Four key ingredients to a DIY Outdoor Movie Theatre

When our good friends moved, not only did they take with them our outlet to vent about the fun of raising two boys, they also took their LCD projector which they were known to setup in the driveway so we could all watch movies.

Well, knowing nothing pulls a neighborhood together like Han Solo projected on a garage door, I vowed to continue the tradition.

There are four major parts: The screen, the screen hanging, the sound & the light

The Screen

The easy part was the screen. While there are plenty of links about how to make an outdoor screen here, here or here I went super simple. By way of Target, I bought an extra wide curtain rod. This made it easy to just screw to small brackets into the flashing over the garage door that is otherwise unnoticed.

Screen hanging device

Next I needed something to hang from the curtain rod. Again, Target to the rescue. I bought the cheapest sheet I could find, in a dimension that matched the width of the curtain rod. A small incision in the top of the sheet (where you would normally pull it up to your chin) made for the perfect holder to slide the curtain rod through.

The last two parts were light & sound.

Sound

Originally I started with piping the HDMI output from the projector through my wife’s old 3 cd stereo (yes, we still have it). It worked absolutely fine, other than having to pick up and move the base unit and two speaker every time we watched a movie. Then for Father’s Day I treated myself to the UE Boom bluetooth speaker. Given how easy it is to pair the speaker between two different devices, I can bounce between my iPhone and Macbook with realitve ease. I now have a super simple (and small) speaker that throws just enough sound to make the movie heard but not so loud that it will bother the neighbors who don’t apprecaite Planes 2: Fire & Rescue. Plus I love that speaker for bouncing around the house and rocking out. Random dance parts have increased by a factor of 12 since I bought that. And really, you can’t have enough random dance parties with a three year old.

Projector

So a good friend recommended the following site for initial research on projectors. While the site was certainly thorough, I ultimately went back to relying on input from Lifehacker (cross referenced by Wirecutter). My constraints (at the time) were:

  •  Under $500
  • Able to reverse the image so I could rear project from the garage (interestingly I thought this was how I was going to set up my system. But having the garage door open and having our “audience” seeing all our bikes, etc, seemed like a less than professional method, so I just went with classic projection style).
  •  The most amount of features without going above the $500 threshold

I looked at a few different models but the one that popped out on top was the Optima H181X. Honestly, looking back, I can’t recall what pushed me one way or another as there appeared to be one or two from each of the leading manufacturers all within overlapping in the criteria. Being complete novices to this, I have to admit it appears we chose very well. The first time we watched a movie, CINCPACHOUSE was incredibly impressed by the resolution and picture quality.

Remaining to do:

I’d like to build a nice little storage box that all of the outdoor movie “stuff” lives in, but that’s a low priority right now. Currently the projector goes in and out of the box it was shipped in. Given the corrosive environment here, that seemed like the best place to keep it.

I’d like to also look into blackout cloth screens. We have a great fence in our backyard where we could do family (vice neighborhood) movies. However, in order not to annoy the folks behind us, I’d like to minimize light leakage that occurs with a standard sheet.

The hardest part of neighborhood movie night is picking the movie. When the audience ranges from 3 to 53, how do you pick a title that everyone’s going to like??? I tend to stay towards the “classic” Disney/Pixar/etc. I’d love to hear others thoughts & inputs on good movie night movies.

Other than that I’d say we are pretty darn happy with the setup we have. Now we just need to use it more!!

Let’s Focus Traffic Enforcement on Dangerous Behaviors, Not Minor Bike Violations — Medium

Let’s Focus Traffic Enforcement on Dangerous Behaviors, Not Minor Bike Violations — Medium

As someone who has been detained by slow rolling a stop sign, I could not agree more. While bike riders share some of the burden, we are far less dangerous then the people oblivous to us.

The Voyage Of Uncle Dan – LST 696

So my wife’s family recently discovered the deck log & other interesting tid-bits of their Uncle’s voyage during World War II.  I couldn’t resist the opportunity to continue playing with Google Maps Engine.

This is a first draft, but I like where it is heading. Next steps will be to:

  • Correct the coord’s so that the voyage ends in San Francisco, not the middle of the ocean
  • Break up the voyage into segments (probably by color) to indicate when Uncle Dan was onboard
  • Some arrows to indicate which way the ship was heading
  • Some sort of visual time delineation to understand the overall progression of the voyage
  • Possibly a fly over, but I can’t really see how that would be interesting

By the way, this site was an awesome tool to convert the spreadsheet to a KML file that had “track lines” for all the various ports of call.

A link to the map here:
http://goo.gl/GZoZqO

Some thoughts about photo management on your Mac

This started as an email to some friends, but it is a good reference to have & update as time goes along.

iPhoto

iPhoto, is best used with a yearly library. You can hold down the option key when you start it, and it will ask you if you want to open the default, or create a new library. After a year I have found that iPhoto becomes to big and cumbersome to use quickly/nimbly and you start to find work arounds which derails your whole photo workflow.

Incoming!

