How to create an outdoor cinema


In your back garden, or in a commercial setting

Our guide to creating your outside cinema

With open-air gatherings being one of the only ways to socialise and host an event during the current restricted semi-lockdown conditions outdoor cinema type events, both private and commercial, are increasingly popular.

Many event organisers turn to a professional audio visual company to support with screenings of film nights or sporting events such as football, tennis and F1 as well as other forms of entertainment.

With many guides focusing on how to ‘dress’ your garden or outdoor space we have created this guide to:

  • highlight some of our technical/audio visual equipment recommendations
  • advise on best practices for performance and value for money
  • and also debunk some of the myths surrounding the equipment used for ‘outdoor screenings’.
Projectors are an effective solution for outdoor events taking place after dark in a private setting

Outdoor Screens for Private Events – Projection

Can I use a projector to create a ‘big screen’ in my back garden?

First off it’s worth noting that projector brightness is stated in ‘lumens’. At HAV we have projectors available to hire from 1000 Lumen models, up to commercial-grade 20’000 lumen models such as those that might be used by your local multiplex cinema.

However, we never ever recommend projectors of any brightness/lumen output for outdoor events, unless the event screening will take place in complete darkness.

There is a common misconception that a ‘powerful’ projector will be an effective solution to create a ‘big screen’ in daylight conditions. Take our word for it as an AV company with 14 years experience, the reality is that if you turn on a projector (even a very expensive/powerful one) in daylight conditions outdoors, you are unlikely to see any image at all.

Things are a little different indoors with projectors as you will have control of the ambient lighting level in the room and a light bulb will not degrade the projection image to anywhere near the same extent as direct sunlight.

If you are desperate to use projection outdoors, instead of one of the other outdoor screen types described below, the best workaround for this is to use a marquee/gazebo structure with a blackout lining to create a dark environment for the projector to operate in. A proper blackout lining is essential as most marquee/gazebo walls and roofs are quite thin as standard and will allow a lot of light to penetrate the structure. Marquee and gazebo structures are something we supply as part of our packages and also solve the problem of waterproofing for the equipment. (As yes, you’ve guessed it, most video projectors are not waterproof)

Projectors are an effective solution for outdoor events taking place after dark in a private setting.

Projectors are an effective solution after dark in a commercial setting
A typical portable led display set up (50’’ model shown, we stock up to 80’’)

Large Portable LED Displays

Perhaps the best value solution for outdoor events in a private setting, taking place in daylight conditions, is the use of large portable LED Screens or displays.

Although typically not as large as projection screens, outdoor LED displays have the advantage of being:

  • Viewable in daylight conditions and less affected by direct sunlight
  • IP Rated (Waterproof)
  • Cost-effective to hire

Although this type of display looks similar to a (large) conventional television screen, the technology enables you to view the action clearly, even if it’s sunny, and you don’t need to worry about the equipment being ruined if the weather turns nasty.

At HAV we stock a variety of outdoor LED displays from 32″ up to 80″. Also, we recommend use of an ‘eye level’ floor stand to secure the unit and bring the display up to head height for any guests that are standing, i.e. the perfect viewing height for your audience.

Outdoor Screens for Commercial Events, Drive-In Cinemas & Festivals

Perhaps the most effective solution for outdoor events requiring a ‘big screen’ is the use of an LED video wall. This outdoor screen solution allows you to build up a number of video panels in a modular fashion to your desired size. The benefits of video walls are:

  • they can be built to a very large size to suit your audience numbers
  • they are ‘high brightness’ so will work in direct sunlight
  • and many models are also IP rated (waterproof) so can be used in torrential conditions if needed.

Video walls are very expensive to purchase and this is reflected in the hire cost. So we find they are more frequently chosen for ticketed/commercial/corporate events, or high-end private events.

At HAV we stock state of the art outdoor LED video wall packages in a range of high resolution pixel pitches to suit any audience size and event type.

An example of an Outdoor LED Video Wall

Events Calendar 2020: What could I display on my outdoor screen?

  • 31 July to 16 August: Snooker – World Championship at the Crucible Theatre
  • 1 August: Football – FA Cup final at Wembley
  • 2 August: Formula 1 – British Grand Prix at Silverstone
  • 23 August: Football – Champions League final in Lisbon
  • 29 August to 20 September: Cycling – Tour de France
  • 27 September-10 October: Tennis – French Open at Roland Garros in Paris
  • 25-27 September: Golf – Ryder Cup at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin
  • 4 October: Athletics – London Marathon
  • 18 October to 15 November: Cricket – Men’s T20 World Cup in Australia
  • 7 November: Rugby Union – England v New Zealand at Twickenham
  • 12-15 November: Golf – Masters at Augusta National

We hope you found this guide useful. If you have any questions or need any further advice please don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll be happy to help!