Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Have A Theater In Your RV! - Movies & TV On The Big Screen

Digital Movie On the LCD Screen
    A couple of years ago I pulled out the old CRT TV and VHS player(!) from my RV and replaced it with a modern flatscreen Monitor. A little later on I added a Digital Media Player and stereo interconnect to give me lots of options for viewing. The screen is still a bit on the smallish side (not really, compared to the old 13" TV!!) so I wanted to go larger. The problem is my RV has a custom built housing for the TV and forward storage compartments. Without a MAJOR re-do I am maxed out size-wise. That's not bad, mind you, as it's totally watch-able the way it is. I just would like something for "special occasions." Last year I thought, "Why not a projector and screen???"

I looked into it at the time and found the regular 120V home ones to be HUGE energy hogs, majorly expensive and massively overkill for the small space. Then I found Pico projectors. What's that??? Keep reading....

A Pico projector is a small (sometimes tiny) LED based video projector that could even have a battery pack. The concept of them is great/ Last year, the execution....not so much. I found that they could cost upwards of $500.00 for ones that were usable for film and TV without major sacrifices. That's a bit too rich for my blood. Fast forward to today (well last week anyhow) and lo and behold, you can find them for less than $100 if you look hard enough. Be careful, there are MANY on the market that will disappoint you and precious few that will amaze you. I know. I tried them.

OK oN The Gray Painted Wall....
What's the secret to a good tiny projector? In a word, LUMENS. This is a measurement of just how bright the light is coming out of the projector's lens. The brighter the light the nicer the image. My big home version with the power hungry, hot running light source get's all the way up to 2700+ LUMENS. WAY bright and the picture is beautiful even on the 12 foot screen in moderate light. How could I get similar results from something the size of a large cell phone? Well, to be honest, you can't. With old V8 engines they used to say, "There is no substitute for cubic inches." Bigger is/was better. Does that mean it's impossible? No. It doesn't.

12 Foot Screen With Pico Projector
I tried an assortment of Pico projectors in various LUMEN outputs from 20 all the way up to 200. Since I will have my screen hung behind my front seats, I could go to a maximum of 6 Feet across, so the image would be MUCH smaller than my 12 foot home screen. I can make the RV quite dark with my insulated window covers (or simply wait until night time!) so that's a plus. I tried each projector in, essentially, total darkness at whatever distance was needed to fill a 6 foot screen. Some of the results were obvious. The 200 LUMEN one looked great, but it wasn't practical to velcro to the ceiling and cost more than $300. Predictably, the 20 LUMEN one was awful. All the colors were washed out and the sharpness was abysmal. The 50 LUMEN verson wasn't much better. The 100 LUMEN one was smaller and worked well. I would have stopped there, but I had to test them all. Last one had 70 LUMENS. It was the oddball. It had a bunch of cool features and was really tiny. I was fully expecting it to look horrible, but much to my surprise, it looked almost as good as the 100 LUMEN one. It was VERY hard to tell the difference.

Lots Of INs/OUTs
The Aaxa P3X can be found online for around $150.00 but I had a coupon so I was down to UNDER $100.00! This little beastie has a built in battery pack good for two full hours, a reasonable sounding speaker, the ability to take HDMI in as well as composite (RCA VIDEO IN) AND playback media files from USB AND MicroSD cards! Wow. That does almost everything my RV's full media system can do. I play back movies from USB drives now, so plugging them into a different device is no big deal. It also has a jack for Audio Out so I can feed my stereo system as well. It weighs next to nothing and will easily Velcro to the ceiling.

Next, I have to figure out the best way to mount the screen material to the RV. My ceiling has a "bow" to it, so a pull-down cylinder style won't work well....I'm working that one out now. Stay tuned for more info as I perfect it.

Now I can watch BIG screen movies, whenever I like. I can even project my mini laptop/tablet using the Pico projector since it has HDMI OUT. Bonus! The only cable that needs to be run is Audio. I could run on the battery pack, but there's a vent fan right next to it, so I will ad a socket there to run the projector from the house batteries. Now all I need is the snow to melt so I can get into the RV!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,
Rich "The Wanderman"


  1. Thanks for this. I've been wondering about these things since seeing Verizon's latest commercial that shows a family coming in a tent, watching shows with a tiny projector. Also love that you've got RHPS in that first shot! We are stuck in snow here, too, in PA with another 7" expected today. But the spring and summer are booked already and would love to get one of these to take along. Thanks for the review!

    1. Ami,
      Wow..I'm only 35 minutes from the PA border (at Matamoras) we could be almost neighbors! I wasn't sure how many people would notice the RHPS image. MANY years ago I was involved with the 8th Street playhouse floor show....

      I can't wait to screen some films in the middle of nowhere....yet another reason to love RV'ing!!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

  2. Missouri rv dealer Very good blog post.Much thanks again. Cool.

  3. Most digital projectors will have a ample throw distance for most home and conference use. video projector


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