When the weather gets warm it can only mean one thing; outdoor activities. What better way to enjoy the outdoors than to watch a movie in your backyard on a portable screen. A portable screen designed for watching videos outdoors can really enhance your viewing experience and make your projector’s images pop.
There are a lot of portable movie screens on the market, but you are looking for a portable screen that can handle the additional stress put on an outdoor movie screen. Probably the biggest enemy of an outdoor movie screen is the wind.
Outdoor video screens present such a large cross-section that it doesn’t take much of a breeze to place a lot of force on the screen. Portable screens designed for outdoor use have additional support to prevent breezes from ruining the show.
What else should you consider when choosing a portable outdoor movie screen? Here are a few tips and recommendations.
Need a quality projector for your backyard entertainment? Be sure to see our article about Cheap Projectors.
The obvious question is how big should the screen be? If you’re only talking about the family you can use a smaller screen and park them fairly close. If it will be a larger crowd including friends, neighbors, and extended family, then you should consider a larger screen that you can place farther from the projector.
Need an outdoor flat screen TV? See our article that reviews some of the best Outdoor Flat Screen TVs.
Your projector plays a large part in how big your portable projection screen can be. Check the specifications on your projector to see how far away you can put the screen and still project a quality image.
Ambient light will also affect how close you need to put the projector and may affect the screen size. If you’re planning to start the show at dusk, you have additional light from your neighbors, or there are lights you need to leave on, that light can wash out the video image forcing you to place the projector closer to the screen.
Inflatable or Not?
An inflatable movie screen will typically be easier to setup than a non-inflatable portable movie screen because you just have to inflate the screen and setup the guy wires. The non-inflatable screens typically need assembly in addition to the guy wires. An inflatable screen does most of the setup work for you while rigid models will require more assembly time.
The screens on non-inflatable models will be more rigid than the inflatable models. You may expect to get some distortion in video images with an inflatable that you typically don’t see in rigid models.
Inflatables need to be inflated which usually means an electric air pump. Air pumps are not necessarily the highest quality devices and are prone to failure. The last thing you want is a broken air pump ruining movie night before it even starts.
Depending on the expected wind conditions you may have to use guy wires with either screen type.
Your preferred projector and movie format will determine the layout of the screen. You should choose a wide angle screen if you will mostly be projecting high definition video while if you mostly watch classics movies or TV shows, a square screen may give you the best picture.
You might expect a projection screen to have a white surface, but not all of them do. Some screens are light to medium gray. While white dominated video screens for years, in the past 10 years or more gray has really come on in popularity. The reason is that a gray screen produces higher contrast images than white. It can produce higher contrast because gray absorbs more ambient light than white maintaining a more balanced black level. You are likely to find more ambient light in an outdoor setting, so you should consider a portable screen with a gray reflective surface.
Screen gain will also affect the quality and contrast of the images you are projecting. Screen gain is a measure of the reflectivity of the screens surface. Higher gain will provide a brighter image for those in front of the screen, but will display a poorer viewing experience for those seated to the right or left. Lower gain portable projection screens have a more even distribution of light providing a brighter picture a more viewing angles.
Higher gain screens also can have uneven reflection of red, blue, and green colors. As you change viewing angles you may notice a shift in colors.
Lower gain screens around 1.0 are typically the best for outdoor projection.
Front Projection or Rear Projection?
Does it make more sense to place the projector in front of or behind the portable video screen? That will depend on your specific situation. A rear projection screen allows you to hide the projector so that people or other obstacles don’t interfere with the view. On the other hand, rear projection requires more space behind the screen which may reduce the space for guests in front of the screen. Rear projection screens typically provide a brighter image with a higher gain as they don’t depend on the reflectivity of the screen, but front projection screens may have a sharper image and lower gain as the light is not direct and it does not have to pass through the screen.
Some manufacturers add special coatings to the movie screen fabric that can protect against UV light, prevent static buildup, make the screen easier to clean, prevent mildew, and retard flames. These protectants can lengthen the life of your screen and make it safer. All things being equal, screens with these features are more desirable than those without.
We researched some of the top rated portable movie screens available by checking forums, manufacturer’s sites, and reviews to find the best outdoor projection screens.
Take a look at our list and see if one of these high-quality screens is the perfect model for your next movie night!
Portable Screen: Top 5 Best Rated Outdoor Movie Screens
The Gemmy Airblown 39121X Movie Screen is a 12-foot inflatable movie screen that sets up in minutes and can be placed just about anywhere. Just pull it straight out of the bag, plug it in, and let the screen do the rest. It’s self-inflating! Not only do you get all the benefits of backyard entertainment, you get to watch on a huge screen that will dwarf just about any indoor flat screen TV. Here’s what you need to know.
- 12-foot with screen that measures 123 x 77 inches
- Self-inflating movie screen
- 1 – Airblown inflatable frame
- 8 – Tether stakes
- 8 – Base stakes
- 8 – Nylon tethers
- 1 – Spare fuse
- 1 – Storage bag
- Very easy to setup and take down
- Quality construction and materials
- Good value
- Perfect size for large groups
- Dual fans are noisy
- Material should be handled with care
- Blowers not powerful enough
- Slow to deflate
Gemmy Airblown Movie Screen Video
Elite Screens Yard Master 2 Series, Foldable-Frame Outdoor Front Projection Movie Screen, 120-inch 16:9, OMS120H2
If you’re looking for a non-inflatable that’s easy to setup and can withstand a steady breeze, the Elite Screens Yard Master 2 Series OMS120H2 120-Inch Movie Screen is the one. With a lightweight aluminum folding frame and a complete support system your entertainment will continue even with the wind blowing. Here’s what you need to know.
