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How to Set Up Outdoor Projector Backyard Theater for Movie Night

How to Set Up a Backyard Theater for Movie Night

Outdoor ProjectorMany communities, schools and private organizations regularly do outdoor movie screenings. For members of today’s younger generation who can’t remember the era of drive-in movies, these special events will have to do. But thanks to the latest generation of technology, just about any open space can now be transformed into a movie theater. This gives new meaning to the phrase, “all the world is a stage.”

Residents of large apartment buildings in New York City like myself will understand it’s unlikely you’ll know the residents of the apartment down the hall, let alone someone who lives on the opposite side of the building. This leads to a pretty fractious sense of “community.” In my opinion, anything that improves this situation is a worthwhile cause. One way to bring people together is to hold a community movie night, for your build, your complex or your neighborhood. And really this is something virtually anyone with a reasonably sized common garden area, a large (safe) rooftop deck or a decent sized backyard can do.

In my case, our building has a large outdoor courtyard inside the apartment complex that is exclusive to the residents. Located on the second floor it has as much open space as many good sized movie theaters, and serves as a perfect place to hold a movie night. This year we opted to show the kid-friendly Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Originally the movie night was intended for June, but because the sun sets late early in the summer, we decided to wait until August, a good idea considering the nearly three hour run time of the movie.

Setting Up for the Big Show

The first thing needed for the movie night was solved, as the space was already there and available. And luckily for us during this wet New York summer, the weather forecast was excellent. The next thing we needed was a laundry list of audio/visual equipment, some of which the building’s staff and co-op board helped arrange and some of which was provided by yours truly.

Of course you can’t have a movie without a projector, and Sharp Electronics was able to provide a loaner system (full review coming soon) of the XV-Z15000 DLP home theater projector. This 1080p front projector features a brightness rating of 1600 ANSI lumens, which even in the glow of the lights in the city is more than bright enough to cast a very sharp and clear picture (just wait until the sky is suitably dark).

The superintendent and staff were able to procure the projection screen itself, which was mounted to a wooden frame for stability. We set the projector up about 12 feet from the 16:9 screen, producing an image of about 90 inches, measured diagonally. This is hardly the most massive screen size that this projector supports, but it was still decent for viewing by our audience of 30 or so attendees. The relatively small screen helped to concentrate the projector’s brightness which made the movie easy to enjoy, even without perfect darkness. For the next showing we may try to obtain a larger screen, maybe even one that’s 2.35:1 for an even more cinematic effect.

Power was provided for the equipment via some well placed outdoor extension codes and power strips and the building staff took the time to shut off just enough lights in the courtyard to keep it safe. It was bright enough for people to find their way to and from their seats but dark enough to let the projector do its thing.

To provide the video, we used a Memorex Blu-ray player: nothing fancy, but it produces a nice clean 1080p image from Blu-ray Discs. The player was connected via the HDMI port to the projector, thus taking the full HD experience outside.

Keep in mind that the ideal picture settings for outside will probably be different from those inside, so if your projector is going to be doing double-duty, then create a custom picture mode for each environment. Also, if you like to start your movies before it’s fully dark, then you might want to switch over from a bright or dynamic setting while there is still light in the sky to a darker setting after full darkness sets in.

Bring on that Big Sound!

A big bright image isn’t much use without good sound. This is something you’ll want to consider and preferably test out in advance. Last year we set up a similar event and sound was a major issue. A boombox or set of powered computer speakers just isn’t going to cut it. Unlike the relatively quiet and contained environment of a living room or basement, the great outdoors can be much more challenging to fill with clean clear sound.

Learning from our experience last year, I tackled the problem with some decent home theater gear, including a Sony home theater receiver (packing 100 watts/channel), powering a pair of Klipsch bookshelf speakers for the front along with an Aperion Audio center channel for dialog. For the bass duties, we plugged in an Aperion Audio powered subwoofer. For this particular event we opted to forego the surround sound option, but would absolutely consider it next time. The issue was really one of practicality in getting the speaker wire laid adequately without being a trip hazard.

Of course you can’t have a movie without a projector, and Sharp Electronics was able to provide a loaner system (full review coming soon) of the XV-Z15000 DLP home theater projector. This 1080p front projector features a brightness rating of 1600 ANSI lumens, which even in the glow of the lights in the city is more than bright enough to cast a very sharp and clear picture (just wait until the sky is suitably dark).

The superintendent and staff were able to procure the projection screen itself, which was mounted to a wooden frame for stability. We set the projector up about 12 feet from the 16:9 screen, producing an image of about 90 inches, measured diagonally. This is hardly the most massive screen size that this projector supports, but it was still decent for viewing by our audience of 30 or so attendees. The relatively small screen helped to concentrate the projector’s brightness which made the movie easy to enjoy, even without perfect darkness. For the next showing we may try to obtain a larger screen, maybe even one that’s 2.35:1 for an even more cinematic effect.

Power was provided for the equipment via some well placed outdoor extension codes and power strips and the building staff took the time to shut off just enough lights in the courtyard to keep it safe. It was bright enough for people to find their way to and from their seats but dark enough to let the projector do its thing.

