DIY Backyard Theater

Sure it takes some skill to put together, but the payoff is large-this rolling LCD projector lets you enjoy al fresco film nights all summer long.

Although Lumenlab has greatly simplified the LCD projector project with its ready-made parts, it´s still not a job for the DIY newbie. You´ll need carpentry skills to create an enclosure and wiring skills to connect all the parts without electrocuting yourself or burning down your projector. And then there´s the LCD panel stripping-even PopSci photographer John Carnett, a lifetime DIY guy, killed the first LCD TV we sent him.

Lumenlab offers a PDF instruction manual (download here), but it´s more of an overview than a step-by-step guide. The best advice: just comb through the forums at You´ll find hundreds of threads discussing the basics, as well as advanced tips and tricks others have learned along the way. To hear Carnett discuss building the PopSci projector-a task that took him more than a week-download our photo podcast (coming soon).

Attaching the uprights to which the projector box will bolt
Attaching the uprights to which the projector box will bolt John B. Carnett
The box mounted on its frame
The box mounted on its frame John B. Carnett
16-inch lawn-mower wheels
16-inch lawn-mower wheels ensure that our baby can take any terrain John B. Carnett
Testing a lens enclosure mount
Testing a lens enclosure mount. Carnett ended up just flush-mounting the lens to the face of the enclosure John B. Carnett
steel-rod axels are Mig-welded to the frame
We decided to put our projector on wheels so it could just roll out of the house and into the backyard for summer movie nights. Here, the steel-rod axels are Mig-welded to the frame John B. Carnett
heavy-duty transformer
The ballast-that black box with the wires coming out of it-is a heavy-duty transformer that generates enough voltage to power the super bright bulb that makes this project work. It´s an ugly box, so Carnett welded a small metal enclosure to keep it out of sight John B. Carnett
projector on sheet on side of house
Carnett (right) and a friend enjoy the fruits of his labor on his deck in Philadelphia using a sheet hung on the side of the house. The less ambient light, the better the projected image John B. Carnett
full-size template
Carnett’s neighbor, an architect, took the downloadable Haas plans, plugged them into a cad machine and printed a full-size template to cut around John B. Carnett
The case starts to come together
The case starts to come together John B. Carnett
guts of LCD TV
The guts of the LCD TV that Carnett stripped to get the LCD panel. Note his fingerprints are all over it-this was the LCD that Carnett trashed trying to take it apart. The arrows denote ribbon connections on the side of the monitor. Carnett broke a similar ribbon on the bottom as he bent it back. He used the dead panel to test fit the rest of the parts, making the project easier. ** How to ruin an LCD panel, in Carnett´s own words:**
You´re excited. Slow down. Remember that the panel is the heart and soul of your project-kill it, and no matter how great your woodwork, you got no picture. My mistake was a simple sticker. A Lumenlab forum thread said that the part of the panel that involved high voltage was not required. So when I saw that â€high voltage†sticker, I ripped out the part. It turned out that the sticker was on the wrong area; I had ripped off something I really needed. In two seconds of frantic excitement I killed my panel. Take it slow, please. The panel you save could be your own. John B. Carnett
extra tabs on monitor
Carnett’s monitor had extra tabs on the side that were not required, so he just bent them back around the glass and installed the panel John B. Carnett
1/8-inch maple slid into router slots
With top and bottom panels fitted in place, Carnett was able to bend the 1/8-inch maple into shape by sliding it slowly into the router slots he made in the murado John B. Carnett
Mig-welding the steel frame
Mig-welding the steel frame that holds the grate in place John B. Carnett
murado wood that would become the side panels
The murado wood that would become the side panels for the curved Haas-style enclosure (named for the forum poster who first built this type of enclosure instead of the typical rectangular box). Carnett chose it to contrast with the maple he used for the top and bottom panels John B. Carnett
finished projector on wheels
The finished beast. The tablet-style DVD player supplies the video source and mounts with Velcro to the 1/4-inch steel plate on the rear of the unit. An extension cord from the house provides power to the unit via a single plug John B. Carnett
Raw 1/4-inch steel
Raw 1/4-inch steel for the DVD player shelf and plates John B. Carnett