How to Show a Movie With a Projector & a PC

Even the most portable of projectors can often produce an image larger than the biggest TVs, but you have to construct your environment to optimize the theater-like experience. The most important considerations when using a projector is the projection area and the ambient light. Projectors work best with dedicated projection screens, but a plain white wall will do in a pinch. The brightness of your projector will offset ambient light to a degree, so opt for a higher lumen rating for brighter rooms and try to minimize external light sources.

Items you will need

  • Projector screen or reflective paint
  • VGA, DVI or HDMI cable
  • 3.5 mm Male-to-male audio cable
Step 1

Set up your projector screen in a comfortable viewing position in the room. Make sure it is large enough to accommodate your anticipated image size. An alternative to a screen is to use reflective paint on an empty wall; this paint is designed for home theaters to optimize the image quality and brightness.

Step 2

Position the projector in a secure location where it won't be bumped or knocked by excited movie-goers. This could be on a table or chair, but a ceiling mount creates a more permanent solution that doesn't take up usable space. Keep the distance from the screen within the projector's advertised throw-distance, which is the distance it can project an image and properly focus. As a general rule, the further away from the screen, the larger the image, but if you go outside the specified throw-distance, you risk a blurry image.

Step 3

Connect a VGA, DVI or HDMI cable between matching ports on your computer and the projector. You can recognize a VGA port by its 15 pins and typical blue color. DVI ports are longer and usually have 24 or 28 pins. HDMI ports look like USB ports with angled bottom corners; these ports have the additional benefit of also carrying an audio signal.

Step 4

Connect a 3.5 mm male-to-male audio cable from your computer's "Audio Out" or "Headphones" jack to the projector's or an external sound system's "Audio In" port. If you connect to the projector using an HDMI cable, you won't need a separate audio cable to play sound through the projector, assuming the projector supports audio. However, if you plan to use your computer speakers or a separate sound system, you might need to disable the HDMI audio. Right-click the speaker icon from your computer's system tray and select "Playback Devices." Right-click "Speakers" and choose "Set as Default Device."

Step 5

Turn on your computer and projector. Press "Win-P" on your computer and select "Second Screen Only" or "Projector Only," depending on if you're running Windows 7 or 8. Doing so disables your primary screen to reduce ambient light and shows your computer screen through the projector. If you don't see your desktop through the projector, open the projector's menu and manually select the connection type, such as HDMI, VGA or DVI. Alternatively, select "Auto-Detect" to make the projector search through all available feeds.

Step 6

Close the curtains and turn off the lights to further reduce ambient light. Using thick, light-blocking curtains will help reduce light, particularly in the daytime.

Step 7

Calibrate your projector according to its manual. Some projectors will auto-focus, but some require you to manually focus them. Select "Movie Mode" on the projector to optimize the display for smoother, color-rich moving images. You might also find auto or manual adjustments for brightness, color and contrast that further fine tunes the display according to your preferences. Some projectors might also provide a color test pattern to make fine tuning more accurate.

Step 8

Launch your movie from your computer as you normally would. Make sure to use Full Screen Mode to maximize the display. A common way to do this is by pressing "Alt-Enter" or double-clicking the display portion of the window.

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