How to build a DIY outdoor movie screen
COVID-19 means that we are spending more time at home in order to protect our own and others' safety. Social distancing and working from home when possible are also likely to be with us for some time. To cope with this, we need to find new ways to do things we used to enjoy in a fully socially distanced way. In this post, we look at how to build your own movie screen as one way to enjoy some escapism and hark back to happier times in a safe and socially distanced way.
Step-by-step guide to make your own movie screen
When socially distancing, outdoor activities are better as they carry less risk than indoor activities. Equally, indoor cinemas make one of the worst environments in terms of risk of spreading COVID-19. As such, an outdoor movie screen is a great way to overcome this challenge. Theatres and cinemas around the world are also finding novel ways to bring performances to our homes. Why not enjoy it on the big screen, safe in the comfort of your own garden?
Here, we outline the simple steps you can follow to build your own outdoor movie screen from scratch:
1. Get materials together
The first thing you'll need to do is find or buy the following items:
- A large drop cloth canvas (for the screen) - make sure to buy a canvas that is not made from scraps and that is made form full panels.
- A projector (can you borrow one from work?)
- At least 26 screws
- 3 X 2 by 4 wooden studs
- An electric saw (a miter saw wood be good)
- A screwdriver
- A staple gun/ hammer and nails
- A measuring tape
2. Cut the screen frame to size
Once you've got your wood and canvas, you need to decide how big you want your screen to be. This will obviously have to be within the bounds of what is offered by the wood and the canvas. A 3-by-5 feet screen is a decent size that is fairly easy to maneuver. Cut your 2 X 4 wood studs as required. The 3 feet represents the height, whilst 5 feet is for the width.
For a 3 X 5 screen, this would actually require cutting 4 X 5 feet long wooden studs. The extra length on the height can then be used as feet for the screen. You will also need 2 pieces of at least 2 feet to attach as stabilizers for the feet/frame-legs. A miter saw makes this task easier but any saw will do. Alternatively, you could cut 2 extra studs so that the feet and the frame are separate if you have plenty of wood.
3. Assemble the screen frame
Lay out the frame flat on the ground, leaving the feet stabilizers to one side for the time being. Ideally, place the flattest edges together for a neater finish. The flattest edges will be likely to be the stud edges that were machine cut - unless you're particularly neat with your cuts. These can then all be screwed together tightly.
It is a good idea to pre-drill holes in the frame. This helps to prevent the wood from splitting and makes the task a whole lot easier. Deck screws are ideal for this task. It's good to place at least 4 on each join to ensure that the frame is securely fastened together. This will also make it much more durable in the long-run.
4. Staple/nail your cloth canvas onto the frame
It's best to have at least a couple of pairs of hands for this next part. Ideally, the canvas should be big enough to be pulled tightly over the frame and stapled onto the back of the frame. A mid-thickness canvas of 8-10-oz will be easiest to work with. You should also give the canvas a good wash and dry it out first. This helps to ensure the screen is completely clean and helps to ensure there are no wrinkles in it before placement.
Pull the canvas tight and staple it in place if you have a staple gun. If not, you can hammer in the staples. Make sure to pull the canvas completely taut before stapling. Once it is stapled in place, you can trim off any unsightly edges. This would be very challenging with just a single pair of hands.
5. Attach the stabilizers
Now you're ready to test it's standing legs and attach the stabilizers. Put the 2 feet block you held in reserve against the base of the feet and screw it into place. If it feels at all unstable, you may wish to add a stabilizing bracket as a support between the stabilizer and the legs. This is a good idea if things can get a little bit windy where you live. However, this will require a couple of diagonal cuts which can be more challenging.
With that, you are good to go! You will need a decent stand for your projector though so if you are loving your newfound carpentry skills, then you can give making a box-stand a whirl with any leftover pieces from the screen frame.
This project won't take long to complete and is a great way to enjoy some light-relief in a challenging time. As quarantines adapt over time it also makes it possible to be in the vicinity of loved ones safely. With this project, we can do this whilst enjoying the wonders of the cinema, theatre, or anything else you want to watch in the great outdoors.