Avoid movie crowds: Meet the pandemic ‘drive in’ for your back yard

halo.png

The XGIMI Halo: the projector at the core of this little project.


Image: XGIMI

The pandemic has changed so much for so many. Friends who used to visit with each other without a care in the world have had to either avoid social contact or wear the 2020s equivalent of hazmat garb.

We thought vaccinations would end the need for caution and isolation. For a few weeks in late spring and early summer, it did. But then the Delta variant became the dominant strain, the viral load among individuals increased by orders of magnitude, and masks and social distancing were back.

The experts tell us it’s unlikely that fully vaccinated individuals will catch serious COVID, even with Delta in the air. But epidemiologists define serious as life-threatening. It’s entirely possible that breakthrough infections can occur. Although they might not land you in the hospital, they could make you very, very sick for possibly a very, very long time.

In light of this, my wife and I have decided to continue with prudent precautions. That involves mask-wearing, social distancing, and not gathering indoors with friends.

Bringing back the light

Last week, my wife decided there had to be a better way. She and her bestie wanted to watch the Twilight movies — all five Twilight movies(!) — together. Again. Why not do it outside this time?

Right now, the weather in Oregon is perfect. We probably have somewhere between three to six weeks (probably closer to three) left before Oregon gets cold and rainy.

Denise recalled that, back in June, I included a couple of entertainment products in my 2021 Father’s Day Gift Guide. One was the XGIMI Halo projector.

Like most products I have already reviewed, it had been living on a shelf waiting for either inclusion in another project-inspired article or for donation, usually to a local maker space or school. Denise suggested she fire up the XGIMI and see how it would do as a pandemic-inspired outdoor theatre setup.

The plan was simple. Point the projector at a wall on our back porch. Denise’s friend would sit on one side of the projector to watch, and Denise would sit about eight feet away, on the other side of the projector.

They could watch the movie together, but be socially distant and safe. When not sitting and watching the movie separated by a good distance, they agreed to both wear masks. Even though both my wife and her friend are fully vaccinated, the Delta variant is scary enough that mask precautions seemed wise enough — even outside.

Building the outdoor theatre

The setup was pretty straightforward. We did order a freestanding outdoor projection screen for about 50 bucks (with a coupon). But it didn’t arrive in time. So Denise liberated a white shower curtain liner from the guest bathroom and attached it to the porch wall.

shower-curtain-screen.pngshower-curtain-screen.png

It’s a shower liner. It’s a movie screen. It’s a shower liner and a movie screen.

She mounted the projector on a tripod and attached a weight to the hook to add stability. The projector autofocuses (which my wife said was a really big help), so all she had to do was move the tripod around and adjust it a bit so the video projected onto the curtain to get it to work.

The XGIMI runs Android TV and for some reason Netflix didn’t work properly without some sort of workaround. Rather than try to figure out how to implement the workaround, she raided my review item storage again, this time for the Fire TV Stick 4K I recommended in that same Father’s Day Gift Guide.

The Fire TV Stick plugged right into the HDMI port at the back of the XGIMI. She did have to run separate power to the stick, because the Halo’s onboard USB port didn’t provide enough power. But then, all she had to do was log into her Amazon account, download Netflix to the Fire TV, and then log into Netflix.

diagram.pngdiagram.png

Anatomy of a pandemic-safe socially-distanced outdoor vampire movie watching experience.

Sound quality out of the Halo was fine, even for outside in a backyard. So, with the shower curtain, the projector, the Fire TV stick, an extension cord, two chairs, and a pile of snacks, my wife and her friend sat down to watch Twilight — the first time they were able to watch a movie together since the pandemic began.

As it turns out, there was an added benefit to them watching the movie outside, especially since they intend to work their way through all five movies over the next few weeks. Because they can’t watch inside, they won’t be using our indoor entertainment center TV, which I can now use to watch something that is not Twilight-related.

So, for the first time since the pandemic began, I found a small silver lining. It’s saving me from having to experience Twilight in all its teen angsty vampirely werewolfly gory glory.

The XGIMI Halo projector itself, at about $800, is a bit expensive. But Amazon offers 1080p projectors for as little as $149 (note: I haven’t tested the one in the link). The shower curtain is less than seven bucks. Most folks have a tripod or a table, and the one we linked to was $30. Fire TV and Roku sticks can be had for around $30.

So, for under $200, including a projector, streaming stick, and make-shift screen, it’s possible to set up an outdoor theatre and enjoy the company of friends. Perhaps with this kind of setup, if you’re careful about distancing and masking, friends can enjoy some time together even in the face of the constantly evolving pandemic situation.

What about you? How have you created little pockets of normalcy in this insane COVID world?  Also, what movies would you recommend they watch after Twilight? Let us know in the comments below.


You can follow my day-to-day project updates on social media. Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Facebook at Facebook.com/DavidGewirtz, on Instagram at Instagram.com/DavidGewirtz, and on YouTube at YouTube.com/DavidGewirtzTV.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *