By Ben Wszalek
I love watching movies, and once I moved into my college dorm room, I wanted better sound and picture than my laptop provides. This is what I’ve devised so far: my dorm room bed – aka “The Screening Room.”
This sheet acts as a curtain that helps to keep light out. It’s not a perfect seal of course but it doesn’t need to be. Even with the lights on the video looks good.
This is the crux of the whole project- my projector, and its shelf. Both had their difficulties; finding the right projector, and then having a stable place to put it. I was using a clip-on shelf with a C-clamp, but it was very unstable and the projector was constantly sliding around. A few sketches and a trip to the hardware store later, and I have a proper shelf which is very stable. The shelf is also fairly easy to move if I want to make it higher or lower.
It’s effectively bolted to the bed using plumbers tape. Even with just one of these brackets, the wood was firmly fixed. With four it isn’t going anywhere even if someone hits it.
Here’s a closer look at the projector. My copy of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” is keeping it propped up at the right angle. I was going to do something fancier but so far I haven’t felt the need.
Another crucial component- the screen. This is a stretched canvas used for painting which I bought at Michael’s for $17 (it was 50% off). While technically any flat, white surface would have worked, it’s better to use something matt and unreflected. The canvas is also very tough and the wooden frame makes it an easy task to simply hang it from some cord.
Behind the screen, some speakers. That shelf was actually originally from my mini fridge, but I had removed it so that I could fit in my water filter. The shelf is attached to the screen frame and rests on one of the bars of the bed frame.
Having the speakers behind the screen was very important. In movie theaters the center speaker is always behind the screen, and generally it just makes logical sense subconsciously that the sound should be coming from the same source as the visual. The speakers are hooked up to my computer via a cable running under the bed.
Here you can see the relation between the computer and the projector. That cable running along the wall is the VGA video cable. The audio cable running to the speakers runs along the floor, as does the USB cable for the mouse (next photo).
Since I can’t reach my computer from my bed, I need to be able to control it from there. A trackball mouse was the easiest way to go; a traditional mouse would not work, because moving it around the uneven surface of the bed would have been difficult and inaccurate. Of course, I still can’t use the keyboard, so I plan on replacing this mouse with a wireless keyboard that has a trackball mouse in it.
And so here is the projected image. It’s about the equivalent of a 40″ television screen (that’s measured diagonally). All told so far I’ve spent about $400 on the project, with most of it going to the projector and the supplies to build the shelf, and the rest being made up of smaller purchases (cables, adapters, etc). That’s not counting some things I already had, such as the speakers.
I don’t consider the project done- it will be a continual work in progress throughout the year, and probably beyond that when I move to a different room next year and redesign it. The main priority now is making it more user friendly and with added features, such as a wireless keyboard and a switch that will allow you to switch from using the speakers to headphones without having to get up or unplug anything. I’m really happy with how it’s turned out and it’s been a blast working on it.