Sometimes it can be tough putting together a family activity that gets everyone together in the same place (and that everyone enjoys). But how about an activity that brings everyone together, gets everyone outside, and makes the neighbors wish they were part of your family? That’s a huge win! Be the hero with an awesome backyard theater for family flicks and fun!
Depending on your home’s construction, backyard space, and budget, you may have a number of options for where to project a movie, video game, or whatever you can stream to a “screen.” A stucco exterior may work just fine as a surface for projection—especially if you have a large enough window-less surface, such as the exterior rear wall of your garage. Or you could drape any white cloth (even a bedsheet). To step the production value up, you could construct a screen frame from PVC and stretch fabric inside, purchase a standalone screen, or even invest in an inflatable backyard movie screen (warning: they can be noisy, meaning you’ll have to increase the movie volume, so neighbors might not be pleased).
Lights, Camera… Projection
LCD projectors have become much more affordable these days. Your biggest considerations are brightness (in lumens) and resolution. If you’re projecting after dark, you can get away with fewer lumens. Full daylight projection is challenging—and expensive—so keeping it to an evening activity will be more affordable. You’ll likely want HD resolution (1920 x 1080) if you’re showing Blu-ray or streaming video (and it’ll of course manage the lower-resolution SD format). However, if you’re going all-in and streaming 4K or gaming with the latest consoles, then you may want to invest in a UHD projector that can support the higher resolution.
If you’re still rockin’ VHS, then we applaud your commitment to retro video, but no one will be envious. Just sayin’.
Your choices in audio are vast, and far more complicated even than selecting a projection system. But (depending on audience size), it’s easiest to manage a standalone all-in-one system, or a pair of powered speakers (throw in a subwoofer if you’d like) and a 4-channel (or less) mixer. The powered speakers take the guesswork out of how much amp power you’d need, and it’s relatively plug-and-play. Most projectors should have RCA or stereo 1/8” outputs that will be compatible directly (or via adapters) with the mixer.
What’s in Store
Once you have all this gear, what do you do with it? Designate a storage area in your garage that make it quick and easy to pull out the sensitive gear (electronics, fabrics, etc.) that can’t stay outside so that you can spontaneously call “Movie Night!” without it being a hassle.
Requesting an Audience
It’s one thing to make the neighbors envy you. It’s another thing to make them angry. So, when you set up a movie night, make sure all the adjacent neighbors are invited. It’s a great bonding experience for your neighborhood, and can build great friendships!
Even when everyone on the block is on board, your association or municipality may have rules you need to be aware of. What sound level is acceptable? How many people can you have in a backyard? If neighbors help defray costs, does the city see that as admission? Check out the local regulations before flashing lights show up in your driveway.
Make the most of your property and entertaining space by throwing backyard movie parties that not only make the neighbors jealous… but want to attend! Bring your neighborhood together over great films, great fun, and great fellowship!