Step 2: Gathering the equipment you'll need

To run a guerrilla drive-in, you'll need:
  • Bright Projector (1200+ lumens)
  • FM Transmitter
  • Power Inverter or Power Generator with Inverter
  • DVD player or laptop
  • Car

I'll detail these components below, so you'll know what to look for:

The cornerstone of any mobile movie, the projector is what makes the magic happen. As such, you should plan on spending the most on this part of the kit.

That said, you can find the best deals by searching craigslist or ebay for used projectors. With how rapidly projector technology is improving, you can get a $1300 projector from last year for less than half that price today. However, keep your eye on the bulb price. If the bulb is anywhere near death (usually around 3000 hours), it's going to cost you $300 or more to replace.

When choosing a projector, select one with the highest lumens you can afford. 2000+ is optimal, but 1200 or more will suffice if you're on a budget. Other useful features include lens shift (which allows you to reposition the video without moving the projector itself) and a zoom lens. Both combine to make it much easier to just drive up and start projecting films. A zoom lens in particular is vital if you want the most flexibility in where you show your films.

Less useful features are positioning legs (you could just use a blanket), HDMI/720p/whatever high quality projection (most of it will be lost by the fact you're projecting *onto a wall*). Widescreen (16:9) is also usually overhyped - you can always gain the screen real-estate by zooming out and moving your car further from the wall. So if cost is a driving factor, choose brightness and zoom over the other features.

I've had lots of luck with Epsons and Panasonics, and some luck too with InFocus. Oh and LCD projectors often have a brightness/color advantage over DLP. Expect to spend anywhere from $500 to $5000 or more on a good projector.

FM transmitter
You'll need some way to get the soundtrack to your audience. You *could* set up a bunch of speakers on hooks like the days of old, but why do that when you live in the future!

Now, don't run out and grab yourself one of the $30 iPod transmitters. It won't work. You need a transmitter that can transmit sound 150ft+. The only one that I am familiar with is the Ramsey line -
I use the FM25b model, but I hear the FM30 has more features. These units come in parts, meaning you'd need a soldering iron (and an EE degree!) to put them together! Luckily, they're readily available pre-assembled on eBay for about $150.

DVD player or laptop
I personally use my old and crusty laptop to show movies, because it offers the best flexibility in film formats. I often open up a show with the mobmov logo and cartoon short, and then do a 10 minute intermission in the middle.

If you don't have a laptop, any old DVD player should work as well. If you have a mac and iDVD, you could even split the movie into chapters with an intermission that brings you back to the DVD menu. Another viable option is to use an old Xbox or other gaming system - you can often use it to play DVDs (especially if you get a "chipped" version), and you have the added bonus of being able to play games during intermission! Super Mario Bros, here we come!

Power Inverter or power generator
To power all this fancy equipment, you'll need to bring your volts with you. It's very unlikely that you'll find a suitable outlet anywhere nearby your urban cinema. Luckily, your car has a built-in powerplant, which can be conveniently harnessed to power all this equipment!

All you need for this is a basic power inverter. Always opt for more power than you need, so in the case, choose an 800W+ (continuous, not "peak") unit. I'm using an 800W model and it does the trick. Whatever inverter you buy, be sure it's a "modified sine" or "pure sine" inverter. A good quality modified sine inverter will set you back about $50-$100. A pure sine will be more like $400. Square sine will cause interference and may damage your equipment. Pure sine inverters are better on your equipment, though I ran my equipment for 2 years on a modified sine inverter without issue.

You'll have to connect the inverter to your car battery, which in your car is probably under the hood. If it is, you'll need to run a cable yourself or head over to BestBuy or someplace and have them run it for you. For my car, this only cost $20. If you do power your equipment in this manner, you'll need to keep your car running, as car batteries don't enjoy being drained all the way down.

A far more efficient and environmentally friendly (albeit more complicated) method is to use a power generator with built-inverter. These relatively small beasts are made by Yamaha and Honda, are pretty quiet, and start at around 1000w. I'd choose the smallest-wattage unit your set up requires, as more power typically means a louder generator.

While I used to use the first method of keeping my car idling, increasing gas prices got me thinking a bit more about it. As it turns out, you can power your whole kit with a single, massive marine battery and a power inverter. Just get yourself a battery charger. I got my charger on ebay for about $50, a Schmacher SpeedCharger. It's nice because it can report the % remaining charge in your battery, so you can see what's left after a show. For the battery, I bought a Costco 115 Amp Hour deep cycle marine battery. While longevity is uncertain, I keep it charged through the winter, and a full show only drains it to about 40%, so it should last awhile.

It's still probably easiest to power your equipment with an idling car -- but car engines are not designed to idle for long periods of time, and you'll be putting undue stress on it if you idle it for too long. Also, it's probably the least environmentally-sound method. If you can afford the extra $150, run your kit with a marine battery.

