There are a lot of creature comforts I miss during this pandemic. Family and friends, obviously. Free-roaming the city, of course. Wearing lipstick, minor but true. But among my top ten, most-missed experiences is going to the movies. I was an early adopter of the ill-fated, unlimited theater ticket subscription service, MoviePass—and, when MoviePass reached its inevitable end, a member of AMC’s own three-a-week deal. And I used my weekly limits religiously, seeing my favorites, like Little Women and The Farewell, on repeat before they left screens.
Going to the cinema scratches two itches. First, it gets you off your phone (unless you’re that poorly behaved guest the pre-roll credits all talk about). Second, the larger-than-life, all-encompassing experience immerses you in a different time or place. It’s pure escapism for less than $20.
With theaters shuttered for the foreseeable future, my partner purchased the Nebula Capsule Projector, so we could bring the movie-going experience into our home. The self-described “soda can-size smart projector” raised more than $1.2 million on Indiegogo back in 2017. It’s 4.72 inches tall and weighs roughly the same as a can of beans. There’s a panel of buttons on the top, a speaker that wraps flush across the diameter, and a small porthole projector. It’s intuitive, takes up practically zero space, and may be the most useful thing we own.
It’s the current base model of Nebula’s family of can-size projectors— the Capsule II ($580) and Capsule Max ($470) offer steps up in resolution, sound, and other performance factors, such as auto-focus and screen mirroring. But for us homebound cinephiles, the original Capsule Projector has everything we need. Our tall blank, white walls become 7-foot-tall screens with the touch of a remote, and the projector is easily linked via Bluetooth or HDMI to stream video and play games. There’s a small mount, which allows you to use it with a stand, though it works perfectly fine propped at the right distance on a table or shelf. The projector uses IntelliBright algorithms to maintain 100 ANSI Lumens for crisp, vibrant pictures, even when a room isn’t pitch black.
The Nebula Capsule has a few drawbacks, which are annoying, though not dealbreakers. It uses the Android 7.1 operating system while the newer Capsule II is a more streamlined experience via Android TV 9.0. The OS can be glitchy to virtually useless when cooperating with streaming services, so connecting the projector to an external device (via Bluetooth or HDMI cable) is almost always needed. And the built-in, 360-degree speaker can sound tinny during action or heavily soundtracked scenes.
My friend Katie Rodgers, an artist who frequently seeks inspiration camping in New Mexico’s White Sands National Park, has been raving about her Nebula for years. She calls it her most-used travel companion, allowing her to project films onto white sheets and the walls of her tent while off the grid. (The projector offers four hours of video playback between charges.) She has also used the side of her adobe house as a screen and held socially distanced movie nights throughout the summer. Katie heard about the projector from her friend, who bought his while traveling between residences in Japan. Both use their Nebula Capsule in the place of a traditional TV and have no plans to change that.
And while I’m not going anywhere these days, using my Nebula Projector at home gives me a profound sense of escape. And in this stage of “the new normal,” that’s an investment worth making.
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