Ballin on a budget

I can’t exactly remember where I first heard this phrase, most likely a rap song while I was in high school.  I thought it was appropriate to the next few posts here, since Chelsea and I are trying to enjoy life and have luxury items, all while on a grad student stipend.  There are three main components to our  movie room: 1) projector, 2) media source (dvd/blu-ray player, cable box, computer etc) and 3) a screen.  Clearly the projector is the most expensive part of the movie tri-fecta, and the price of a DVD player is pretty low (if you don’t already have one) but I had no idea how much a screen would cost.  Turns out quite a bit.

After consulting with my high end electronics friend David, I learned it is definitely worth having a screen vs projecting onto a bare wall, and that there are many categories of screen.  Since I couldn’t justify spending more on my screen than the projector the high end ones were out, and the low end screens that seemed affordable I learned were “glorified bed sheets”.  More consultation and research ensued and I settled on the company DaLite as the best screen technology and quality for the money.  The problem is a fixed DaLite screen is still priced at about half of the projector, even with a dealer package discount.

This was troublesome because Chelsea and I don’t really plan to be here in Ithaca all that long, so I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a screen that isn’t really all that portable, and I didn’t want to spend a ton of money on a screen in general.  So next we hit the web in search of some DIY solutions to our screen problem.  We found many options that seemed to be quite good, ranging from the backside of blackout curtains to photographers backdrop material.  Basically you use these alternative materials and create your own frame for them and presto cheap screen for you home theater.

Then somewhere in our searches I miraculously found what would be the best of both worlds.  A dealer that was willing to sell me the DaLite screen material by the square foot for almost nothing, and then I just have to create my own frame.  This is what I did, and here are the steps.

Once I knew the right dimensions for the screen I hit the basement and found some extra fir strips that were actually quite straight.  A quick trip to the fabric store for $5 piece of felt was next, and then all I had to do was wrap the boards (that were cut at 45 degrees on the ends) with the felt.

I then assembled the frame using these large metal L brackets on each of the four corners.

The next step was to stretch the DaLite material onto the frame and attach it.

My favorite bonus from ordering this material by the square foot is I could select to have DaLite put an optional 2” border on all sides, as well as a black backing for basically an extra 15 dollars.  This was worth it to me for two reasons, 1) it makes attaching the material to the frame much easier, and 2) if we ever need to move and can’t take the wooden frame with us, it will be really easy to just roll up the screen and put it in a poster tube, and we’ll still have black borders needed for contrast.

Here is the finished product hanging on the wall in the movie room.  I love the way it turned out.  Is it as good as a more expensive screen with manufacturers frame and tension?  No.  Do we get the best of both worlds here with quality screen material in a decent looking frame for 1/5 the price?  Yes.  And that is what ballin on a budget is all about.

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One thought on “Ballin on a budget”

  1. Congratulations, it looks just right. What size did you end up choosing? One step closer to the theater of your dreams, or at least a theater you can use.

    David

    PS – not to happy to hear about you guys not being here too much longer.

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