There you are, sitting pretty with your new home theater projector. Next step is to pick the right screen for your viewing environment. What exactly do you need to know about choosing a projection screen? Is bigger always better? Can you just blast the image on a white wall?
The short answer is, it depends. Sometimes bigger is simply better. Why settle for 100-inches when you can get 150-inches? And there are some instances when a bed sheet or a white wall will do the trick. However, there are also a range of screens which are designed for easy, portable outdoor usage and provide greater reflectivity than a bedsheet.
There are a few things that may be worth considering if you’re looking for the screen that is the ideal complement to your projector. Projector screen expert and AV enthusiast Jeremy Meyer of Visual Apex has answers to the most frequently-asked questions from consumers looking to build a personal home theater.
Here’s what he had to share:
Q: What are the typical screen considerations for the average consumer?
A: Almost everyone is going for that unique, immersive, big-screen experience when designing their home theater. However, there are several considerations that consistently come up for consumers as they begin the selection process:
- Viewing Distance: I always caution consumers to be aware of how far people need to be sitting away from the screen before you go big. The bigger the screen, the farther back people may want to sit.
- Screen Type: Some people are very selective about their screen type – specifically the material and gain. However, around 90 percent of projector screens will work well in an environment with controlled lighting using a Matte White material.
- 3D Implications: Consumers inquire about the best type of screen for 3D versus 2D content viewing. However, 3D projections work on almost every screen, so there’s no need to buy a special 3D screen. However, there are some screens which will always perform best in specific applications.
- Durability and Ease of Set Up: People want useful things that are easy to set up and do not require a lot of maintenance. Consumers have a range of review information available online to discern a good screen. Do your due diligence and look at comparable features, as well as company reviews and return policies.
Q: How do you determine the best location for a screen?
Oftentimes, there is only one wall in a room that will work. Focus on placing the screen on a wall that has no direct light. While there are a range of home theater projectors available offering high brightness, it’s ideal to minimize ambient light to maximize the image quality a projector delivers.
Nowadays, standard living rooms are usually 12 x12 feet or 12 x18 feet. With this in mind, you’ll want to place the screen on the short side of the room. To find the perfect placement for your projector, I recommend using a distance calculator, like the one on Epson.com, to simplify the process of finding the ideal viewing angle.
Q: What are the considerations for a dedicated home theater room when buying a projection screen?
A: For a dedicated theater room, a fixed screen is ideal – the flat surface delivers the true-to-life image filmmakers intended, and fixed screens are relatively inexpensive. In addition, system integration and installation will be easier: there’s no need for a power outlet, rolling it up-and-down or keeping track of a remote control.
In this room scenario, you typically want a theater-like experience that delivers the wow-factor. In other words, you want an image that’s as big as your room will allow. There are a variety of factors that will determine what screen size you should purchase, such as viewing distance, your projector and the size of your wall.
Q: Do you have any recommendations for a multi-use space like a living room?
A: In a multi-use room, a retractable screen is often a better option. I recommend going with a tensioned electric screen, as it tends to keep the screen surface more flat over a longer period of time.
If you have a wide seating area in your living room, consider a matte white screen. Matte white screens provide better viewing experiences for guests sitting on the extreme left and right sides of the room.
Q: Do you have any recommendations regarding vertical offset?
A: Vertical offset determines how high or low the projector needs to be mounted in order for the image to appear at the proper height on the wall. Look for a projector that features horizontal and vertical lens shift capabilities, which will allow for significant flexibility in where you can place the projector because the image location is adjustable. Keep in mind that vertical offset is just as important as throw distance when installing your projector.
Q: How does screen material and gain impact screen selection?
A: Screen material is important and relates to the type of room you are working with. Matte white materials have a wider viewing angle, allowing for more extreme right and left viewing. While higher contrast grey materials can offer better viewing with more ambient light, some have a narrow viewing angle, which could impact seating in larger rooms, such as in an auditorium.
Gain is a term that is used for how much light will be reflected into the room. Matte white is typically a 1.1 gain. From there, the gain ratio typically goes up pending the type of material. Choosing the right material depends on the environment and level of light in the room. There are several helpful resources available to consult such as this article on Projectorcentral.com.
Buying a screen should never be overwhelming. Enjoy the experience, and be aware of how your room lighting can be adapted to the home theater system. Don’t forget: all your hard work will pay off. Before you know it, you’ll be hosting viewing parties and game nights that your guests will remember for many years to come.