To provide the video, we used a Memorex Blu-ray player: nothing fancy, but it produces a nice clean 1080p image from Blu-ray Discs. The player was connected via the HDMI port to the projector, thus taking the full HD experience outside.

Keep in mind that the ideal picture settings for outside will probably be different from those inside, so if your projector is going to be doing double-duty, then create a custom picture mode for each environment. Also, if you like to start your movies before it’s fully dark, then you might want to switch over from a bright or dynamic setting while there is still light in the sky to a darker setting after full darkness sets in.

Bring on that Big Sound!

A big bright image isn’t much use without good sound. This is something you’ll want to consider and preferably test out in advance. Last year we set up a similar event and sound was a major issue. A boombox or set of powered computer speakers just isn’t going to cut it. Unlike the relatively quiet and contained environment of a living room or basement, the great outdoors can be much more challenging to fill with clean clear sound.

Learning from our experience last year, I tackled the problem with some decent home theater gear, including a Sony home theater receiver (packing 100 watts/channel), powering a pair of Klipsch bookshelf speakers for the front along with an Aperion Audio center channel for dialog. For the bass duties, we plugged in an Aperion Audio powered subwoofer. For this particular event we opted to forego the surround sound option, but would absolutely consider it next time. The issue was really one of practicality in getting the speaker wire laid adequately without being a trip hazard.

Making Movie Magic With Harry Potter

The weather cooperated, the food was available and the show was ready to go. To warm up the crowd, and test the equipment we ran a few CDs. The speaker volume was much improved this year, so much so that I’ve been asked to provide music for an annual picnic in September. This proves, once again, that no good deed goes unpunished.

And at about 8pm on a warm Saturday evening the tale of the young wizard began to unfold, and the crowd was enraptured. Because I like to leave nothing to chance, I had extra cables on hand, an extra power supply and of course a flashlight (as well as more powerful lighting options). I was ready for virtually any potential troubles. But fortunately the only evil to rear its ugly head that night was in the film, not the equipment.

As Harry and his pals defeated “He Who Shall Not Be Named” and the day was won, it was time to break everything down and call it a night. And in this case, being prepared paid off. Instead of working by flashlight I had a 300-watt halogen lamp at hand. This allowed me to carefully disconnect the equipment, including the Sharp projector, without worry. What took about an hour to set up came apart in 10 minutes, and by 11:30pm the wizard’s work, as well as my own was done…

…At least until next summer. For the children in the building who live surrounded by walls of concrete the evening provided a welcome escape to lands far away, and for the adults it offered a nostalgic reminder of days gone by, watching movies under the stars. Only this time the pictures were in high definition, and the sound was decidedly better than a 2-inch speaker dangling inside their car window.

Home Theater : How To Published: 2009-08-24 – 01:19:48
How to Set Up a Backyard Theater for Movie Night
By Peter Suciu

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Showtime Under the Stars

Many communities, schools and private organizations regularly do outdoor movie screenings. For members of today’s younger generation who can’t remember the era of drive-in movies, these special events will have to do. But thanks to the latest generation of technology, just about any open space can now be transformed into a movie theater. This gives new meaning to the phrase, “all the world is a stage.”

Residents of large apartment buildings in New York City like myself will understand it’s unlikely you’ll know the residents of the apartment down the hall, let alone someone who lives on the opposite side of the building. This leads to a pretty fractious sense of “community.” In my opinion, anything that improves this situation is a worthwhile cause. One way to bring people together is to hold a community movie night, for your build, your complex or your neighborhood. And really this is something virtually anyone with a reasonably sized common garden area, a large (safe) rooftop deck or a decent sized backyard can do.

The projector was placed at reasonable distance from the screen and with the viewers behind it, in part to ensure that the sight lines would remain unobstructed

In my case, our building has a large outdoor courtyard inside the apartment complex that is exclusive to the residents. Located on the second floor it has as much open space as many good sized movie theaters, and serves as a perfect place to hold a movie night. This year we opted to show the kid-friendly Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Originally the movie night was intended for June, but because the sun sets late early in the summer, we decided to wait until August, a good idea considering the nearly three hour run time of the movie.

Setting Up for the Big Show

The first thing needed for the movie night was solved, as the space was already there and available. And luckily for us during this wet New York summer, the weather forecast was excellent. The next thing we needed was a laundry list of audio/visual equipment, some of which the building’s staff and co-op board helped arrange and some of which was provided by yours truly.

While not the most ideal setup, the audio and video equipment was set up on a table and roped off to avoid accidents

Of course you can’t have a movie without a projector, and Sharp Electronics was able to provide a loaner system (full review coming soon) of the XV-Z15000 DLP home theater projector. This 1080p front projector features a brightness rating of 1600 ANSI lumens, which even in the glow of the lights in the city is more than bright enough to cast a very sharp and clear picture (just wait until the sky is suitably dark).

