Outdoor movies and video games can seem like a niche activity, but it's a unique experience that is a great crowd pleaser if you have a large outdoor space. Once you start using it, going back to your old TV seems different altogether. It's quite fun to set up an X-box and play Guitar Hero or Call of Duty outside in a larger-than-life screen, with surround sound and room to move around. Plus movies are always better on a bigger screen and when you save money on snacks out of your home kitchen (and drinks), this investment pays for itself in a few uses.
My friend Dan and i bought a projector for around $550 (Epson 5210X I think) in place of buying playoff hockey tickets last year which were priced about $250 each. We watched the game at home on his wall and had a blast, but we decided we needed a better long term outdoor solution.
This is a really simple design, and the materials cost around a total of $150 for the screen. It was an investment, but a worthy one, because the robust nature of PVC piping holds up to a lot of winter weather conditions, and is fairly easy to assemble and disassemble for storage.
Step 1: Step 1: Materials
For this build, we used rugged and sturdy 2" diameter Schedule 40 PVC piping. About any size over that would be a bit overkill, as the pipe has to stand up to it's own weight as well as support itself against wind gusts (the screen will become like a giant sail).
The general size of the screen started with the actual size of the screen itself. We used a plain white top sheet from Target ($20) which made us a screen about 6' tall by 10' long. This sheet is wider than this, but this length is needed to wrap around the top and bottom posts of the screen for removing it to store indoors (bed sheets and water = mildew and ruined screen. In the future of this build, perhaps a tougher weather-resistant material like Tyvek or Canvas could be used, but the bed sheet was cheap, readily available the proper size, and not that heavy so that the frame could easily support it).
For the PVC pipe sizes, those 2' cut sections are rather convenient for making the legs, and the 10' sections are needed for the top and bottom of the screen frame itself. I would recommend getting 4 of these and cutting two of them down to 6' for the side posts of the screen frame rather than doing as we did which was using three 2' sections with couplers for the 6' sides, but this option works well too.
Our BOM looked something like this:
2 x 10' schedule 2" dia 40 PVC pipe
12 x 2' section 2" dia PVC pipe
(needed 6 x 2" dia PVC straight couplers)
4 x 2" dia PVC pipe cap
4 x 2" dia PVC 90 deg tee (with plain fittings not threaded fittings! threads would be hard to line up, though it's worth a shot if you are looking for very quick assembly/dissasembly)
2 x 2" dia PVC 90 deg elbows
1 x PVC cement (you can use primer first if desired for stronger fit)
1 x White King Size flat sheet (the top sheet with no elastic)
36 x metal fabric snaps, with anvil
12-24 x metal grommets, 1/2" dia or larger (for sides to weave bungee cord through or OneWrap Velcro for attachment to sides
OneWrap Velcro (about 12 long pieces or 20' roll) OR bungee cord or other strong cord
Tools and equipment:
A few willing friends to help (very key to final assembly)
Sandpaper, for roughing up the joints before gluing
hammer aka "persuader" for fitting the snaps into the fabric
Rubber Mallet aka "gentle persuader" (for making good solid joints)
8' to 10' A frame ladder (for when you're putting this together. the more ladders you have, the easier it is with a few folks to get it together, but we were able to assemble it with one 8' ladder)
Drill with ~ 1/4" drill bit (for drilling drainage holes in the bottom of the base. It tends to fill up with water)
Tape measure or soft fabric ruler would be ideal (tailor's ruler) for marking out locations for snaps and grommets
Tee-Square or Framing Square is useful for marking snap and grommet positions