How to Set up a Backyard Movie Night with a Projector [2021 Update]

The 4-S Guide to Backyard Movie Night

A family of four watching a movie in the backyard using GS50 portable projector

It's springtime and summer is on the way! Warmer temperatures mean more outdoor fun, and what could be more enjoyable than watching movies in your own backyard with family and friends? All you need is a great backyard projector, especially a durable, convenient, and portable projector purpose-designed for use outside the home.



Once you settle on which movies to watch and what sort of snacks will accompany your backyard film fest, it's onto setting up the projector. With good portable models that takes all of a minute since they have internal batteries (good for up to 2.5 hours) and even integrated Bluetooth speakers. True all in one solutions, good portable projectors make your backyard movie session easy and fun. 


The 4-S Guide to Backyard Movie Night

Throwing a successful movie night al fresco requires getting several things done right. There’s lots to consider, from technology to thunderstorms. There are four main categories, and they all start with S. 


1. Sight


Anyone can drag a big 4K TV outside and call it good. But that’s not the drive-in experience we’re looking for. Like movie theaters, your backyard movie night is going to begin with two crucial components: a backyard projector and a screen to project upon.


For the best outdoor viewing experience there are two must-haves in a projector. Lumens and resolution are your make-or-break ingredients. Lumens refers to the level of brightness the projector can produce. Every backyard is different, but you still have to pierce the darkness to showcase your movies. Outdoors projectors with 500 lumens work fantastically well, and can show movies on pretty much any surface with no problems at night. You can use a large full 1080p HD projector or a cinematic 4K projector, but those may be too bulky for outdoors use, and do require complex setup. Portable projectors work much better in a backayrd. 


Certainly, a masterpiece 4K HDR projector has amazing technology, but to be frank it'll be wasted in the great outdoors. Those projectors are designed for a proper home cinema experience. With a portable you can still enjoy views of 100" or bigger, and with support for 1080p native resolution, at outdoor/backyard distances the image quality will be more than fine.


Your backyard movie party should be just that. A party. Watching a movie should not be as complicated as launching a new mission to Mars. The quicker you can set up the quicker you can tend to those burgers and bratwurst. Light and portable projectors make setup a snap, with simple hinge adjustment so you don't need to place them on a stack of magazines to get the right angle. 




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While with portable backyard projectors you can use everything from the side of your garage to a brightly-colored blanket, you can of course also invest in a dedicated screen. Outdoor projection screens come in a variety of shapes and sizes and deployment options. There are stand-mounted ones, ones you can mount on an exterior wall or backyard fence, and inflatable ones. The size and type of screen that’s best for your backyard is determined by the area you want to cover and environmental conditions. Is your backyard breezy? Then a screen with an anchoring system is a must to ensure movie night doesn’t literally go with the wind! 


Outdoor screens can range in price from fifty dollars to thousands of dollars. You’ll need to do some research to find the perfect one for your backyard and budget, or go with something practical like the wall of your house. A couple of options to consider are folding, inflatable screens for dynamic use. There are also companies that offer rental options for you to consider.


2. Source

Another thing to keep in mind when putting together a backyard movie night is the source of your programming. Does your projector have multiple input options? HDMI is the king of connectors and enables you to connect devices like a Blu-ray player or a game console. If you have adequate Wi-Fi coverage, streaming devices like Amazon Fire TV, Roku Streaming Stick, and the Apple TV are great, especially since portable projectors feature Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.


Apple TV allows you to stream content from your iOS device via AirPlay and connect to your collection of programs in iTunes. Or, you can use built-in apps like Netflix or Prime Video on Apple TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire to stream content. 


3. Sound

We’ve covered the sights, and now it’s time to look (or should we say listen?) at the other half of the equation, sound. Most backyard projectors have built in speakers of around 10 watts or so, and if that’s not enough sound for you, there are lots of options out there when it comes to external speakers.


Wireless is the way to go when looking for backyard movie sound. Portable projectors have convenient Bluetooth speakers, and can actually function as standalone speakers if you just want music for a while. There are also some waterproof bluetooth speakers that deliver good sound and keep people from tripping over cables (there’s always that person).


4. Setting

Don’t forget creature comforts for your backyard movie night, and don’t let unwelcome creatures interfere with your comfort! Insect repellent, citronella candles, and foggers are good to keep the mosquitoes away. Have plenty of cold beverages on hand and lots of popcorn. Prepare a grill or fire pit. Finally, consider the neighbors. Don’t crank up a big bang shoot ‘em up in the wee small hours of the morning and rattle the windows next door. Plan in advance, and if your backyard movie night is going to be a late one, let the neighbors know. Better yet, invite them to share in the fun of your backyard moviethon!


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