With movies hitting both theatres and streaming services simultaneously this year, I decided it was the perfect time to create my own big screen experience from the comfort of my own home. In this post, I’ll run through my living room home theatre setup, and show you how I DIY'd my space by adding a retractable projector screen and home theatre projector than can easily be taken down and stored away when not in use.
My wife and I live in a modest townhouse style condo and like many condos, our living room is fairly compact. Above our fireplace mantle we use a 55” Vizio TV for most of our viewing, but this size of screen is far from ideal for creating a theater like experience. The heart of any truly cinematic experience is of course having a large screen. Given that we already have a permanently mounted TV in our living room, we didn’t want to add a second permanent screen in the space. Ideally, we wanted a projection system which could be used casually for a movie night with easy setup and teardown. With this in mind, I came up with a solution that included a retractable projector screen which could be put away when not in use.
Like all movie theaters, it only makes sense to mount your screen directly across from the seating area. The wall opposite my couch is already occupied by shelving and décor. This meant the only way to mount the screen was to hang it from the ceiling.
My first step for this project was to determine the largest size screen I would be able to fit in the space without obstructing my front channel speakers. Based on my measurements, the maximum screen size I was able to fit comfortably on the wall was an 84” screen. I settled on purchasing an 84” Elite screen from Amazon.
My next step was to sort out the projector placement. Being that I didn’t want to permanently mount the projector from the ceiling, the obvious choice was for the projector to sit on our coffee table. This would give me the flexibility to store the projector away when not in use.
Next, I measured the length from the screen to the coffee table to determine the projector throw distance. This is a crucial step in the planning phase because it will determine if you need a long or short throw projector. My throw distance is about 10 feet for the screen, so for my living room, I would need a long throw projector. Projectorcentral.com’s throw distance calculator is a great online resource to determine which model projector will work in your space.
I settled on an Epson Home Cinema 2100 projector, as it’s a great balance between price and performance, as well as being a relatively compact projector that is easy to store away when not being used.
When it came time to mount the retractable screen to the ceiling, I kept the process as simple as I could and got white ceiling hooks to hang it from. The screen is only 16lbs, so these hooks easily support the weight. I specifically got white hooks to better blend in with the ceiling.
In mounting the screen to the hooks, I once again kept things simple by using plastic zip ties looped through the screen’s mounting brackets - which worked better than I anticipated.
Setting up and taking down the screen with this method works perfectly for my needs. The good thing about using an 84” screen is that it’s easy for me to manage set-up and take-down by myself.
Setting up the Epson projector is extremely easy and straightforward. Once placed on my coffee table, I use a 40 foot HDMI cable which I’ve cable-managed around the perimeter of my living room to connect the projector to my receiver. When the HDMI and power cables are not in use, I store them under my couch so they are out of the way.
Adjusting the image from the Epson is a simple process. The main reason I chose the Home Cinema 2100 is the placement versatility that the projector provides - such as vertical lens shift and zoom adjustment, which allows me to place the projector on a low sitting coffee table rather than having to mount the projector on a stand. The onscreen quick corner correction tool allows for fast and easy screen adjustments. I’m able to get this projector keystone corrected in under a minute, which greatly minimizes the hassle of setting it up every time me and my wife want to enjoy a movie.
The brains powering my home theater is an Onkyo NR777 receiver with an Nvidia Shield for streaming media. My entire setup is controlled by a Logitech Harmony universal remote. For my sound system, I’ve been using a Gallo Acoustic A’Diva 5.1 speaker system for the past 7 years. The clarity and soundstage of Gallo speakers never fail to impress me.