Sunday, March 22, 2009


The very same equipment that is fueling the home theater revolution can bring back the outdoor cinema experience. High-definition digital home cinema projectors using either DLP or LCD technology have plummeted in price of late and can be had for less than $800. With a few basic parts and accessories, you can take the same projector you bought for your home theater and set it up in your car, just like Hollingshead did — and create a drive-in theater anywhere.

Several drive-in enthusiast groups ( and have sprung up, staging impromptu movie screenings in public areas. However, that type of outdoor exhibition may put you on the wrong side of the law. Projecting The Fast and the Furious on the outside wall of a local Wal-Mart for the entertainment of you and your buddies qualifies as a public performance under the federal Copyright Act, and requires a license and payment of a fee. If, however, you are on private property with a limited number of guests, you should be in the clear.

The setup is surprisingly simple. We hooked up our portable theater inside a 2007 Toyota Sienna minivan. Our projector was a 1280 x 720-pixel Panasonic PT-AX100 ($2999) that was, frankly, a bit of overkill for this project — the DVD source material we used was far below the projector's hi-def capabilities — but we were intrigued by its 2000-lumen brightness. Providing video was a Sony DVP-FX810 portable DVD player ($200) with a composite video output, a 6-hour battery and an 8-in. swiveling screen, which paled in comparison to the suggested maximum 200-in. screen of the Panasonic projector. For power, we used a Husky 750-watt inverter ($80). (Our projector had a maximum power requirement of 290 watts, but we figured that it couldn't hurt to at least double that to deliver consistent power.) Finally, we hooked up a C. Crane Digital FM Transmitter ($70) to the audio output of our DVD player to broadcast the movie soundtrack to the radios of other nearby cars. (from Popular Mechanics)

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