Ever find yourself pondering the all-important question of what makes a projector good for use outside during the day? Not just when it’s nice and overcast, but rather when the sun’s out in full force. We have the answers you’ve been seeking for so long, and are ready to reveal the secret to enjoying movies, TV, and even gaming on a big screen, outside, and in the sun. After all, spring is almost here in the northern hemisphere, and summer’s not too far away. You’ll want to be outside to play.
There’s this persistent myth that projectors are only good in dark and musty home cinema rooms or at night when camping under the stars. That’s not entirely true. Sure, dark environments may be better, but there’s no reason to deprive yourself of enjoyment during the day with your projector. The key is illumination power!
If a projector is powerful and bright enough, it’ll overcome even a sunny day to deliver a clear image. The notion of projectors only working in dark settings comes from underpowered models that don’t have enough brightness.
Of course, we can’t seriously claim that projectors can always outdo the sun. An average bright, sunny day measures roughly 6000-10,000 lumens as perceived by humans, and that’s a tough number to match for most entertainment-focused projectors. But not impossible, thanks to the relativity of viewing conditions. Lumens measure visible light. Total light is measured in lux, and the same average sunny day drenches us in almost 100,000 lux. So projecting an image in these conditions is tough, and lowly projectors with 100-200 lumens simply don’t stand a chance. The very minimum you need is 500 lumens, which is what good portable projectors offer. However, that’s not ideal for bright days. Direct sunlight may still drown out a 500 lumen projector, depending on local conditions, which are nearly impossible to predict or plan for with any degree of precision.
So you need more lumens, and we mean a lot more. Sure, professional projectors deliver up to 10,000 lumens, which would be enough to outshine even the sun in most situations. But they’re hardly portable or affordable, and are primarily designed for large venues like expos and conventions. Not afternoon movie sessions for the family. What you need is a compact but capable outdoor daytime projector that you’ll be able to easily carry and setup nearly anywhere, but one that has at least 50% parity with a really bright day. Think 3000 lumens. This is sufficient for clear viewing even in direct sunlight. So make sure to look for that in your projector of choice.
While most of the heavy lifting should be done by the projector’s lumen output, there’s a lot you can do to optimize the experience for the better. Locations with more shade to block direct sunlight are great. If you insist on setting up in the middle of a huge parking lot, your experience won’t be as good as the middle of a wooded section of parkland where trees help redirect much of the sunlight. Also, if you think 11am-2pm are great for movies you’ll need more illumination or settle for not getting the full picture. We recommend 3pm-6pm in most cases, when solar power begins to diminish. If you can’t do nighttime, better the hours just before sunset. Or early morning. It’s tempting to do a lunchtime projection session, but it’ll be more of a challenge for sure.
Importantly, choose your screen carefully. Slightly off-white screens that aren’t glossy offer the best experience, though an overly matte screen will diffuse light too much and compromise image clarity. Avoid dark-colored screens, as those “soak up” light. The most popular options for outdoor viewing are inflatable screens, which often feature just the right combination of screen color and texture.
So don’t give up on your dream of enjoying big screen entertainment outside during sunny days. It’s possible, for sure. And if not your thing, you can always set up a dark and musty home cinema room!