Posted on September 10, 2006 Art Feierman
A couple of months ago, one of the dealers who advertises on our site mentioned that they were – get this – selling a significant number of inflatable projector screens for outdoor use.
I’ve been familiar with such screens for several years, however to the best of my knowledge most sold in the $1000+ range and some several times that. Primarily they were sold for commercial applications – community events, concerts, you name it.
Also, some of them were very awkward to inflate and setup.
So, bottom line, this dealer tells me that this outdoor screen he is selling is from a company called Gemmy, and it sells for less than $300!
I couldn’t resist. I put in a call to Gemmy, and about four weeks later, a Gemmy inflatable screen arrives at my door, for review. Unfortunately due to some vacation time, and a busy review schedule it sat around in its box for about a month, until I finally got to it.
Well, I finally did get to it. With much trepidation, I might note. I’m not big on assembling things, not bad at it, but would just assume things be simple, or having someone else do it.
Before I go into the setup of the screen (and scare you readers a bit), let me just say that overall, this is a great, fun product. In fact, although it didn’t meet the type of qualifications I use for determining what receives our Hot Product Award, I feel that it is a unique product with a real consumer market of people who will enjoy using it. End result – a new class of reward has been created, and the Gemmy is the first to receive it – our Special Interest Award.
OK, here’s how it went: The screen arrived in a modest sized plain brown shipping box, which when opened revealed the Gemmy screen’s actual box, pretty, and nicely dressed up consumer style – with lots of information about the screen, as seen here.
Upon opening the box, you find the screen neatly packed in a black duffle like bag, as shown below. The major components included, are the inflatable frame, with it’s built in fans to inflate the screen (just like those bouncy inflatables you see at those “suburban rich” kids’ outdoor birthday parties), the screen surface itself, a bag of screw into the ground anchors and 8 tethers to tie down the screen.
Now, first I had intended to set it up in my driveway (and impress the neighbors), but upon a quick read of the installation guide, I realized they were looking for some lawn to place those anchors, so I abandoned that idea (for now). Instead, I hauled it to my typically very small California back yard, and started to set it up.
Documentation for setting it up (a laminated quickguide is provided and a small manual), proved to be pretty decent, except for one thing (I’ll get to that). I opened the screen frame and stretched it out in my backyard. I got out my waterproof extension cord, plugged it in and it started inflating. So far, so good, until I realized it wasn’t fully inflating! (That’s why I’m not a fan of assembling things myself.) So back to the guide and the manual. Sure enough there is a mention and a small diagram of a zipper, and a notice to make sure the zipper is closed. Problem is, it didn’t say where the zipper was, and no way to tell from the image. So, the sun has just gone down, and here I am using my camping lantern (and limited outside lighting) searching inch by inch – looking for this zipper. I finally got smart and looked around the fan, and sure enough – there it was, and wide open – leaking huge volumes of air. Bingo, I zipped it up, anticipating a smooth inflation, only to find, that, though better, I was still not going to get it fully inflated. Since the screen has two fans, I immediately checked around the other fan, and there it was. Zip again, and within moments the Gemmy was fully inflated, lying on the ground. (I would guess that, from scratch the screen frame inflates in less than 2 minutes – nice.)
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