I’m finally ready to unveil my latest project: a video and sound effects processing machine mounted in a portable case. The project is geared toward use with tabletop RPGs. The kit will contain a video projector to display initiative and effects during combat, images and video to illustrate the plot and a speaker system for music and sound effects. A wireless network access point will be installed to allow remote control from a laptop or iPhone.
While this project is primarily for use by dungeon masters, the final product could easily be adapted for use as a VJ rig or a mobile theater. I’ll be posting my progress over the next several weeks with instructions and pictures. This will be more of a HOWIDIDIT than a HOWTO. I won’t be providing exact part lists because I’m scrounging half of the parts from my junk drawers. Hopefully others will find it useful in assembling their own DIY kits.
If you have been following the site, you already know I am a laptop DM. I use a laptop, sound effects and a LCD projector in my weekly D&D game. I pack all my electronics, dice bag and minis into a plastic suitcase and lug it to work on game days. I’ve been using the setup for a little over three months with great success, but I do notice some problems now.
My biggest issue with my current rig is configuration time. It takes me at least 15 minutes to get everything ready and 10 minutes to break down at the end of the gaming session. I’d like to build a more versatile rig that can be assembled in under 3 minutes so I can kickback and chat with my friends. Because I live in Seattle, my second biggest problem is the weather. I currently store all my game materials in a watertight case because I never know when I’ll end up in a torrential downpour. The case modification must remain waterproof.
Step 1: Pick a case
The first step is to find a case. Look for something light, not too bulky. We want to keep it easy to transport, right? The local army surplus store is a good place to start rummaging. Carefully inspect the casing for damage. For my purposes, I was also looking to make sure the weatherstripping was still in place. Make sure all the fasteners are in working order. You want a container with sufficient space to hold your gear and have room to grow. You may want to print out the dimensions of your equipment before heading to the store.
Eventually you will find the perfect case. Mine was made of rugged plastic and big enough to hold my projector with room left over for a computer, speakers and storage. The cases I found came in two varieties: hinged lid or removable lid. I decided to go with a hinged lid. My idea was to mount the projector and computer upside down in the lid. Then I could prop the lid open partially to beam my visuals. Depending on where the projector is mounted, you might be able to angle the beam by mounting it near the front of the lid.
Step 2: Get a projector and mount
Bring your case home and clean it up a bit, peel off any packing labels and wipe out the dust. I already had a projector, an Epson EMP-1705c. After googling around a bit, I determined a ceiling mount was the best way to mount my projector in my case.
Find a ceiling mount. Luckily, I found an inexpensive ceiling mount for my projector on ebay. The mount was low profile – only adding four inches to the height. It arrived a few days later and even had standoffs so I didn’t have to remove the projector feet.
Secure the ceiling mount to the projector following the instructions included.
Step 3: Determine mount point
Figure out where you are going to attach your projector. Flip over the lid and balance the mounted projector inside. Try to find a sweet spot in the case where the projector mount can swivel while leaving space for mounting other components later.
Once you find the spot, open and close the lid several times to make sure it won’t rub against the projector.
Mark the mount point with a marker.
Step 4: Drill holes
Now, it’s time to drill mounting holes. My mount only required 2 holes.
After puncturing the lid, slide a screwdriver into the hole. Work it gently in a circle to widen the opening.
I used a plastic washer on top of a metal washer and fastened the wing nuts very tightly to keep water from leaking into the case.
Next, screw in the bolts. The holes should be large enough to get the bolts started but small enough to keep a good grip on the bolt threads.
Step 6: Attach projector
With the mounting bolts secure, flip over the case. In the photo below, you can see the dry erase marks from when I marked the edge of my mount.
Disconnect the base of the ceiling mount and fish a couple wingnuts and washers out of your tool box.
Handtighten the wingnuts.
Here’s a shot of the other end of my projector mount joint. Reach under the projector and screw it into the mount base.
Here’s a shot of the project after I secured it to the mount base.
Double check that your case can still close.
Flip the case over to make sure the projector is secure.
Step 7: Add shock absorbers
Tape or glue some padding into your case to protect your components. I was afraid the mount would shake loose and my projector would be damaged. Put foam in various places to immobilize your projector. I cut a chunk from a block of soft foam I salvaged from a shipment to the office.
I used double-sided mounting tape to mount the padding, but you could glue it if you’re not concerned about repurposing the case later.
Step 8: Take a break
Break time. I suggest some IPA and pierogies.
Step 9: Check your work
Did you fry the projector? Power up your projector, plug in your laptop and verify everything is working. I’m using a drumstick from my Rockband drums to prop open the case until I can get something better. In the shot below you can see the inititive tracker I created in processing. Here is a short demo if you are interested.
Be sure to check back soon. In future installments, I will be mounting my Acer Revo in the lid, installing a 2.1 sound system, hooking up the wireless access point and automating my sound and video effects.