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Projection screen with adjustable masking

Watching movies at home is more fun on a big screen
Author: Markus Wilczek, Münster, Germany
Online since: 20/11/2008, Number of visits: 98343
This home-made projection screen hangs in my student flat, where I enjoy watching a movie now and then. The special feature is the black frame: For a true cinema experience in your own home, the screen must have the correct black frame (the so-called masking). This increases the perceived contrast. Thanks to a magnetic solution, the boards at the top and bottom of the screen can be adjusted in height.

Making your own frame and covering

The frame of the projection screen came from a specialised shop that supplies artists (“Classic 45” by the Boesner company) and only needed to be put together.
I then covered the frame first with black fabric (Duvetyne) and then with proper screen fabric (“Opera screen”, both fabrics available from the Gerriets company). It took two of us to stretch the fabric tightly around the frame and hold it, so I could staple the fabric a bit at a time.
Both fabrics need to be a bit larger than the visible area, my projection screen measures 1,9 m x 1,1 m, so we needed at least 2 m x 1,2 m.

Lateral boundary

On the short sides of the screen, I used d-c-fix velour film (available as a roll of 45 cm x 1 m at crafts and DIY stores) to tape an approx. 5 cm wide border. That is important to clearly define the picture on the sides. The green markings are explained below.

Making the masking

Next, I glued perforated metal sheets to the back of the movie screen in 6 spots between the frame and the screen fabric (marked green in the picture above).
These sheets are also called perforated plates and are meant for screwing together strips of wood. I got mine from the DIY store, measuring 6 cm x 20 cm x 1,5 mm (made of galvanised sheet steel).
The masking boards are made of poplar plywood and measure 1,9 m x 0,2 m x 6 mm. I placed the boards side by side and then glued 3 disc magnets 20 x 2 mm onto the reverse side near the edge, top and bottom. For this, I used the excellent UHU adhesive.
I also attached one magnet in the middle of the long edge on each board’s reverse side. As a result, I had two symmetrical, non-congruent boards with seven disc magnets each.
Note: If you find the asymmetrical placement of the magnets too arduous, simply glue one magnet in each corner and the middle of the long edges, i.e. 6 magnets per board.
Then let your handiwork dry overnight.
These boards can now be moved up and down. But of course, the masking is not quite finished yet!
These boards can now be moved up and down. But of course, the masking is not quite finished yet!
Lastly, I also glued d-c-fix velour film onto the boards (it takes about 2 rolls).
The boards hold securely on the screen because the magnets are attracted to the metal plates on the back.
All in all, it took me about 2 hours of work (plus overnight drying time) to create a customisable masking.

Showtime!

Now I can effortlessly adjust the projection screen masking to perfectly fit every movie!
The two pictures below show the most often used settings for cinema films (16:9 and 21:9).
Projection screen for movie formats 16:9
Projection screen for movie formats 16:9
Projection screen for movie formats 21:9
Projection screen for movie formats 21:9

Cost

A few remarks regarding the cost of this project:
The frame costs about 16 euros. At 70 euros, the Duvetyne and screen fabric are the most expensive components of this project. Other expenses include approx. 8 euros for the masking boards, 15 euros for the d-c-fix film and about 10 euros for the perforated plates and staples. The price for the magnets is almost negligible.
In total, you will spend a little over 100 euros. In terms of quality, my DIY projection screen is not all that different from screens that can be purchased for up to 1000 euros. The few companies manufacturing projection screens insist on being paid well for their work. That makes building a screen for your home cinema well worth the effort!