How can I make this homemade movie big enough to show at a party?
February 6, 2013 9:05 AM   Subscribe

My parents are celebrating their 50th anniversary. I have made a slideshow in iMovie with images, video and audio to show at the party. What is the cheapest, best-quality way that I can show this to an audience of about 20 people?

My original thought was to project it. We have a huge old projection screen, but no modern day projector. I thought about buying an LCD projector but now I see they're a big investment (like, $1000). Is it worth it to buy the cheapest one I can find? Or will that be just a waste of money? Do any stores, libraries, etc. rent them out?

Another option I guess would be to show it on my parents' moderately-sized TV. But with this option, I'm not sure what the cleanest method would be. Should I hook up a cable from the TV to a laptop with my movie downloaded on it? Should I attempt to burn a DVD and just play that (even though I don't have iDVD and get poor quality results from using my free "Burn" software)? I worked really hard on this project and I want it to be big, clear and beautiful! Please help me harness modern day technology to celebrate a very old relationship!
posted by RingerChopChop to Technology (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh -- and if it helps at all: My parents' TV is hooked up to a Roku box and we own one of these.
posted by RingerChopChop at 9:12 AM on February 6, 2013

Many modern TVs have a DVI input on the back, and depending on what outputs your laptop has, you can probably hook up the laptop to the TV as a second monitor fairly easily using a DVI cable or a DVI-VGA cable (if the laptop is VGA output and the TV is DVI input). Or if the laptop is modern enough it may have an HDMI output so you could use an HDMI cable (probably easier to get hold of/borrow) to connect to the TV's HDMI input (again, if it has one!).

Anyway, once you have the TV connected to the laptop it should show up as an extra monitor and you can just play the movie file on the laptop and drag the movie window onto TV screen. That saves you any potential loss in quality and issues with compatibility from burning a DVD.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:13 AM on February 6, 2013

They have a Roku? Get Plex. You install it both on the Roku and your computer, and then you can stream media from your computer to the TV. Clean and easy, though I'd definitely try this out before you go live. You need to configure the apps on both ends. I currently watch TV shows I've downloaded to my computer on my TV this way.

A word of warning: in my experience, Plex doesn't play nicely with all video formats. I've had bad luck with .mkv, for example, specifically that the audio and video aren't in sync. But I haven't had any problems with other formats so far. Plex uses VLC as its codec bank, and VLC will play just about anything, so it's pretty versatile.
posted by valkyryn at 9:20 AM on February 6, 2013 [2 favorites]

Have you tried asking around to see if any of the guests have a projector? In a group of 20 people I'd suspect at least one or two of them have one. That is probably the best solution, if you can get it in advance so you can test everything and make sure it works.

Otherwise, I would get a cable and plug your laptop into the TV, assuming it's a modern TV with an HDMI, DVI, or VGA input. Again, test before the big day.

The third choice would be to burn a DVD. I'd find a friend with iDVD rather than use your shifty software though, if the quality is bad. Or if you have a Mac, just get iDVD by purchasing a boxed version of iLife, it's less than $50.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:30 AM on February 6, 2013

Call around to a couple of local party planning companies or wedding planners. People use projectors at those sorts of events all the time, and they might be willing to rent one to you.
posted by decathecting at 9:32 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Seconding decathecting. Actually, if you look for companies renting A/V equipment to offices, those may be a good bet, too.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 9:44 AM on February 6, 2013

Friends of mine have rented LCD projectors for theatre productions; I think it's usually $100 or $150 for a weekend, and there is usually a deposit. I've heard of several types of place renting them... photo shops that do video transfer might be a good place to ask, or camera stores, or in one case a musical instrument store which also sold/rented stuff like amps and other performance accessories. Libraries might be a long shot, but if there is one in your area with really good multimedia equipment, it's a possibility.

Definitely don't buy a projector, just ask around and I am sure you will be able to find one available to rent.
posted by snorkmaiden at 11:14 AM on February 6, 2013

How long have you got? A second-hand ebay projector for the same price you'd pay to rent one would be a good buy.
posted by turkeyphant at 11:55 AM on February 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

IME, wedding planners don't actually really own any equipment, they just sub-contract companies that do own gear.

Projectors and even big-screen TVs can certainly be rented. Googling "projector rental", "A/V rental", "audio visual rental", "event rental", and "party rental" for your area should get some useable results - do a search for each of the above, as not all companies that have projectors for rent will appear under all search terms. Definitely shop around, as some of the companies you find will be aiming more at the business or live entertainment market, and probably more expensive, although even the cheapest rental is probably gonna cost more than the projector you linked to.

Note that one of the reasons the projector you linked to is super-cheap is that it only has a composite video input, which is basically an obsolete format, and could be a problem interfacing with your computer.

Most projectors don't have speakers built in, so you'll need some way to get the audio from your computer to the audience. Small speaker systems are also often available for rental from the same companies, or if the place the party is at has some kind of stereo system, you can connect the headphone out of your laptop to that with a cable like this.

If you rent/borrow a projector, you'll probably want to go with laptop to projector. Note that if your laptop is a Mac you might have to get an adapter to get the video in to the projector. Mention this to the rental places you call and they can probably help you out.

It's hard to give more detailed answers without some more info on the brand/model and input connection options on your parents' TV, or maybe the old projector you seem to have access to. "Cable from the laptop to the TV/projector" may not be all that simple if it's an older model.

All things considered, I'd say your simplest/cheapest options would be either the Plex app valkyryn mentioned, or Kadin2048's idea of buying iLife and/or enlisting the help of a friend to burn a better DVD, since you know your parents' DVD-to-TV setup works.
posted by soundguy99 at 12:03 PM on February 6, 2013

I have borrowed a projector from my office. I use them all the time to carry into conference rooms, so I asked my boss if I could take one home for the weekend (I promised to make it right if it were lost/damaged; that was a risk I was willing to take) and he said ok.
posted by CathyG at 1:36 PM on February 6, 2013

Joining the chorus here: Likely easiest, if output/input ports allow, is plugging the laptop directly into the TV, either HDMI or DVD. I have no experience with Roku, so skipping that. Finally, yes, you can almost certainly rent a projector. (Almost certainly = you are not in tiny rural area.)
posted by PMdixon at 2:28 PM on February 6, 2013

I'd honestly throw down my vote for buying one. they are readily available on craigslist for $50-100. look for an add that mentions the number of hours on the bulb. they generally last a couple thousand, so you want something in the low hundreds. when i recently needed one i saw quite a few in that price range meeting that requirement.

I'd look in to renting one if you really would rather, but it may actually cost about the same to just buy one. I've never heard about any kind of AV equipment rental being less than around $100, and usually on the north side. And then of course, you're renting something. what if the bulb blows up while you have it? what if it's somehow accidentally damaged? the forms may say it's not your problem, but it can still be a hassle. it's much of the annoyance of renting a car, but with a small fragile electronic thing. Not to mention that most of those places are set up to rent to people who put on events, not just random individuals.

As for playing the slideshow, i'd just plug my laptop straight in to the projector. they all have VGA ports, and some have DVI or HDMI. amazon stocks adapters for very, cheap(and i'm talking around $3) if your laptop doesn't have a VGA port right on the side.
posted by emptythought at 4:16 AM on February 7, 2013

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