On a nice, sunny day, the idea of watching a movie outdoors can certainly be appealing. However, using a projector during the daytime comes with some unique challenges. Since projectors work by displaying light on a screen, the bright sunlight can wash out an image. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend nice days cooped up indoors, though. There are plenty of high-quality outdoor daytime projectors you can try. Here are some tips for enjoying a great outdoor movie-watching experience even when it’s bright and sunny.
Choose the Right Projector
The most important technique for getting great picture quality is simply to choose the right equipment. Different projectors are designed for different situations. Selecting a projector that works in daylight will ensure you can use it outside. When looking for the best outdoor projector for daytime use, you need to consider these features.
Recommended Lumen Count
The most important feature is projector brightness. Projector images often look washed out and fuzzy in daylight because they are too dim. When the sun’s rays are brighter than the projector, it’s much harder to make out an image. To compete with the daylight, your projector usually needs to have at least 3,000 lumens.
There are many things besides basic lumen count that impact the picture’s actual brightness. Placing your projector farther away or using a larger screen can make even a bright projector seem a little pale. If you want a strong picture without messing around with image size and throw distance, you’ll need a brighter projector. A 5,000-lumen projector usually provides enough illumination to guarantee that your image will be visible in any situation.
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Best Resolution Size for Daylight Projectors
A projector’s resolution is essentially the amount of detail the projector puts on a screen. This is very important for outdoor projectors because strong outdoor light tends to hide details. Better image quality can mitigate some of the issues caused by outdoor viewing. High-resolution is generally better, but it costs more. Most people looking for a backyard movie screen will be happy with a 1080p resolution. This is enough to provide a crisp picture without breaking the bank.
Keep in mind that size is closely related to brightness. Larger screen sizes require larger amounts of lumens to get a similar effect. Selecting a high-resolution projector won’t always guarantee great results for a 20-foot screen. No matter what resolution you select, it is typically best to stick to a smaller outdoor projector screen.
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The Ideal Contrast Ratio for Outdoor Viewing
Contrast ratio is an often-overlooked feature on projectors. Contrast ratio refers to the difference between dark areas and light areas of the projected image. High contrast helps to create a crisp picture even on sunny days.
If you want the best picture possible outside, you need to select a projector with a good contrast ratio. Contrast ratios are measured by two numbers. For example, a 3,000:1 ratio means white images are 3,000 times brighter than black ones. Higher numbers provide better contrast. For outdoor viewing, a ratio of 5,000:1 is recommended.
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Find a Good Location
Even the best outdoor projector for daytime use will struggle if the screen is pointed directly at the sun. Different levels of brightness outside can end up impacting your movie’s visibility. Check your projector’s manual to see whether the manufacturer has any specific recommendations. Some projectors may only be rated for part-shade or full-shade use.
In every situation, a darker environment is better. Try to find a shady part of the outdoor space, such as underneath a tree or on a porch. If you plan on using your backyard movie screen during the day a lot, it might even be worth building a gazebo or installing a shade awning. Ideally, you want to find an area with plenty of shade on all sides of your outdoor projector screen.
Keep in mind that you need to consider both brightness level and brightness direction. When the sun is shining directly on the screen, it will be much brighter. The glare can make it almost impossible to see, no matter how strong your daylight projector is. You may also encounter problems if the sun is directly behind the screen. Having the bright light shining on your face will make it hard to notice all the details of the movie. If you can’t find an area out of direct sunlight, set up the screen so the sun is on your left or right side.
Select a Projector Screen Designed for Bright Light
The type of screen you use has a big impact on your movie’s quality. Though a good projector can create a visible image on just about any surface, certain screens improve clarity. Screen material matters because different materials reflect light at different levels. There are special outdoor screens designed to provide better image quality in challenging lighting conditions.
One popular type of outdoor projector screen is an ambient light rejecting screen. These screens scatter light particles that approach from the side, so indirect light doesn’t interfere with your picture quality. It is also helpful to get a screen with an anti-glare coating. These coatings ensure that direct light won’t cause white spots on your image. Another type of screen to consider is a ceiling light rejecting screen. This material is meant to keep bright ceiling lights from washing out screens indoors. It can also be great when you want to watch a movie outdoors while the sun is overhead.