Your Car
If you already own a Toyota Prius, you've in luck! You've got the perfect car for powering your drive-in! Basically a battery on wheels, the Prius has the battery in the trunk, so there's no drilling required to plug in your inverter.

If, like me, you don't have a car, consider renting one from Zipcar or another hourly "car sharing" shop. Especially if you rent a Prius or use a generator, you don't need to make any "modifications", so it's perfect!

That's about it for the equipment. Now, put on those gloves, cause this is where the real work begins!
<p>Hey there, this site might help you to get some more information about starting a drive-in cinema: </p><p>http://www.airscreen.com/en/drive-in-cinema/</p>
<p>Thanks for the great idea!</p>
Just bought a projector that is 1000 lumens. That sounds okay to me, what do you think?
None of this equipment creates a draw on your engine, so Idling for two hours will use no more fuel than average. A properly tuned vehicle probably won't burn more than a couple of gallons in this time frame. Also, keep in mind that if you have a good battery in your vehicle, you may even be able to turn off the engine for around fifteen minutes at a time, to save fuel. <br> <br>Tried to post this as a reply to Anykey, but had trouble. Posted it here instead.
is it using a lot of fuel to use your car during 2 h with videoprojector + fm transmitter + Laptop ? it a pretty much normal car I'm using (~7liters/100km)
Well done, well done!
This is such a Great Idea! I want to project the largest picture possible without fading/distortion, Which projector would be recommended for say 80'Wx20'H?
A couple of suggestions for would-be projectors and the OP after using a similar setup at a recent car club racing weekend...<br><br>1. Try using a digital media player, my WDTV Live uses a fraction of the power of a laptop or DVD player, plus since it runs on 12VDC, I could forgo using the inverter to power it if I wanted. USB flash drives are easy storage and no more worries about scratched discs.<br><br>2. Don't rely on your car's battery! Tote a 4D or 8D (better) industrial deep-cycle battery. Either of them, if in good shape. should be able to supply plenty of power for an event. This kind of use is what they're designed for.<br>Charge it back up later with your car running or the deep-cycle setting on most AC battery chargers. <br><br>3. Don't be afraid to cheap out. If you're outside then nobody is expecting THX sound quality. I have yet to experiment with the FM transmitter option, but a cheap used 30W mini stereo amplifier and some thrift store speakers and people were happy.
what projector do you use? <br>from research i have done it seems like you have much more than a 1200 lumen projector. I am planing on starting my own guerrilla drive in scene here in my city. I just want to make sure to get a projector that will be bright enough.
i think its a great idea. i have herd of people being thretened with arest by projecting on a building next to an interstate becaus the moveing images would be a distraction to drivers.then a year later there was a huge arene built acrossed from the building the guy was projecting on and they were able to put up a huge video screen right next to the interstate. SO SCREW THE LAW i do not valadate the law when it only provides opertunity for who ever has the most money. this is america saposidly the land of the fee and i will challange that any day. i just need a generator.
If you are concerned about copyrights, consider an &quot;oldies night&quot; where you show older films that have lapsed into the public domain. Such horror classics as &quot;Night of the Living Dead&quot;, &quot;Carnival of Souls&quot; and &quot;The House on Haunted Hill&quot; have audience appeal. There's lots of dramas, westerns, comedies and cartoons that are in PD. Alpha Video (oldies.com) sells excellent quality DVD transfers of public domain features (I have no financial ties to them). <br />
Would it n ot be cheaper to buy a generator? I have seen at for example Harbor Freight generators with the output of 1000 W's for $112 and you can use it for multiple things besides the outdoor moview idea. Marine Batteries and an inverter would run that much wouldnt they?&nbsp;Although I dont know how loud the generator would but but I am guessing as much as a car running if you went that route and I&nbsp;think&nbsp;I see where the Marine Battery route woudl require two?<br /> Thanks for this idea!<br /> <br />
This is so beautiful!&nbsp; Thank you for sharing this.<br />
In the UK&nbsp;you are required to have a cinematographers license to legally comply with the law. This incidentally applies to any public place where a TV is on public view or a screen suitably equipped to provide public play back of a program or movie.<br /> <br /> Cinemas rent films to show and these are very expensive, last time I worked anywhere near the film industry, cinemas rent an average film at about &pound;1,500 a week and a block busted could cost them upwards of &pound;5,000 a week, which is why your local cinema can never compete with the big players.<br /> <br /> So, your taking business away from the smaller cinema and that will have no impact on the industry other than the small cinema owner.<br /> <br /> IMHO what your doing in this movement is helping independent cinema out of business... Way to go.
Part of this problem is that it appears you are looking at licensing new movies, by using independent films, films produced by smaller (non-Hollywood) companies, or films that are out on dvd (which it appears they are) already you will probably have more luck getting cheap licenses. Plus, by using films that aren't being played in cinemas, you aren't actually competing with independent cinemas.<br />
