Monday, January 6, 2014

DIY Smartphone Projector

Everywhere I turn I'm hearing about snow storms, schools closing, arctic blasts... and unfortunately, power outages. But if you and your family want to watch a movie to kill some time and you all don't want to crowd around your smartphone, there's a solution!

All you need is a phone (with a hand charger, I hope, so you don't waste your entire battery!), an empty shoe box, a marker, a magnifying glass, some tape and scissors, and you can make a homemade smartphone projector. I found this post on TheMetaPicture and had to test it out!

First, remove all cats from your shoebox. This will be the hardest step because they can be ridiculously adorable. Resist the urge to give in.

Next, take off the handle of the magnifying glass and trace the outline with your marker on a short side of the shoebox.

Take your scissors (or x-acto knife, if you have one) and cut out the circle.

Then take your magnifying glass and tape it to the box. I used electrical tape and it worked just fine.

Now the original post says to use a paperclip and somehow turn that into a phone stand. I must be an idiot because I tried for a good 10 minutes to figure out how the heck a paperclip could be a stand to no avail. So good luck with that, if that's what you choose to use.

And supposedly, that's all you have to do! But there are actually a few more steps I found to make this work. First and foremost, turn the brightness on your phone as high as it'll go. Otherwise, you won't be able to see a thing.

Now there are two ways you can get the image to project correctly. If you don't follow either of these steps, your images will be upside-down.

#1 - Using a mirror, hold your phone above the mirror, which will then project through the magnifying glass an image that's upright. However, I find this to be way too difficult and cumbersome.

#2 - What I recommend is:
     * Lock your phone's orientation so it doesn't change when you turn the phone
     * Turn your phone upside-down so the top is on the bottom of the box and the bottom is up in the air
     * Project the image while it's in portrait orientation (not landscape)

Note that the further back you are from the wall, the bigger the image but... the dimmer it'll be. The photo below was taken with the lens 38" away from the wall and the phone was 47 1/2" away from the wall. The photo of myself ended up being 8"x15". I could have made it bigger but then I couldn't have taken this photo well.

And I'm calling shenanigans on the original post's photo with David Bowie - my husband, a professional photographer, says they probably did a long exposure to get the shot so don't be surprised if you have the lights on and can't see what's on the wall!

However, I can say that it does work! You just need a little patience, figuring out the correct distance from the wall and from the lens but with a little tweaking, you should be able to do it!

$1.99 for magnifying glass from Ace Hardware
$1.99 for electrical tape from Staples
Scissors, shoe box, a marker, and phone on hand

TOTAL AMOUNT OF TIME: About 10 minutes
Note that this doesn't include the time to make the paperclip stand... which took way too much time...

EASY-PEASY SCALE (1 super easy - 5 very difficult): 2 out of 5
The only difficult thing will be figuring out how much distance there should be from the box to the wall and how much distance between the phone and the magnifier. Once you get it figured out, though, you'll be set!


  1. Oh, this is really useful - I'm feeling the pain for our friends in Minneapolis right now. Movies are pretty much all they have left... 'til the power goes out. I'll take our worrisome drought over -22 and hideous windchill any day.

  2. I was thinking this would be a fun, cheap, diy projector for Christmas. I'm curious if the magnifying glass would improve the quality? For instance, would a larger magnifying glass create a bigger picture? I've also seen a rectangular magnifying glass, would that create a better picture than the circular type? I realize its only a few bucks, but I'd rather not buy a bunch of magnifiers to experiment if someone has some advice before I begin? Any thoughts.

    1. We didn't try experimenting with different magnifying glasses but it's conceivable that a larger glass would create a bigger picture. Other factors to consider include distance of the glass from your screen, screen brightness, the size of the box, and the distance from the wall. The most troublesome factor for us was the brightness. I used an iPhone 5 on its highest setting and it still came out a little bit fuzzy.

  3. I cant veiw it on the wall can u please help me out is it because I'm using very cheap magnifying glass

    1. Chances are you'll need to get reeeeeally close to the wall to see any sort of picture. You're not going to get a clear image, I'm afraid.

  4. Why should it be on portrait orientation and not landscape?

    1. It's been a year since I tried this but I think I recommended portrait because the quality wasn't as sharp with landscape. But hey, I say try both and let me know which works best for you!

  5. I'm not getting any picture at all, just a white rectangle... Help?!?

  6. how to improve picture quality in projecter ?

    1. give me idea of it in my e id

    2. give me idea of it in my e id

  7. my girlfriend and i tried it yesterday, and guess what happened, it was nothing of useful. All i got was a really blurried image of nothing, despite i took care that the box would be black to prevent the light from escaping the box and to enhance the quality, nevertheless it didn't work out at all. i checked many youtube video of the same project but i don't know. i guess it's just a prank or i did something wrong! :(

  8. Great article Lot's of information to Read...Great Man Keep Posting and update to People..Thanks

  9. So this does nothing but throw a white light? No picture no matter what you do - all steps followed completely and room is pitch black - no image no matter how close or far away phone is feom magnifying glass or vox from wall projecting on. Its just whit light - awesome total timewaste :(