Saturday, October 31, 2009

How to Choose the Right Sized Screen?

There are some amazing deals on front projectors with new models being released this fall. It is easy to think, why get a large flat screen TV when you can buy a front projector and have a 100” screen or larger. That is how I got into front projection years ago. But when you start to design a home theater, there are some things you need to consider. One of which is the right sized screen.

First of all, is the room you will be using light controlled? By light controlled, I mean can you close a door into the room and put up blinds and/or curtains to black out the room even during the day. Also, what do you watch mostly. If your room is not light controlled, or if you watch a lot of sports, you may want a projector that is very bright. You will also need to take into consideration where you will mount the screen, and where you will be mounting the projector. The larger the screen, the more light it will take to fill it. And the more ambient light, the brighter the projector will need to be still. But one of the biggest considerations is how far away from the screen you will be sitting.

One of the easiest mistakes to make is to get the largest screen you can. With a front projector, you may be able to project over 120” of image and if you are in a light controlled room your projector may be able to throw enough light to fill that size of a screen. But that could be a mistake. Have you ever sat in the front row at the movie theater? If so, how did you enjoy the movie? Did you enjoy it, or did you end up just getting a headache? To decide the size of the screen, I would make a trip to the theater to watch some movies. Try sitting up close, far away, and towards the middle. How close is too close, and how close it just right? Once you know how close the correct distance is to the screen, you will need to do some math. Most people, including myself has the optimum distance factor of 1.5 times. That means that whatever the width of the screen, the optimum viewing distance is 1.5 times that. I can put up to a 130” diagonally sized screen in my theater room, but from where I sit I should not go over 110” diagonally. So if the screen at the movie theater is 30 feet wide, and the perfect distance from the screen for you is 45 feet, 1.5 is also the ideal viewing distance for you.

Now you know one of the most important factors for your home theater. Once you know how far away from the screen you will be sitting, you will know how big of a screen to get. Now there is the question of the type of screen, such as pull-down, or fixed mount. There are also different screen material types, but the type of material to get will depend on the type of projector you get. And that is a different topic for later.