Outdoor projection screens

When you want to project your movies outdoors, there are a lot of things to take into consideration.

The more extreme the weather is in your area, the more impact it will have of course. Plus, it all comes down to the budget too. There’s
a lot that can be done to protect your screen with a small investment.

On the other hand, if money is not that much of an issue, you can just replace the screen every time it’s needed.

In this article, I’ll go from the elements that influence your projection to the different projection screen options, screen selection and maintenance. This will let you know exactly what you’re facing.

Ok, let’s start off with the different elements that influence the quality of the projection.

In this section, I’ll look at the different elements, outside of the projection system (that is, the projector, screen and sources) and how they impact your projection.

1. The sun

The biggest impact on the quality of your projection comes from the sun. There’s no bigger lightsource around and its impact depends on where you are (geographically) and the time of the day.
In a sunny place in the middle of the day, you can just forget about projection.

There’s no way you can compete with the sun under those circumstances.

So you have to be realistic about when you can use your outdoor cinema. You’ll have to start your movies when it gets darker or make sure the whole set up is in the shade.

The impact of sunlight is bigger than that though. Anything that’s exposed to the sun for a long period of time will turn yellow or fade out. In the case of projection screens, it will turn yellow if exposed to the sun for a long period of time.

2. The effect of wind

Wind can be dangerous for a projection screen. A fixed projection screen will be able to withstand a lot of wind, because it’s tensioned in its frame. A retractable screen should be safely retracted when there’s wind.
That’s because the screen can be damaged when it moves back and forth in the wind.

But it’s not just that. When there are strong winds, make sure you have a seamless projection screen fabric. Seams are the weakest part in a projection screen. They are used to weld 2 pieces of fabric together, to create a large surface for example, or to add a black border.

When there’s a lot of pressure on the screen (even in fixed frame screens), this is an area that can be torn.

Wind will also increase the impact of rain and sand, as you can read below.

3. Rain

Rain can cause rust. Plus, it can have an effect on the electronics in retractable screens.

Funnily enough, the motors themselves are rarely an issue. The electronics are inside the motor. Plus, most of the motor is inside the tube and the housing, keeping it relatively safe. Make sure you have the “ground” properly connected. This is not required for motors that have a double isolation (your supplier will be able to tell you which type of motor is used)

What you really need to look out for is how exposed any cables might be. At the points where connections are made (to control the motor), that’s where water can create a chort circuit that shuts down the whole system. It can even damage your motor.

Make sure your connections are isolated and water from rain can not reach them.

When it comes to rust, this affects steel constructions mainly. Aluminium doesn’t rust. But even for steel constructions, it can take a while for the steel to rust. It all depends on how often the screen gets wet and how wet it gets.
Rust in itself does not have to be a major issue, if you don’t mind replacing the screen after a while.

The main danger from rust comes from the combination of rust and water. When rust forms and water flows – because fo rain – it is possible that the rust flows with the water onto the projection screen. When it then dries up, it can leave marks on the screen. This can be cleaned of course, but when you have a retractable screen, you should do that instantly.

That’s because in the water/rust flow, steel particles can be picked up and left on the fabric too. When you roll in your screen, these particles are pressed into the fabric, leaving a mark in the screen. So even though you can wipe off the rust, the screen will still have marks.

With non-retractable, fixed projection screens, this danger is non-existent.

4. Dust / sand

Dust can creep in anywhere. And especially in combination with wind, it can be dangerous for your projection screen. Fixed frame screens are not as sensitive to this, because there are no parts that can clog up the gears, as with retractable projection screens.

You don’t have to be worried about it when you’re not in a sandy area, because when the screen is closed, it’s not easy for dust or sand to get in.

If you are close to the desert or in a sandy area, it does become more of a risk. When combined with a strong wind, sand can find it’s way into the motor and the connection between the motor and the tube. Sand can clog the system up and damage it when the screen rolls in and out.

When you are in such and area and want to use your screen outside, either go for a fixed frame screen or protect your retractable screen. You can protect it by building a box around the screen. You can create a slot though which the screen rolls down and have this slot covered by a brush. This will keep most of the sand out.

Outdoor use and the guarantee

When you use your projection screen outside, there will not be many manufacturers that will give you any warranty.

That’s because most projection screens are made for indoor use.

They should work fine outside, but if somehting goes wrong, I wouldn’t be surprised if the outdoor use would be blamed.
Don’t let this hold you back though. You have learned a lot through this article. Plus, if the screen is defective because of another reason, like
poor workmanship, there shouldn’t be a reason for the manufacturer not to solve the issue.

But, there’s only the goodwill of the supplier or manufacturer you can count on if something goes wrong. That’s where a good reseller can really make the difference. A good reseller has a relationship with his manufacturer that will allow him to get a better level of service. This can really make a difference when it comes to after sales service.

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  1. Da-Lite Model B
    Just wondering if it is possible to remove the fabric (screen) from the metal strip in the metal camlock roller system of a retractable or spring roller-type screen and replace it with a new piece of fabric (screen). It appears as though the screen has been designed this way. But has annyone ever tried?

  2. Hi Eddy,

    If there’s an opening in the roller tube, into which the screen fabric seems to be slid in sideways, yes you can do it.

    If the fabric is glued to the roller tube, you can try it, but you have to mke sure no fabric is left on the tube. This residual fabric would cause bumps in your screen.
    I wouldn’t even attempt it, if this was the case. Too much work.

    But there’s one thing you really need to pay attention to:
    On one side, the spring is locked in the side cap. Removing the side cap will release the spring and all the tension will be gone. Make sure to open the side where there’s no tension first, then pull the tube to the side you just openened. The “locked” spring will be pulled from the locking chamber and unroll.

    Doing it this way prevents the side cap from hitting your hands. This happened to be ones and I ended up with a bruised thumb. Like if I hit on it with a hammer..

    Also before you start disassembling the mechanism, make sure to check if you can put the tension back and how much tension is required.

    Normally, it can easily be done by placing the metal part from the spring (that’s normally locked in place), in the plastic cap and turn to create tension.

    So you start with the side that holds the spring. The other side will have a round pin and that’s the part that you put back together after you’ve done the spring side.

    If you need more info, let me know!



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