Outdoor movie theaters allow you to spend a night under the starry sky. You can watch movies and shows on an outdoor projector with your loved ones and friends while breathing fresh air. Couples can enjoy a romantic evening or host a movie night for the neighborhood. There are camping projectors also available that you can take along with you on trips and treks.
What to Look for When Choosing an Outdoor Projector?
There is a wide range of projectors being sold in the market. Buying an outdoor or camping projector is not significantly different than purchasing a home theater projector. Here are some of the main specifications to look for when choosing an outdoor projector.
Brightness Rating – Brightness rating is one of the essential specifications to look for when choosing an outdoor projector. It is expressed in ANSI lumens. Ideally, you must use a projector outside after dark. Sometimes, you may want to use the outdoor movie projector in the evening or during twilight. An issue with an outdoor movie theater is that it is impossible to control the ambient light. Using the backyard projector during the evening or when there are artificial lights present will impact the brightness of imagery. An outdoor movie projector that may be fine for use in dark may not be adequately bright for use during the twilight hours.
Therefore, it is important to opt for a sufficiently bright projector. Consider an outdoor movie theater projector with a brightness rating of at least 2,000 ANSI lumens. If you are going to use a projector outside during the twilight hours or in ambient light, then buy one that has a brightness rating of 2,500-3,000 ANSI lumens. Camping projectors may not be as bright as regular projectors. However, their brightness is adequate for projecting a 30 or 40” image inside tents.
Resolution – Resolution is another factor to consider when buying an outdoor movie theater projector. It determines the quality of the imagery projected. The standard resolution for watching movies is 1920×1080 pixels. It is also known as 1080p or Full HD. Choose an outdoor projector that has the 1920×1080 resolution. It will be the ideal resolution for a majority of users as most of the movies and content are available in Full HD. You will be able to watch movies in high quality. People who are on a budget can consider a cheaper projector with 720p resolution (1280×720 pixels), but 1080p is the recommended option. 4K projectors are also available, but they may be overkill if you will be using them solely for an outdoor movie theater.
Throw Ratio – Buyers should also consider the throw ratio of a backyard or camping projector. The throw ratio determines the size of the imagery when the projector is placed at a specific distance from the screen. Outdoor projectors with a standard throw ratio have to be placed at a distance of 10 to 12 feet from the screen for projecting a 100” image. Short throw ratio projectors can produce a 100” image at a distance of 6 to 8 feet from the screen. Ultra-short throw ratio projectors can project a 100” image when installed a few inches away from the screen. Consider an outdoor movie projector whose throw ratio is suitable for your backyard. Projectors with ultra-short or short throw ratios are ideal for smaller yards.
Portability – Portability is an important factor to look for when buying an outdoor movie theater projector. You will be carrying the backyard projector outdoors for movie nights. A heavy and bulky projector will be hard to carry and install. Therefore, you should consider a projector that is small and easily portable. People who are looking for a camping projector may want an ultralight model with a built-in battery. They can opt for a smart portable projector for an outdoor movie theater.
Connectivity Options – The best projector for outdoor use must have good connectivity options. You will be connecting it to a device such as a laptop or DVD player for watching movies. It should have a compatible interface for the device, generally HDMI. If you plan to stream movies using the Internet, you can use devices like an Amazon Fire TV stick, Roku, or Apple TV with your outdoor movie projector. These devices can connect to your home’s Wi-Fi network and allow you to stream content. Some smart projectors have built-in Wi-Fi capability and can stream movies without the need for external devices.
Built-in Speakers – Outdoor movie theater projectors should have built-in speakers as well. If you are watching movies in the backyard or while camping, it may not be possible to carry your surround sound system outside. Therefore, a projector with built-in speakers is handy. However, most backyard or camping projectors have weak speakers that may not be adequate for a large group of people. You may have to purchase separate speakers or move your sound system outdoors to use a projector outside.
Image Correction – The best projector for outdoor use should have image correction features. They allow you to ensure that the imagery appears proportionally on the screen without any distortions. Keystone correction is the basic image correction feature, while lens shift is an advanced one found in expensive projectors. Ensure that the backyard projector has keystone correction, at the very least. While image correction features are not as important in temporary outdoor movie theaters as in indoor home theaters, they are still beneficial.
Using a Screen for Backyard Movie Theater
Along with the projector, you must pay attention to the screen you are using for a backyard movie theater. There are portable screens available for outdoor projectors. They can be assembled for viewing and disassembled for storage. Having a screen is beneficial as it reflects the light, improves the color and contrast of the imagery, and enhances the viewing experience. Buy a screen that is portable, has adequate light reflection capability, and will fit in your backyard.
While having a screen for an outdoor movie theater projector is beneficial, it is not necessary. You can use a wall, door, or tarp as a screen. Viewers can make their own makeshift projector screen. A sheet hanged between two poles or trees can be used for projection. Investing in a dedicated screen for outdoor movie theaters may not be ideal for viewers who watch a movie in their backyard once in a while. People who use a projector outside frequently can purchase a screen.
These are the essentials factors to consider when purchasing outdoor movie theater projectors. Besides these, there are other specifications, such as contrast ratio and color. They are not as important when choosing the best projector for outdoor use. If you are buying a separate outdoor projector, then consider a budget-friendly option. Make sure that you take the outdoor projector and screen inside after you finish watching. They will accumulate dust if left outside, which may affect the quality of projected imagery.