The superintendent and staff were able to procure the projection screen itself, which was mounted to a wooden frame for stability. We set the projector up about 12 feet from the 16:9 screen, producing an image of about 90 inches, measured diagonally. This is hardly the most massive screen size that this projector supports, but it was still decent for viewing by our audience of 30 or so attendees. The relatively small screen helped to concentrate the projector’s brightness which made the movie easy to enjoy, even without perfect darkness. For the next showing we may try to obtain a larger screen, maybe even one that’s 2.35:1 for an even more cinematic effect.

Power was provided for the equipment via some well placed outdoor extension codes and power strips and the building staff took the time to shut off just enough lights in the courtyard to keep it safe. It was bright enough for people to find their way to and from their seats but dark enough to let the projector do its thing.

To provide the video, we used a Memorex Blu-ray player: nothing fancy, but it produces a nice clean 1080p image from Blu-ray Discs. The player was connected via the HDMI port to the projector, thus taking the full HD experience outside.

Keep in mind that the ideal picture settings for outside will probably be different from those inside, so if your projector is going to be doing double-duty, then create a custom picture mode for each environment. Also, if you like to start your movies before it’s fully dark, then you might want to switch over from a bright or dynamic setting while there is still light in the sky to a darker setting after full darkness sets in.

Bring on that Big Sound!

A big bright image isn’t much use without good sound. This is something you’ll want to consider and preferably test out in advance. Last year we set up a similar event and sound was a major issue. A boombox or set of powered computer speakers just isn’t going to cut it. Unlike the relatively quiet and contained environment of a living room or basement, the great outdoors can be much more challenging to fill with clean clear sound.

Learning from our experience last year, I tackled the problem with some decent home theater gear, including a Sony home theater receiver (packing 100 watts/channel), powering a pair of Klipsch bookshelf speakers for the front along with an Aperion Audio center channel for dialog. For the bass duties, we plugged in an Aperion Audio powered subwoofer. For this particular event we opted to forego the surround sound option, but would absolutely consider it next time. The issue was really one of practicality in getting the speaker wire laid adequately without being a trip hazard.

The chairs were set up perfectly for a graduation but not ideally for a movie night. This would have to be fixed!

When we arrived to set everything up, the building staff had set the chairs too far back. After moving these forward, we had a nice intimate setting. Courtesy of the enthusiastic entertainment committee, the rear of the courtyard was transformed in a concession stand that would rival a real movie theater: not just soda and fresh popcorn, but a hotdog cart, cotton candy machine and even flavored Italian ices. The ony thing missing was the noisy belligerent movie theater patrons.

The building helped provide a concession stand that would rival many movie theater chains – and everything was free!

Making Movie Magic With Harry Potter

The weather cooperated, the food was available and the show was ready to go. To warm up the crowd, and test the equipment we ran a few CDs. The speaker volume was much improved this year, so much so that I’ve been asked to provide music for an annual picnic in September. This proves, once again, that no good deed goes unpunished.

A more ideal placement of chairs made for a theater-like set up that made sure there wasn’t a bad seat “outside” of the house

And at about 8pm on a warm Saturday evening the tale of the young wizard began to unfold, and the crowd was enraptured. Because I like to leave nothing to chance, I had extra cables on hand, an extra power supply and of course a flashlight (as well as more powerful lighting options). I was ready for virtually any potential troubles. But fortunately the only evil to rear its ugly head that night was in the film, not the equipment.

As Harry and his pals defeated “He Who Shall Not Be Named” and the day was won, it was time to break everything down and call it a night. And in this case, being prepared paid off. Instead of working by flashlight I had a 300-watt halogen lamp at hand. This allowed me to carefully disconnect the equipment, including the Sharp projector, without worry. What took about an hour to set up came apart in 10 minutes, and by 11:30pm the wizard’s work, as well as my own was done…

…At least until next summer. For the children in the building who live surrounded by walls of concrete the evening provided a welcome escape to lands far away, and for the adults it offered a nostalgic reminder of days gone by, watching movies under the stars. Only this time the pictures were in high definition, and the sound was decidedly better than a 2-inch speaker dangling inside their car window.

Showtime! Harry becomes the boy wizard, to the delight of fans both yound and old.

Backyard Home Theater Check List:

1. Make sure your building management, condo board or homeowners’ association is on board with the event before you start planning it.
2. Don’t forget the cables (HDMI, speaker wire, power cords), and consider having extras on hand.
3. Don’t skimp on the screen! While you can get an image by projecting onto a white wall or a bed sheet, it won’t compare to what you’ll see from a high quality projection screen.
4. Power strips and outdoor-rated extension cords are essential.
5. Gaffer’s Tape isn’t expensive, can cover the wires and is easier to remove than duct tape.
6. Have a flash light (or two) handy, and consider a spot light or contractor’s lamp for when you need to strike the set.
7. Always have a back-up plan (or at least a rain date) should nature choose not to cooperate, and have plastic bags or a tarp ready to cover your A/V gear should the rain come out of nowhere
8. Pick a movie that everyone will enjoy (and have a back-up movie in case the first gets lost or damaged)
9. Have fun!

By Peter Suciu
Source: http://www.bigpicturebigsound.com/Showtime_Under_the_Stars.shtml

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