DIY Home Theater Screen

I bought my first projector from a NASA surplus auction in Spring of 2000, an old Electrohome ECP-2000. It was a joint bid with my good friend Ethan O'Toole of 757 Labs, who knew a lot more about old school CRT projectors than I did. This was a few years before affordable LCD projectors became available. To be able to watch movies or play games with an 8' image in your home was a pretty novel experience at the time. And incredibly fun!

Moving to New York and into my loft in Brooklyn meant that I could finally build a projection screen, so I combined the need for a screen with the need to segment my large loft space a little. So I built an 8' x 10' screen. :)

I had an idea for what I wanted to build, a metal frame with a single piece of fabric pulled tightly across it. I don't have much documentation or pictures of how it was built as I was largely winging it, except to say that it involved electric conduit, blackout fabric, grommets, and clothesline.

Take a look:

The electrical conduit part is obvious, it's the metal frame.

The screen itself is blackout fabric obtained from Comfort House. Blackout fabric is usually used on windows to darken a room, so it's heavy and opaque enough for use as a movie screen. Be careful to order a single piece, some of the larger configurations are actually multiple pieces.

Grommets are the brass reinforcements. I had no idea what those things were called when I had the idea to start this project. All I knew was that I wanted those "metal reinforcement rings" that I remember from boat sails when I was a kid. Turns out that they are called grommets, and that your typical hardware store will have a very inexpensive selection. Included is a cutting tool, a pin, and a little anvil that you hammer the grommet into place with with. I found that I had much more consistent (and quieter) results by squeezing the cloth between the pin and anvil with a very large C-clamp.

And the clothesline tightens the whole thing up. With the electrical conduit I was using it wasn't possible to really tighten up the screen to a high tension without bending the frame. If I had it to do again I'd pick heavier conduit. The clothesline is plain cotton line. I fastened the excess in the corner junctions, which worked out great.

Newer projectors came and went, but the screen lasted for 7+ years. Lots of fun was had with that setup. Games, movies, even using it as a screen for doing audio work on a few of my friends' film projects. If I did it again I'd try to obtain a hunk or real projection screen, or maybe projection screen paint. If you like or even use the design, please drop me a line!