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Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Make your Own Movie Projector

How great would it be to watch movies on the big screen (aka. your living room wall) without spending $500-$1000+ on a projector first? If you're like me, the idea of having a home movie projector is a luxury hardly worth contemplating... until you hear this:

Thanks to the geeks at Inventgeek.com even frugal people can plunge into the home theater craze. All you need is a little creativity, a DIY attitude and this tutorial and you can build your own projector.

Contributor Jared Bouck lays it all out for us and does it in a budget-conscious way. He discusses different methods for building the project and compares the price of each method to the quality of the finished product it produces, helping us pick out some of the cheapest component materials possible and still put together a quality picture. The option he determines best balances cost and quality is to combine an used overhead projector, an LCD projection panel from ebay and a commercial home movie screen. Bouck estimates the total cost of all the materials to be somewhere around $175, but the price really depends on the deals you find on the overhead projector and the LCD panel. You can also skip the commercial movie screen and knock $110 off your total project costs. According to Bouck, the whole project can be put together in less than 5 hours.

The Pros and Cons of the Inventgeek model:


  • You get a cool movie projector at a fraction of the cost, and your total price depends on your bargain finding ability.
  • Replacement bulbs are much cheaper (as much as 10 times!) and may last longer than the special bulbs commercial projectors require.
  • You'll have fun making (or trying to make) it.
  • You can consider yourself a geek!


  • It could end up costing more than you expect.
  • As Bouck warns, the overhead projector may be noisy.
  • The unit will be larger than a commercial projector and probably not very beautiful.
  • It does require a little technical knowledge and you may not be comfortable with the directions.
  • Most LCD projection panels on ebay are sold "as is." I think that pretty much says it right there.
  • You won't be as geeky as the guys who came up with the idea, but you'll be close.
If you slept through woodshop and/or you don't consider yourself all that tech savvy, you may be interested in Lumenlab's DIY builder guide and ready-made parts store. It all seems a little more polished, though also more expensive. But I kind of prefer the trail-blazing excitement, not to mention the additional cost control, in the Inventgeek project.

I'm dying to try this project, but, alas, I've pretty much come to the conclusion that shipping an old, used overhead projector to Africa probably wouldn't be too thrifty, even if I found it on ebay or a friend got it at a garage sale. For that matter, just shipping the LCD projection panel would cost me a pretty penny. So I'm going to have to wait, for now.

But in the meantime, I'd love to hear about stories and suggestions from anyone who has tried this. And to all others who might give it a try, good luck and keep me updated! Just remember, even if you can get it down to around $70, this is still an expensive project, so make sure it really fits into your budget before you try it.

Related Posts to make movie night more frugal:
Free Movies! : Money Saving Tip #6
How to Make Perfect Stove-top Popcorn: Money Saving Tip #7

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