Outdoor Projection Screens And Daylight: Does It Work?

Digital LED screens have pretty much become a mainstay in our society. We’ve discussed the benefits of these screens at length, as well as the fact that they are especially important for things like viewing content and sharing information. 

However, one area that many people seem to have challenges with tends to be on the subject of placing screens outdoors. With the effect of the sun, how feasible is it for your screen to be outside? Or are there ways to ensure that your outdoor daylight projector remains effective when the sun is brightest? 

We’ll be looking into this subject in this article and answering some critical questions about projection in daylight. 

Do Projections Work In Daylight?

As you would imagine, the developers of projection systems put a lot of thought into their products and calibrated them for outdoor use. You can easily look around and find a daytime projection screen, and thanks to technological advancements, we even have several forms of them.

The Different Types of Outdoor Projection Systems

When it comes to outdoor projection, there are several options to choose from generally. At the end of the day, the objective is to share content in outdoor environments, being able to still be effective. With that in mind, here are the major types available:

Outdoor Laser Projectors 

A laser projector makes use of laser light sources to create content. They are incredibly bright, and they also last long and ensure optimal accuracy with showing color. In areas where you need high-performance projection, these laser projectors are more than up to the task.

Digital Light Processing Projectors

Some call these guys “DLP projectors.” They make sye of digital micromirror devices to create their content, which offers high levels of optical reliability and contrast ratios. If you’re looking to organize a movie night or you need something to work for a public event, this is a relatively solid option to go with. 

Liquid Crystal Display Projectors 

These guys are amongst the OG digital projectors. They create content with liquid crystal technology, and like many other options, their color accuracy is also impressive.  

LED Projectors

Of course, we’re all familiar with LEDs. Thanks to the magic of Light Emitting Diodes, these projectors provide even brighter imagery and higher efficiency in content distribution, while also being especially compact and having a longer lifespan than their competitors.

Short-Throw Projectors

Admittedly, these projectors aren’t necessarily popular. But, they still get the job done if you need a daylight screen. Their specialty is in projecting large images from short distances, making them perfect if you need an outdoor daylight projector but don’t have much in terms of space. 

Just as well, if you need to place the projector close to the surface, these ones work.

Backward Projection Systems

Here, you project content on a surface or a screen, but not from its front. This system is lauded because it tends to make things look neater and more pleasing. And when you need to hide projectors from the viewers’ eyes, it works perfectly. 

Mapping Projector Setups 

These unique projection systems combine different projectors and use them to share content on unconventional surfaces. The result is a dynamic display that looks good and attracts anyone who views it. 

As you can imagine, these displays aren’t necessarily for regular events. They tend to work better for things like art installations and architectural displays, as well as other special events you might have. 

What Makes A Projection Screen Perfect for Outdoor Use?

When considering how to make projector screen options, there is no doubt that you would want to also develop something that can work in daylight. After all, versatility is the name of the game when it comes to the best projector screens

With that in mind, here are a few things you would want to incorporate when creating the best projector for outdoor daytime viewing

It’s All In The Material 

As you’d imagine, the most critical thing to consider when making an outdoor daylight projector will have to be its material. Put simply, the projectors need to be made of materials that are able to hold their own in sunlight, high winds, rainy conditions, and more. 

The materials also need to be able to withstand changes in temperature, so regardless of what the weather says, you’re good to go. 

Resistance To Elements 

There are so many weather elements that need to be considered when asking, “Can projectors work in daylight?” 

From the sun’s dangerous ultraviolet rays to mildew, you need proper coatings to ensure that your screen is properly fitted. At the same time, you need to make sure that your projector screen outdoors is stable and able to withstand high winds. This is why features like weighted bases, wind vents, and more need to be incorporated across the board to hold your screen in place. 

Setup Should Be A Breeze

If a screen will be used for an outdoor event, then the users need to be able to set it up quickly. LED screen configuration can be challenging, and you need an option that is light and easy to move around.  

Tensioning For Optimal Functionality

In most cases, a projector screen outdoors will also need to have a tensioning system that holds its surface and prevents any wrinkles. The benefit of a tensioned screen is that you get a flatter and smoother projection surface, which makes for even better content display. 

Repelling Light From the Environment

As we all know, the uniqueness of outdoor environments is that they have a lot of ambient light. Whether from the sun or other light sources around, this ambient light can affect your display. So, can you watch a projector during the day? Yes – if that projector has ambient light rejection capabilities. 

With these capabilities, the screen will be able to maintain brightness and stay clear in environments that are very well-lit.

Flexible Projection Options

In most cases, you’d find that the best projector for outdoor daytime viewing will come with the ability to configure content both from the front and the rear. From there, all you have to do is consider whether you’d prefer for the projector to be placed in front of the screen or behind it. 

Black Borders Are A Nice Touch 

Also known as “masking,” these black borders are placed around the screen, and they can help to improve contrast. At the same time, they provide a lot of attention to the content you’re projecting, making it easier for your audience to get engaged despite the ambient light.

