Ever wanted to kick back on your lawn and watch your favorite flicks? It may seem daunting, but it’s actually not hard to build. All you need is a projector and a screen. In fact, with summer almost here, watching movies or playing video games outdoors is a great way to spend time with friends and family.
You can easily build an outdoor theater system for well under $1,000. The most expensive and important piece of your set-up is the projector. Lots of companies, including Epson and Optoma, sell reasonably-priced, portable (under ten pounds) projectors that are perfect for an outdoor theater.
Look for a projector that has an image brightness of at least 1,500 lumens, and ideally more than 2,000 lumens, since it will be competing with the light of the moon and neighboring houses. And check for a VGA or DVI port, in addition to the regular audio and video connectors for a DVD player, so you can connect a laptop. This will enable you to use the DVD drive in your laptop and take advantage of downloaded or streaming movies.
The other major consideration is the big screen. If your home is painted white or off white, you could project directly onto it. For the best results, though, you'll want a screen. A bed sheet can be perfectly serviceable, but you’ll get better results with a blackout drapery liner (a 105 x 80-inch panel costs about $60). Or you could spring for an inflatable outdoor movie screen, if you want to have more control over where you place the screen and better image quality.
If you decide to use an inflatable screen, make sure will you have room around the screen to tie it down. And if it's windy, choose a protected location; these screens are rated for a maximum wind speed of about 15-20 mph.
As for sound, many projectors have basic speakers built in, but that old boom box you have lying around, or an inexpensive pair of powered speakers with a sub-woofer will do quite nicely as well. If you're looking to create a more permanent installation, consider using outdoor speakers.