The Hess Report

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

More Do-It-Yourself Fun

For the last couple of months, I've been collecting parts and information for building a home movie projector. Of course, you can buy one for as little as $800 (or much more for a good one), but I don't have that kind of money loitering around the home entertainment parking lot.

So I obtained the following:

Sharp QA-1650 LCD projection panel w/backlight: $113 on eBay.

Overhead projector: free, as junk, from an unnamed source.

4'x8' white Masonite board: $12 at Busy Beaver.

25' s-video cable: $10 on Ebay.

The projection panel is what makes the whole thing work. Before the advent of all-in-one projector units, businesses used panels like mine to accost people with Powerpoint presentations. New, the units ran into the thousands of dollars. As they are now obsolete, you can pick them up on eBay for considerably less. They look like a normal lcd monitor, except they have no backlight. The one I bought has a detachable backlight, so you can use it as a standard lcd monitor if you so choose. It also accepts video input for different sources: VGA (standard computer), composite RCA video (low-quality crappy TV signal), and s-video (better quality TV signal, used on mid-range DVD players and video games).

I refurbished the overhead projector: cleaning and repositioning the optics, replacing a shattered mirror, and performing some physical repairs to the case to reinstate proper air flow. Bad air flow in an overhead projector will cause the bulb to overheat and expire prematurely.

So, you sit the lcd panel on the overhead projector, mask of an light leaks if you're a purist, run your s-video cable from your DVD player to the panel, and turn it all on.

Friday night, I set the girls up to watch The Little Mermaid for our trial run. The movie was projected onto a 4'x8' piece of white wallboard, and at the 16:9 aspect ratio of the show filled up a full 4'x7' area. To those of you too lazy to do the math, that's basically a 96" screen. And it looked great. It had a bit of glare off the wallboard, which had a glossy finish, but some steel wool should take care of that.

I can set up the whole thing in about five minutes, and the girls absolutely love it. I'm quite happy, too. There's almost nothing better than building something yourself and having it turn out even better than you had hoped.

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