Backyard Movies -- Fun in the Summertime

Evan Powell, June 22, 2016

There is nothing quite like movies under the stars. As the nights get warm people think about setting up a big screen movie rig in the backyard. But the two big questions are -- what projector is right for this? And what about the screen?

Picking the Projector

There is no such thing as a "backyard projector." But there are dozens of models that will work perfectly fine for outside movies. You can find the best projector for your needs by searching the Projector Database with the key criteria that describe your ideal projector. Go to the Database, and enter each of the parameters that you care about, and you'll get a list of the models that work for you.

When searching the Projector Database, here are the key things to think about:

  • Resolution. The best resolution format for today's movies is 1920x1080, because that is the standard HD format you get on Netflix, Blu-ray, and all HD movie sources. Another format that works just as well is 1920x1200, or what they call WUXGA. Projectors with this format will play standard HD movies at full resolution without any scaling. There are many 1920x1080 projectors in the $700 to $1000 price range, so you don't need to spend a lot. If that is still too much, you can get lower resolution projectors that will work almost as well in either 1280x800 or 1280x720 resolution. They are cheaper, but won't be quite as sharp. Enter your desired Resolution into the Database sort.

  • Portability. You don't want to leave a projector outside very long, so portability is a big deal. You can get projectors that weigh less than ten pounds and are easy to set up and take down. But if you don't care about weight, you can get more sophisticated home theater projectors that weigh up to 15 or 20 lbs. If you care about weight, you can enter the desired weight range into the Database.

  • Brightness. Get a projector that is at least 2000 lumens and maybe up to 3000 or even 4000 lumens depending on how big your screen is and how much ambient light you expect to have from home and yard lighting. The brightest ones will cost a bit more, so your budget will be a factor. Enter the desired lumen output range into the Database.

  • Throw distance. You need to know where your projector needs to be placed given the size of your screen. If you are setting up a screen on one side of your pool and the projector on the other, and your pool is 15 feet wide, you will need a projector that can hit your screen from at least 15 feet. Enter your screen size and desired throw distance into the Database.

  • On-board Audio. For temporary set ups outside it often helps to have audio speakers on the projector itself. Most portables come with some audio but the volume and quality can vary considerably. Projectors can come with single 2-watt speakers up to dual stereo speakers at 20-watts each. Check the audio on the various products's spec sheets, but be aware that the numbers do not always correlate to quality. We've heard 5W speakers that are louder and clearer than 10W speakers. Consult your projector reseller for details.

  • MHL. For outdoor portable use, having MHL wireless capability is often a bonus. Most of the new portable video projectors have HDMI with at least one port MHL enabled, but check the specs to make sure it's there unless you want to use an HDMI cable to get the video signal into the projector.

  • Price. You can select a price range if you want. Enter that into the Database

After entering all of these sort criteria into the Database you will end up with a list of projectors that meet ALL of your desired criteria. If there are no projectors listed, that means there are NO projectors on the market that meet ALL of your criteria, and you need to adjust your inputs until it begins to give you models that do.

Picking a Screen

Though you can use a bedsheet or the side of a house for a reflection surface, the best picture quality will be realized with the use of a portable projection screen that you can set up and take down without too much trouble. There are many suppliers of pop-up portable screens that work for temporary outdoor deployment. The key factors are (1) portability, (2) ease of set up and take down, (3) ease of anchoring for stability in the breeze, and (4) price.

We've had good luck with the VApex portable screen from Visual Apex. It is extremely compact, but it assembles into a full metal frame rig with stands in less than ten minutes. They also supply an ingenious portable projector stand that assembles in less than five minutes.

The Elite Yard Master is also a popular option. It is more complex and takes somewhat longer to assemble than the VApex, but it comes in a wider selection of sizes.

There are many suppliers of these screens, and in general the best sources for these are the online projector resellers such as...

These professional resellers not only stock various models but offer projectors and screens bundled for outdoor set ups, helping you to save money on the total package. These professional online resellers have customer service personnel that can help you tailor a solution to your budget.

In the end, setting up an outdoor movie night is a piece of cake with the right equipment. Check our your projector and screen options today, and you can be in the backyard theater business by next week.

Reader Comments(1 comment)

Posted Jun 25, 2016 9:57 PM

By Sayuri Carlbom

Post a Comment Alert Moderator
Thank you for posting this article. I feel as though it were tailored for me ;). I appreciate the step by step instruction and the suggestions. I can't wait to get my movie set up going!

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