Put your backyard to use by turning it into a cinema.
Lets start with the media streamer and honestly, this was an easy choice. My biggest requirement for a media streamer was that it plays high-definition movies. Being a gamer, I’ve also always fantasized about playing my favorite games on an extremely large screen. With these two requirements, my options were either using a Small Form Factor (SFF) PC or a PS3 with it’s Bluray drive. I chose the PS3 because its a lot more convenient and easy to set up and a SFF PC doesn’t generally have space for a hefty graphics card which is somewhat required for a good gaming setup.
The PS3 allows me to watch hi-def movies with it’s Bluray drive while I can also connect an external USB drive with movies on it and watch those with ease. The PS3 also has a nice remote control designed for media usage and it works over Bluetooth which is good as you don’t need to be pointing the remote to the PS3 and I’ll tell you why that comes in handy a little later.
With the media streamer sorted, I looked at projectors next. There are lots of brands available locally such as Sony, Epson, Panasonic and LG. However, I chose a brand that, while not as popular as the ones I just mentioned, does have a local presence and fans of projectors recognize easily- Optoma.
Optoma make pretty good projectors and they don’t charge an arm and a leg for it. You can pick up a full-HD projector for around AED 4,000 whereas competing brands cost almost twice. Instead of a full-HD 1080p projector, I chose a 720p model because currently, you will probably find one with higher Lumens rating for a much lesser price. My specific projector is the HD-66 which is a US-only model and I managed to find it on souq.com at a decent price of AED 1,900. However, I recommend you get a brand new one from a local store with a local warranty. I saw the HD67 model selling at Plug-ins for around AED 2,400.
The Optoma has HDMI input as well as component input so you can also connect your slightly older devices to it. One of the best things about the Optoma is that it offers audio pass-through using a 3.5mm stereo cable which makes connecting it to your sound system easy.
To project, you can buy a screen that is available from Dragon Mart at reasonable prices. A motorized screen screen that is almost 150” is available for around 800 Dirhams. This will surely make your picture look better but if you have a fairly clean boundary wall, then you can use that to project as well. That’s what I did.
Last and certainly not the least was the decision of choosing of a sound system and this one took me a while to crack. Inside my house, I have a 5.1 setup connected to my 50” TV which provides a pretty awesome audio experience. However, something like this would be out of the question for an outdoor theater- not only because of the number of cables that would be running through but also the positioning of these would be a nightmare. I initially thought that the most convenient option would be to buy a pair of stereo speakers but that would still involve one 3.5mm cable running to the projector, another cable for power and finally two cables running to the individual speakers- unless they were wireless. And then suddenly, it dawned on me that the best solution for this was a device that I had already looked at a few months earlier.
The Outcast Jr. is designed to be an outdoor speaker system that can not only withstand any weather damage but is also rechargeable so you don’t need it plugged it while watching movies. The icing on the cake is the iCast Transmitter wireless connectivity kit that comes with it and accepts a 3.5mm audio input. This allows you to place the Outcast Jr. anywhere without any wires and get a kick-ass audio experience. This actually turned out to be my favorite part of the setup.