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Topic: Outdoor theater - UST vs fixed projector
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Joined: Jan 23, 2021
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We are new to projectors and looking to create an outdoor theater space with a retractable screen mounted to the back of a rectangular water feature, and seeking input for screen and projector options.

My biggest question is deciding between UST vs long-throw projectors. Being a projector novice, to me, UST seems to be a much easier set up with Samsung Premiere, Optoma P2, LG HU85LA having streaming capabilities on board and be more "plug and play". Considering none of these components will be permanently mounted, with a long throw projector, I'd anticipate having to run cords for power, sound, and input over 15-25 feet to some sort of cart in the grass to get everything up and running and a whole set up with more hassle.

For screens, I was recommended to look into Stewart Filmscreen options, and I was considering a Graymatte 70 ALR UST-compatible screen, but the gain is 0.7 as it typical for ALR UST screens as I understand it. And so therein lies the question - is it really practical to use a UST projector with necessarily lower gain UST compatible screen for an outdoor solution? Does it matter that many of the UST projectors tend to have a higher ANSI lumen rating than, say, a JVC NX-7 (1900 lm) which had been recommended to us? Am I overestimating the "convenience" in set up/wiring/inputs comparing UST to long throw projectors and really sacrificing the ultimate goal for viewing? Understanding that a convenient and easy set up is a priority of ours.

To be clear, we are not movie enthusiasts and not looking to project in broad daylight. We have 2 young kids - we'd like to invite families over for dinner and a movie night and ideally start viewing around dusk (with the screen facing an easterly direction). It would be awesome if we could view earlier, but it is not our primary goal. We watch mainly movies from Netflix and Disney+ for reference.

Opinions on the most appropriate and practical options would be much appreciated - and certainly welcome any projector and/or screen recommendations suitable for this sort of application!
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UST projectors have a MAJOR consideration:
Their extreme projection angle allows for zero variance in the screen at any time. It must be perfectly flat and it may not move at all.

This makes UST unusable with most retractable screens, and outdoors with any airflow moving the screen, you wouldn't be able to use it.

It is a complete lie that UST projectors need ALR screens. That's just insanity from marketing. It's crap. You can use any high dispersion white screen with any projector on the market. UST or standard throw.

Now, my questions would be about whether this is an add-on to an existing space, or whether you are building this space new or what is going on?

I would think that if you are spending the type of money which a Stewart ($$$$) screen costs and looking at a NX7 ($$$$) which are really designed for very nice dedicated home theater spaces, that you are working with a budget that might be better allocated to installing the proper cabling and system in place from the start for a traditional setup.

I'm not sure of the layout, but a projector like the Epson 5050 is a good deal nicer than any of the UST projectors in terms of image quality, and not nearly in the price class of the NX7. It is solidly bright and delivers a very satisfying image for an outdoor environment which won't ever be as controlled as what a dedicated theater would be.

It offers a nice step up in terms of quality compared to the Epson 3800 which is bright, but misses out on the black levels (contrast).

If you actually are cinema enthusiasts, then it really seems that you are doing yourselves a major disservice by not being quite serious about the audio. Take a fair bit of that projector budget, and install good speakers in the space, in the right locations that can deliver the sound quality a decent setup deserves. It won't ever be 'great' when it is outside, but it should never be the thin sound of an integrated speaker within a projector.

Smart features are what you can buy for $50 or so from a Roku or AppleTV. So that's hardly a real consideration. Just something to be aware of. Keep in mind that projectors are notoriously behind the times as well when it comes to smart integration. So, if your Samsung TV or Sony TV is awesome, don't expect the same from Optoma. Even Samsung will be behind their other Smart products with their projectors. It's really quite sad. Just get a Roku. But, pair that Roku with a proper surround sound receiver and a universal remote that works outside with your electronics inside.

A standard throw projector is much easier to setup as well if you are moving it from outside to inside. It may not seem like it, but a UST projector is FAR MORE picky about placement. A long throw projector uses much smaller angles. So, if you are off by a few degrees, it may make a few inches of difference on screen, but a projector with lens shift like the Epson 5050 can correct for that easily.

