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How to Use Short-throw Projectors for Outdoor Movie Screens

Projection throw distance is an important value to keep in mind with an outdoor movie theater setup. In a standard outdoor movie package, all manufacturers will include a standard-throw projector.

The projection throw depends on lens design applied to a specific outdoor projector model. The brightest and most cost-efficient projectors go with an included projector lens.

But what if your venue has limited space and you have to put the projector as close to the screen as possible? In such a case the solution to use will be a short-throw or an ultra short-throw projector.

Differences between short-throw and ultra short-throw projectors

Ultra short-throw projectors are expensive and normally have limited maximum screen size properties.

Short-throw projectors are more expensive — and typically less bright — than standard-throw projectors. Yet short-throw projectors deliver a larger projected image than the standard models.

Optoma Short-throw Laser Projector

Outdoor short-throw projectors for the backyard setting

When choosing a short-throw projector for a backyard outdoor movie theater you will normally want to pay attention to the following:

  • Go for the models that include a fixed lens. Any projector with a replacable lens will fast become the most expensive item in your outdoor movie setup.
  • In addition to a higher price, a short-throw projector has no zoom, which means: the projection distance will need to be fixed and precise, to achieve the desired image size.

Outdoor short-throw projectors for professional use

For outdoor movie event rentals, open air film festivals and other professional uses, it might make sense to look for a projector with an interchangeable lens.

By doing so you'll be able to get a normal throw lens with zoom for a convenient use (when there is plenty of space) and mount the short-throw lens (when a projector needs to be placed as close to the screen as possible).

Optoma Interchangeable Projector Lenses

Tips and tricks

  • For backyard and outdoor cinema enthusiasts, it makes lots of sense to remember the exact place where you put the inflatable screen and projector, to maintain the same projection distance each time you run a show.
  • One more tip — for both the professionals and enthusiasts among you, folks — is to use a laser range finder to find out the exact distance between the projector and screen.


When planning to build an outdoor movie setup with a short-throw projector — or upgrading your existing Cinebox system — we strongly recommend using a projection calculator. We explain how to use it in a separate article.


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