If you had bothered to read the tutorial, you would have seen that no only does MobMov always purchase rights for the films we show, but we wholeheartedly support independent cinema.<br /> <br /> if you're concerned that we're not telling the truth, feel free to call Swank Motion Pictures, who license almost all of our exhibitions. I go out of pocket ~$200 each show for movie licenses because I enjoy filmmaking and support filmmakers.
But your doing it for free.<br /> <br /> It may cost you but the fact still remains that your doing this for free.<br /> <br /> I am not arguing about it, that the facts as they stand. It will always be hurting some business in the local area where you perform. Only thing I&nbsp;can say that will possible help you further your cause is to take this to remote areas where getting to a cinema is not easy or the nearest cinema is a couple of hours drive.&nbsp;<br /> <br /> Maybe then your idea will prove popular and have kick started a new era of cinema, mobile cinema...<br /> <br /> Keep up the good work and always look out for the little guy please. ;)
This idea is great. The archives.org link is awesome. I addded several video clips to my media room pc. Buying a projector seems to be the one thing that makes or breaks this. You can buy a projector dirt cheap. Go to govliquidation.com . This is goverment surplus or DRMO. Its like ebay, but everything starts at 50 bucks. I bought two projectors for 75 bucks each. Are they latest and the greatest, no. However, the government does not buy cheap stuff. One projector was 5k and the other was 10k new. Also, you can buy other computer equipment like laptops, pc's, printers, etc.. One thing to remember is that most of the stuff is in bulk. I bought a 1000 pounds of misc. computer parts for $95. You can also buy military trucks, military clothing, tools, office furniture, commercial applicances, etc.. There are special items that you can buy like aviation or medical equipment, but you need to prove you are supposed to have it. Its kind of tough to explain why you need a jet engine and a x-ray machine in your apartment without the proper documentation. If you are going to bid on a projector, check it against projectorcentral.com first to see if it will work for you.
Thanks dude this site is awesome great deals
I have no idea what kinda job you have, but if you can afford to drop that kinda money just to show a movie on a saturday night.....more power to you man, more power to you.
Now since when the hell is idling your car for too long not good for the engine. You people make me laugh.
Hi Punkguyta, as it was explained to me: radiators are designed to have some amount of air flowing over them at all times. When your car is idling, it's not at its most efficient cooling wise. I could be completely wrong - if you know something about this, let me know!
While that does sound logical, have you ever worked under the hood of a running car/truck?? At least as far as I can say, there is PLENTY of airflow when my truck is idling and it's never really heated up on me. I wouldn't be worried about idling a car for an hour or two other than it being a waste of gas.
would a FM25b work??? and what would the difference be?? thank you
Absolutely! Thats what I used for years. The FM30 is a definite upgrade in terms of sound quality and controls, but the FM25b gets the job done.
You could connect your laptop to a projector if it has enough battery life. Hulu.com has a lot of great movies, altough I'm not sure what their copyright laws are.
Why not build your own projector which is much more power efficient?<br/><a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.instructables.com/id/How_to_make_a_small_Diy_LED_Projector/">http://www.instructables.com/id/How_to_make_a_small_Diy_LED_Projector/</a><br/><br/>If the media's copyright allows, make a copy of the movie on the hard disk to present. The CDROM drives usually pull a lot of power.<br/>
Why not make something interactive ? Like the Computer Chaos Club once allowed to play pong on blinkenlights over phone. The number tones controlled the paddle. It need not be Pong. You could use some good Free and Open Source first person shooter or racing game and rig the computer to two cellphones(/mobile phones/handys). Though I am usually a FOSS zealot who recommends it whether there is any other practical purpose or not, here I suggest it with something in mind. Free and Open Source (especially GNU GPL) means, you need not worry about public usage of the software. Though I would suggest giving due credits on the screen. The second reason is, FOSS means you can learn and modify the game to listen to the controls from the phones instead of a keyboard / joystick. Another idea is to have the "deluxe" version of this. I.E., have a Wifi setup and play network games. With WiFi, (please correct me if I am wrong) you can have a big range.if you have WiFi, you can pump audio through WiFi, which means "tata" to all the worry about FCC rules. The above two advantages can also benefit movie watching. Another advantage of Wifi is, a lot more people can play the game at once, not just two. People who dont have a wifi enabled laptop or are just not playing the game can enjoy the game on the big screen. There. You have your own little gaming paradise/competition, away from the din of everyday life.
Why not have a "volunteer" or a friend's car have the projection screen? It could be folded and carried on top, and when it's show time, unfold it on the side. If you can do this, you can completely avoid areas that have buildings, thus can be a lot less "problematic". The screen could easily be a couple of white bedspreads/ plain tablecloths or the like. If it is a weekend and you know some acquaintance does not need their big truck, you could probably borrow it (just send an invite to the guy in charge too). What say?
