Outdoor Entertaining, Part 2: Creating a Video Oasis in Your Backyard

Summer may be over but there’s still plenty of time for outdoor entertaining before the winter sets in. In Creating an Audio Oasis in Your Backyard, I discussed outdoor audio solutions, ranging from good (portable/Bluetooth speakers) to better (multiple surface-mount or rock speakers) to best (full-blown landscape audio solutions). Any of these options will ensure a music-filled outdoor experience that will keep you rockin’ well past sundown. But what if you want a little V to go with your A? I’ve got you covered!

Outdoor Video Considerations
Just like choosing a display for inside your home, you’ll need to decide whether you are going with a direct-view display or a projector. You’ll also need to decide if this is permanent installation that will live outside year-round, or a temporary solution you’ll bring in and out as needed. And if it will be permanent, you’ll want to take into account where the screen will be positioned relative to the sun’s path in the sky.

Going Direct
Direct-view LED displays have a lot of advantages over projectors for outdoor installs. First, they are way brighter, meaning they are visible during daylight hours. Also, almost all TVs are “smart” now, meaning they have all of the streaming capabilities built-in. And as with an indoor TV, all you need is access to power and a suitable wall or ceiling to mount. That’s it.

There are two schools of thought on going with an outdoor TV. 1) Buy a cheap “regular” TV with the knowledge that it will die and you’ll have to replace it. (Technically, once you put an indoor TV outside, its warranty is void.) 2) Buy an actual outdoor TV and pay a higher upfront cost with the expectation that it will provide years of outdoor entertainment. (#ProTip: Regardless of brand, outdoor TVs are one of the few items we strongly encourage buying an extended warranty for.)

“But, John. My TV is going under a covered porch/patio and won’t really be out in the elements. Won’t it be fine?”

Maybe, but probably not. And it really depends where you live. In Myrtle Beach, the air is wet year-round; cold and wet in the winter, hot and wet in the summer. And all that moisture in the air can wreak havoc on the sensitive electronics inside a TV. I had one customer that purchased three 90-inch Sharp LED TVs and had them installed under a large covered patio. All died within the first year.

While outdoor speakers are available from nearly every manufacturer, the pickings are slimmer when it comes to displays. Your options include SunBrite, The Terrace from Samsung, Neptune from Peerless, SkyVue, and Seúra, with screen sizes ranging up to 85-inches.

Get Shady
Even with a true outdoor display, you’ll want to keep the sun’s position in mind, and when shopping you’ll probably see terms like “full shade,” “partial sun,” and “full sun.” These ratings don’t refer to the weather-resistance of the display, but rather how much sun/heat the panel can handle — not only ambient temps, but also how hot the screen can get and still function properly. (Have you ever gotten the temperature warning on your phone when using it for too long out in the sun? Same thing.)

Even with a full sun model, it’s best to position the display where the screen will never be head-on to the sun, which is one of the reasons why using a full-motion articulating arm mount is usually a great idea with an outdoor TV. This will also make it easy to move the screen so it’s facing the viewers.

Sound Matters
Even though outdoor displays have built-in speakers, these are generally pretty lackluster, especially when you consider how much ambient noise they’ll be competing with. This means some form or additional audio is preferred. Of course, if you have an outdoor audio system — and you run a cable back to your electronics — you could tie the TV into that. But a simpler solution would be to connect a soundbar to the TV’s digital audio or HDMI ARC (Audio Return Channel) output. Both SunBrite and Samsung actually sell soundbars that are designed to withstand the elements.

Another option is to install something like a Sonos Amp in a recessed in-wall enclosure behind the TV and run a wire from the amp to a pair of outdoor surface-mount speakers; Snap One’s VersaBox is ideal for this application. With this approach, you’ll get greatly improved TV audio via the ARC connection as well as the ability to stream music.

But let’s say you want something bigger than an 85-inch TV, or are looking for a true outdoor theater experience? That takes a bit more doing, and is something I’ll cover in my next blog!

The Author
For the past 20 years, John Sciacca has worked as a custom installer in South Carolina. In his free time, he enjoys drinking craft beer and watching movies on his 7.2.6 surround system.

COMMENTS
Jarcampbell@msn.com's picture

I don’t think it makes much sense to go for a dedicated outdoor TV when you can buy a good indoor one for 1/6 the price. Mine have lasted 3 years each, which is well worth it. Also, you are stuck with older technology for a long time to make it pay off.

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