Video Projection Screens - What You Need To Know

Screen Innovations Black Diamond Screen
Screen Innovations Black Diamond Screen. Image provided by Screen Innovations

You Need A Screen For A Video Projector

When considering the purchase of a video projector, unlike a TV in which the screen is already built-in, you need to also consider what type of video projector screen to use in order to see your images.

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.

Room Characteristics

Before purchasing a video projector and screen, take a good look at the room you will be placing the video projector in. Is the room of sufficient size to project a large image on the wall area where you intend to place your screen? Check for ambient light issues, such as windows, french doors, or other factors that would prevent the room from being dark enough for video projection use.

Projection/Screen Distance, Seating Position, and Screen Size

The projector-to-screen distance determines how large an image can be projected on the screen, while the viewer seating position determines the optimum viewing distance. The lens type of the video projector being considered also determines how large an image can be projected from a given distance.

Video projectors have different lens characteristics. User manuals include specific charts and diagrams that show what size image a projector can produce, given a specific distance from the screen. Some manufacturers also provide this same information on their websites (check the Panasonic example below), which can be consulted before purchasing a video projector.

Screen Aspect Ratio - 4x3 vs 16x9

Due to the popularity of widescreen content sources and display technologies such as DVD, HD/Ultra HD TV, and Blu-ray Disc, the trend in video projection screens also mirrors the trend with the of the 16x9 screen aspect ratio. This design accommodates widescreen programming display on all, or most, of the actual screen surface area, while the 4x3 design will result in a larger unused screen surface area when viewing widescreen programming. However, 4x3 design will allow the projection of a much larger 4x3 image, which would fill the entire screen surface.

Also, some screens are available in very wide 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and some screens designed for custom installations can be "masked off" for 4x3, 16x9, and 2.35:1 Aspect ratio.

It is also important to point out that most video projectors designated as Home Theater or Home Cinema Projectors project a 16x9 native aspect ratio image, they can be configured for 4x3 display, and, in some cases, can also be configured for a wider 2.35:1 aspect ratio.

    Front Projection or Rear Projection

    Most Video projectors can be configured to project an image from either the front or rear of the screen. Front projection is the most common, and the easiest to setup. If you prefer to project the image onto the screen from the rear, it is advisable to get a video projector that can project a large image at a short distance.

    Two examples of Short Throw projectors include:

    Optoma GT1080 - Review - Buy From Amazon.

    BenQ W1080ST - Review - Buy From Amazon.

    For more suggestions, check out a listing of Short Throw projectors available on Amazon

      Permanent Screens

      There are several types of screen installation options. If you are planning to construct or use a room as a dedicated home theater room, you have the option of installing a screen on the wall permanently. In this type of screen installation it is common to also install curtains in front of the screen to hide and protect the screen surface when not in use. This type of screen installation is also the most expensive.

      Pull Down Screens

      A second option that allows more room use flexibility for other purposes, besides home theater, is a Pull Down screen. A pull down screen can be semi-permanently mounted on a wall and can be pulled down when in use and then raised up into a protective housing when not in use. This way you can still have other items on the wall, such as paintings or other decorations, when not viewing the video projector. When the screen is pulled down, it simply covers the permanent wall decorations. Some screens allow the screen case to be mounted in the ceiling instead of having to be mounted on the wall externally.

      Portable Screens

      The least expensive option is the totally portable screen. One advantage of a portable screen is that you can set it up in different rooms, or even outdoors, if your projector is also portable. The drawback is that you have to do more adjusting of the screen and the projector every time you set it up. Portable screens are also the least expensive option.

      One example of a popular portable screen is the Epson EPSELPSC80 Duet

      For additional portable screen suggestions, check out a selection of Portable Screens offered on Amazon

      Screen Material, Gain, Viewing Angle

      Video projection screens are made to reflect as much light as possible to produce a bright image in a specific type of environment. To accomplish this, screens are made of various materials. The type of screen material used determines the Screen Gain and viewing angle characteristics of the screen.

      Also, another type of projection screen in use is the Black Diamond from Screen Innovations. This type of screen actually has a black surface (analogous to black screens on TVs - However, the material is different). Although this seems counter-intuitive for a projection screen, the materials used actually allow projected images to be viewed in brightly lit room. For more details, check out a previous report, as well as the Official Screen Innovations Black Diamond Product Page - (Available from Authorized Dealers).

      Using Your Wall

      Although the above discussion centers on the need to use a screen to get the best image display experience when using a video projector, with some of today's higher-brightness projectors (projectors that can output 2,000 lumens light output or higher), you can opt to project images on a blank white wall, or cover your wall surface with a special paint that is designed to provide the right amount of light reflection.

      The most popular screen paint is Screen Goo - Official Product Page.

      Similar products include Digital Image Ultra White High Definition Screen Paint - Buy From Amazon and Paint On Screen - Buy From Amazon

      Examples of hi-brightness projectors include:

      Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 1040 and 1440 - Read my Report - 1040 - Buy From Amazon - 1440 - Buy From Amazon

      More Info

      The above article is intended to provide readers with basic information before purchasing a video projection screen that cover most solutions - However, unless you are going with a portable or non-permanent installation, it is advisable to consult with a home theater dealer/installer that can come out to evaluate your room environment in order to assemble the best possible projector/screen combination that will provide the best viewing experience for yourself and other viewers.

      Bonus: Check out my periodically updated listing of Video Projection Screen Options For Your Home Theater

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