option. If you have a hacksaw, you can use that too, but it’s a lot of work and a lot of mess, plus you’ll have to sand every cut because it leaves them pretty rough. If you have access to a mitre saw, that’s definitely the easiest and quickest way to go. That’s what I chose to use for this project.
Once you’ve got your six pieces cut, lay them out for a quick test fit to make sure everything lines up and then try to fit them into the screen and see how it goes. If it’s too big, that’s ok. We want to cut the pipes down until they barely fit. That’s what keeps the tension on the screen and stretches it tight to get rid of the wrinkles and creases. Keep adjusting until you get it to fit nice and tight.
Once that’s squared away (see what I did there?) you can make the cuts for the legs and feet. The stand is just two feet and a leg for each side. I made my feet about 18” each and then the legs were 2 feet but feel free to adjust as needed. Put these together with one tee and two end caps each, then attach them to the screen to stand it up. Tadah! The screen is almost done!
Now if you want to add some tie downs for windy conditions, one way to do that is to drill a hole into each side of the vertical poles about half way up. Drill through the outside of the PVC and then slightly into the other side, but not through. You can then drive a 3” screw into each side. These act as the connector for the tie downs. Drive some stakes into the ground (or you can just use some heavy objects, like your kids) and then use paracord to tie the screen to the stakes (or the kids). Be sure to have a helper if you’re setting the screen up in very windy conditions, like you see here. You can then use a lighter to melt the ends of the paracord to prevent fraying.
With that, you’re all done. Exxxxcept for that you’re not. I thought I was finished but then I noticed the horizontal folds. I came up with a solution for this that works pretty well. I created a stretcher bar to fit between the top and bottom poles. I had to make a small cut in the sleeves and then I put a 3” screw in the top and bottom of a pole and spaced them just far enough apart that they stretched the two apart. With the stretcher bar in place, the wrinkles were mostly gone, and the one that was left didn’t show up when the screen was in use.
NOW, it’s done – and back yard movie night is on. Oh – and check out that tiny projector in the corner!