Video Projectors and Video Projection Guide

Elevate Your Home Theater Experience With a Video Projector

Getting Inside the Box of Your Home Theater System

Designing your home theater system is getting more exciting all the time. Televisions 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 starts up, 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 by more and more consumers.

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.

1
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.

2
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.

3
The Best DLP Video Projectors For Your Home Theater

BenQ MH530 1080p DLP Video Projector - Front and Rear Views
BenQ MH530 1080p DLP Video Projector - Front and Rear Views. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

DLP Technology may seem a little odd, but the resulting images are great for movie viewing. Check out several projector choices from the main DLP projector brands, Optoma, BenQ, and Vivitek (plus others) - that are looking for a good home (home theater that is!).

4
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.

5
The Best LCD Video Projectors For Your Home Theater

PowerLite Home Cinema 2045 3LCD Video Projector
PowerLite Home Cinema 2045 3LCD Video Projector - Front View. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

There are lots of projectors to choose from, and depending on your needs there is one just waiting for you to give a good home. DLP projectors are good choices, but LCD projectors offer exceptional brightness and color that might that option more appealing.

6
The 5 Best Cheap Projectors to Buy in 2016

Optoma HD141X 1080p 3D DLP
Courtesy of Amazon.com

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.

7
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 About.com

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.

8
Video Projection Screens For Your Home Theater Setup

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

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.

9
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 About.com

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.
 

10
Video Projector Setup Tip - Lens Shift and Keystone Correction

Lens Shift vs Keystone Correction Examples
Lens Shift vs Keystone Correction Examples. Images provided by Epson

Matching up the distance and angle between a video projector and screen is not only important for size and brightness of the image, but is it also important in order to get image correctly placed on the screen. If the projector/screen angle is mis-matched, the image may end up projected above, below, or spill over the side of the screen, or the projected image may not display the correct rectangular shape. This is where Lens Shift and Keystone Correction may be needed.

11
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.

12
Using An Under-TV Audio System With a Video Projector

Video Projector on top of Under-TV Audio System
Video Projector on top of Under-TV Audio System. Photo © Robert Silva - Licensed to About.com

The video projector viewing experience is more than just the projector and screen - you also need great sound. Although some video projectors do have built-in speakers - the sound more like an AM table radio - they definitely fall short of providing that home theater surround sound listening experience.

The solution, of course, is an external audio system, but if you are wary of having to setup a home theater and a bunch of speaker, there is actually a modest option that may actually provide what you need.

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 manufactured and offered to consumers (Mitsubishi, the last maker of RPTVs, discontinued production in December 2012), there are still some in use.

The actual 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 itself is placed in front of the screen, such as in a movie theater.

There are 5 basic elements in the construction of a rear-projection TV:

1. The type of projector technology used to produce a video image.

2. The type of lens assembly used to magnify the projected image.

3. The necessity to employ a mirror to reflect the projected image.

4. The screen upon which the reflected image is presented.

5. The sealed box that contains all of the previous elements.

LCD, DLP, and even CRT technology have all been used in rear-projection TVs, but DLP was the last technology that was used, and is the most common type that may be still in use.

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