The concept of creating the ultimate backyard movie night is possible! Imagine transforming your outdoor space into an incredible movie-watching experience where friends and family gather under the stars to enjoy their favorite films.
I spoke with interior designer, Janna Robinson, to get the best advice on designing the ultimate backyard home theater. With this comprehensive breakdown, and with the help of RoomSketcher, you can play with these ideas to find your perfect design!
Visualize your backyard movie night into existence!
Outdoor home theaters are one of the biggest and fastest evolving trends for homeowners. What’s more, a backyard home theater can add resale value if built as a permanent installation.
The best part is that designs and various elements don’t have to be complicated. In today’s market, there are fantastic options that accommodate a wide range of budgets.
The following is a list of what is needed to create the ultimate backyard movie night with maximum function and flow.
Start with a broad stroke design wish-list
When designing an outdoor home theater, flesh out your
goals. First, determine the level of sophistication you’re striving for. Next, establish your budget. Finally, adjust accordingly.
Backyards are rarely blank canvases: identify the immutable elements
Creating a backyard home theater is a synergistic enterprise; one must consider all components from sprinklers, hardscapes, existing lighting to tripping hazards before assembling the pieces.
Perhaps you share a fence or large concrete barrier with your neighbor. Maybe, you’ve already installed a built-in fire pit where you would’ve liked to place your seating. Sometimes there is a low hanging phone wire, or weeping foliage that overshadows the screen’s best positioning. Once these elements are identified and understood, you can begin to consider placement.
Designer’s Tip: Ensure trees and foliage are properly trimmed to create an unobstructed view. This goes not only for the screen, but for your seated guests as well.
The ideal location for your backyard movie night
Your location will be determined by the following:
Do you wish your theater environment to be the focal point of your backyard or will it be an accent feature? Will this be a permanent or temporary station? Is this a formal viewing experience, or do you wish it to be cozy and casual? How many people do you want to accommodate?
Designer’s Tip: Size of anticipated guest list will dictate everything from seating options to screen size.
While considering functionality, some issues may call for adjusting ideal placement or for purchasing additional equipment. For instance, weather conditions may require seasonal coverage. Proximity to the nearest power source is also something to confirm; you want to have easy access to this. Consequently, you may need extra-long extension cords and weatherproof power strips to keep them powered and safe. As well, assure you have sufficient bandwidth from your router to stream outside; you may need Wifi boosters.
Designer’s tip: Many of today’s TVs and screens offer anti-glare as well as much brighter images. That said, if you get direct sunlight, it’s best to avoid facing south or west for an optimal daytime viewing experience.
Something Janna found with clients is that rarely do the neighbors relish being bombarded with sound. Therefore, it’s best to position speakers away from their property and not towards a bounce wall; this may even influence what type of speakers you choose.
Another challenge Janna encountered was a client’s very loud outdoor air conditioning system
of which she had to work around. For this client, she wound up redesigning an entirely different viewing configuration. Thanks to RoomSketcher, she was able to solve this functionality challenge without spending unnecessary money to build out.
Designer’s Tip: Almost like a game, Janna uses RoomSketcher to play around with different configurations to see if she and her clients can “spot the obstacle” for best functionality.
Do you want easy access to a kitchen space so that serving your guests refreshments is convenient? Would you be offering your viewers indoor or outdoor bathrooms? How does foot traffic move from seating to the restroom and is it going to inconvenience the movie-watching experience?
These are just a few of the questions Janna asks her clients when discussing optimal “flow” in design. Based on answers to foundational questions such as these, one can then consider the possible obstacles to overcome. Only then can one ensure ease of foot traffic and optimal seating.
Designer’s Tip: Functionality often dovetails with flow; from throw ratio to screen angling, the two definitely form a back-and-forth checklist for the designer or homeowner.
Choose the best tech for your outdoor home theater
Outdoor TVs are ideal for enclosed, partially enclosed, or intimate physical environments. These TVs are heavily protected and have custom housing making them safeguarded even from splashing pool water. They’re often constructed with temperature-resistant components and anti-glare screens. Additionally, they provide excellent image quality. Conveniently, outdoor TVs can be wall mounted or placed on an outdoor motorized lift.
*Designer’s tip: make sure to get outdoor rated components. Avoid indoor cables as they’ll rust. If you’re going for a permanent installation, keep in mind that a trench may need to be dug in which to bury outdoor cables and wires. You can work with an A/V integrator to achieve this.
Outdoor projectors are as varied as screens. Portable projectors offer flexibility to move around your space. Bear in mind, desired image size will impact screen placement. Again, the throw ratio plays a key role here. For instance, with smaller spaces, you might opt for a projector with a short throw lens, as you need 5’ to project a 100” image. Regardless of the make or model of your projector, know that all outdoor projectors have analog speaker connections, though most come with Wifi capabilities; this is great for playing your favorite movie warm-up Spotify list or post viewing dance music.
Outdoor movie screens come in many forms from inflatable to retractable to fixed. The information in this article will help inform your screen choice. That said, did you know you can project on an exterior wall with special outdoor screen paint? While not always easy to achieve a flawless viewing experience, some clients prefer this method for its unobtrusive quality.
If doing a super expensive installation, many installers use custom outdoor LED panels as opposed to outdoor screens. But lest you fear, one need not shell out a lot of money for a screen or even go high-tech. Janna once had a client opt for hanging a white sheet to create a down-home effect reminiscent of his childhood. However, if you choose this route, she advises you hang the sheet as tightly as possible to avoid a rippling effect.
Outdoor speakers have become increasingly sophisticated over the years. You can now camouflage your speakers within planters and rocks. You can even put your speakers underwater in your pool. As well, the new outdoor Soundbars on the market are sleek in design and offer excellent sound quality. You may even consider subwoofers to drive home the sensorial experience of bass during scarier themed movies.
Designer’s Tip: By testing your equipment in advance for technical issues you can devise a backup plan if needed.
Outdoor Movie Lighting can be very fun to design. Whether you desire a flair for the dramatic or whimsical, there are many possibilities from which to choose. Regardless, when it comes to outdoor viewing, one must consider screen glare. To avoid this, don’t illuminate anything that can create a shadow on the screen or TV. For this reason, Janna generally tries to persuade her clients to go for low output lighting rather than overhead. Another helpful feature is adjustable lighting so you can regulate the brightness level to influence mood.
Designer’s Tip: Landscape lighting is an excellent addition for pathways. This is especially helpful when all lights go down for movie time, but guests are still arriving. These low lights won’t obstruct the viewing experience and can help prevent accidents.
Outdoor furniture for your backyard movie night
Comfortable and inviting furniture is key to creating a pleasant experience for your guests. Offer a variety of seating options that allow for easy eyeline to the screen from multiple angles. Remember to select weather-resistant materials.
Designer’s tip: Marine grade cabinets can house your TV mount or lift and endure harsh weather conditions.
Extras that maximize outdoor comfort
- Smart pergolas
- Motorized insect screens
- Motorized outdoor shades, awnings and screens in an existing structure
- Ceiling or floor standing heaters
- Outdoor kitchens – available within all different budget options
- Vintage popcorn machine (Janna’s personal favorite)
- Monogrammed or themed-colored blankets for cooler winter nights
- Movie-themed paper fans or mini motorized fans for warm summer nights
Lights, Camera, Action!
Creating the ultimate backyard home theater is an exciting endeavor that involves careful planning and attention to detail. By selecting the perfect location, investing in high-quality equipment, and prioritizing your guest’s comfort, you can create a memorable experience. So gather your friends and family, grab some popcorn, and get ready to bring the magic of cinema to your own backyard!