Video Projectors and Video Projection Guide

Elevate Your Home Theater Experience With a Video Projector

Epson Video Projector with 4K Enhancement - Lifestyle Image
Epson Video Projector with 4K Enhancement - Lifestyle Image. Image provided by Epson

Designing your own home theater system is getting more exciting all the time. TVs are bigger, better, cheaper, and slimmer than ever.

The home theater consumer can hang their TV on a wall or place it on a stand. Both configurations have been successfully incorporated into many home theaters around the world. However, these TV viewing options place the viewer "outside the box" (so to speak). All of the work of generating the video image (from input to display) is done within a thin cabinet. The cabinet is also a piece of furniture that takes up space either on a table or wall.

On the other hand, the movie theater places the viewer "inside the box". You enter a special environment where curtains open up, revealing the screen, a hidden film projector (or digital cinema projector) then comes to life, and the room is enveloped in image and sound. The image is projected from behind or above and is reflected off the screen. You are within the image environment as the beams of light travel from the projection unit to the screen. That is what separates TV viewing from movie theater viewing.

Making Your Own Home Theater Magic

How can one capture the same "magic" as a trip to the movie theater? You can come very close with your own home theater video projection setup. Of course, projectors have been around for some time, but they were big, bulky, power hogs, and very, very, expensive; definitely out of reach for the average consumer.

However, over the years, the need for compact, affordable, portable multi-media projection units for use in business presentations and the classroom, new technological developments in image processing have made this once out-of-reach option more affordable for use in home theater applications by more and more consumers.

Video Projectors vs Rear-Projection TVs

In addition to projectors, video projection has been used in a type of TV referred to as a "Rear Projection TV" or RPTV. Although this type of TV is no longer available to consumers (Mitsubishi, the last maker of RPTVs, discontinued production in December 2012), there are still some in use.

The term "rear-projection TV" comes from the fact that the image is projected and reflected onto the screen from behind the screen within a sealed box, unlike traditional video and film projection in which the projector is placed in front of the screen, as in a movie theater.

Video Projection vs Film Projection

The video projector is similar to a film or slide projector in that they both accept a source, and project the image from that source onto a screen. However, that is where the similarity ends. Inside a video projector is processing circuitry that converts an analog or digital video input signal into something that can be projected onto a screen.

If you haven't considered the projector option, you may find that it makes a great complement to your home theater setup. However, there are some basic things you need to know before you can get started.

Before You Buy a Video Projector

BenQ HT6050 DLP Video Projector - Shown With Standard Lens
BenQ HT6050 DLP Video Projector - Shown With Standard Lens. Images provided by BenQ

The video projector has long been used as a presentation tool in business and commercial entertainment, as well as in some very high-end home theater systems. However, video projectors are becoming more available and affordable for the average consumer. Check out some useful tips before you buy your first video projector.

DLP Video Projector Basics

Image of DLP DMD Chip (top left) - DMD Micromirror (top righht) - Benq MH530 DLP Projector (bottom)
Image of DLP DMD Chip (top left) - DMD Micromirror (top righht) - Benq MH530 DLP Projector (bottom). DLP Chip and Micromirror Images provided by Texas Instruments - Projector Image by Robert Silva

There are two core technologies used in video projectors - DLP and LCD. They both have their strengths and weaknesses, but what makes DLP interesting is that all the magic is the result of rapidly tilting mirrors - Sound weird? Yep, it is weird all right - DLP video projectors are both mechanical and electrical, but it works. Check out the details on this popular type of video projector technology.

LCD Video Projector Basics

3LCD Video Projector Technology Illustration
3LCD Video Projector Technology Illustration. Images provided by 3LCD and Robert Silva

Most people own an LCD TV these days, but did you know that LCD technology is also used in video projectors? Of course, video projectors are a lot smaller than TVs, so, how do you fit all those LCDs inside a video projector? Well, they don't, but the technology is same, just how it is applied is different. Check out all the surprising details on how LCD technology is used in video projectors, and how it is different than DLP.

