What Kind of Projector Do I Need for Outdoor Movies?

What kind of projector do I need for outdoor movies? You need an extra-bright projector that’s portable or with a battery in order to allow you to project outdoorsy movies at your backyard or while camping.

Home projectors have advanced so much they can reach up to 4K or even 8K Ultra HD resolution. Moreover, home projectors provide a wide range of choices for A/V connection. It mostly boils down for HDMI and USB.

However, you can also get A/V connectivity for SD media with the right adapters or with older projectors. With that said, let’s discuss outdoorsy connections. What kind of projector do I need for outdoor movies?

What Kind of Projector Do I Need for Outdoor Movies?

Getting high lumen count projectors is your best bet. A sufficiently bright projector can deal with outdoor projection even during the daytime. Obviously, nighttime screenings give you more leeway with the lumens.

Further reading: LG Short Throw Projector Review

The 1,000 to 3,000 lumens range is enough for ambient light control indoors. You’ll still need to shut your windows with blackout curtains and shut your lights to maximize the light of such a projector. Dark theaters exist for a reason.

How Many Lumens for Outdoor Projector Do You Need
How Many Lumens for Outdoor Projector Do You Need

The Ideal Lumen Range for Outdoor Projection

When doing screening outdoors, you need at least above 3,000 to 5,000 lumens of light to resist up to 100,000 lumens of daylight. Put your inflatable or extra-large projector screen in a shaded area for additional resistance.

Read more: The Ultimate Guide to Planning an Outdoor Movie Night

No, you don’t need a 100,000-lumen (or more) projector to allow for outdoor screening, although we’ve seen (relatively) affordable laser projectors with up to 8,000 lumens of brightness.

ALR Screens Can Be Used in Daylight Settings

There is a way to save money on lower-range lumen projectors for outdoor projection. Instead of buying a high-lumen projector for outdoor use, you should get an ambient light rejecting (ALR) screen instead.

See more: What Is The Best ALR Projector Screen Anyway?

An ALR screen (ostensibly) rejects ambient light by focusing the projector light to you, the audience, while at the same time having other light bounce off of it elsewhere so as not to rob the shine or vividness of your projector image.

This way, you can view all sorts of movies such as drama, comedies, sports, horror, cartoons, award winners, and more while chilling outdoors at your backyard or setting up a drive-in theater screening.

Types of ALR Screen to Watch Out For

There are several ALR screen types to choose from. First is the angular reflectivity type of ALR screen. It works to defect ambient light by which angle it’s viewed like a hologram card in order to keep ambient light from robbing your projector image of vividness.

There’s also the lenticular structure ALR screen. This screen type isolates the projector lens light in order to filter out the ambient light by multiple layers. The different layers allow you to keep the lens light and reject the ambient light.

It works excellently with outdoor screenings but neither type can deflect ambient light or daylight moving in the same angle or direction as your projector.

What is an ANSI Lumen Count?

ANSI lumen count is more important than lumen or lux in order to determine how objectively bright a projector is. It’s more consistent and the more scientifically accepted measuring unit. You’re assured that a 3,000 lumen projector is brighter than a 1,000 lumen projector across the board.

Further reading: What is Lumen in Projector? And How to Use Them to Choose a Projector?

It’s also more precise than terms like “really bright” or “dim”. You’re told in numbers how dim or how bright the projector is to allow you to compare different projectors regardless of make or model. A good projector gives you vivid quality in 4K even at a 120-inch cinematic screen.

You can also invest in a short throw or ultra-short throw projector because closer distance projection allows for brighter and more light-concentrated images when push comes to shove.

When Can You Use Your Outdoor Projector Outdoors?

First off, don’t screen something in inclement weather. Even though you’re assured of less ambient light with a cloudy sky, the risk of getting your projector soaking wet with rain is too great to take advantage of such low-light conditions. It’s better to wait until it’s night to get a low-light environment.

Pick an adequate time to watch your film, while you’re at it. This means you don’t have to limit your viewing time to evenings, sunset, or sunrise. Yes, they’re low-light periods of the day so they give you better chances of watching a film without issues.

Outdoor Projection During 10AM to 4PM

However, what’s the point of getting a super-bright projector if you avoid the sunniest or hottest times of the day where the whole area is flooded with daylight? The most problematic ambient light times of viewing are 10:00AM to 4:00PM.

Therefore, the higher is the number of lumens emitted by your projector light, the brighter it will end up when all is said and done.

  • Increase the Shaded Area: Sunlight at its brightest and most unfiltered can reach up to 100,000 lumens. You don’t need to search for 150,000 lumens or 100,100 lumens of projector lamp brightness by simply implementing solutions like tents and hoods for more shade. 
  • How Much Brighter a Projector Do You Need? You need at least a 3,000+ lumens projector for it to work outdoors. If it has less than 3,000+ lumens then you should invest in a tent or a shaded area, like when using a pico projector with sub-1000 lumens of brightness. 
  • Brightness Levels with the Most Issues with Sunlight: You need more shade and ALR screens at the right angle or filtered layer when dealing with summer months and 2,000 lumens or less projectors. Winter months are dimmer due to the distance of the earth from the sun. 
  • Cloudy Days with Calm Winds: Make sure the cloudy day you pick to screen your movie is not too windy and has cumulus (white) clouds instead of nimbus (dark) clouds. The clouds in this instance provide more shade and less risk of soaking your projector care of a rainy day. 
  • Maximize Your Outdoor Projector Effectiveness: The ways you can maximize the brightness or detail of your projector include fixing the screen, getting an ALR screen, creating extra shade, and placing the projector at the garden or shaded area like your backyard. 

Items to Consider

It can be quite challenging to understand the brightness of your projector when it comes to measuring its brightness. You have no frame of reference. However, maybe this will help. Candlelight is 14 lumens. Daylight is 100,000 lumens.

You need from 3,000 to 5,000 lumens to beat out the brightness of daylight peeking out of your windows or when outdoors.

James Core

I love my projector system and I am here to help you find the right projector for your needs.

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