Know what photos are coming in so you can create a workflow, and stick with it. Are you just importing Nikon photos or are you capturing your iPhone photos as well? There are some great apps that can automate that process, or you can just set a workflow for yourself.

Knowing what you have

If you don’t know what you have, and need to clean up the duplicates, I’ve used this app, PhotoSweeper with pretty good success. You need to approach it systematically or else you will be overwhelmed, and again I can’t stress enough you need to have a process/workflow of where you want the photos to end up. The e-book i mention below can help a lot with that.

What are you doing with the photos?

Know what/where your photos go out. Are you just holding on to them? Are you doing much post-processing? There are a lot of great photo sharing apps, etc, make sure you are taking advantage of them to share those great photos. The ones we use the most are:

Photo Stream – All the grandparents have iDevices, so it is the quickest way to share those iPhone snapshots
Posterino – What we use to display the photos taken over the course of the year. We got the idea here (the how to is no longer active, but you can see the general idea) and then a few years later found posterino which makes it immensely easier.

Additionally, Costco has top quality/industry standard photo printer. I just send the electrons to Costco and pick the photos up while I’m getting 12 pounds of nutmeg.

Sources on the internet

I certainly didn’t learn all of this myself. Some great writers/blogs that helped me along are:

Learning to Love Photo Management: So this isn’t a blog as much as it was an e-book. I thought it was crazy to spend $2.99 on how to keep things organized on your mac, but if you are feeling overwhelmed it provides a great approach to get things under control. Take a look at my copy while you are over, I’d loan it to you but can’t really loan an iPad!

Mac Power Users Photo Management episode: So this is a podcast I follow fairly regularly that keeps me in the know about all things mac. It may be a little geeky to jump right into, but there are some good links to tools and apps. Btw, MPU is where I first learned of Photosweeper

Dr Drang’s blog: If you are feeling really adventurous, then this blog has some scripts that can help you sort through all of your photos into folders, etc (in accordance with Bradley Chambers’ book, yes, these are all somewhat circular)

Federico’s Workflow: If you are feeling international, Federico runs a great blog out of Italy on all things mac. He talks a lot about his workflows, and his photos workflow is worth a read. It doesn’t work for me for a variety of reasons, but there is some good info there.

Using Google Sheets to manage the popcorn sale, table assignments

Google Sheets, Scout popcorn sales, and you!

Coordinating available times that everyone can man the tables to help raise funds for scouting is a perfect use of any number of cloud based options. I chose to use Google Sheets, primarily, because it is web based, platform agnostic, and free. It allows anyone with the link to pick a time at their convenience, and it also shows who made what edits when to the spreadsheet in case something happens.

To start

I’m going on the assumption that at this point you have a Google account of some sort. I used my personal gmail account when I set our pack’s spreadsheet up, but I would have rather have based it from the Cubmaster gmail account or something similar. Not a big deal one way or another, but I just like documents to live at a place where they make sense.

Step 1

Click on the three by three grid to open your google features

How to access Google Drive from google.com
How to access Google Drive from google.com

Step 2

Select Google Drive

Of all of the Google features, we want Drive
Of all of the Google features, we want Drive

Step 3

Create a “NEW: Google Sheets”

When you press the NEW bottom, you'll have a choice of options.  You want to use Google Sheets
When you press the NEW bottom, you’ll have a choice of options. You want to use Google Sheets

Step 4

Create the layout of the sheet however you wish. I determined that keeping the locations in a single row was the most intuitive, your mileage may vary. I also added some conditional formatting  to indicate what time blocks are still available, since a green block stands out better than a blank white cell in a sea of text.

You can see an example here:
http://goo.gl/OcwcFr

Step 5 – Sharing

This is the part we struggled a bit with, and honestly I think it is more just small quirks on Google’s end. The sheet you just spent your time creating is by default only for you to see and use. But since we want a select group of folks to be able to view and edit this sheet, we need to find a controlled way to get them that information. In order to do that we select the “Share” button in the right hand corner.

Share

The pop up menu is pretty self explanatory but here are a few nuggets:
For a small group, the simplest way is to just add everyone’s email. This seems to be the most robust way of getting everyone access. They will get an email (which you can format explaining the particulars) saying that a Google Sheet has been shared with them and providing them a link. From there they can go in an edit at will.

Just fill in the email address
Just fill in the email address

Additionally, you can create a shareable link. The shareable link should allow anyone who has the link to be able to update the spreadsheet. We did this originally, but found that some folks couldn’t edit (make sure you change the permissions from view to edit). I found the error when accessing the link via an iPad, but I’m not sure why that is.

Here is a link you can put into an email that you have already created.
Here is a link you can put into an email that you have already created.
Just make sure you change the permissions so people can update the sheet.
Just make sure you change the permissions so people can update the sheet.

Finally there is an advanced feature in the sharing tab that allows you to share the link via the standard social media outlets; Facebook, Google+, Twitter, & Gmail.

Some additionally flavors of social media.
Some additionally flavors of social media.

In the end, we ended up sharing via all three means, with the first and last being the most effective (or so we have heard).

Feel free to download a copy of the spreadsheet and share with your Pack today! Let me know how it goes!