Tech Smart: Create the perfect backyard movie night


Like a lot of activities, going to the movies isn’t really an option right now. Having a movie night in your own backyard is. Here’s the tech you need to do it!

Follow Tech Reporter Rich DeMuro on Instagram for more tech news, tips and gadgets!

To get some guidance, I consulted Lance Ulanoff, a tech guru who regularly appears on programs like Live with Kelly and Ryan.

“Part of the reason you love [going to the movies] is the big-screen experience and … that collective feeling you have of sitting with people,” said Ulanoff, who recently blogged about his own experience of setting up a backyard movie night.

For starters, you’ll need a projector. Many of the top sellers on Amazon are brands you haven’t heard of.

“I now own a GooDee BL98,” said Ulanoff, referring to the projector he purchased for about $230.

Since you won’t recognize the names, you’ll have to look for other clues, like key features includiing:

  • 1080P Output (4K is unnecessary)
  • 1,000 Contrast Ratio
  • 2000 Lumens or 100 ANSI Lumens
  • HDMI Input

“HDMI inputs are critical so you can attach some sort of souce to it,” explained Ulanoff.

A streaming stick is perfect, like an Amazon Fire TV stick or Roku stick.

“You have at least one of these streaming boxes in your house right now and if you don’t, you can order one for like 40 bucks on Amazon. You’ll have it in no time and you’ll be really familiar with it and then you are using the remote from the streaming stick to control everything,” said Ulanoff.

He also believes the projector should have a built in speaker, but you can also connect a speaker via Bluetooth or with cables. Keep in mind you want to keep your setup as simple as possible. The less you have to connect, the less you have to break down each time.

I tested the Anker Nebula Capsule, which has all of the above features built into an impossibly tiny “soda can” design. The device even has a built-in battery with four hours of usage time.

We watched several movies on the device and it was perfect, as long as you wait for it to become dark outside before you start playback. It has no problem getting through a two-hour movie with battery to spare.

The Nebula Capsule sells for about $300, expect to spend at least $200 on a decent projector.

Look for models with a lot of reviews and positive reviews.

“Definitely look at the reviews… for any… red flags. People saying I didn’t receive this product or it didn’t work as advertised,” said Ulanoff.

Next, you’ll need a screen. About 100 or 120 inches is the sweet spot.

There are several types: the cheapest are basically a sheet you hang from anything you can find in your backyard. Then, there are flexible, thicker screens that can attach to a metal frame you set up.

The easiest to set up fast is the one I purchased, a telescoping model. Think the kind of screen your teacher pulled down from the top of the blackboard when you were in school, except freestanding on its own little tripod.

There are some downsides. For starters, the screen is huge and only rolls up so small. It’s heavy and can blow over in the wind. Also, be careful it doesn’t snap back down when you’re attaching it to the top hook. Yeah, it happened to me.

You’ll need a stand or a little table to place your projector on, along with a power strip.

Finally, be sure that your WiFi reaches into the backyard. And pack some bug spray.

“It can be buggy. The bugs like the screen, they’ll sometimes arrive on it and walk around it,” concluded Ulanoff. “I have to use bug spray on myself when I’m out there.”

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