There’s no better way to enjoy your space than to use it to its fullest potential – and when you love both outdoor living and theater-quality media experiences, there’s no better choice than to combine the two. Creating an outdoor theater using a powerful home projector can provide you, your family, and your friends with an experience not unlike an evening at the old drive-in movie theater – with one advantage, of course: you can supply your own concessions!
From finding the right projector to figuring out the ideal setup that can deliver the best bang for your buck, there are many considerations to work through on the way towards creating the perfect outdoor movie viewing experience. With Starpower’s team of highly experienced hardware and design professionals on your side, picking the products that suit your needs and setting them up for maximum enjoyment is easy. We’ve created this helpful guide to the basics to help you understand what goes into the considerations behind projector selection and outdoor theater creation. What do you need to know?
Basic Considerations for Creating Your Outdoor Projector Setup
Shopping is easier when you can take a quick look at a product’s specifications, parse the numbers there, and understand roughly what kind of unit you’re considering. Projectors can have lots of numbers and metrics associated with them, but you shouldn’t need an engineering degree to cut through them. Some of the most crucial specifications to consider when choosing a project for outdoor use include:
Throw Distance: Though it sounds like jargon, this term simply refers to how far away from the screen, the projector must be to be able to project a full image. Projectors with short throw distances typically work better for smaller screen sizes or in backyard setups where space is at a premium. Projectors with longer throw distances can be set back further from the screen, which may be useful for configurations with a permanent installation. Your Starpower consultants will take helpful measurements of your proposed outdoor theater space to match a projector with the right throw distance for your area.
Brightness: Perhaps the most important stat to consider for projectors, brightness – measured in a unit called a lumen – determines the visibility of the image created by the unit. Typical projectors run from about 1,000 lumens to higher end models that can approach 3,000 lumens or more. The brightness of a projector not only impacts its ability to display colors vibrantly and clearly but also affects how your outdoor home theater works. The brighter your projector, the sooner you can roll the film, and the less effect fading natural light will have on the image. Likewise, brighter projectors yield crisper images after dark, even when there may be street or house lights nearby. Our consultants can help match a projector’s brightness level to the plans you have for home screenings.
Resolution: After making an investment and taking the time to amass a collection of high-quality HD or UHD media, shouldn’t you be able to enjoy them as they were intended? Doing so with an outdoor projector means choosing an output resolution that matches your media. 4K projectors are increasingly popular as they allow owners plenty of room to grow – you may only have 1080p Blu-Rays right now, for example, but more films continue to receive UHD/4K releases – so future-proofing your system now might be the smart move. Resolution differs from the size of the image you can project and instead dictates the quality of that image, rather than its raw size.
These three attributes are the core of what you should look at when preparing to put together an outdoor theater. However, there are some other aspects you might wish to look into as well. What about the more granular features?
Important Features to Look For in Your Projector
To ensure the most reliable and enjoyable media-viewing experience, whether you’re entertaining or alone, taking a closer look at each projector is a good idea. Be sure to look into and ask about features such as:
- Keystone Correction: If you aren’t mounting a permanent projector, it can be tough to correctly line your projector up with the screen in every instance, leading to images that look irregular – this is called the “keystone effect.” Many projectors have varying levels of ability to counteract this effect.
- Lens Controls: Manual adjustments to the lens can be necessary when you’re placing a projector outside and aren’t using a fixed screen installation. Look for robust controls to give you a fine-tuned ability to adjust the image.
- Diverse Inputs: While HDMI is the gold standard, having multiple input options on your projector can provide you with more versatility in terms of supplying a source for the video.
- Noise Reduction: Projectors require cooling to keep them running optimally, and those fans can sometimes be loud. Look for quieter projectors, so they do not interrupt the experience for you or your guests.
You’ve considered what to do about keystoning, you’ve looked up what lumens are, and you know what resolution you need – what about a place to put the image your projector makes? If you’ve seen others simply throwing their image onto a wall, you might think it’s as straightforward as that. However, depending on your space and your preferences, that might not be the ideal solution.
Using a bare wall is often considered more of a “last resort” than a first choice owing to a few concerns. First, the walls are usually not wholly smooth, which can introduce some distortions to the image. Next, the wall must be reflective and bright enough to allow the projector image to stand out – which usually means maintaining a very clean white space. However, in a pinch, this can be an acceptable setup.
Otherwise, a screen is the way to go. You could opt for a collapsible screen that sets up in just a few minutes, or if you have the space, you could even set up one that automatically drops and retracts at the push of a button. The important things to consider are the durability and size of the screen; you need to be able to fit the projector’s whole image while also getting long-term usage out of the equipment. Starpower can connect you with the perfect screen solution for your space after a quick analysis of your needs.
What About Solutions for Sound Outdoors?
Don’t forget that you’ll need a way to enjoy the audio tracks from your media, too. While not strictly a consideration related to projectors, it’s essential to look at the “big picture” of your system design before moving forward to ensure that everything can work together in harmony. A series of portable speakers may be ideal for creating a shifting setup, but a more permanent installation can yield better sound and reliability over the long-term. Ask our team about how you can incorporate sound system components into the design and deployment of your new outdoor theater.
Using Starpower to Create the Perfect Setup for the Ideal Home Movie Watching Experience
It’s clear that a lot of work must go into creating an outdoor media environment – from parsing the stats and specs that define a projector’s quality, to choosing a projection surface, and creating a terrific audio experience, there’s much work to do. With Starpower’s team on your side, the entire process is not only simple, but fun as well. Engage our assistance for a highly personalized experience, including a complete consultation that takes the unique layout and challenges present on your property into account. Together, we can select everything from the best 4k projector for UHD quality to the right surround sound setup. Contact your local Starpower team today for friendly and comprehensive assistance.