Everything You Need to Set Up an Outdoor Home Theater

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Popcorn (Photo: @Debduca via Twenty20)
Lights, camera, action! Imagine hosting movie night in your backyard, at a campsite, or in a park. Since there’s a limited amount of summer months every year, an outdoor theater is a great way to soak them up and make memories with your friends and loved ones. It’s also a great option if you’re on a budget!
There are a few essential things you need to set up your own outdoor movie theater. The good news is, you probably have them lying around already.

Movie screen

Building an outdoor movie screen can be tackled in countless ways. But before deciding on your setup, you need to consider your space, budget, and desired level of effort. For instance, clipping a blanket to a clothesline creates a perfectly adequate setup with minimal effort and essentially no cost. Likewise, if the exterior of your home is relatively smooth and light-colored, you might even be able to get away with projecting the movie onto your walls.
If you’re looking to create a more permanent fixture for your backyard movie theater, consider using a sheet of plywood. Paint the plywood white and mount it on stakes in cement-filled planters. You can buy a quick-drying cement mix at your local hardware store. Tada! With this method, you’ll have a backyard theater for endless movie nights.

Projector

Now for the tech side of things. You’ll need a projector for your outdoor setup. The best projectors will set you back about $1000. However, there are perfectly good options on the market for $200. The golden rule of purchasing a projector is to do your research. That means reading the reviews. When it comes to projectors, a lemon will cause you grief. Bad projectors have a tendency to overheat (and even if they don’t overheat, they could have a fan so loud that it competes with your sound system). When making your choice, bear in mind that the resolution for HD quality is 1920 x 1080 pixels. The picture will be blurrier with a lower resolution and crisper with a higher resolution.

Media player

Next, you’ll need a media player to make movie night happen on your big screen. You probably have something on hand that will do the trick. A Blu Ray player, for instance, will work. However, if you’re like most people and your DVD player is years gone, a laptop is a great option. Just make sure you’re signed into the streaming service you want to use. Apple TV or Chromecast are arguably the best options for outdoor theaters. They usually connect right to your projector and can be controlled via your phone (that means no extra extension cords and you can keep your laptop inside!).

Sound

Laptops and projectors usually have some kind of built-in speakers. However, they probably won’t deliver the booming sound quality that will do action movies justice. Plus, being outdoors means there will be more noise pollution than, say, your family room, so you’ll need something with a little more power. Bluetooth speakers are portable and they can also really pack a punch depending on your budget. Remember to plug your Bluetooth speakers directly into the projector. If you don’t, your movie’s audio may be a few seconds delayed.