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Make Sure to Hang Your Screen Correctly
A common complaint with outdoor movies is that the screen surface is uneven. When you’re hanging up a screen, the simplest option is tossing it over a clothesline or draping it on a wall. However, this can lead to wrinkles that cast shadows. Another problem is that even a gentle breeze can make your screen move around distractingly. Furthermore, if the screen is angled relative to the projector, it can distort the image.
For best results, you need to take the time to set up your outdoor screen properly. If possible, mount the screen with brackets instead of just hanging it off a convenient ledge. Use a level to make sure all the corners are even and the surface is straight. Finally, make sure to secure the bottom edge, so a breeze won’t move the screen around. These simple steps ensure that you get a quality viewing experience even when dealing with the unpredictability of nature.
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Play Around With Your Brightness Settings
Many people make the mistake of trying to watch a movie outside and immediately getting discouraged by the poor picture quality. Before you give up and decide you need to buy a new projector that works in daylight, take a look at your settings. Many projectors have default settings that assume you’ll use them in a dark room. You might just need to tinker around with brightness levels to adjust your projector for daylight use.
Calibrating brightness will vary depending on the projector you choose. Some projectors may have a row of buttons you can press to change brightness. Others may require you to enter the menu and browse a full range of settings.
A higher brightness level will make it easier to see your projector in daylight. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should turn up brightness to the maximum level. When you go too bright, all the details in lighter areas may be lost. So, if you’re watching a pastel movie on a brightly lit set, turning your brightness up too much can actually wash out some of the details. Finding the right setting will be a balancing act.
Set Up Your Projector Closer to Your Screen
The farther light has to travel, the weaker it gets. Therefore, a projector set very far from a screen will create a softer, fuzzier image. This can be a problem when watching a backyard movie screen because the light already impacts the picture quality. For best results, set up your outdoor daytime projector as close to the screen as possible. Doing this will give you a bright image with rich colors and defined shapes.
It can take a little tinkering to get the right throw distance for your projector. As your projector gets closer to the screen, the image gets tinier and brighter. You’ll need to try a few test images to find your preferred level of brightness and size. If you don’t want to sacrifice size for clarity, consider getting a short-throw projector. These projectors are designed to produce a wide image even when the projector is right by the screen.
Since the throw distance makes such a big difference, we suggest investing in an extension cord or projection screen stand. Many people limit themselves to a certain setup because of issues like outlet placement. Getting a movable screen and a longer power cord allows you to put your projector at the perfect distance from your screen.
Make Sure You’re Working With the Right Aspect Ratio
Sometimes, people blame the sun for their movie looking washed out and fuzzy when there’s another culprit. An incorrect aspect ratio can drastically distort your images. The aspect ratio is the setting that has two numbers divided by a colon. It refers to the width and height of the movie you’re playing. Common aspect ratios include 4:3, 16:9, and 21:9.
For the best results, you need to use an aspect ratio that is compatible with the media you are playing. The majority of movies use a 16:9 aspect ratio, which is also called a 1.78:1 ratio. However, some older videos might use a 4:3 ratio or another ratio. At best, the wrong aspect ratio will cause black bars to appear on the top or bottom of the screen. This can throw off color balances and make it harder to see things in daylight. Some machines may distort images to meet different ratios, and this damages your video quality even more.
Adjusting the aspect ratio can be tricky on certain models. Some have a few simple buttons to press, while others select aspect ratio automatically. If your projector keeps insisting on using the wrong ratio, check your connector type. When you’re using VGA to connect the projector to a computer, it often picks the wrong connection.
Don’t Forget to Upgrade Your Sound
It’s easy to get so caught up in improving picture quality that you forget about the other aspects of projecting a movie. However, it’s important to remember that sound is essential to a good experience. When watching a movie inside, the walls reflect sound waves and make sounds louder. Outside, nature tends to absorb sound before you can fully hear it. So even if your speakers usually work great, you might want to upgrade them before viewing outside.
The typical speakers on a projector won’t be enough for you to fully hear dialogue and film scores. Instead, you’ll need to augment your system with some external speakers. Check to see whether your projector supports Bluetooth or other connections, and find compatible speakers. If you’re worried about sound disturbing your neighbors, you can also try hooking up your projector to a good set of headphones.
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