DIY video projector

Video projector from off-the-shelf surplus parts, cost less than $200. DIY video projector in operation.  There's surprisingly little light leakage from around the projection panel.

Everyone wants a video projector: It's all the picture of a big-screen TV without having to actually buy, own, assemble, find room for, or move a big-screen TV. The problem, of course, is that new video projectors cost about as much as a big-screen TV, plus they eat one $350 bulb about every four to six months, depending on how much use they see. In response to the high cost of owning and running a projector, various folks have tried, with varying degrees of success, to put together DIY (Do It Yourself) video projectors using off-the-shelf components at home. Lots of these folks have posted web pages about their efforts. The typical DIY projector design weds a cheaply-available high-intensity light source (like a painter's work light) to a commercially-available LCD display panel and a TV projection lens, with some combination of mirrors in an enclosure to keep the heat-sensitive LCD panel away from the hot light bulb. The designers and builders of these things should be applauded for their thrift and ingenuity.

The picture given by the DIY projector, with Melody in the beam to show the scale.

HOWEVER, if you're too lazy or handy-capped to attempt one of these designs--which does require the nominal effort of ordering all the components, building an enclosure, and accurately mounting them inside--you might consider the off-the-shelf, no-tools-required version presented here. It was constructed about a year ago by my girlfriend, Melody, and I, from two components we bought for less than $100 each at an office surplus store in Austin, TX. They are:

  1. A Dukane Model 4000 Overhead Projector
  2. A TELEX MagnaByte M2X Projection Panel

This, essentially, is the multimedia presentation system which modern video projectors have rendered obsolete in the business and academic world. Consequently, both overhead projectors and LCD panels designed for use with overhead projectors are commonly and inexpensively available surplus items.

The Dukane 4000 is actually a relatively low-powered overhead projector.

The overhead projector we used provides more than adequate light for night-time or windowless-room viewing, and is actually relatively low-powered as overhead projectors go. It projects 4000 ANSI lumens at its brightest setting, but it is not diffult to find overhead projectors with twice or even three times this brightness. This one was missing a lens on the reflector arm when we bought it, but the guy at the surplus house let us pick out a lens from one of the other junked projectors sitting around his warehouse for free. We just grabbed one at random and it worked great.

The Telex MagnaByte M2X LCD Projection Panel has RCA video and computer-video in ports.

The projection panel came with a carrying case, an instruction manual, and a bunch of cables. It has a built-in-speaker which we do not use, as well as RCA and computer video-in ports, which we do use. The VGA (640X480) resolution is better than a standard TV and thus more than adequate for movie-watching; it is a bit low for computer output, but it's still possible to surf the web or word-process in inch-high letters on the wall, if we feel like it.