It Should Generally Last Long

Whatever projection screen you’re making needs to last long. This is especially important since outdoor functionality comes with a lot of harsh conditions. Things like stitching and reinforced edges should be part of the material stock, and the projector should generally be very durable. 

It Should Work With Different Projectors

Of course, the projector market is incredibly saturated at the moment. This means that you need a screen that can work with different projectors and that will be easy to work with. 

This flexibility means that users will get more value for their money and that the projector screen itself will be more useful in the long run. 

How Many Lumens Do Projectors Need To Work In Daylight?

When it comes to outdoor projection, one of the most critical factors that need to be considered is brightness. Like we said earlier, displays have to deal with a lot of ambient light, and this means that they need to incorporate strong, flexible brightness on their own end. 

Today, the generally accepted metric for brightness is the lumen. And, as you would imagine, different projectors have their different lumen capabilities. If you’re putting a projector screen in front of a window, it will need to perform relatively differently than, say, placing a projector screen above a fireplace.

That said, let’s look into the lumen requirements for projectors as they operate in daylight to see where you might want yours to stand:

An Environment With Low Light 

If the outdoor environment doesn’t have so much in terms of light, then you don’t really have much to worry about. 

Here, a projector with a lumen rating between 1,000 and 2,000 should work fine – especially for a smaller screen. If the screen is larger and you want to create more vibrant images, then you can look between 2,000 to 3,000 lumens.

An Area With Moderate Ambient Light

As you go higher in the ambient light department – maybe an office that has windows, then your projector will need something in the range of 3,000 to 4,000 lumens. As ambient light starts to compete, this rating should be able to ensure that your content remains visible. 

Well Lit Outdoor Environments

Finally, we have those areas where the ambient light is incredibly high. Whether it’s an outdoor space or an area where contact with sunlight is direct, you’d need nothing else than 4,000 lumens. In fact, some instances could require even up to 5,000 – especially if you have larger screens and want to create more vibrant imagery.  

Additional Functionality Considerations 

That said, you should also remember that the lumen rating isn’t the only thing to be considered. You can have the brightest projector for daylight but still find it to be inadequate. So, keep an eye on some of the other requirements to see how they can affect your content display: 

  • The Contrast Ratio: Generally, you want a projector with a high contrast ratio if you’re dealing with ambient light. They ensure that the image quality is as high as possible, and that light isn’t necessarily a major problem for you. 
  • Dimming Technology Is Advised: As we said earlier, it’s a generally good idea to get technology that helps you to dim the ambient light – or, at the very least, which helps your screen to repel it. 
  • Can You Get Some Shade?: In those instances where ambient light becomes just too much to bear, it might be worth considering some shade to help you out. Artificially cutting down on ambient light will help improve the presentation of your content and provide a much easier viewing experience.
  • How You Place The Projector: This also matters a lot. You need to figure out just how and where to place the projector, as well as where it will face. As much as possible, the placement should cut down on glare and light interference, so your audience can see what you’re trying to show them clearly.

Challenges of Daylight in Outdoor Projection

One of the biggest challenges that projectors and their screens tend to face is that of daylight. You can have the brightest projector for daylight and still find out that your content isn’t necessarily legible. 

Can you use a projector during the day? Yes, you can. But, in terms of projector and screen outdoor operations, you need to plan for some of these challenges and their potential impacts on the outcome of your work:

Sunlight Taking All The Shine

As you would imagine, the biggest issue you need to consider when looking into how to make a projector screen or buy one is the fact that the sun could overpower what you’re projecting. 

Ambient light can be very challenging to deal with. And when a projector is unable to compete with the sun for light intensity, everything just goes downhill from there. No one knows how to see a projector in daylight, and the entire purpose of your viewing experience is essentially defeated.

The Drop-In Contrast Ratios 

Every projected content comes with a contrast ratio. And when this content is met with sunlight in particular, that ratio drops significantly. The more the ratio falls, the harder it is for people to see your content. 

Your Colors Become Washed Out 

Another major effect of sunlight is that it can cause a washout of your content. Essentially, whatever it is you’re projecting becomes less striking, and it doesn’t impact your audience as you want it to be. 

Sunlight Brings About Glare

The next challenge for projector and screen outdoor operations is the possibility of sunlight bringing in reflections on the surface you’re projecting. Once again, this only reduces the overall clarity of your image. 

Your Viewing Angles Become Smaller

The entire purpose of an outdoor projection is to provide something that everyone is able to view, regardless of where they are. But, as sunlight gets brighter and if your projector is unable to keep up, these angles become much smaller, and flexibility goes down significantly. 

You Also Worry About Heat

It’s a well-known fact that higher sunlight only makes the heat problem worse. With the projector being directly exposed to sunlight, its temperature only gets higher, and this can affect its lifespan.

Now, it is worth noting that some projectors come with temperature management systems. But, even with that, the issue of sunlight will always be considerable. 

The Power-Brightness Conundrum 

When sunlight becomes brighter, your projector will need to up its brightness levels just to meet your audience’s viewing requirements. While this is great, you also need to consider the fact that it weighs on the projector’s power consumption. 

