We love nothing more than getting cosy and enjoying a night in with Netflix and a bowl of popcorn and so we wanted to make sure when we moved into our van we could do it in style. That’s why we set up our campervan cinema and ever since then we have been enjoying films and TV on a big screen without having to deal with a large TV taking up our valuable wall space. Here’s how we put a projector in a motorhome and what else you need to consider if you want to have a campervan cinema.
First thing you have to consider when you’re setting up your campervan cinema is your budget. If you have a huge budget you can really go to town on projectors and speakers, wall and ceiling mounts and large projection screens. If you’re anything like us you either have a low budget or no budget and so you need to consider carefully where you’re spending your money. In this post we’ll cover the equipment we used for our low budget cinema set up as well as give you cheaper options for your no budget cinema.
This is the place where your money is best spent when piecing together your campervan cinema however there are a few key places where we can save you some money when you’re choosing what projector to go for. One of the biggest factors for increased cost in projectors is how many lumens they have which is essentially how bright the light coming out of your projector is. This brightness is essential for projectors, especially in normal cinemas, where the projector has to create a bright and clear image over a large distance onto the screen and therefore these projectors will have hundreds of lumens of brightness.
This is the first point where we can make a saving though! Because we are in a small space our projectors will not have to project an image such large distances, not to mention campervans can be quite dark on the inside due to the low profile of the windows and so we simply do not need as many lumens as much larger projectors do. Our projector for instance has only 50 lumens however is more than bright enough for us to be able to enjoy a film during the day with just the curtains closed and so we were able to save hundreds of pounds by ignoring the need to have high numbers of lumens when we were buying our projector.
Now that you’ve saved hundreds on your projector let’s talk about what you should be spending on. The first thing (and we think the most important thing) that you should be looking for when buying a projector for your campervan cinema is keystoning. If you have ever seen or used a projector and have tilted it either up or down you will have noticed how the projection goes from being a lovely rectangle shape to a stretched and slanted shape and becomes unwatchable, well the ability to ensure that your image is as close to rectangle as possible is called keystoning. It is so important for your campervan cinema because you’re going to be in a small space with limited ability to have the projector perfectly straight on to the screen and so you are going to have to either point up or point down to be able to hit the screen. This is something which we think is worth stretching your budget to include as it opens up so many options for where you can place your projector and screen and get a great picture.
OUR PROJECTOR – Yaufey Mini Pico Projector – this is the next in the line from our now defunct projector. It has keystoning, Bluetooth and WiFi connectivity and runs a version of android so can get Netflix and YouTube straight from the device via apps. It has inputs for HDMI, Micro SD and USB as well as being able to mirror your phone or computer so you can always get your content regardless of how it is stored. With an internal battery you can even take it away with you should you need a quick little movie on the go.
NO BUDGET OPTION – DR.Q Mini Projector – What you get for no budget is significantly less that you do with the low budget option we have. You get a projector with various inputs, probably most importantly you do get a HDMI cable which means you are able to plug in an Amazon Fire Stick, a Chromecast or a Roku Stick and stream directly to your projector. You do miss out on keystoning but it is a 5th of the price. We opted for the low budget option because we knew that money on the projector is money well spent.
When you’re saving money by getting a projector with low lumens its twice as important what you project onto, the flatter and lighter the surface is the brighter and more clear the picture will appear. While you can simply sling up a white sheet and project onto that your picture will not be as bright because so much of the light will leak through the material itself. This is where projection screens are great at maximising the potential of your projector for a relatively low cost. They are made out of the ideal reflective material, they are matt, bright white and most importantly are completely opaque and so all of the light coming out of your projector are being reflected straight back to your eyes. Thankfully they make screens of all sizes and so you can get one that fits your environment and they roll back down into their case so they are protected and easily storable for next time you need them.
OUR SCREEN – 40 inch Projection Screen – this is the screen we currently have for our campervan cinema, it is 40 inches and we find is large enough without being too big should we want it set up in the close quarters of our bedroom rather than the living room. It packs away to be around the size of a large pipe and also has attachment points should you wish to suspend it permanently from a set point, if not it can simply stand under its own weight on top of a table, step or even the floor.
NO BUDGET OPTION – White Bed Sheet – if you’re looking for the cheapest option then the classics are still the best and a plain white sheet can be pinned up and projected on no problem. You have to pack it as flat as possible to avoid creases and folds ruining your picture and you’re not maximising the potential of that projector you’ve spent all that money on however it is the no budget option for a screen.
We have our screen, we have our projector and now we need our speakers. But why you ask, you can get projectors which have speakers built in? While that is correct you clearly have never heard the sound coming out of those speakers! At the price range you are looking at with low budget and no budget projectors you simply won’t get sound directly from the projector that will not be tinny and will be loud enough, consider the sound that comes directly from your mobile phone, now imagine that at half the volume competing with a projector fan. Thankfully all is not lost, the projector we have suggested has a headphone socket for us to plug into and Bluetooth to connect to and so we can upgrade the sound really easily by getting a portable speaker. There are a tonne on the market and audiophiles will tell you which ones sound the best as well as give you the best bass and treble, however all I know is that it connects and that you’re getting bang for your buck and that’s why the options we have are the ones they are, because they are nice and loud and are a reasonable price.
OUR SPEAKER – Anker SoundCore 2 – With the ability to connect to this speaker via bluetooth you can really amp up your projectors sound. This speaker gets fantastic bass and is super portable so whether you’re setting up your cinema in your bedroom, in the saloon or even on the roof for an outdoor experience you can get fantastic sound.
NO BUDGET OPTION – Betron KBS08 – What you get with this speaker is the ability to connect to your projector via bluetooth as well as via a cable if you have opted for the no budget projector and you get upgraded sound from what you will get from the projector directly. Don’t expect to get the same level of volume and bass as the Anker SoundCore 2 but you get a definite upgrade.
Things to consider
This projector isn’t actually the first we have had in our van, previously we had the RIF6 Cube however after using this for a few months we realised it didn’t have some of the things we now know are essential for our projector in a campervan set up. These are the following things you should consider when you’re putting together your own van cinema
Audio Out – Not all projectors have an audio out which means you are limited to using the in built speakers on the projector. These speakers are usually small and very tinny sounding and really aren’t good for watching films. So it’s essential you have a way of adding your own speakers to the projector, ours has an audio out port as well as the ability to connect with bluetooth saving us trailing wires everywhere.
Throw Ratio – Simply put the throw ratio is how far away your projector needs to be away from your screen. With a projector in a campervan this is especially important as you will probably be limited in how far back you are able to place your projector so you will want one with a short throw so that you can get the biggest picture without having to put your projector out the back doors of your van
Wattage – This goes for everything in the van but its important to make sure your power supply can handle the projector you have chosen. Brighter projectors look great and all those extra lumens seem like a good idea until you realise watching one film will deplete your battery bank. When it’s dark in the van you won’t notice those extra lumens trust me
These are the considerations we made when we decided to have a projector in our campervan, this advice is just a guide for you, we know everyone’s vans are different so if you have any more specific questions please get in touch we’d love to help!