Top tips: 5 ways to build your own outdoor cinema

The Feedster

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Jun 26, 2007
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Summer’s here and while most sensible people are heading outdoor to catch up some rays, others are doing the reverse - going indoors to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster.
Luckily you can combine the two by sticking a big screen or TV in the garden - enabling you soak up some sun and some Spielberg at the same time.
There are loads of ways you can do this. Here are just five, ranging from the ludicrously cheap to the reassuringly expensive:
1. Use your laptop
Most almost all laptops have built-in DVD players these days so watching* a movie from the comfort of your patio should a breeze. Of course you’ll get the best results if you’re sitting on a shady spot, but a, bright LED backlit display will come in pretty handy too. For ultimate in outdoor laptop pleasure, we reckon the Sony Vaio VGN-AR61U is worth a punt.
It packs in a 17-inch widescreen display, 512MB Nvidia graphics card and a Blu-ray drive, not to mention a built-in hybrid analogue / digital TV tuner. It also has an HDMI port so you can hook it up to a compatible high definition (HD) projector, as well as the usual audio outputs for private listening via headphones or neighbour-baiting outdoor speakers.Apple’s 15-inch MacBook Pro is another great laptop choice.
2. Buy a portable DVD player

As above really, only you won’t be able to play games on it, and the screen will be a lot smaller. Now while you can pick up a Hyundai HPD719 for as little as £80 on, you’re probably better off plumping for something a bit more luxurious, like the Toshiba SD-P120T.
Available later this month, the SD-P120T portable DVD player has an 11.8-inch widescreen display, Freeview digital TV tuner and all the sockets you need, including an HDMI port, component video sockets, headphone and digital optical outputs. The battery’s good for up to 3 hours of use between recharges and the player even comes with a 4-in-1 card reader so you can watch movies and photos stores on SD and other flash memory cards. Handy.
3. Watch an outdoor LCD TV
Given that you can already watch TV in the bath or shower, watching one outdoors seems like a logical extension. UK company sells a range of sets ranging from 32-inches to 55-inches size, with prices starting at £2,000. All the TVs are compliant with IEC IP56 weather-proofing regulations and are dust and insect-resistant too.
Our favourite is the flagship Aquivo 55-inch Outdoor TV, which can handle 1080p Full HD video signals. It comes with the full complement of HDMI and other AV ports, and even has non-reflective toughened glass. The Aquivo 55-inch Outdoor TV doesn’t ship with weather-proof speakers or an anti-theft bracket as standard, but you can add these for £300 and £250 respectively.
4. Blow up an inflatable cinema screen

If the prospect of a 55-inch TV just doesn’t do it for you, you can take the next logical step and team a portable projector either with a flat white wall, or - better still - an inflatable projector screen. Your choices here look pretty limited, with most UK companies only selling or hiring out the screens for use a professionally-organised events.
However Pro-Idee will sell you a 2.4m screen online for £519. For anything bigger though you’ll probably need to go elsewhere - US companies AirScreen and Open Air Cinema.
5. Buy a custom outdoor cinema
For the ultimate in outdoor movie viewing, we reckon Open Air Cinema is the place to go. Its CineBox range is designed partly with home use in mind and comes with all the kit you need to for a night out in front of the telly. For around $10,000 (£5,000) you can get a 3.7m (12ft) inflatable screen, plus a custom-made console that comprises a portable DVD player, compact 2500 ANSI lumens Sanyo projector, multi-channel audio mixer and a wireless microphone.
Included in the price are a pair of speakers and stands, plus all the ancillary equipment you need such as AV adaptors for your iPod, laptop, camera, etc. Best of all, Open Air Cinema says its happy to sell to customers in the UK - and says it has several satisfied customers here already. What are you waiting for?