UST does not have lens shift. You have to place it perfectly, every single time. This is fine for a white wall, but when you are aiming for a screen, you have to get it dead on. Half a degree difference can make several inches of difference on screen. A half inch forward or backwards? Same thing.

UST projectors are ideal for those using a white wall who want the 'big screen' experience in a room that has no other options. But, you give up contrast, you give up sharpness, and you give up image uniformity for not having to run wiring where it needs to go. That may save you a few bucks, but you are giving up a lot.

Then if you get a ALR screen, you end up giving up a fair bit more.
AV Integrated - Theater, whole house audio, and technology consultation during the build and installation process in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
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It may be worth looking at something like this as well.

https://www.projectorcentral.com/LG-CineBeam-HU810PW-Laser-Projector-Review.htm

To my knowledge, this is one of the first projectors I've seen which really integrates very good smart functionality using their fully developed smart platform with cutting edge features like eARC and wireless speaker technology. It may give you a really good option. The inclusion of good throw range as well as lens shift should help make placement a breeze.

It will not have the contrast of the Epson 5050, but it has a smart feature set that actually makes sense for home theater on their premium model ($3,700ish).
AV Integrated - Theater, whole house audio, and technology consultation during the build and installation process in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
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That is extremely valuable insight, thank you! I've attached a photo of our potential theater space in the back yard with prior screen set up. Our plan was indeed to mount a retractable Stewart Oasis (outdoor rated) screen to the rear of a rectangular water feature (debating between leaving it outside vs putting it up with each use, leaning towards the latter.) So with a retractable screen set up - and utilizing a smart feature like a Roku - it sounds like a standard throw projector makes more sense for an outdoor space. For outdoor, it still should be an ALR screen, though, correct?

As far as audio goes, we were investigating a landscape audio system but the actual set up remains a bit unclear to me. I was thinking of housing a dedicated amp in the adjacent grill space, and then presumably would have to run some type of audio input wire and house it in a waterproof enclosure, such that it is long enough to reach into the grass where the projector would sit. Our WiFi signal reaches 40-50 mbps in that area, so, other than the audio input, I assume we would only need to account for an extension cord to power the projector.

The JVC NX-7 was simply recommended to us, but we're certainly very much open to more cost effective options. Will definitely look into the options you mentioned. If you have any other suggestions based on the photo, I'm open to it.

Thank you much!

Attachments:

Potential outdoor theater space

400 × 300 pixels (169.14 KB)
  
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ALR screens have very specific ways they work. They don't just reject any light that isn't a projector. That's not how physics works. They are designed to reject off-axis light. But, the sky is often fully lit up from all directions. You can't easily reject ambient light in an outdoor setting. You also will introduce hot spotting, sparkling, and brightness uniformity issues when you use a ALR screen.

So, if you decide to use an ALR screen, which can tremendously help with pre-dark viewing, be aware that it won't be a pure 'win-win'. You don't get the gain of a ALR screen without giving something up, and that something isn't insignificant in my experience. But, in an outdoor setting, it may not be a bad choice.

Screen size will matter a great deal. If you are really viewing from anywhere in your yard, you may want to consider skipping the ultra high quality contrast and such, and instead consider going for size and brightness. A really bright commercial grade projector with 1920x1200 resolution (WUXGA) and a 180" diagonal screen may be a really good way to go. This is similar to what you might see in an outdoor performing arts center/concert venue, where they are using projection instead of LED displays.

There really are a lot of setup options, but I would consider UST projection to be one of the worst.

Not sure of your cable pathways into/out of your home, but you can put electronics inside, like amplifiers and such, in a storage area, and they typically will last longer and be less expensive to wire than trying to put in place outdoor rated enclosures. For electronics, it can't just be 'outdoor rated'. It must be vented, cooled, and fully weatherproof, which can cost thousands of dollars. In comparison, you can often trench to a home, bury cables, and put electronics in the basement, or into a proper weather-proof space for far less, or at least similar, and get longer lifespan from the gear.
AV Integrated - Theater, whole house audio, and technology consultation during the build and installation process in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
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