How to set-up your own 3D theater.

Posted: October 12, 2011 in Uncategorized

I’ve done an overview video of the process. I would suggest watching it first here.

Components you need

2 Projectors
2 Polarizing Filters (linear or circular) and matching Cicular/Linear Polarized Glasses
Silver Screen
Computer for playback
software (VLC for Mac or Stereoscopic Player PC)
DVI to HDMI Cables (optional)

Setting up a 3D theater is actually pretty easy but it does require very specialized parts.

A Silver Screen from Strong/MDI with their frame

Overview – The way this system works is, you project two images, one for each eye, onto a screen. The light of each image is polarized to match a pair of glasses that the viewer wears. The lenses filter each video out leaving each eye viewing on of the two images. A special silver screen preserves the polarization of the light. This is very close to the system used in the theaters today and can even work with RealD glasses. Note- this set-up requires stereoscopic movies and will not work with 3D Blu-ray. I’m sure this is possible but I don’t know how to make that extra step.

Projectors – The first thing you need is a couple projectors. It would be great if they matched but they don’t have to. The resolutions don’t have to match either but it will probably make your life easier. The important part is that you can match the two played back images perfectly. It’s also good to get as bright of projectors as you can. There are two sets of filters involved an each will cut down the light. I’ve heard that 2k projectors work fine. Of course, the darker you get your theater the better. I used Infocus Projectors and I’m very happy with the result. One other note – I’ve been using a pair of DVI-to-Cables that I am very happy with. I had trouble with the computer seeing the exact same projectors as the same resolution. These cables solved the problem.

Silver Screen -Aim both projectors at your silver screen (You can get yours from either Awater3D or StrongMDI, I’ve used both and they are great). Get both images to overlap perfectly. I used a focus chart for one projector and an inverted focus chart for the other. This make aligning the images easier. You have to use a silver screen otherwise the images will loose their polarization when they reflect and the filters won’t work. Other options include silver screen paint (which I have not tried, supposedly works but you need to apply to a very flat surface and use a sprayer). Vintage silver screens will also work. The image looks great and you can find them for as little as $20 online.
Filters – Next, you’ll need a set of polarizing filters. You have two options here. You can get two linear polarizers such as these  or a set of circular polarizers such as these from Awater 3D or these from American Polarizers. I’ve used both and they are excellent. Circular Polarizers will match Real D glasses while linear require their own glasses – such as these.

Align the filters –
Linear polarizers work at 45° to each other. Most likely you’ll need to tip each filter like a diamond to align it correctly. You can hold it up to a pair of linear 3D glasses to check alignment. It should black out one eye and let light pass through the other. Do the opposite for the opposite eye.

Circular Polarizers work differently. They have a front and back and a left and right. Again use your circular polarized glasses to test the orientation of each filter. I’ve used fitters from both Awater3D and American Polarizers. Each are great and come labeled. If there is a notable loss in resolution when the filter is applied check to see that you have removed all the protective laminates that come of the filters.

Playback – Stereoscopic Movies come in several formats. However, they all operate under the same principal – show the viewer two different movies at the same time. To do this, usually you are actually playing back two movies at the same time or one movie file that has each view squished into it either side-by-side or over-under. Each playback method requires special software.

For Macs use VLC Player – File> Advanced Open File> Play Another Media  Synchronously. I’ve used this to watch 90 minutes of stereo content with perfect sync. note – it’s not easy to jump around with VLC player. You pretty much have to hit play and watch. You can also configure it to playback Side-by-side movies using the wall filter. This is pretty tricky but works great once set-up.



For PCs – Stereoscopic Player is the software to use. There are other freeware options out there but I haven’t tried them. They seem to get very little use – it’s up to you what you want to use.

That’s everything you need. Respond below and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you have. Good Luck!

Make sure to check out my last 3D Short Shine here.

  1. Steven Oster says:

    Thanks for the excellent DIY setup. You are adding something valuable to the internet!
    1. Could you stack the projectors on top of each other? Or is it easier side by side?
    2. Are there any visual benefits to this dual projector setup vs active shutter projectors?
    3. With all the polarization going on, I’ll bet lumens become a very important issue, Is there a minimum you suggest?
    4. I’ve read that with 3D, a large screen is important for an “immersive” experience. Does your setup fill a large swath of view for the audience?
    5. How many audience members can this setup used for? 25, 100, 200 people?
    6. You mention that you haven’t used this for 3D Blu-Ray, where do you find suitable content?
    7. As a 3D content producer and consumer, can you give some opinion on what kind of content fits well in this format, where you see 3D headed in the next 5 years, and the difficulty of distributing something that you worked hard on that nobody can watch.

    Thanks so much,

    • Chompers 3D says:

      Hi Steven,

      1. Shouldn’t be a problem. I like to be able to scoot each projector hence the side-by-side but most set-ups are stacked.
      2. The glasses are waaaaaay cheaper. $8 for a fancy pair vs $50 for the cheapest active shutter glasses. Also, you get a full HD picture continuosly.
      3. I think 2k is the minimum for lumens. But it really depends on how dark your environment is and how large your projection is. You’ll probably be fine with just about any modern projector.
      4.The depth of 3D is affected by the size. (if the images are twice as big the seperation (parralax) doubles. So, it’s important to view it at the size the filmmaker intended to get the correct depth.
      5. This is scalable to any size audience. It would follow the same parameters as regular projection.
      6. I make my own content! Check out and
      7. I just did an interview here where I wax philosophical on the future of 3D. Check it out here.

      Hope that helps. Hit me back with any other questions.

  2. Maheel says:


    Could you give a rough guide on the prices pl.

  3. Gary says:

    Can you use lcd projectors such as the newer panny ae400u?

  4. Gary says:

    oops, I meant Panny PT Ae4000U

    • Chompers 3D says:

      Should work just fine. The only projectors that it might not work with are laser projectors because I’m not sure if you can polarize their light (I believe lazers are inherently aligned) You can test it out with a pair of 3D glasses. Just cut them up and stack both lenses in front of the light. You should be able to rotate them so that they block the light out and further rotate them so it passes through.

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