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How to set up a garden cinema

Posted by Dawn Isaac on 17 Jul 2011 at 03:18 PM

I've solved it! Yes, the answer to "how do you get the children away from the screen and into the garden?" is....

...take the screen with you.

So, OK, this might not be 'gardening' per se but setting up a garden cinema is the perfect way to get the family outside.  Best of all, it is far less expensive than you might suppose (less than £350 all in) and relatively simple to do.  Here's how.

First, you will need a projector and it's worth getting something pretty good. Having read countless online discussions on this subject (yes, that really is how I've spent my evenings) I picked the Optoma HD65 - it's simple to use, good quality and gets enthusiastic reviews.  One of these things costs over £500 new but they often come up second-hand on eBay which is where I found mine for the much more reasonable sum of £250.

The other main item you need is a screen which you can construct, start to finish, in a couple of hours.  I made ours from blackout blind material.  You can buy this from Dunelm Mill for £4.99 a metre and it's the smoother, almost rubbery side you will need to project onto.

I used six metres, sewing together two three metre sections on the machine and then hemming the sides for a bit of extra neatness.  The material doesn't fray so you don't even need to finish the edges.

The next step is to attach the screen to  a length of wood.  You can buy something for a couple of pounds that will do the job - like this - and then use either tacks or a staple gun to attached the material along the top edge. You can do the same to the bottom edge of the screen with another length of timber.

I wanted to be able to put up or remove the screen with as little fuss as possible, so I attached three hooks (like these)  to the top edge (easily done by drilling through the material into the wood to make pilot holes and then screwing them in by hand).  These were then mirrored by three vine eyes I had screwed into the wall where the screen would hang. Once the top edge was hooked onto the wall, I rolled the excess material around the bottom length of timber until the screen was taut. Then, when you want to pack it away, just unhook it and roll the whole screen up.

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You can play the movies off your laptop. We have a MacBook so just needed to buy a mini DVI to HDMI adaptor and an HDMI lead - you can find these on eBay for less than £5 each.

You will also need some speakers.  I fully expected to need some major investment here, but actually we used some JLB computer speakers which cost less than £30 and they worked perfectly.

Finally, remember to house the projector and laptop somewhere dry as you will be watching movies at prime 'dew-falling' time - we simply put ours in an open fronted wooden box but you could easily construct something from old bricks or blocks and pieces of wood.

And that really is it.

We had our inaugural screening on Friday night - Moulin Rouge with a glass of champagne and a couple of camping chairs. However, the kids have plans of their own and apparently there will be a Scooby Doo triple bill playing sometime soon.



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