Early trials were made with a 15" monitor
I bought a BenQ MP622C projector and hung this upside down on the ceiling
I then painted an old flush door white to use as a screen, the results were quite good. Here I am using a 6.5 foot wide by 3 foot high image. Some of the image is wasted over the top of the screen but the field of view is very good for one projector.
To be able to fit an overhead panel I have to move to back projection. I do not have the height to project over the top. I noticed that proper back projection screen material is quite expensive so I made up a frame an stretched fine weave white fabric over it, this was very cheap and gave me an idea of what could be achieved.The brightness is as good as front projection but the sharpness was affected somewhat by the weave which although fine was still visible.
I was sufficiently encouraged to look into the purchase of some proper back projection sheet. I found a supplier and he kindly sent me an A4 size sample to try, I fitted this over the fabric screen to compare. This was a bit disappointing, the material had a slight grey tint which is supposed to improve the contrast but was little different. Also the material had a slight texture which affected the sharpness, altogether not much improvement on the fabric; as one friend put it not seventy quid's worth better (£70 being the cost of a piece of material)
I then spoke to my photographer son who had used a soft white filter material successfully, he got me a whole roll, enough for a few screens, for around £50.
This was much better and is an acceptable standard for the foreseeable future.I have the projector mounted on the floor, this means that the lens is shielded by the coaming. A very slight flare can be seen in the above picture which is not obtrusive.
Having been flying for acouple of years with the back projector I was not fully happy with the sharpness, the pixels were a bit too large. I thought about going to triple TFT monitors and watched the prices coming down. It would still be a large investment and I thought it would be interesting to see what happened if I projected onto one screen to improve the resolution; this made an enormous difference which does not come over too well in the photographs. I bought a second projector from eBay and this was a transformation. Not easy to get aligned and I will have to make some special projector stand with micro adjustment. I also need to attend to colour matching; ideally I should have got an identical projector but one did not come on eBay. This one will be fine with a bit more adjustment. I then plan to split and rake the screens back which will get rid of the blank corner ahead of the outside pillars.
Major upgrade 2013
I was still not fully satisfied with the two projector setup. It was difficult to maintain the alignment, the bulbs as they aged changed the tint and I then started losing pixels on one projector which is the kiss of death.
The price of TV screens had dropped significantly by this time, I therefore looked for two large screens with the thinnest bezels and chose LG 47" units. I experimented for some time with the best location; it is not possible to lay them on the window frames as they would need to be trapezoidal rather than rectangular. If the screens were too close it was a strain on the eyes. I eventually achieved what I wanted and I am very pleased with the results. Having chosen thin bezels the joint between the screens is not really a problem, much of the join is behind the windscreen pillar anyway. I reduced the effect of the visible area by using a triangular mirror which reflected the sky and ground across the join making it even less obtrusive. I was asked why I did not go for three screens as many sim builders do; this is OK for single seat cockpits but for two seats the join would be in the middle of the field of view. Depending on which cockpit is "pilot flying" I shift the eyepoint slightly to improve the view of the runway centreline.
Part of the major upgrade was to move from FS9 to FSX (preparatory to a further move to Prepar3d). I usually build my own PC's but I had been recomended to Chillblast as they produced models optimised for Flight Simulation and I felt their specialist knowledge would be better than my agricultural approach. We found surprisingly that Nvidia cards will not span FS across two screens (I confirmed this with Nvidia who blamed Windows!). I used AMD cards which work fine. I have used AMD/ATI cards everywhere else so I was familiar with the interface.
In 2014 I moved to Lockheed Martin P3D and supplemented this with FTX Global, Global Vector and Open LC.
I have made provision for two side screens to be added later which will give me 180 degrees of vision.
Side views added November 2014
I added two 40" TV screens at each side of the cockpit, absolutely magic! I cannot see me wanting any further upgrades to the visual system except perhaps software upgrades to keep the frame rates up with the development of scenery. I am currently getting 30fps which with P3D is very smooth
One of the ATI graphics cards has failed and it is not possible to get another of the same type. With the move to P3D another option has appeared, the centre two screens are now driven by a Dual Head to Go and P3D will span across (does not work with FSX). I have therefore fitted two Nvidia GTX 970 cards in SLI driving all three screens (the two front panels count as one screen). Frame rates are good considering the area of glass.