Big Projections/ Little Budget


Active Member
How can I create large scale scenic projections on a small budget ($3,000ish)? We have a white, seamless cyc with shop space behind. I would like to throw an image from behind, about 25' back that would give me an overall image approximately 40'x20'.

What little knowledge I have with projections at least tells me that this is nothing I could accomplish with the average digital projector. I need large scale with decent to great output. What kind of scenic projection equipment would I need to bring in for this? For that matter what does "scenic projector" even mean these days?

What software is good for running live theatrical applications? I don't need to do anything complicated: cross fading from slide to slide is about it - no video


Well-Known Member
Fight Leukemia
I don't think you're going to be able to punch through something as thick as a cyc with ANY projector, but I'm sure someone with more experience than I will confirm or deny. QLab would be my suggestion if you have a Mac, but something as simple as Powerpoint would do the trick if your needs aren't that complicated.


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Premium Member
Fight Leukemia
If you're just running static images and are new to this field, I would keep it simple and use Powerpoint.

$3000 might get you a decent 5,000lm projector but you would have to front project to preserve brightness and you would wash the the image out quite a bit. Not as big a deal if you're projecting white text on a black background, but any artwork or images with color gradients will lose all detail in the mid-tones and shadows. Big round numbers, you'd be more appropriately served by a 10,000lm projector, which would get you still only a meager ~40 nits of brightness. (50 nits is my preferred minimum for controlled lighting environments, which a cyc tends not to be because of light spill and reflections)

Unless you're really committed to purchasing, you might want just want to call around to sister theaters in your area and work out a deal with someone. Whether it's a "we'll borrow this now and you can borrow our stuff later" or "here's $3,000 for a 2-3wk rental". I don't think you can afford to rent a big projector from an actual rental house.

Don't forget you need cables and a way to hang/mount the projector. Running the slide deck from a stage wing will be cheaper than coming up with the infrastructure for running from the booth. If you are somehow able to secure a 10k+ lumen projector, you can try rear-projection for ease-of-use but that cyc's going to suck up a lot of your brightness. Either way, you need to have the right lens for where you're projecting from. In this case, a 20' x 35' image from 25' away requires a 0.7:1-capable lens. If you shoot from front-of-house and that's 80' away, it would be a 2.25:1 for that same image size.


Well-Known Member
One of our volunteers recently purchased several 5,500 lumen NEC projectors from a university surplus. It's risky going that route, but they were only $300 each and apparently all are in good condition. If you're on the cheap and don't mind taking a bit of risk, that might be a route to look in to. I'd imagine university projectors would have a lot of hours, but at least they're used in a clean installed environment. Just make sure the lamp cost doesn't outweigh the value of the PJ's.

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