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Case Study: Outdoor Rooftop Theater

Motorized screens and shades set the stage for outdoor theaters.

People are spending more time than ever at home. This creates new opportunities for home systems integrators, as families look for new ways to stay entertained. Suggesting a dedicated home theater or media room may be your natural inclination, but what if a home doesn’t afford enough space to add a big screen, speakers, and other equipment? Consider the conversion of a patio, deck, or another outdoor area into a prime entertainment location. Thanks to technologies like motorized screens and shades, creating an outdoor theater is not only feasible, it’s practical. Motorized shading, like Zen from Screen Innovations, instantly adds square footage to a home without construction hassles, while motorized screens, like SI’s Solo Pro 2 and Zero-G and lines, facilitate a smooth transition of a casual BBQ area to an amazing home theater.

A recent outdoor installation completed by Screen Innovations dealer Atlantic Control Technologies (ACT), of Annapolis, MD, illustrates the entertainment value of an outdoor home theater and the creativity and ingenuity involved in creating a unique viewing experience:

The 110-inch Solo Pro 2 motorized projection screen selected for the rooftop deck offers the owners many entertainment options. Designed for portability, the battery-powered unit is small and light enough to bring outside when the weather is nice and quickly carry it back inside at the first drop of rain. The screen material rolls up easily into a slender housing, which attaches easily to almost any surface. For this application, and to make it easy for the homeowners, ACT devised a mounting system to ensure precise positioning of the screen for optimal video quality and viewing comfort. The Solo Pro 2 cassette hooks to a large, custom-built pillar in front of the family’s favorite seating area. To prep the space for a movie, the owners simply attach the cassette, tap a button on a Screen Innovations handheld remote, and the screen fully descends.

Related: Tech Showcase – Outdoor AV 2020

Located a few feet away on a coffee table is another portable piece of technology — a short-throw Epson video projector. “As part of our design process, we installed the coffee table permanently to ensure proper placement of the projector,” says ACT operations manager Jan Erik Eden. For convenience, all of the essential power and AV inputs for the projector were built into the coffee table. “The owners just plug in and turn on the projector, roll down the screen, and their outdoor movie theater is ready,” Eden says. The only step left is selecting what to watch — cable, Blu-Ray Disc, or Apple TV. An RTI remote handles this task.

For audio, ACT equipped the area with a complete surround-sound system comprised of soundbar and subwoofer from James Loudspeaker and two Intelligent Audio Products PlanterSpeakers.

Projected images always look best when presented in a dark environment, so the owners introduce the 110-incher to the rooftop deck primarily at night. For casual daytime, they can choose to watch an 85-inch Seura outdoor TV instead. Stowed inside a perfectly sized cavity of the same pillar on which the Solo Pro 2 screen attaches, the display makes an appearance after the screen has been tucked away and the owners command a motorized cover to retract from the face of the pillar. Unlike the Solo Pro 2 cassette which is easy to move, the heavy 85-inch display stays put, relying on the motorized cover to protect it from inclement weather when it’s not being used.

The clever dual-screen rooftop entertainment system gives the homeowners and their guests the best of both worlds. Larger-than-life imagery for movie nights, and a smaller yet clear and vibrant video presentation for casual daytime viewing. Plus, with the combination of portable and permanent screens, the family can rest assured that their technology is well protected from harsh weather conditions.