Striking that balance between proper brightness and energy efficiency might be challenging, and you need to keep an eye out for it.  

Factoring Logistical Issues

Besides the fact that there will be challenges with how to see the projector in daylight, you also need to consider the many logistical issues involved in optimizing the lighting conditions. 

Possible Alternatives To Outdoor Projection

You might have seen all of these challenges and thought that maybe a daytime projector screen might not be the best for you. And to be fair, you just might be right. If that is the case, then you would need to get an alternative to these screens instead. And fortunately, you have several options that could easily stand out for you. 

Here are a few notable alternatives that you might want to give a try:

Traditional LED Displays 

When it comes to outdoor environments, hardly does any option easily compare to the traditional LED display. Bright, agile, and vibrant, these displays easily provide optimal views even when it’s broad daylight. 

Plus, you also get the benefit of using them in different scenarios and environments. Whether you want something for engaging outdoor ads or would like a screen to help improve the quality of your digital signage, these displays are beyond ideal.

Finally, consider the fact that LED displays work in different sizes. You can get the 16:9 size, the 4:3 aspect ratio, and much more. So, flexibility isn’t an issue here. 

LCD Video Walls 

With an LCD video wall, you’re essentially taking different LCD panels – those ones we mentioned earlier – and combining them to create one giant display. These video walls provide impressive levels of brightness, and they can also be quite solid – as long as you can control the ambient light a bit. 

OLED Screens 

Short for “Organic Light Emitting Diode,” these screens also combine color vibrancy with high contrast ratios. Their blacks are deep, and their image quality is also among the best in the business. 

Now to be fair, OLED screens really shine when they are used indoors. But, if you can rig an OLED screen with weather-resistant properties, you’ll find that it works quite well outside as well. 

Paste Your Content on Buildings

Looking for something that will really strike attention and grab views? Why not give projection mapping on buildings a try? Essentially, you project your content on a building and let it shine to everyone who passes though

With the building as your canvas, there really is no limit to what you can project or the views you can achieve.

Inflatable Projection Screens 

These days, rear projection is becoming more of a requirement when it comes to getting a daylight screen. And, with an inflatable screen, this becomes even easier. With its support for rear projection, an inflatable screen can significantly cut back on ambient light, allowing you to achieve the right level of image quality. 

Plus, you get the benefit of being able to set these screens up seamlessly, and you can see why they are so ideal.  

Get Digital For Your Billboards

We’ve already seen a lot of work being done with digital billboards recently. So, why not consider this? 

If you need to improve your outdoor advertising, these billboards are pretty much perfect for you. And with their use of LED technology, they can help share dynamic and interactive ad content to your audience. 

E-Link Displays For Energy Efficiency 

We mentioned earlier that projectors might need to consume more power just to accommodate the sun and its effects. So, to combat that, you might want to think about electronic paper displays. 

They might not be able to support dynamic video content, but they still work well when you need to share static information that people will find useful.

Advanced Light Displays 

The display industry is currently going through a lot of technological advancement, and we’re seeing that play out before our very eyes. Today, you have options like interactive light installations, which help to create engaging experiences by using fixtures like lasers and LED lights.

Then, some displays use augmented reality (AR). This option essentially uses glasses or mobile devices to share digital content, and while the technology remains nascent and has a lot to still be explored, the potential is limitless.  

If you’re looking to engage your viewers, these displays are surely part of what you want to explore. 

Best Practices for Outdoor Daylight Projection

At this point, we’ve outlined the many challenges that you might face if you want to share your content in an outdoor environment. And while several alternatives are viable – especially compared to projectors – it is understandable if you still want to use a projector. 

With that in mind, here are a few important tips you might want to follow:

  • Brightness Is Key Here: Whatever you do, ensure that you have an outdoor daylight projector that optimizes brightness. 
  • Light Rejection Will Help: Remember – the best projector for outdoor daytime viewing will have features to help repel ambient light too.
  • Your Screen Material Matters: You want to choose a daylight screen material that works well with your projector and is also able to function during the day with the sun at its brightest.
  • The Placement Matters: Take time to consider where to place your projector. The less ambient light is able to affect it, the better for you. 
  • Can You Control Ambient Light?: As we all know, the level of ambient light is your biggest risk here. As a result, try to keep it under control as much as possible. 
  • Don’t Fly Blind: We would recommend that you test your setup before your event to identify any kinks and find ways to work around them. The last thing you want is to be blindsided on the day. 
  • Power & Cooling Should Be Enough: To accommodate for the sun’s brightness and potential heat generation respectively, you need to have optimal power and cooling. 
  • Always Have A Backup: Do you have a contingency in case things don’t go your way? It might be worth considering one. 

Conclusion

Projectors have been able to significantly help with content sharing and dissemination. But, when the time comes to share this content in daylight, you need to consider a lot of things. 

We’ve shared everything you need to know here, but feel free to reach out to us at NSE LED Cloud if you’d like to learn more.

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