Recipe for Backyard Home Theater Setup

My family got me a tiny projector that I’ve found a way to use to create a fun summer movie experience. The following recipe can be used to create an outdoor home theater system to let you enjoy movies by the pool or on your back porch this summer.

Ingredients

The Projector

The projector for me was the only part of the buying decision that I was not involved. The 85 lumens may not sound like a lot but it is fine for a small room setting. It is clear and bright on the screen outside. It was five months before I realized that the projector had its own built-in two hour battery. The projector accepts only HDMI input and outputs 1080p video. The projector features a simple focus adjustment and an on-screen menu for finer changes. It has a built-in speaker but I would not want to rely on it for a movie. The projector comes with its own HDMI cable. With adaptors I was able to connect directly to an iPad, an iPhone, and my video camera. The projector itself has no means of aiming at the screen. You need a tripod of some sort. My favorite tripod is the Joby Gorilla Pod. It raises the projector high enough above table top height to aim perfectly at the screen.

The Screen

I looked at permanently mounted and portable screen. I opted for the portable screen so that I could it is for other professional needs and because I was concerned about leaving it out in the elements and where the animals could get to it. Nothing is safe on my back port. I chose the Epson 80 inch screen because I liked the design. It has a simple two-piece design. You set up the base. Then you put the screen on top of it. The screen opens up horizontally to either 4:3 or 16:9 aspect ratio. My tests have shown the screen to be bright. My only complaint is that there are two vertical folds in the screen which are visible before use. I also used a full height video tripod for my first test. I plan to use the smaller tripod on a table the next outing.

Video Source

You need something that has your videos on it. As I mentioned above you can use an iPad or iPhone to accomplish this provided you have the appropriate HDMI adaptor. Those adaptors have pass-through connectors so you can keep the device powered during your movie. This option would also work with any video that your device can receive and sent out via HDMI – think Netflix, Hulu, or even Dish Remote. I opted to use my Apple TV. Since I was in range of my home network, this allowed me to play any movie or TV show in my home library. It also had a benefit of allowing the audio to be sent out via AirPlay.

Sound

The projector above has built-in speakers that you would not want to you use. It also has audio out jack that you can use with a pair of good speakers like the Bose Companion 2 Series II that I have. I like their sound and compact design. The do require power unlike some of the above items. I opted to take advantage of the Apple TV’s AirPlay feature to wirelessly send the audio to an AirPort Express which has an audio line-out port which I have connected to my 1988 Yamaha personal stereo which in turn is driving a pair of outdoor speakers on my porch. You got that? Apple TV via AirPlay to AirPort Express to Stereo. The result was a loud sound that would have brought a THX sound engineer to tears. My speaker placement did not have home theater concerns in mind so the result was like that of a drive in theater where you have the sound coming to you from the box hanging in your window of you car. The result was actually not bad. Your mileage may vary.

The Test Drive

While I was setting up the system and waiting for the sun to go down I played some vintage 70’s TV shows. Think The Bionic Woman, season 3, when she got her dog. It was 4:3 and left back bars left and right. I tried to watch Orphan Black but my home AT&T DSL connect is too pathetic to watch a movie while it is downloading and I didn’t want to wait two hours for it to begin. For the featured presentation I stuck with the drive in them and played the 1981 Bruce Campbell classic, The Evil Dead. I’ve seen this movie several times on a small screen but this was the first time I really watched it. I swear the presentation worked. The picture was clear and the audio was OK. The audio in that movie is not particularly good to begin with so I did have to turn up the volume a bit.

Problems?

With my setup I do not have volume control on the stereo. I could over come that with some sort of IR Blaster. The Apple TV actually lets you control volume when AirPlay is used but with a weird caveat. I did not find any way to change the volume without leaving the movie. And the volume control only was enabled when something was playing. So this meant that I had to play some music. Then while the music was playing, I could adjust the AirPlay volume. Since the movie was old with poor sound quality I had to play the music quite loud until I got the volume I wanted for the movie. Then I could go back and re-start the movie.

Other than that I really enjoyed the experience. I need to go buy a couple of comfortable recliners for the porch. I was able to take a brief swim and not miss any of the movie. I turned on the ceiling fan to keep the pill bugs and mosquitos away. Ask Siri when sunset is to plan your evening.

Aristide Event Center

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Iron Man 3 Follows the Trilogy Formula and We Like It

Iron Man on Couch
The formula for a successful series of movies is pretty simple: the first movie is unique and captures the audience while introducing the characters; the second movie tries to recapture the magic of the first movie but amp up the stakes and let you explore the world the character inhabits; and a successful third movie should take what you know about your characters and take it in a new direction. The third movie usually involves bringing in new character, often generationally different from our main character. Think of Sean Connery in the Indy series or Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon. If you have built up you character in the first two movie then you have to find some way to break that invulnerability. This usually means taking away the thing that made the character special in the first place or setting them up against an evil version of themselves. Think Spider-Man 3 or Superman III. Often this is where some character flaw is revealed and becomes a hook for the movie.With all that, Iron Man follows the formula to the letter. But that is not a bad thing. This is a really good movie. I’ve been avoiding trailers for the last month (unsuccessfully) and was happy to learn that the trailers do not spoil the plot. The plot is not perfect. There are some glaring holes. For example, how does a guy who does not know his own social security number walk into Home Depot and buy anything. Are are we to think that he walks around his house with a wad of hundreds in his pockets?

I did not bother with the 3-D for this movie because of the timing of the showings. My understanding is that this movie was not shot in 3-D but just processed. Visually the movie had a lot going on and my have suffered with 3-D which tends to darken up the already dark scenes. There were multiple suits that I would have liked to have seen featured more clearly.

I think this movie is a good capstone to the trilogy which isn’t really a trilogy if you consider The Avengers. The movie ends after the credits with a little tease with another Avenger and a promise: “Tony Stark will return”.