Outdoor floodlight and game system
After spending several nights this summer reviewing outdoor TVs under the stars, the gears in my head started turning. If I could watch sports and live broadcasts outside, why not bring a gaming system or computer too? I brought some concepts to my dad, a flooring expert who often does DIY woodworking projects in his spare time. Together we designed a multi-functional Projectorcade (projector arcade) – an all-in-one outdoor entertainment center that contains a two-player arcade cabinet pedestal at the top and shelves for an outdoor projector, as well as additional devices like a laptop or speaker, in a portable structure atop a set of locking wheels.
At just over 50 pounds, it’s light enough that one person can easily lift and push it from living room to backyard using the built-in side handles or attached wheels. You can play the majority of arcade titles and console video games released into the 21st century using authentic joystick controls and mechanical buttons from a classic machine. If you don’t feel like playing retro games, you can just use the projector as a streaming device to watch media from video apps like Netflix or share home movies from your phone to a 120 inch screen. And because the projector I used has two 5-watt mid-range tweeters and a 10-watt woofer built-in, the speakers get loud enough to stream Spotify day and night with booming sound. Here’s what you’ll need to make your own.
Choose the right outdoor projector and the right arcade system
A projector is made up of two main pillars: a projector for displaying visuals and an arcade for computing power. I chose the BenQ GS50 projector for this setup for two reasons: its high level of performance and its robustness to brave the elements. The GS50 delivers a crisp picture accompanied by crisp sound, earning it a spot in our Gadget and Yard & Garden awards. Plus, it has inputs for multiple sources like the arcade system or a gaming laptop. The GS50 uses an Android TV interface to download all your apps, and using the remote, I can switch on the arcade HDMI input in one click. That said, you can save a lot of money on this build by buying a more affordable projector. Now for the arcade itself, I went with the At Games Legends Gamer Pro system you see above.
The Gamer Pro is an arcade system consisting of a streaming puck and a two-player control bridge. The brains of this system and its library of games are contained in this small computer puck that connects wirelessly to the control bridge. An HDMI cable on the back of this streaming device connects to the projector to display the image. You navigate and play using the control panel consisting of two joysticks, 16 mechanical action buttons (eight per player), a trackball and four side pinball buttons for pinball games. This control versatility means you can play a variety of titles, from Street Fighter to Golden Tee. The AtLegends system can even connect to a laptop or gaming computer to play modern games using the control deck as an input device. I fired up demanding titles like Soul Calibur VI from my laptop’s Steam library to recreate an arcade feel for modern gaming in my backyard.
Tools and materials for woodworking
We wrote the sizing specifications to create the portable arcade pedestal, storage shelves, and stand with a single sheet of standard 4 x 8 plywood in mind. Your local hardware store will even make cuts for free, which is handy if you don’t have a saw. The dimensions of my plans are above for reasons of saving time and transport. But if you prefer to make your own cuts, a circular saw, chainsaw, or table saw will do the job. I recommend using a jigsaw for curved cuts, but a scroll saw works if you don’t have that power tool. Besides a saw, you’ll need a nail gun for assembly, but a hammer with wood glue and finishing nails works just as well. The last tool you will need is a drill to install the casters.
I took a trip to my local Lowe’s with a $100 net bill and our design plan in hand to purchase a full sheet of 3⁄4 CDX plywood for $53.08. This provided the majority of the projector components, from the sides to the shelves. For more stability and easier access to the wheels, I grabbed two 18-inch 2x4s my dad had laid around his workshop to widen the bottom. Speaking of wheels, I bought four of these 2-inch locking casters with brakes so the entire projector can easily roll and then stay in place even when I manage to mash the buttons. We were then left with two choices: paint the projector or wrap it. I chose to wrap it with three rolls of this black marbled PVC contact paper from Amazon for a clean look that I wouldn’t have to wait or hit with another coat. In total, the projectorcade rig only costs $99.58 to manufacture.
Build the sides of the Projectorcade
To start, we grabbed our 40 inch side panels and made a mark 1 1⁄8 inches from the top edge on both sides. At this mark, we used our jigsaw to create a notch 3 inches deep and 2.5 inches wide to perfectly house the flipper pinball buttons on either side of the control bridge. Next, we used the curved shape of a decade-old cell phone we found in my dad’s workshop as a template for an integrated ergonomic grip. Since the handles were located in the center of the wood, we used a 5⁄8 inch drill bit to make a pilot hole, then inserted the jigsaw to make a rounded cut. To finish, we lightly sanded each edge and placed both pieces to the side.
Added shelves for projector, gaming system and storage
Next, we had to cut four shelves for the project. The bottom shelf serves as a support base, so we cut it to 28.5 inches long, slightly longer than the other three shelves, which we cut to 27 inches. Using this base as a starting point, we attached the two side panels at each end using the brad nailer. We placed a 27 inch shelf 3 inches below the top of the side panels extending between them to create the projector frame. We chose this 3-inch depth because it’s the same as the arcade panel, which can now sit flush when in the spotlight while still being easily removable. Next, we placed the second shelf 14 inches below the top shelf, allowing room for airflow to keep the projector from overheating. Finally, we placed the final 16-inch shelf below the projector shelf to accommodate a large gaming laptop, leaving us 4 inches of storage at the bottom for controllers and a keyboard. After all of our shelves were installed, we used a 7⁄8 inch spade bit to drill holes in one corner of each shelf so the wires could run through.
Finally, we added a 27 inch rail to the front at the top, marking it at points 5 1⁄4 and 10 1⁄2 inches before cutting it there to create a 2 inch deep rectangular notch for easy access to the arcade system. rear port. Just below this rail, we sealed the back with the large 20 1⁄2 x 40 inch piece to stabilize the projector during gameplay. Hitting controllers or entering combos in fighting games can get intense. For even more stability, we took two 18-inch pieces of 2x4s and attached casters to them using 1 1⁄4-inch wood screws. We centered these longer wheel legs along the bottoms of the side panels to connect them to the overall projector structure. These 2×4 sections keep the build from being too heavy and make it easier to access and lock the casters instead of having to reach under the cart.
Design your dream outdoor media center
Applying the contact paper was the final and longest step of the whole project. For time constraints, we used PVC shelf paper to give the projectorcade a finished look instantly. If you opt for premium plywood (about double the price of the CDX we used), you can stain or paint it to create a unique looking piece of furniture. Once it was completely packed, we unlocked the wheels, moved the unit to our white picket fence, and inserted the arcade system up top. We finished as the sun was starting to set, so the moment I pulled out the projector and gaming laptop, it was time for my dad and I to jump into some of our favorite games we used to play together when I was a child.
My projectorcade is just a template, so feel free to add changes as you see fit. Some of my future upgrade plans include 3D printing cup holders, adding chrome trim to match the arcade system, and LED lighting. Although it is very functional in its current state as a gaming system and streaming device, you can add even more features such as a Windows PC key and a Bluetooth keyboard to make it a portable outdoor PC or even use the extra storage space to create a mini bar on wheels.
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