Back-lit Poster Light Boxes
for that unique touch to your home theater
DIY Light boxes building tips and purchasing advice
There is no doubt that poster presentation plays a definite role in helping you recreate that much desired movie theater experience in the home. While poster presentation is very much dependent on your overall room decor, nothing beats the poster light-box for the ultimate in movie poster presentation.
In this article, we present tips for the DIY home theater enthusiasts looking to build their own light box. Yet even if you are after an off-the-shelf product, the information contained in this movie poster guide will help you identify the features to look for when planning a light box purchase.
We conclude this article by presenting what is available on the market, featuring a number of ready-made light boxes specifically designed for the home user.
Poster light boxes add a unique finishing touch to your home theater, or in that case anywhere you want to display a poster. Why?
The classical way to illuminate movie posters for display is from behind. Most light boxes operate in this manner by having a warm or 'daylight' light source mounted on the rear side of a box frame. A diffuser plate is used to help eliminate the formation of possible hot-spots of light over the movie poster area.
These backlit light boxes are also referred to as 'backlit poster boxes' and are normally designed to take '1-Sheet' poster sizes. The latter are typically 27 inches in width by 40 to 41 inches in height, depending on whether it is a pre-1983/1985 poster or otherwise.
While it is possible to mount either type in a light box, yet the best posters to use in backlit poster light boxes are double-sided posters. These are normally designated as 'DS' 1-Sheet posters.
DS 1-Sheet posters have printing on both the front and the back of the paper stock, with the printing on the backside being in precise alignment with that on the front and a mirror image of the printing on the front side.
Light from behind the 1-Sheet poster will have to pass through both prints, with the poster acting as if it is a strip of film. The two prints on either side of the poster will render for a more robust and rich illumination of the poster art.
That is not to say that the cheaper and more common single-sided posters are not suitable for use in backlit light boxes. It is just that one-sided 1-Sheet posters look somewhat washed-out when illuminated from behind in comparison to DS 1-Sheet posters.
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Well... building your own poster light box should not be difficult in that you do not need to be neither a carpenter nor an electrician though you need to have some basic DIY skills.
By building your own backlit poster box, you will be able to save some money since good quality off-the-shelf poster light boxes designed to take 1-Sheet size posters cost a few hundred dollars. In addition, opting for the do-it-yourself route gives you the opportunity to get the finish you want.
It is not the scope of this article to go into the actual step-by-step process of building your own light box since there are various ways of how you can proceed, ways that are mainly a matter of preference.
However, what we would like to present here are a few important design guidelines worth following when designing and building a back-lit light-box. Even if you are not taking the DIY route, opting for a product that follows these design considerations will help ensure that light from your backlight source does not damage the movie poster on display:
Being Slim - not necessarily the best way forward
While a slim design lends itself to a stylish unit that integrates better with the surroundings, care should be taken to ensure that there is always enough space between the backlight source and the back of the poster. This will help reduce both the formation of hot-spots of light on the poster area as well as reduce any damage that may result from the heat generated by the light source.
Use of Fluorescent light source:
Use of low temperature fluorescent tubes is mandatory to maintain as low enough operating temperature as possible to avoid damaging the poster artwork after long hours of continuous use.
High operating temperatures will damage both the stock paper on which the poster is printed, as well as accelerate the fading process of the artwork itself.
Mounting your posters inside a Light Box:
The best way to hang your poster inside a light box is between two clear acrylic sheets set approximately 1/8 inch (a few millimeters) apart to allow your poster to simply slide in a pocket of air without being tight between the plates. Support your poster from the top with either miniature clips or a few small pieces of transparent Scotch tape, and let gravity do the rest.
We prefer acrylic in place of glass as clear acrylic sheets have an exceptionally high optical clarity, are stiff and tough compared to glass, and have excellent dimensional stability over a wide range of temperate.
Ultra-violet radiation and Fading:
Ultra-violet rays need to be filtered out before the light reaches the poster, otherwise your precious print will slowly fade as a result of being bombarded by UV radiation.
In particular, great care should be taken with DS sheets. Some acrylic/Plexiglas sheets come with a UV protection coating and therefore, can easily serve as a UV filter. This means that if you are using the two-sheet Plexiglas pocket design to slide your posters, then you do not need to do anything.
Otherwise, you will have to find some UV-filtering product. A suitable alternative is to apply some non-yellowing archival protection lacquer spray (available from most arts stores), used for the protection of paintings and acrylics; these are normally UV resistant and should do the trick. But do not apply the lacquer direct onto your precious movie poster. Instead, spray a uniform coat of lacquer to the lamp-side face of the inner acrylic panel.
Adding style to your home theater with elegant yet affordable off-the-shelf Backlit Poster Light Boxes
DIY is not your way? Building a backlit light box to display your favorite posters is surely not a job for everyone even though it does not require any special skills.
Luckily, it is possible to find affordable professionally-made back-lit poster light boxes at a number of online retails; best stocked suppliers in this respect are MovieGoods, amazon.com, and Stargate Cinema (links to the respective product pages are given at the end of this article).
Generally, light boxes at MovieGoods sell at a slightly cheaper price tag but we advise to check the other two retailers as well since shipping costs may vary.
Backlit light boxes designed with the home theater enthusiast in mind can take 1-Sheet movie posters (up to 27" x 40" in size); however, light boxes are also available in other sizes as well.
Overall design of most poster light boxes is rather discreet - with a sort of seamless appearance from the side. This better helps promote your movie poster rather than the light box itself. In addition, the minimalistic design allows these boxes to blend in with any furniture and room décor while beautifully illuminating any movie poster—single-sided or double-sided.
The casing of these back-lit light boxes is made from high-quality wood and smooth matt or satin finished either in stylish black colored wood, dark-stained maple wood, or in a beautiful clear pine finish.
1-Sheet size poster light boxes use two or four (depending on model) high output 36-inch low temperature fluorescent light bulbs for a uniform lighting over the whole poster area while maintaining a low enough operating temperature. 1/2-sheet size poster light boxes use two 24-inch bulbs instead. The use of low temperature fluorescent bulbs makes it possible for these units to stay lit for hours without damaging your posters. Hot running light boxes can easily result in faded posters.
To further protect your posters from light damage, these light boxes include a special light diffusing acrylic backplane - which acts both as a diffuser and as a UV absorbent filter.
Poster loading is easy thanks to the use of a side loaded spring system while electrical connection of the poster light box can be either through a hanging cord or internal wiring - depending on or your needs.
These light boxes are easy to install and include all necessary hardware, with easy-to-follow instructions to help anyone mount these poster light boxes for a most professional finish.
For more information on available poster light boxes and pricing, please follow on the respective links below:
The present range of available poster backlit boxes at amazon come from River City Theaters and Metropolitan Display; sizes covered include 36-inch by 36-inch, 27-inch x 40-inch for 1-sheet posters - the most common size in the movie poster industry, and 22-inch x 28-inch for 1/2-Sheet poster sizes.
The poster light boxes available from MovieGoods are 28.5-inch x 41-5-inch x 4-inch deep to take 1-Sheet posters and come finished in clear pine, matte black or dark stained maple.
The matte black light box comes in either two or four bulb versions; the others come in four bulb version only.
Stargate Cinema offers an extensive range of illuminated poster cases - from standard illuminated poster boxes and affordable ultra-slim LED illuminated poster cases to more elaborate designs incorporating additional enhancements like illuminated borders and daters.
One such case is the illuminated poster case with dater shown here. Do not expect these enhancements to come cheap, but standard poster backlit boxes sell for the same price as the competition.