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yant0028's DIY Spandex Screen build thread

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 
This is the thread I will use to track my build progress for others who wish to follow along. Warning: this is, for all intents and purposes, my first real foray into a HT setup, so I'm bound to make some mistakes along the way, but the hope is that, by sharing them, I can potentially save someone else from making the same mistakes.

A few relevant details:
PJ = Epson 8350
Screen size = 120" x 67.5" (138" diagonal, 16:9 AR),
Screen mount = 15.4' from my projector on a LCD Panel bracket, which is situated 15" from the wall behind it

In my experience so far, being located in Canada often means that it's much harder to find the materials that so many of you recommend, which has led me to stray a bit from the norm in the material-gathering stage. Here is a list of the materials I've purchased, along with a few accompanying photos:

Framing Blueprint & Process:
Working on a Sketchup model that I will try to get up when time allows...

Stay tuned, more to come!
post #2 of 13
Thread Starter 
For those interested in the possibility of using a combined component rack / flat panel mounting unit to mount their screen to, here's a few pictures of the unit I just bought from Walmart yesterday (on sale this week for $158) with that purpose in mind. It seems to be a pretty solid unit and is rated for a TV weighing up to 135 lbs. I'm hoping I can keep my screen considerably lighter than that, but we'll see what happens...

What the box looks like in case anyone decides to pick one up:

Assembled (mounting brackets are just sitting there for the photo):

Closeup of mounting brackets:

And just in case anyone is wondering why I've decided to go this route rather than mounting the screen directly to the wall (notice the shuttered window, as well as the electrical panel on the right side of the pic):

Of course, I'll also be able to place my speakers behind the screen, which was why I opted for the AT Moleskin Spandex.

Anyways, can't comment about the effectiveness of using this as a screen mount yet, only that it seems to be fairly well made, is inexpensive, and goes together in about 1-1.5 hrs without help. If you're considering it, you could always pick one up while it's on sale and leave it in the box until I report back in a couple weeks time, then you can return it if it ends up failing me miserably biggrin.gif If anyone has questions re: specific measurements, let me know and I'll be glad to help.
post #3 of 13
Exactly my requirements as well(138" diagonal 16:9)....keeping a close eye on this thread.Good luck with the venture mate.

Also, are u going borderless or with velvet border? Am aiming for a zero-edge look with my build.Only in planning phase though.

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Thanks RB. I'd like a border for the raw sex appeal, but I feel really tight for room already and I want to get the biggest viewing area possible, so borderless it is. Plus, less material == less time/money.

Life's been getting in the way of my HT project lately, as I'm sure most of you can relate to at some time or another, so I haven't made much progress as of late. Should be able to get my spandex Monday, though, so with a few hours through the week, and a few more next weekend, I'm hoping to have it mounted by the end of next week. Then you can be sure I'll post here to show off the fruit of my labour smile.gif
post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Status update: screen is now complete and mounted on the media unit! Sadly I don't really have that many photos of the build process, but for those who are considering a similar build, I'm more than willing to answer any questions you may have. It took the better part of yesterday with the help of one other person for most of the process. It's one of those things that has a bit of a learning curve; if I were to do it again, I could probably do it in half the time (with better results). For those of you questioning a DIY build because you're unsure of your skills, it's really not that bad at all. Plus it only cost ~$250 CAD (if you're in the US, you have much better access to supplies, so I imagine it would cost much less) compared to the $500-$600 average I saw online for a tensioned screen (non-AT!). I don't really consider myself much of a carpenter, but if you have basic woodworking knowledge, it's fairly straight-forward -- take the plunge, it's really quite rewarding when you're done (and I haven't even setup my PJ yet!).

So final dimensions are 107" by 60". I had to reduce the height of the screen from my original 67" target because the media unit I bought wouldn't allow for anything taller to be mounted due to my low ceiling. I think 13" less inches on the width is better in the long run anyway, since I have more room to place speakers, etc. (the ones in the photo are there temporarily to test my new NR818 AVR =D).

Frame pieces before assembly:

Closeup of frame pieces before assembly:

Rear view of assembled frame with spandex on:

Mounted on the stand:

I have to get some blackout material for the window behind the screen (even with the shutters closed, any amount of light shining on to the back of the screen makes the center braces clearly visible), and also for the top shelf of the media unit, which is black glass and highly reflective. Also, I WILL be putting a 1.5" or 2" black frame around the screen at some point in the future despite me saying recently that I would not... there are 4 problem areas in the corners of the screen that will create low-points and certainly drive me nuts. This was a poor design choice (using the steel studs without spending the time/effort to do 45's for the corners, or at least putting something in the gaps to make it flush) and now I have to live with it.

