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Building the Perfect Backyard Home Theater

As the weather starts to warm up, more and more people look to take their parties and entertainment outside. Between football games, BBQ’s, and watching movies on warm summer nights, there are so many reasons to enjoy an awesome home theater in your backyard. Here are some tips, tricks, and expert recommendations on building the best outdoor home theater for any home. (If you want to build your own indoor home theater, we have a guide for that as well).

Backyard Theater Basics

First things first, it needs to be dark to watch anything outdoors! There is no projector made that is brighter than the sun so movie watching, outdoor gaming, and everything else should happen once it’s dark outside. Sure, you could install an outdoor TV, but then you’re stuck sitting on the patio huddled around a small screen? You can splurge on a microLED screen, but what if you or your client just doesn’t have the money for that type of product? When you’re having a party, you want a large image that only a projector can create.

Placement is also an important factor. Keep in mind the distance you want to set up and how high it needs to be hung as well as how far away it is from the nearest power source and the lengths of your extension cords. Also make sure your setup is far enough away from the “splash zone” if you are hosting your entertainment space near a pool.   

Some Obvious Don’ts

There are a few common mistakes people can make with outdoor home theaters that could ruin any party. Here are a few things to avoid: 

Leaving the equipment out in the weather

Using the projector as a coaster

Forgetting to turn off the sprinkler system

Charging admission without permission of the movie distributor

What You’ll Need to Build Your Backyard Theater

A Projector

For outdoor home theater use, experts recommend a projector that has a minimum of 2,000 lumens and brighter as well as an HDMI connection. HD resolution is also an important feature for watching favorite movies and games in crisp and clear quality. Look for a unit that has built in MHL functionality so you can avoid running too many wires.

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Since this setup won’t be a permanent install and people’s expectations won’t be as demanding, you can sacrifice some contrast for increased brightness. There are plenty of great projectors perfect for backyard movie night that cost less than $1,000.

A Screen 

You may be tempted to simply project the video onto a hung up sheet or directly on the side of the house for your backyard theater. That’s fine! Do whatever suits your needs. A note of warning though: the smallest gust of wind can ripple your sheet and if the side of the house isn’t a smooth surface, your image can get easily skewed.

Experts recommend screens that are extremely quick and easy to setup (you don’t want to spend half the night installing) and that keep the image tight and polished regardless of wind. From screens that fill up with air and then deflate to be put away, to roll-away screens with cinema-grade material, there is sure to be something that fits your budget.  

Audio

Some home theater projectors come with built-in speakers, however if the projector you have your eye on does not, there’s nothing that some good outdoor speakers (portable or permanent) can’t solve. If you are going for a more permanent installation, however, be sure to brush up on what it takes to design a good outdoor audio system so you can get the most mileage out of those speakers.

A Video Source

There are so many options available to get your video projecting. Just make sure that the wireless router signal is strong enough to reach the projector; a Roku stick, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire TV are good video streaming options. Otherwise a Blu-ray player or laptop will work just as well for your backyard theater, you’ll just need to run some extension cords. For running cords outdoors, a popular solution is dig a small trench, bury some PVC pipe and then run the cabling from the house to a weatherproof junction box. 

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