Live visuals are all about projection, but perhaps part of the reason visual work hasn’t become nearly as commonplace as music is that screens and projectors are tougher to come by than speakers and PAs. Naturally, the appeal of a really high-quality mobile rig is obvious – especially one that can work outdoors.

Yesterday, I got to meet with Open Air Cinema, a young Utah-based company that’s already made a name for itself running events like the TriBeCa Outdoor Drive-In and LA Film Festival Outdoor Screenings. Their products have typically run at the high-end. But they’ve got a new “consumer” line that could be just what VJs and visualists need to have an on-the-go projection solution.

There are two options. First, there’s a complete “home backyard theater kit,” including:

  • 9’ x 5’ inflatable movie screen
  • Yard stakes and straps for setting it up (sand bags are optional)
  • A Sanyo 2300-lumen LCD projector (not a bad model, in fact)
  • DVD player
  • Audio mixer, complete with A/V cables and adapters, with PA
  • LED goose neck light
  • Carrying cases
  • Air blower with a muffler to keep the noise down (it was quiet from what I could tell, though we were in a loud space)

The total price: US$1495. That’s for the home user, so I suspect you’d have just as much luck putting together your own components – and though the Sanyo projector is decent, you’d otherwise potentially be disappointed with some of what’s here. But here’s the interesting bit: you can get just the screen for US$399. (12’ = $599; 16’ = $999.) And it’s ridiculously small and light; the whole 9’ screen packs into a tiny case you could pop into your backpack and weighs just eight pounds.

Even the full package I think is potentially good news for VJs, even indirectly – it’s just the kind of commoditization we’ve been waiting for for projection setups. Cheap + turn-key could mean more venues preparing for projection and working for visualists, and this is just one example.

That said, the main reason I bring this up is really the $400 portable inflatable screen. 9’ x 5’ is a reasonably decent size. I’ll be following up with them to have a closer look. Those of you who do event production, though, I’m curious to hear how you think this stacks up against other options – keeping in mind we’re looking at the low-end (so, optionally, DIY alternatives are interesting, too).

Open Air Cinema: CineBox Home

  • plus, in the event of a water landing, they can be used as a floatation device! = ) sweet find- thanks!

  • I would TOTALLY be down with an aquatic projection event. Who's in? 🙂

  • that's a funny thought..but also, pretty darn cool. i'm sure they have more (and better) of this kinda thing, but i remember seeing a reasonably good water mist curtain used as projection surface at the Disneyland Fantasmic show. you mentioned the constraints of projection surfaces – i'm always on the lookout for ideas to break out of the standard projector/screen paradigm. surface mapping and video movers are def a step in the right direction.

    this inflatable number makes me wonder if custom shaped inflatable surfaces would be viable? like those inflatable party-jumpy things for kids. or for even more awesome, back to the water curtain idea, i built a nice little midi controlled water fountain a few years back. maybe it would be possible to create and control a fountain type thing that would create various mist curtains for projection. they could appear and dissapear, change shape, position maybe even volume?

    imagine the possibilities! n stuff…

  • Robotkid

    Looks like Walmart sells an inflatable screen:

    Outdoor Movie Screen Airblown Inflatable, 12'

    Come to Boston, and let's project on the Charles River…

  • Wow, Walmart. No kidding. I need to get out more.

    Charles River … yes.

    VJs in kayaks, even? 🙂

  • Jay

    I've seen those Wal-Mart screens in action, and trust me, you don't even get what you pay for. They are baggy and just plain ugly.

    From my vantage point these Open Air screens look much more professional and of a higher grade. If you are at all worried about your presentation, I would suggest you not buy your gear from Wal-Mart.

    It also looks like Open Air Cinema has a few more sizes and options.

  • @Jay:
    Oh yeah, indeed. I just find it amusing that Wal-Mart carries such an item. My "Cheap Knockoff" early warning system is certainly going off as far as Wal-Mart.

    In the meantime, will try to get in some of the Open Air product and give it a test. I'm certainly willing to sacrifice *some* durability for lighter weight / easier portability (Open Air likewise has heavier options). But of course, yeah, still needs to hold up and I'd be skeptical about the Wal-Mart thing.

  • I don't know if it's the same one as was available at Wal-mart, but I have the Gemmy 12 foot screen and it's awesome. Gemmy is the same company that makes those front yard Santa Clauses, but for my money this is a better use of that technology. 😉

  • akairways has some nice custom inflatables used for projections. Tricky to get rear projection to work.

    Also because these are outdoor and air-tight, the wind can really hurt; whereas a porous mesh material works fine in the wind, and speakers can be put behind it…

    Still, all around, good to see more accessible and portable screens that aren't stretched lycra, or what I call, stretched animal hide screens…yuck!

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