- Quick setup design requires no tools and allows you to simply unfold the frame, attach the material and legs and you’re ready to go
- Quality, lightweight aluminum, square tube, single-piece folding frame comes with detachable T-legs
- Black masked borders provide a professional look while improving contrast
- 2-Year limited warranty
- Support rings
- Soft, padded carrying bag
Overall screen dimensions are 86H x 109.8W inches with a viewing size of 59H x 104W inches or 120-inches diagonal
Screen properties are CineWhite, 1.1 Gain, 4K Ultra HD Ready with 160 degrees wide viewing angle
Elite Screens Yardmaster 2 Series Product Information
- Easy setup and storage
- Excellent quality construction and materials
- Very portable and light
- Some concern over creases in the screen, but they don’t appear to be visible during viewing
Elite Screens Yardmaster 2 Series Product Information Video
Elite Screens Yardmaster 2 Series Setup & Assembly Video
Camp Chef is known for its outdoor cooking gear, but you may not know that they also make some really nice outdoor movie theater screens including their Camp Chef Outdoor Entertainment Gear OS115 Indoor/Outdoor Movie Theater Screen. You need to know right off the bat that this screen does not come standard with legs and a tie-down kit. You need to buy those separately. If you have a place to hang the screen between trees, inside on a wall, or from a porch this may be just the portable movie screen for you. This screen is also usable for either front or rear projection. Here’s what you need to know.
- High-quality oxford nylon screen material reflects sharp, high-resolution imagery and has a gain of 1.1
- Frame is literally a snap to put together with just the connection of the frame and snapping the screen into place between you and movie glory
- May be used for either front or rear projection
- Lightweight 3/8 inch aluminum frame weighs only 5 lbs.
- Hanging straps
Overall screen dimensions are 115 inches diagonal or 9 ft. 7 inches and the screen viewing dimensions are 101 x 57 inches with a 16:9 aspect ratio
- Easy to set up and take down
- Great picture
- Versatile front or rear projection
- Very portable
- Some reports that tension on straps causes warping
- Screen creases may be visible during viewing
- Legs are an optional purchase
- No cover on the back for front projection
Outdoor Entertainment Gear by Camp Chef, OS120L Backyard Big Indoor/Outdoor Portable Movie Projection Screen
Another great screen from Camp Chef, the Camp Chef Outdoor Entertainment Gear OS120L Backyard Big Indoor/Outdoor Portable Movie Projection Screen comes with a durable, freestanding frame that will keep the screen stable in light summer breezes and includes tie-down guy lines for stiffer winds. It also features easy setup and takedown and a high-quality oxford nylon reflective material screen that reproduces high-resolution imagery and enriched colors. A unique back cover blocks ambient light, but also rolls down for rear projection. Here’s what you need to know.
- 120 inch diagonal, 16:9 aspect ratio, 1.1 gain, outdoor movie theater screen featuring oxford nylon reflective material for high-resolution imagery and enriched colors
- Simple setup and takedown thanks to an easy clip-on screen, 4 frame stakes, and guy lines if desired
- Durable 1-inch diameter, 18 gauge, powder-coated, steel tubing frame is freestanding and stable enough to handle light summer breezes with included tie-down guy wires for extra stability
- Unique black back cover block ambient light and rolls down for rear projection
- 1 – Heavy duty carrying bag with internal organizer
- 4 – Frame stakes
- 4 – Guy lines
Screen viewing dimensions are 104 x 59 inches and overall frame dimensions are 99.5H x 118W inches with a frame bottom to ground distance of 26.5 inches
This model, the OS120L, is 10 lbs. lighter at 34 lbs. than Camp Chef’s standard OS120 models.
- Lightweight, sturdy construction
- Stores easily in included bag
- Good value
- Quality materials
- Setup is easier with two people
- Folded crease in screen may be visible during viewing
#1 – Visual Apex ProjectoScreen120HD Portable Movie Theater Projector Screen
Visual Apex prides itself on making high-quality movie theater projection screens and the Visual Apex ProjectoScreen120HD Portable Movie Theater Projector Screen is a perfect example. It features a one-piece fast-fold aluminum frame that’s easy to assemble and its completely flat fabric across the screen insures even, crisp images. Visual Apex uses only the best materials and put a lot of quality features into each movie screen. Few screens have the treatments that you get with a Visual Apex screen including UV protection, anti-static treatment, mildew resistance, and flame retardant coating. Here’s what you need to know.
- Professional-grade materials used throughout the frame and screen
- Premium, easy-snap-on, 120 inch diagonal, 16:9 aspect ratio, high-resolution PVC Elastic Matte White screen (0.32mm thick) with a high-contrast 4 inch border
- Premium Easy-Snap-On 120″ diagonal, 16:9 aspect ratio, PVC Elastic Matte White screen material (0.32mm thickness),
- Easy setup in just minutes thanks to a unique one-piece, fast-fold, high-quality, hard aluminum anodized tubing frame that is lightweight and stable
- Embedded assembly method insures crisp, clear, even images by making the fabric completely flat across the screen
- Screen fabric is UV-protected, anti-static, washable, mildew-resistant, and flame retardant
- Zero-light-penetration backing
- Hanging grommets included for hanging applications
- 1-Year defective parts warranty
- 1 – Portable carry bag
- 2 – Detachable legs
- Ground stakes and guy wires
Viewable dimensions are 120 inch diagonal (104 x 59 inches) with overall dimensions of 112.5 x 93 inches with the legs attached.
- Easy to set up and very portable
- Quality design, construction, and materials
- Great value
- Great picture
- Some worries that tight attachments may damage screen
- Difficult to stretch screen for installation
- Difficult to clip bracket to the frame
- Legs not adjustable
Visual Apex ProjectoScreen120HD Product Information Video
Portable Screen Comparison Chart
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