Who says the Drive-in is dead? Grab your family and friends and bring them all outside because your home theater’s been turned into an “outdoor" home theater. And don’t forget the popcorn!
The Home Theater Moves Outside
A home theater may be great, but what about when you’re in the backyard or on the patio? Just because it’s not indoors doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the same level of enjoyment when it’s time to watch a movie.
An outdoor home theater doesn’t have to be permanent either - nobody said that the equipment providing your view has to be left out when you go inside either. The only requirement is that you don’t have to be compromised. So don’t be.
What To Watch On
The video you’re going to watch is either going to be on a HDTV or from a front projector. It’s pretty easy to put one of today’s small but powerful front projectors on the patio and project its beam into the backyard where the side of a shed or garage or a sheet has been set up. The real issue is getting the video signal but that’s fairly easy too: run a HDMI cable from your home theater’s video output to the projector. Sure that means buying a long HDMI cable or even getting a HDMI signal repeater to boost the signal, but the upside is that all your home theater equipment is left right where it is. You probably can even turn around and work everything as long as you have a clear line-of-sight for the IR remote (as an alternate, a RF remote wouldn’t care about the paltry distance or line-of-sight).
Those who prefer a HDTV can certainly bring out the 32" from the den and put it on the patio and then run that HDMI cable to it. Of course you'll be bringing it back in every time after the show is over. Or - you can spring for one of those all weather HDTV's and leave it permanently outside. These can even be mounted on poles if desired.
Being comfortable while watching a movie outdoors requires some planning. Do you use your lawn chairs or folding chairs or go with something that's not just nicer but more comfortable? A chair that is going to be outdoors must be resistant to the elements and so that is a consideration too. Plan on looking around to see what is available before jumping in to buy something. Your outdoor home theater - and your back - will thank you for it.
What To Listen With
Sound is the other issue that needs to be taken care of, and just using the stereo from a HDTV’s built-in speakers is pretty pathetic. A Home Theater in a Box (HTIB) is one solution, since everything is contained in one component for the amplifier working with the 5.1 speaker set (plus there’s the Blu-ray or DVD player included). Another is to use a "Soundbar" - they contain multiple speakers and in some cases can be adjusted to bounce their sounds off of the surrounding walls to create a true surround effect. Using either of these choices takes care of giving you a surround setup, but yes you do have to set it up each time. That's time that could be used for watching.
The other option is to have permanent speakers outside. Obviously these speakers will be resistant to the elements and might be shaped as rocks or other inconspicuous shapes. Still the wires going to them will have to be installed into or onto the ground. Unless wireless transmission is used, that is.
Sit Back And Enjoy
The final step is actually a seat - using a blanket on the ground isn't anyone's idea of luxurious reclining! Home theater chairs can be gotten in single or dual sets - if you’re seated on a covered patio the same kind of chair that you’d have inside is no problem. The chair or chairs will take up some room, but we assume the patio has the space to accommodate it.
But if you’re going to be out among the elements, then the chair will need to be conditioned to handle that. There aren't too many that fit this bill, so you might be better off with an alternate like lawn furniture that is really, really nice (unless you prefer standing).
Time to Watch
The real issue with an outdoor home theater is in how much time it takes to get it set up and ready to go. Thanks to advancements in electronic components, this lead time has been significantly shortened if not removed altogether. Regardless of how you get ready for the "Great Outdoors," you're going to have quite a view ahead of you. Unless the electrical grid goes out just as the opening credits start to roll...
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