I (385) 297-0027

Outdoor projector brightness. How many lumens to choose?

Projecting an image with a media projector outdoors is more challenging compared to interior projection. In the conference room or at home ambient lighting is more controllable. You can curtain the windows and turn excessive lights off. Outdoors there might be bright streetlights at your venue, headlights of cars passing by and evening overcast may turn into clear sky sunset. This is why for your outdoor projection needs you will want a brighter projector than the one you would use for an interior.

Conditions to consider when choosing brightness for an outdoor projector

Ambient lightning is definitely one of the most influencing factors that need to be considered to pick the proper brightness for an outdoor projector. However there are more conditions in place that will influence the quality of your projected image in the open air.

16' x 9' inflatable screen, outdoor projector

Screen size

Wonderful thing about outdoor movie events is that there’s plenty of space to accommodate many people. A 150-inch projection screen will look gigantic in almost any room, but in a community park space it will appear tiny. Regardless of whether you are watching the game in your backyard with friends and neighbors or producing a film festival open air for a large crowd - the bigger the screen the better.

Projector manufacturers usually state the maximum screen size that a projector supports. But in most cases this value tells us about the maximum focus distance and not the brightness. The further your projector is from the screen the larger projected image it will provide. Covering a larger projection screen requires more light, which means brighter projector requirements.

The dependance between projector brightness and projector screen is non-linear. From our experience producing various types of outdoor movie events 1000 ANSI lumens brightness is sufficient for a 100-inch screen in diagonal. Yet the screen doubled in size (200” diagonally) will require 3500 lumens to achieve a vivid and crisp image outdoors.

Viewing distance

Usual outdoor movie theater setting is when the first audience row is located on a comfortable distance from the screen depending on the screen size and personal preferences. Next there’s a second and further rows. Sometimes your outdoor movie venue and audience size may dictate the viewing distance for the last row of viewers. Typical examples of such a setting include movies by the pool, amphitheaters or when the outdoor screen is placed on a concert stage. In these scenarios your last row of people watching may be far away from the screen which will require an outdoor projector with more ANSI lumens onboard.

Type and brightness of the projected content

Different content may be more or less demanding to the brightness of your projector. Movies in dark tones, gaming on an outdoor projector and presentations with plenty of texts are better on a brighter outdoor projector.

Is more lumens always the best?

Generally the answer to this question is positive, however there have to be compromises. Brighter projectors are more expensive. In fact after 5,000 lumens the price for most projector models starts to skyrocket. Projectors with a high amount of lumens are always bulkier and heavier, they emit more heat and consume a lot of power.

Large Venue Outdoor Projector in action

Outdoor projector brightness recommendations

The sweet spot for compact outdoor projectors is 1,000 ANSI lumens brightness. These types of gadgets offer portability, good weather protection and even off-grid operation, but compromises on limited screen size and image quality in highly lit conditions. 3,000-5,000 lumen brightness is common for outdoor-ready home theater projectors that will work great with outdoor projector screens from 12 ft to 20 ft in width. Projectors above 5,000 ANSI lumens are dedicated for large outdoor venues and many people, but compromise on price and portability.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published