Good planning can save you hours of frustration on movie night. It pays to sit down and draw things out ahead of time. Where will everything go? Do you want to be able to move the location around the yard? How many speakers? Plan for every scenario before doing any building or buying.
If you want a surround sound setup, try to wire the speakers ahead of time. While PVC pipe acts as good protection for speaker wire, Fisk suggests a more flexible and possibly cheaper solution.
“I use a garden hose for my wires,” he said. “A lot of our site’s members have taken to doing that as well. PVC works great, but a garden hose is really flexible.”
If you don’t plan on leaving your speakers outside, using banana clips makes hooking up your speakers a lot easier, just be sure to clean the clips regularly.
Safety & Equipment Care
Always remember that you’ll be mixing electricity with the outdoors. In many cases that may be in close proximity to a pool. Ensure that electrical pieces are used far away from water. Don’t let the kids put their drinks on the equipment cart, for their safety and that of your equipment.
Find a way to conceal wires and eliminate cable clutter where possible. When the movies starts it will be pretty dark, and the last thing you want is someone from your audience tripping over a speaker wire.
Taking care of your equipment is crucial. Even if you manage to find a way to protect your components from wet weather, don’t ignore other environmental issues. Humidity and condensation can destroy electronics, so be aware of your climate when designing your backyard drive-in.
Clean connections regularly following manufacturer’s suggestions. If you live in a snowy climate, be sure to bring all your equipment inside and out of the cold when the weather turns. It’s also a good idea to have a spare bulb for the projector on hand.
Since you’ll be using all this equipment outside, it’s a good idea to shop for used gear. That will make it a bit easier to swallow when someone spills grape soda all over the projector.
Now that you’ve done all the prep work, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labor. To maximize your enjoyment, streamline setup and teardown procedures. If it takes you an hour to get set up for a movie, you won’t use it as much as you would if you can go from idea to showtime in 10-15 minutes. Find a common place to store all your equipment, either in a garage or a backyard shed (assuming its waterproof). Take time to come up with a good procedure for setup, one that you can use every time. This will make it easier to do every time.
There’s no hard and fast rule for outdoor theaters. Indoors, most people are examining picture and sound quality. Outside, while those factors are important, it’s more the experience that matters. Have fun with it by creating movie invites or downloading preshow animations from the web.
Then make a big bucket of popcorn, find a comfortable chair, a good remote, and a tasty drink and fire up the projector.
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