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Projection screens VS. LED displays for outdoor movie events

We are all accustomed to the fact that movies can be watched not only in a cinema setting, but also at home.

So, what if you need to make an outdoor show: in your backyard or out in the field or at the stadium.

3 Options to make an outdoor movie show 

Generally, one of these three options can be used for such purposes:

  1. Projection onto an inflatable movie screen.
  2. Projection onto a canvas projection screen placed on a fixed frame.
  3. LED panel displays.

All three options can be reduced to two:

  1. Using Projection.
  2. Using LED Screen panels.

So, which one will be best for you? Let's figure it out!

The main difference between projection and LED displays

Let's start from their main difference: 'Projection' is the projection of images from an optical device onto a screen. This means that viewers can see the image which was projected by the device and then reflected from the projection screen.

You can find out more technical info on projectors operating and differences between them from here (DLP vs LCD vs LED vs Laser projectors).

'LED panel' is a screen where each pixel displays signal individually, without any reflections. We need to take into account that our goal is to offer the viewer a big picture, much bigger than he can get at home.

Both 'Projection' and 'LED panels' technologies can manage this problem but these options are not particularly equal, and we will explain this further.

In this article, we focus on the most important issues and problems you need to consider before choosing the right technology for your outdoor show.

11 Differences between LED panels, inflatable movie screens and canvas projection screens on fixed frames

1- Installation time

At first, it seems that all these options require a big effort in installation, which may need a long time and special staff. If those are crucial for you, the easiest solution is to choose Projection onto Inflatable Movie Screens.

Their installation requires only one person or up to 4 people, depending on the screen size. The installation takes from 20 minutes to an hour (also depending on size).

The Installation of Canvas Projection Screens placed on fixed frames, as well as LED display Screens, takes much longer and requires a large number of staff specially licensed for working on such structures.

2- Location for displaying

Since almost any flat surface is suitable for installation of Inflatable Movie Screens, they take a leading position once again.

While installations of fixed frames for Canvas Screens or LED displays have got additional requirements.

However, there is an important point. For projection, you need to allow the distance between the projector and the screen as required.

3- The minimum distance from viewers to the screen

It's not so simple. For projection, you need a sufficiently long distance from the projector to the screen, the beam of light shines from the lens of your optical device to the screen in line of sight which means that there mustn't be anything obstructing it on the way.

You can also use the Rear Projection. 'Rear Projection' is a technique where a picture is projected from the back of the screen and mirrored by software to be displayed correctly for the viewer.

The Rear Projection allows viewers to be much close to the screen, however, a sufficient space is needed behind the screen for placing the projector, and this area should also not be obstructed by anything. 

LED panel displays can be installed right in front of the audience, but it's not so simple either. Due to the high brightness, they can be quite blinding with light for viewers, which may force people to move away from the screen.

Also, close to the LED display, the viewer will see ‘a pixelated picture’ - a display with matrix diodes, which will not let him experience the clarity of the whole image.

4- Start time of the show

Here, LED panels are the undisputed leader. Technically, they are designed in a way to display a super bright picture at any time of the day.

Projection technologies do not allow showings on a sunny or even a dull day, which means that the show has to start about 30 min after sunset and finish before dawn.

5- Image quality

On the one hand, we already know that LED panels give a clear and bright picture, and certainly win among the other outdoor screens in displaying advertisements, broadcasting sport games and concerts directly at the location of the event.

But on the other, they are not suitable for watching movies, because of the technically shifted emphasis towards dynamic brightness and sharpness. Watching a movie on a large LED screen is very uncomfortable and lacks co-called 'picture smoothing'.

That is why all cinemas use not LED displays but projectors. After all, the picture created by a film director is edited and colour corrected especially for viewing on the projectors.

Yes, LED panel displays can soften the picture using some software, but believe me, the difference for a viewer is massive. A movie shown on huge blocks of LED panels is nothing like a picture shown by a proper projector.

6- Size

Inflatable Movie Screens are limited in size. Obviously, on the market you can find Inflatable Screens of different sizes: 40 ft, 60 ft or even 80 ft wide - this seems a lot... but when you need to display a picture in width of 100 ft, 120 ft or 150 ft then this solution is not definitely for you.

The Canvas Projection Screens placed on fixed frames can theoretically be of any size, it is a matter of having a suitable canvas or a set of them available.

LED panel displays are not limited in size either because they are assembled from blocks that are connected to each other.

7- Joints

LED panel manufacturers try to make them as jointless as possible. However, in order to completely make the joints invisible from the whole picture, it is necessary to allow a greater distance between the screen and the viewer. The good quality Inflatable Movie Screens don't have any joints.

Large-sized Canvas Projection Screens placed on fixed frames may have special joints, but they won't be noticeable to the viewer.

8- Weather conditions

Inflatable Movie Screens, as well as Projection Screens on fixed frames, are barely sensitive to rain. They also cope well with frosty weathers - for achieving this, the manufacturer uses special frost-resistant materials.

