with gallery: Thompson Street house watches Michigan-Notre Dame game in style with 40-foot projection on ISR building
Michigan students Cody Blakeman and Kazim Tosayev stood outside their house on Thompson Street early Saturday evening, welcoming people to one of many Michigan-Notre Dame viewing parties going on across campus.
But this was about to become a viewing party unlike any other.
“Is this the place where you’ve got the big projection screen going?” a partygoer asked as he approached the front porch.
“Yep, come on in,” Blakeman said.
The house, at 418 Thompson, is quickly building a reputation as the “Projection House.” It sits just north of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, the North wall of which provides a large, white, windowless surface.
Soon after the eight roommates moved into the house this fall, they started projecting video games, movies and sporting events onto the wall.
The 40-foot projection is visible to pedestrians and to southbound traffic on Thompson, and has earned them plenty of notice.
“People really enjoy it,” said Tosayev, a sophomore naval architecture and marine engineering major said.
Saturday marked their biggest event yet. The housemates put an open event on Facebook and drew dozens of students, both friends and strangers.
Two plays into Michigan’s opening drive, the outdoor projection was up and running. As the daylight faded, the picture drew sharper, and more people found their way to the small backyard to watch the game.
It was soon after the residents moved into the house that one of them had the idea to start experimenting with a projector. Tosayev, who uses a university projector for one of his classes, rented one out to give it a shot.
“The second that we put it on and realized that it was like a 40-foot screen and it actually worked, that was then the light bulb hit,” Blakeman, a sophomore movement science major said.
The group decided to expand the operation, and bought a $600 projector of their own. During Saturday’s game, they operated both an outside projector, from the one they bought, and a 10-foot projection inside their living room, from a university-rented projector.
The first images to go onto the ISR building came from the house’s Xbox, as the housemates played FIFA Soccer and Call of Duty.
People noticed quickly. Pedestrians stopped to watch and take pictures. A group of 20 students stopped by and offered $25 to play a tournament (the housemates declined, they were on their way out.)
From there, they expanded to movie nights, starting with Goodfellas. By then, students started bringing their own lawn chairs to sit and watch.
The only hangup came when construction recently started around the ISR building, and a fence made the small strip of land between the house and the building -- prime viewing space -- inaccessible.
But the backyard still holds plenty of viewing space. So the housemates expanded their viewing lineup to include Saturday's football game, Michigan's first night game since its season opener.
And by the time they started planning, they found out plenty of people were familiar with them.
“When we were talking about this party thing, we were talking to some people, and they’re like ‘Wait, you’re the house that projects things?’” Tosayev said.
“We get a lot of that,” Blakeman said.
The projection can't be seen clearly during day games, but the housemates say they will likely host another viewing party for the Wolverines' other scheduled night game of the season: Oct. 27 at Nebraska.