There are a lot of moving pieces when it comes to creating the ideal home theater experience. Beyond hand-picking the most powerful hardware, elements like screen position, speaker height, and viewing angles are accounted for with surgeon-like precision. However, the rules are a bit different for outdoor entertainment.
The prominent issue when creating an outdoor environment is manufacturing a beautiful space. Essentially, you want to make a space that allows people to feel as comfortable outside as they do inside.
Many times, clients are trying to point themselves in the right direction, but they may not have experience with outdoor entertainment spaces. Certainly, they may have a media room, theater room, or surround sound rooms inside their homes, and they understand that there is a sweet spot regarding TV placement or eye height when seated inside. However, these types of things go “out the window” when planning an outdoor AV integration, taking a back seat to more crucial considerations.
While the arrangement of technologies is the most important aspect, every detail from the wiring to the TV mount needs to be recognized and considered by integrators, designers, and clients to maintain the balance between an elegant aesthetic and functional space. The first thing we look at when deploying an AV system into an outdoor environment is placement—we do not want to be obtrusive to the space that has been created.
Speakers blended into lights, TVs inset into walls, and wires running underground are a few of the common techniques utilized by integrators to maintain the beauty of an outdoor environment. Nevertheless, the most important tool is educating both the client and the designer to these factors. It is of utmost importance that the technology be outdoor-ready.
When planning, remember the #1 rule—you can’t outshine the sun (except perhaps in spirit). Weather-resistance is the most important factor that should be taken into consideration before purchasing an outdoor TV. An outdoor AV system needs to withstand the extremes that weather can pose as certain scenarios, such as torrential rain, and tremendous temperature fluctuations from day to night can make or break the TV’s lifespan.
Tolerance and Life Span: The advent of fully sealed displays has completely expanded the types of technology available. For displays being placed outdoors, designers and integrators should look for 100 percent sealed (even down to the cable entry) displays, engineered to endure outside elements in all seasons.
Designers should look for displays with a minimum IP rating of 55 for consumer or light commercial applications. When considering full commercial installations, the higher the IP rating, the better. As the IP ratings increase, the level of protection increases tremendously, allowing for the display to present itself in any installation as a robust solution. The higher IP ratings, coupled with wide operating temperatures and lastly, IK-rated cover glass are all a must for outdoor installations.
Continued Operation and Function: Utilizing fully sealed displays negates the need to rely on vents, filters, and fans, thus eliminating the need to regularly change filters as they fill with debris. Of course, for the homeowner, this decreases the maintenance needed, and operational costs. However, it also offers further protection from the elements and wear and tear to the internal components.
In addition to weatherproofing, the integration needs to meet the clients’ end goal: to effectively entertain in an appealing way. By selecting a display that is optically bonded, for example, you have instantly made your content more easily viewed when in direct sunlight. The optic bonding agent drastically improves glare and reflection, allowing the end user to enjoy a viewing experience, whether informational or entertainment-based that causes less eye fatigue and strain. With the addition of a polarization agent, the display can now be installed in any orientation without the fear of a “polarization blackout” that can be witnessed when viewing a non-polarized display with polarized sunglasses in a high ambient light environment.
Clients expect their space to look genuine and to retain this aesthetic for a number of years. That’s why one shouldn’t skimp on the proper outdoor-rated devices. By reviewing these technological factors, you are sure to create a fun and functional outdoor space that can combat the weather for years to come.