In addition, they are designed to be as much 'Wind transparent' as possible, and they are fastened to the ground by special cables for solid fixing. However, in case of very strong gusty winds, they may not be stable.

To be fair, it's unlikely you conduct a show under the gusts of such speed, but we decided to mention this point anyway. LED panels must be carefully protected from any sort of precipitation - this has to be taken into account by the staff installing it, and obviously affects the cost. Strong winds are not a threat to them at all, if we compare to Inflatable Movie Screens.

Another point that we would like to draw your attention to is - seismic resistance. Inflatable Projection constructions are highly seismic resistant. At the same time, installation of fixed frames for Canvas Projection Screens or LED panel displays may be impossible in some places for this reason.

9- Electricity consumption

This is one of the most important factors in favour of choosing projection technology.

For example, the largest Inflatable Movie Screen, 40 ft wide from Open Air Cinema, needs only 3 kWh. While a display of LED panels of the same size will consume about 40 kW at its maximum brightness and 15-20 kWh on average. Not every location has got such capacity.

10- Self-sufficiency

This quality is connected to a previous point. If you need to set a projection system far away from the main power supply, you can easily use a fairly compact 3 kW generator.

But for an LED display system, the generator has to be the size of a minibus. It's not as easy to find, would be costly and would complicate the logistics.

11- The cost

Inflatable Movie Screens are the most affordable if compared to the other options. They can be bought or rented. In order to store the entire system, you need a little space in a garage, basement or warehouse, and delivery can be carried out by a car.

The Canvas Projection Screens placed on fixed frames are a more expensive option, as the installation of their construction requires high-trained personnel, and their delivery costs more.

Usually, this option is more suitable for rental, since the frame structures are quite expensive and require a lot of storage space, which is not very attractive for personal needs.

LED panel units are the most expensive option: the installation requires technical staff qualifications, high logistics costs, and is also due to the high cost of the panels themselves.

Unlike projection systems, where the signal is directed straight from the source to the projector, LED panels require special additional equipment, which 'splits' the original picture from the source into many parts to be shown on each of the panels in order to create a big image to a viewer, and usage of such equipment affects the final bill as well.

LED panels vs. inflatable movie screens vs. canvas projection screens on fixed frames - A quick comparison

To conclude, here are the advantages and disadvantages for each type:

LED panel displays advantages and disadvantages


  • High brightness and picture definition at any time of the day.
  • Possibility of installation of a screen of any size.
  • Wind resistance.


  • Complexity of installation.
  • Long assembly and disassembly times.
  • Requirement of highly qualified and licensed staff.
  • Not suitable for films.
  • Visible "joints".
  • Extra rain protection is required.
  • A lot of switching electrical equipment.
  • Logistically difficult.
  • Less seismic resistant construction.
  • High electricity consumption.
  • High price.

Inflatable Movie Screens advantages and disadvantages


  • Easy to install.
  • Fast assembly/disassembly times at location (20-60 min).
  • Less staff (1-4 people).
  • No need of Working at Heights Permit for staff.
  • Jointless Canvas.
  • Can work in the rain.
  • Simple setting.
  • Suitable for comfortable movie screenings (comparable to a movie theatre).
  • Can be delivered by an average size car.
  • Doesn't need much storage space.
  • Seismic resistant.
  • Low power consumption.
  • Affordable cost.


  • Not suitable for day-time shows.
  • Low brightness compared to LED systems.
  • Requires an Air Blower machine constantly on.
  • Needs an additional mount for protection against strong winds.
  • Screen size is limited to 40-80 ft wide.

Canvas Projection Screens on fixed frames Pros and Cons


  • Can work in the rain.
  • Do not require an Air Blower (in comparison with Inflatable Movie Screens).
  • Easy connection of a projector.
  • Suitable for comfortable movie screening (comparable to a cinema).
  • Possibility of mounting a screen of any size.
  • Wind resistant.
  • Low power consumption.


  • Complexity of installation.
  • Long assembly and disassembly times.
  • High qualification and personnel licensing requirement.
  • Not suitable for day-time shows.
  • Low brightness compared to LED systems.
  • Difficult for logistics.


We tried to provide you with the detailed answer to the question "What to use for OUTDOOR displays: Projection screens or LED panels?".

If you are looking for a reliable display at any time of the day, if you are ready to spend additional funds and time on installation - your best option is the LED display Screen. Putting into simple words, for the day-time shows this one is the only possible choice.

If the shows take place in the dark-time of the day, and there are mainly content is movies and you have a permanent location that does not require disassembling - your best option is the Canvas Projection Screen on fixed frames (Read this comparison between Inflatable movie screens and permanent projection screens for business)

If you plan to carry on shows in the dark-time of the day, and in addition you seek mobility, relatively low-cost, ability to quickly install/uninstall the screen or just rent it - the Inflatable Movie Screens are your choice!

You might also be interested in reading: 5 reasons to choose projectors over LED-LCD displays for home theater.

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