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