Laser Video Projectors - What Are They and How They Work

Epson Dual Laser with Phosphor Video Projector Light Engine
Epson Dual Laser with Phosphor Video Projector Light Engine. Image provided by Epson

Another twist in video projection is the introduction of lasers in the mix. However, the lasers don't directly create images, that is still done by an LCD or DLP chip. Instead, one, or more, lasers are used to replace traditional energy-hogging lamp system used in most projectors with a more energy efficient, color-enhancing, light source solution. Check out the details.

4K Video Projector Basics

Sony VPL-VW365ES Native 4K (top) - Epson Home Cinema 5040 4Ke (bottom) Projectors
Sony VPL-VW365ES Native 4K (top) - Epson Home Cinema 5040 4Ke (bottom) Projectors. Images provided by Sony and Epson

In addition to the core DLP and LCD video projector technologies, and different light source options, there is the question of resolution. Video projectors with 720p or 1080p resolution capability are quite common, and also very affordable. However, although 4K is now dominating the TV landscape, there aren't that many video projectors that offer 4K resolution capability. The main reason that 4K video projectors are still rare, is that implementation is expensive - and not all 4K projectors are created equal. Before you consider the purchase of a 4K video projector, find out what you need to know.

The Best Cheap Projectors to Buy

Optoma HD141X 1080p 3D DLP
Courtesy of

So, you are finally ready to pull out your cash for a video projector, but you aren't quite sure if you want to invest a lot of money in one, just in case you end up not liking it as much as you thought.

In that case, why not start out modestly with something that costs $600 or less? Here are some great choices that may just fit both your budget and your room. Includes both LCD and DLP types.

The Best 1080p and 4K Video Projectors

Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 5040UB LCD Projector
Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 5040UB LCD Projector. Images provided by Epson

Everyone likes a bargain, but, when comes to video projectors, going cheap may not always be the best solution for everyone. Check out some of the top 1080p and 4K video projectors that may just the right solution for your home theater setup.

Before You Buy a Video Projection Screen

Elite Screens Yard Master Series Outdoor Projection Screens at CES 2014
Photo the Elite Screens Yard Master Series Outdoor Projection Screens at CES 2014. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to

When buying and setting up a home theater video projector, it must be pointed out that the video projection screen is just as important as the projector itself. Projection Screens come in various fabrics, sizes, and prices. The type of screen that will work best depends on the projector, the viewing angle, the amount of ambient light in the room, and the distance of the projector from the screen. The following outlines what you need to know before purchasing a video projection screen for your home theater.

Video Projection Screens For Your Home Theater Setup

Monoprice Model 6582 Motorized Projection Screen
Monoprice Model 6582 Motorized Projection Screen. Image courtesy of

When you buy a video projector, that is not the end of your financial commitment - you also need a screen. Check out a variety of screens and screen types that my just right for your setup - portable, fixed frame, and pull down, pull up, motorized, inflatable, and even screen paint that can turn a blank wall into a great movie screen.

Video Projectors and Color Brightness

Epson Color Brightness Demo - CES 2013
Photo of Epson Color Brightness Demo at CES 2013. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to

One important thing to consider when purchasing a video projector is whether it will be bright enough for the room environment you will be using it in. However, the specifications (using the term Lumens) not always gives you an accurate picture on how bright the projector really is.

How To Set Up A Video Projector For Home Theater Viewing

Video Projector Setup Example
Video Projector Setup Example. Image provided by Benq

So, you decided to make the video projector plunge - You purchased a screen and projector, but what after you place your screen on the wall and unpack your projector, what else do you need to do to get everything up and running? Check out our step-by-step process on how to install and setup your video projector for the best viewing experience.

Backyard Home Theater

Backyard Home Theater Setup
Backyard Home Theater Setup. Image Provided by Open Air Cinema

As video projectors provide increasing light output capability, become more compact, and more affordable, an increasing number of consumers are discovering the fun of setting up an outdoor home theater for those warm Summer nights, and other special occasions. Here are all the details on how you can set one up yourself.