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Make an Outdoor Theater

How To Set Up An Easy Outdoor Theater For Streaming Movies

Watching a movie outside on a nice summer night is an amazing experience whether you’re a ten year old kid, or a 50-year old adult.

I’ve seen a lot of different set ups over the years.  Just last week I visited a friend’s house who had a fifty foot HDMI cable running across the floor in his basement to an outdoor projector.

Granted, the picture quality was good, and he had a lot of options for programming, but he was likely paying up the nose for the service, which we’ve already established is ridiculous nowadays.

Creating am outdoor streaming set up is not hard, and not super expensive either.  Here’s how I did it:

The Screen

This is the one place I’m going to recommend not spending a lot of money.

I went to Home Depot and bought a large plain white Martha Stewart curtain for $12. Take your pick on Amazon too where’s there’s a zillion for less than $20. I put two nails in the bottom level of our deck and hung the curtain between them.

Done, and it looks and works great. If you want to darken the screen even more, buy two curtains and hang one in front of the other.

You can buy a fancy screen if you want, but it’s really not needed. You can even beam the picture onto a part of your house or garage if you have a nice clean light colored surface.

Final thoughts on the screen: I’d start inexpensive and go up from there until you find something you really like.

The Projector

I’ve used older projectors in the past (the ones that weigh ten pounds, cover an enormous footprint, and have connections for a bunch of cables no one’s used since the early 2000s).

With young kids, they were still fascinated by the whole idea of watching something outside, but I needed more.

Thankfully, the new projectors are brighter, clearer and easier to see on a wider variety of backdrops.

I hunted and hunted on Amazon, reading almost every review for the all the mini portable projectors that are popping up.  I saw one demonstrated at the Salt Lake City airport at a Sharper Image store, and right away knew I was on to something.

There are a ton to choose from and the price keeps going lower.  You can now score a decent one for under $100 that will do the trick.

These are magical little devices, and not without a few issues (cheap remotes and mediocre audio), but overall, it’s a purchase I don’t think many people would regret, especially if you’re making an outdoor theater.

Audio

Everyone has a Bluetooth speaker nowadays.  This part couldn’t be easier.

Some of the projectors have a built in speaker but they won’t work for crap, so take the time to connect a Bluetooth one. I know one more thing to connect, and charge, but it’s worth it.

Another tip, is to have a 3.5mm headphone cable handy.  I recommend using a Bluetooth speaker, and not connecting it via Bluetooth.  Rather, use the headphone jack, hardwired. 

I say this because I’ve experienced audio lag via Bluetooth especially when streaming a show from Netflix or my media server.  And a cord is less than $5.

Programming

I’ve covered this quite extensively on this site, but in terms of what to watch….as long as you have a device capable of reaching your wi-fi connection, the possibilities are endless.

We use Amazon Prime, Netflix, Disney+ and Hulu quite a bit.  Any apps will work if you have an iPad, tablet or phone as your media source. YouTube is always a free winner.

If you have any files downloaded you can watch via your networked hard drive and a media server or directly from a device if you have them saved there.

The Bottom Line

Let’s add this up. The curtain (your screen) costs around $12. A portable projector is $100 and a Bluetooth speaker is $50, if you need an audio cable it costs $5.

That’s less than $175 for some great equipment, that will provide a fun outdoor movie streaming experience that will make you the envy of your neighbors and their kids.  It’s a win-win.

2 replies on “How To Set Up An Easy Outdoor Theater For Streaming Movies”

Hi. I am attaching an iPad to an AAXA P3x Pico Projector with a lightening digital AV adapter. It will play audio and video on home movies. It will not play any audio either on the projectors speakers or an attached speaker if I play any of my movies downloaded from iTunes or those I stream from Netflix. Can you help?
Thank you!

Not sure there. That’s odd but I’ll post your comment here and hopefully someone can chime in with a response.

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