How To Build An Outdoor Projector Screen

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With the warmer weather, it can be a great time to watch movies outside. Create a drive-in experience at home with an outdoor projection screen and projector, and watch your favourite films under the stars. outdoor movie screen

An outdoor projector screen is a great solution for outdoor events. For example a football match can be projected onto an external wall in beer gardens, or videos and music can be projected directly on to external plastered walls. With our Projector Paint Pro any reasonably smooth external surface can be used for outdoor projection, such as walls, wood, glass, masonry, plastic, even cloth. It is designed to maximise the projection light returned to the viewer in high ambient light. 

An outdoor projector gives you more viewing options with a large screen size, however there are some of the things you’ll need to consider.

Outdoor Rear Projection Screen vs Front Projection Screen

Front projection usually means you will have the screen placed against a wall and all the equipment will be in front of the screen. With an outdoor rear projection screen all your equipment will be  behind the screen, so you will need extra space.

Rear projectors and screens will have the advantage of not creating shadows when people walk in front of the screen, however can take longer to set up. With an outdoor front projection screen, the time to set everything will be less, especially if your screen is permanent. 

Typical front projection screens, along with projector screen paints, work by reflecting the light from the screen back to the viewer. They usually have a gain value of 1 (our Projector Paint Pro has a gain of 1.1 at 140 degrees.) Typically a screen would have a gain value of 1 at 0 degrees and this would drop below 1 when they move to the side. This means the further you move to the side the lower the amount of light being reflected back from the screen is.

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When it comes to front projection screens the difference in viewing angles tends to be very low. You are more likely to get an even reflection of the picture no matter what angle you are viewing from.

If you opt for a rear projection screen the image will be transmitted through the screen and directly on to the viewer. There will be some loss in the picture brightness because the image is going through a material. However, rear projector screens tend to have a really good gain value if you view them from straight on. Once you extend the viewing angle, however, this tends to drop very quickly. With a rear projection screen a gain value of 1.1 at 0 degrees might drop to only 0.5 at 30 degrees. 

So, which is the right choice? If you have the space outside and only plan to have a few people sitting in front of the screen then a rear projection screen will be a good choice. If you want to entertain even a small crowd, then choose a front projection screen.

Can I Use My Outdoor Projector Screen During the Day?

Yes, but you will need to make sure you have the right setup to use it during the day. Even if you place an outdoor TV in the full sun you are going to wash out the image on the screen.

Ideally, if you want to use your outdoor projector during the day, you should place it in a shaded area. This means it won’t have to compete with the sun as much, and you will get a much better picture. If you plan to have it in a sunny spot we would recommend a rear outdoor projector screen as this will be able to handle the brighter setting. Again, the viewing angle will be very limited so your only option might be to get an outdoor TV. This will be a more costly option if you want to achieve the same screen size as a projector though.

If you do opt for a projector screen and want to watch it during the day, you will need a high quality projector. It should have a high light output, which is measured in lumens.

There are two lumen measurements for each projector – white and colour. Make sure that you are looking at ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Lumens as this is a standardised measurement. If a projector doesn’t list its ANSI lumens it is likely it will be lying about its true lumen rating! If the information provided only gives you one lumen rating, it is usually referring only to the white brightness of the projector. 

For outdoor use you should be looking for a projector with more than 5000 lumens. Even with a high rated projector the best option is to place your projector and screen in a shaded, or partially shaded, area. This could be by a tree, a covered deck or somewhere similar.

Viewing Movies Outdoors at Night

Let’s be honest, an outdoor projector is the best way to enjoy movies during the summer months. You get the cinema experience in a relaxing atmosphere. You can also make a screen of any size. 

Projectors are going to work much better at night with the lower light scenario and the night time atmosphere but you may have more questions about the specifics. 

To no surprise, it is much more practical to use a projector outdoors at night. The projector won’t have to compete with the sun once it begins to set and dusk commences its takeover of the night sky.

Even if you plan to only use your outdoor projection screen at night we highly recommend using a quality projector with a high lumen rating as you will likely still be competing with some other source of light, whether it’s your house lighting, outdoor lighting, a street lamp or a fire close by to keep the bugs at bay.

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Plus, you can start your movie night earlier with a higher quality projector that has a high lumen count. A bright screen coupled with great resolution will make the picture quality and viewing that much better. It’s also a great idea to have a bug repellent candle or spray near the projector, as the bright light emitted from the lens will be attractive to bugs.

Projectors are great to use on movie night with family, friends, or your partner. They provide a big-screen viewing experience, making your content more impressive and immersive. Projectors are flexible to fit any screen size, so there are no worries about matching your specific viewing area.

Using Projector Screen Paint Instead of Portable Options

If you are looking for a permanent solution, we suggest using our Projector Paint Pro, which is designed specifically to work with high end projectors, indoors and outdoors. This projection paint has an extremely smooth finish for optimal viewing of high definition and interactive projections. It will work with short or long throw, and 4K projectors.

We have designed this projection paint to have a wide viewing angle. Projector Paint Pro has a gain value of 1.1 at 140 degrees to increase the brightness and definition of your projection outdoors. If you plan to use the projector during daytime this will give you a much better viewing experience than a rear projection screen. It will also deliver optimal viewing during the evening and at night. 

Our projection screen paint technology was developed to create an ultra smooth surface, which can be applied to surfaces such as plaster, wood, glass, etc. This finish is perfect for watching high definition movies in 4k as it is designed to leave the surface completely smooth. One issue with projector paints is that any slight imperfections in the surface will show up in the image, particularly with high quality projectors.

Each Smarter Surfaces’ projector paint kit will cover 6m2 which is designed to cover the following aspect ratios:

  • 4:3 – max dimensions of 2.8m X 2.1m (9.18ft x 6.88ft)
  • 16:9 – max dimensions of 3.25m X 1.83m (10.66ft x 6ft)
  • 2.35:1 – max dimensions of 3.71m X 1.58m (12.71ft x 5.18ft)
  • 2.40:1 – max dimensions of 3.79m X 1.58m (12.43ft x 5.18ft)

Where to Set Up Your New Screen

For daytime viewing you should use our paint in a partially or fully shaded area. This could be under a canopy or gazebo, a covered patio, or under a large tree. 

If you plan to use the projector in the evening you will have some more options. We would still suggest not being too close to the house where you will get some light bleeding from your indoor lights.

Make sure that wherever you choose is comfortable and has enough space for the projector, screen, and seating.

One last thing is to make sure you have a bug repellent candle or spray near the projector. The bright light from it will attract them so you will want to stop them from being a nuisance.

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