Anyways, if anyone is still interested in this thread, let me know if you think a "lessons learned" would be helpful!
post #6 of 13
I'm in Canada as well. I bought Screen Tight from Home Depot. wink.gif

But it looks like you've got it sorted out a different way, and it looks great! Post some movie pics!

On another note, your screen is pretty close to your white ceiling, so you may wish to do your Epson a favour (since it has nice blacks) and either paint the ceiling a darker colour to help keep the nice contrast. I had white ceilings, then painted my panels a dark grey and it really helped a lot.
post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Yeah, I'm hoping the steel studs will prevent that, but only time will tell I guess. If I were doing it again, I would probably use 2x4's instead of 1x4's since it would fit the steel studs better (I was told the steel studs don't come in 1" (3/4) depths(?), and the overhanging "lips" required extra attention before placing the spandex over the frame because the edges are ridiculously sharp.

Additionally, I should have bought a good reciprocating saw and blade to cut through the steel stud (using a hacksaw was so far from ideal it's not even funny).

I looked really hard locally for the screen tight, and I asked several store employees as well about it and not a single one of them had a clue what I was talking about. :s The channels I used definitely did the trick, but I needed to fasten two strips around the entire perimeter, whereas I think the screen-tight has two channels in a single strip, yes? That definitely added time cutting, pre-drilling, screwing, etc.

re: the white ceilings, yeah... I was pretty certain that was going to be an issue, so my plan was to give it a shot and see how much of an impact it had on my PQ and add it to the to-do list with an appropriate priority ranking. I have some leftover grey paint from the walls that I might put to use there.

I will definitely post pics once I get my wireless HDMI unit in the next few days and can properly setup my projector. Are there standard, hi-res images available for download somewhere that I can stick up on the screen to snap a few photos? I don't have a blu-ray player or anything (yet), just PC & Xbox ATM.
post #8 of 13
post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Hi everyone. Sorry it's been so long since I last posted. My screen's been pretty much done and mounted for a while now. I was going to wait until I felt I was *completely* done with it, that is after I've managed to frame it, but life's been hectic and I'm not sure when I'm going to get around to doing that. Sooo, I figured I'd post some screen grabs for those who may still be following this thread while they consider options for their own DIY screen.

DISCLAIMER: Although I set my camera's (Canon T1I) image profile to completely neutral (i.e. sharpness, contrast, brightness, saturation, etc. are all at 0), the camera tends to bump the contrast in low light, it seems. It also appears to have issues in Auto White Balance mode when ambient light levels change (see actual size vs stretched, full-screen versions of the two images blastermaster suggested). I did NOT do any editing in Photoshop. I did not shoot in RAW (jpeg high). Images came straight from the camera. So yeah, just keep that in mind if you think the whites are too white, and the blacks are too black... it looks more-balanced in person. However, at least you should be able to get an idea of the quality of the picture in a light-controlled environment with the materials I used. Sorry if the Gatorade bottle bugs you - I thought it might be good for a size reference while in full screen mode. Oh, and please mind the mess of cables / speakers / PC case around the screen in the lights-on shot... I'll be tidying that up soon.

So to sum it up, I'm pretty ecstatic to have a ~110" screen for less than $2000. Watching movies is like being at the theater, watching GoogleTechTalks makes me feel like I'm sitting in the front row at the seminar, playing Call of Duty is absolutely insane... Thanks to everyone who has contributed to this awesome sub-forum, and best of luck to all of you who may still be working on your project. If you have questions, I'll try to answer them as best I can. And if you feel like it would be more beneficial for me to edit the photos (or re-take them with a set WB + negative contrast setting) to achieve a more accurate representation of the image I see in person, let me know and I'll see what I can do.

post #10 of 13
post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 
Sorry, should have used a different choice of words when I said "screen". I meant under $2000 for the whole setup, including the projector. My point was that, considering it''s ~$4000 for a decent 80" TV, I'm more than happy to have a 30" larger screen for half the cost.

The materials for just the screen itself was ~$250CAD.

Sorry for the confusion.
post #12 of 13
Are you including the cost of the tv stand as part of the screen materials?
post #13 of 13
Thread Starter 
No, I didn't include that. I did however mistakenly include the cost of window treatments in there, which isn't part of the screen. So for just the fabric ($110 shipped to Canada from SW) and lumber / brackets / spline & channels / etc., it cost me closer to $200CAD.
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