Couple getting ready to watch film outdoors
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How to create your own outdoor cinema

Watching a good film is a lovely way to round off a warm summer’s day. And what could be better than doing your viewing al fresco, by fashioning a cinema in your own garden? If this sounds like your idea of fun, then you’ll be pleased to learn it’s surprisingly easy to do. 

Here’s how you can create your own outdoor cinema. 

Invest in a projector 

To create an outdoor cinema experience, you can either throw as much money at it as you like, or create something very serviceable on a shoestring. However, getting a decent projector that you feel comfortable using is a key ingredient and it’s best not to scrimp here. 

That said, projectors are much cheaper than they used to be. They’re also more compact, less noisy and give a brighter picture - so you don’t have to be plunged into total darkness to use them. 

Another thing to take into account is the projector’s resolution, which is measured in terms of the number of horizontal pixels in the display. Full HD is 1080p and above[1], although you probably don’t need as much quality to project outside. 

Think about what you’ll want to play the films from. Projectors tend to come with a variety of inputs, but make sure yours has the right one(s) for you. As you’re doing this outdoors, it’s worth thinking about playing films from a portable source like a laptop or tablet, or going wireless. 

Let’s say your collection is mostly on DVD. It’s possible to get mini projectors with their own DVD players. If you want to connect your laptop, you should be able to do this with a standard HDMI cable. 

You might prefer to stream via your smartphone, using the Netflix or Amazon apps, for instance. If you’re streaming films from the internet, your outdoor cinema should be in range of the wifi. If you’re prepared to spend a little more money, some projectors have their own built-in wifi, which means you’ll be able to connect devices more easily. 

Read What Hi-Fi?’s 2020 round-up of the best outdoor projectors

Your own silver screen 

How much you want to invest in this is, of course, up to you. Pegging out a white bedsheet will work and there’s a certain enjoyment in going DIY. But you’ll get a better picture by buying a projector screen. 

As your cinema won’t be a permanent feature, it’s a good idea to get something portable and quick to assemble. Again, you can splash out if you want to, but you can pick up a screen for around £30

Your projector rig 

The projector should be the right height for the screen, which might involve a little trial and error. You could use a table for the projector and laptop (if you’re using one), but it’s possible to get adjustable trolleys especially for this. This should make your life a bit easier and ensure the projector is set up safely. 

The sound system 

Most projectors will have their own in-built speakers. However, if you’re going to be watching summer blockbusters, you might want something with a bit more oomph. Bluetooth speakers start from around £20, but it’s worth spending a bit more on a system with crystal-clear sound and the all-important bass. 

See the best budget Bluetooth speakers 2020 on What Hi-Fi

Where to set up 

Pick a dry part of the garden which is sheltered from the wind. Ideally, you’ll want the area of the garden which gets darkest. This will minimise the chance of other lights reflecting off the screen, and will also create the desired cinematic atmosphere. Alternatively, you can create this yourself by setting up in a big tent or gazebo. This will also prove invaluable if it starts raining. 

Make yourself comfortable 

As you’ll be sitting down for at least an hour and a half, it’s important to be comfortable. It may be worth splashing out on some cushions, beanbags or setting up some comfortable seats. 

Regular canvas camping chairs are cheap, cheerful and more comfortable than you might expect and some of them even have drinks holders in the arm. You’ll still have to hold your popcorn box, though. 

Once you’re all set, all you need to do is pick a warm day and a good summer film, and enjoy a balmy evening in front of your own silver screen. 

If you’ll be buying some new equipment, don’t forget to add it to your contents insurance.