you could take an old cargo toper and pot your projector in it with speakers and mount it on any car with a headache rack.
i wonder what the legality of streaming a movie from hulu would be... anyone know?
Incredible Instructable. I'm, truly inspired.
With regards to the FM transmitter, I have a little experience with both Ramsey's FM10 and FM30 transmitters. The FM10 would work for very low budget drive ins (the kit is only around $45), it works fairly well and can be powered off of a 9v battery. It does tend to be a bit fickle with achieving proper tuning and also with frequency drift though. Audio quality is also not perfect, more static than I'd like, but still good enough for basic "backyard" stuff. It is a 10mW transmitter but I haven't had an issue with range. On the second floor of my house with a regular whip antenna attached I can still hear it over 50ft away from my house! The FM30 however is fantastic! I would highly recommend it, but it is a MUCH more serious project to build and costs significantly more (around $200 unassembled). You gain a lot for that money though, you can change the output frequency, balance, and the output power very easily with buttons on the front. The ability to change output power would be fantastic for this type of application since you could keep the signal from expanding any farther than you need. It is adjustable in steps from ~0mW up to around 25mW. With it on the second floor of my house I was able to receive a good signal (at 25mW) from a little over 1000ft! The audio quality is also better than the FM10, and it doesn't have a problem with frequency drift. I have noticed a slight buzz in mine, but that's probably a grounding issue. Hope this helps someone! Oh and thanks for the fantastic instructable, it really sparked my interest in this idea!!
yah can score alot of chicks with that XD
Love the instructable!<br/><br/>Great details, fun pictures, and a sense of humour...<br/><br/>One topic you might have encountered is when people have their car *newer than something like 1997* in the on switch to have the radio, the automatic daytime running lights come on. An instruction in disabling this feature (removing the fuse), or some sticky shields for headlights would be cool. I know all our newer cars even when you put the switch to the 'off' position on the headlight knob, it lights at the very least the drl low-beams.<br/>
A trick to keep your headlights/daytime running lights off that works on most newer cars is to engage your emergency brake. For driving at SLOW speeds while enjoying a display in a park or christmas light display without blinding the person in front of you with the reflection of your headlights in their mirror, you can engage the brake TO THE FIRST CLICK. DO NOT...I REPEAT...DO NOT drive fast or for long distances like this because it will ruin your brakes. Consider yourself warned. Happy motoring!
mine you dont even need to do the first click just put it up a little, but i dont have to worry about running lights or regular lights, my car is too old.
I've also heard of shorting the signal wire from the emergency brake to ground works. I'm in the process of disabling the lights on my Sienna right now and think I've found a better way to do it. When I get a good "clean" way to knock 'em out, I'll post it.
Love the "blinders" idea. I'd imagine a couple pieces of cardboard and duct tape would do the trick.
Hey! We were just featured as part of the instructables book on ABC: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=6388461">http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=6388461</a><br/>Cool!<br/>
Hello again! Is it possible to obtain AM transmitters (Apart from cheap walkie-talkies) legally?
Yes, you can find them for about $100 (this is not an endorsement!) at: <a rel="nofollow" href="http://www.hobbytron.com/AMTransmitter.html">http://www.hobbytron.com/AMTransmitter.html</a><br/><br/>I'm sure other places as well. I don't have much experience here, but with AM you'd lose stereo and probably gain some range. Sound quality may be higher though. Legally, the FCC puts some pretty strict limits on AM, more so than FM. Taken from (http://oldsite.prometheusradio.org/alt_unam.shtml):<br/><br/>&quot;The legal limit for AM broadcasting is 100 milliwatts, with a maximum antenna length of about 10 feet (this is the infamous Part 15 FCC rule). In our experience with low power AM, the results have been disappointing. Ordinarily, this power is capable of going about 250 feet, but the audio quality becomes very poor after 100 ft.&quot;<br/><br/>
i didnt really read the entire thing so im not sure if you mentioned this but wouldnt it have better picture if you had the projector projecting through the sun roof rather then through the wind sheild
hi four-eyes954, yes, projecting through that extra layer of safety glass is going to degrade and decrease the brightness of your projection. however, shooting through your sunroof you may have more trouble finding the proper angle so you yourself can see the show. During the summer when there is no chance at condensation or dust, you'd get a brighter and better picture by shooting with your projector mounted on your roof, which is what I generally do these days. enjoy!
Is that picture on the second step from Monty Python: search for the holy grail? I love that movie!
"It sure beats the pants of that cineplex with its screaming preteens." I find this offenisve. I don't scream I yell :D
Damn whipper snapper preteens! (I'm 13)
Well I am 13.

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