$5 Makeshift Home Theater - Easy Laptop Mod!





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Published on Mar 14, 2013

Here's how to convert your Laptop, Smartphone, or Tablet into a makeshift projector. The picture isn't the greatest, but it's really really cheap, and can add a bit of creative fun to your next sports party!

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Project Inspired By:

This was an original idea. (That doesn't mean I'm the first one to do it, just that the idea is new to me and I haven't seen it done before.) While visiting family in 2012, I found that by magnifying the screen of my smartphone through a sphere-shaped water bottle, I could project an image on the wall. To make a better quality image required a larger magnifier, but a magnifying glass was impractical because it would be so large, heavy and expensive. A friend requested I do this project for March Madness, so I devoted some time and thought into it, and this is what resulted.


This project is geared mainly toward college students looking for a way to turn devices they already have into a projector for sporting events or parties. It's more of a novelty than anything practical, but in my experience, the image is watchable and the idea will hopefully be enjoyed. If anything, it's a party trick you can pull out for your next get-together with friends. The image projected on the wall will be "mirror image" or "flipped horizontally" from the original image. This will make any text or numbers appear backward. The light from the Laptop, Smartphone or Tablet is the only source of light, so as the image is made bigger, the intensity of the light on the screen gets weaker until eventually the image becomes indiscernible.

Project History & More Info:

The projector is very simple. It's made of cardboard, duct-tape, and a Fresnel lens about 7"-10".

I found that using a Laptop works the best, because the screen is larger to begin with, and it can be turned up fairly brightly. This is good because as the image is made bigger, the intensity of the light on the screen is lessened. An image of 50" is very watchable on a Laptop, as well as a Tablet about the size of an iPad. Of course, the closer your bring the projector to the screen, the smaller the image will be, but the brighter and more focused it will become.

I found that if you cover all your windows and close any doors to make sure the room is completely dark, this will help the image appear crisper and brighter.

Because the Fresnel lens is made flat, there are some optical disadvantages that appear in the image. For example, the edges of the screen may be a little blurry while the center is in focus. To address this problem, a shroud can be added to the lens with a rectangular hole in the center about the size of a credit card. This will choke down the aperture, and dramatically improve the focus. The trade off is that there will be less light emitted from the projector, so the image on the screen will be dimmed.

A Smartphone works the same way, but the screen size can't go much over 20" or the image is unwatchable. 15" worked great, and 20" was ok. Some Smartphones don't have an option to lock the screen sideways so you may have to download an app for that.


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